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Is this your first con?

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So, this is your first Con!

by Wesley

PDF Version for printing

Excellent! We are looking forward to meeting you! Hopefully this document will answer some questions you may have about what to expect.

I’m Wesley, your host. Please find me and say hi! If there is anything that you need please do not hesitate to ask me. Relax, have fun and enjoy!


  1. A clipboard – almost everyone will have one. It makes carrying around a bunch of puzzles much easier and facilitates working on things from a comfy couch in the lobby or while sitting on the wharf in Portland.
  2. Pencils – for the aforementioned puzzles. Bring lots.
  3. Puzzles – if you have a puzzle you have made that you would like to share with others feel free to bring copies to hand out. This is 100% not necessary in the slightest but if you do decide to bring something there are about 200 attendees and a Kinko’s down the street if you want to make copies in Maine.
  4. Prizes – You will see below in the program notes that we give out prizes at the closing program session on Sunday. If you have a puzzle book or game or dictionary or similar that you are no longer using but think another puzzle lover might enjoy, feel free to bring them along to be put on our prize table at the end of the convention. Also 100% not required.


From 4-6 in Deering Oaks Park, the picnic is not part of the official program but is a chance for the early arrivers to mingle, try some local Maine snacks and play a causal game. Very laidback and low key.


For the program sessions head over to the ballroom and grab a seat wherever you like. We try to get started on time so arriving a few minutes early is a good idea. Willz, Fraz and T McAy run the program and they are all awesome. You will get a copy of the program book when you get to Maine that details all the games, who wrote them, who is on the NPL board etc. A few notes about the program itself:

Hidden Contest – there is a hidden puzzle somewhere in the convention. It could be anywhere. It could be on anything. It might be in the food, in a handout, in the hotel lobby, in the program... keep your eyes open. If you see something that looks like it might be the hidden contest go ahead and solve it and follow whatever instructions you discover.

Convention Cryptics – on Thursday you will be given three cryptic crosswords that are assigned as the official convention cryptics. These are meant to be solved in pairs over the course of the weekend. Grab a friend or meet someone new and work on these cryptics during meals or downtime. If you’re not super familiar with cryptics we can find you someone who is more experienced to work with you. The completed puzzles get turned in by 8pm Saturday. They are optional but fun - I have never managed to solve all 3 during the weekend.

Business Meeting – the business meeting is where we review the budget, discuss any NPL business and vote on where we will hold future conventions. Next year is in Vancouver, British Columbia and is hosted by Witz and Andreas. We will be voting on the location for 2016 and people will throw out suggestions for future cons.

Saturday Competitions – There are two pieces to the Saturday afternoon program. The first is a series of two pencil and paper competitions that we will do in the ballroom and will be run Willz and Manx. These change every year but most of the time we are competing for time. Some people are very into the competitive aspect and others just enjoy solving the puzzles at a casual pace (I am one of the latter). After the two pencil and paper puzzles we will have the flat competition, run by Saxifrage. These flats are written by members expressly for the convention and this year the theme is poetry. Some people will solve individually, some in pairs and some in groups, all with various levels of competitiveness. Some folks will solve in the ballroom or the lobby or in the bar. There also is an instructive group-solve run by some of our seasoned members who will work with the folks who are new to flats and may not feel comfortable doing them on their own. It is a fantastic thing to do for your first couple cons and I highly recommend joining the instructive group if you are new to flats. Even if you don’t solve the flats competitively be sure to turn in your kudos and bangs. These are ways that we recognize the constructors of our flats. You can give kudos to as many flats as you want to indicate that you thought they were particularly clever and a bang goes to the one you thought was really spectacular.

Saturday Extravaganza – the Saturday night extravaganza is a puzzle hunt style competition (reminiscent of the MIT Mystery Hunt). We will be divided into teams, usually of 4-6 people, to solve a series of themed puzzles, which will combine to form a larger meta-puzzle. Usually you will have a choice of two solving speeds and will decide if you want to be a “runner” or a “stroller” (though this has changed in some years it is generally the case). Runners are in it to win – they will try to go fast and be first and everyone on the team might not see every puzzle in the event. Strollers are in it for a more casual and low-pressure experience. At some point during the convention we will be asked to sign up in advance for the Extravaganza and this is when you will pick if you want to run or stroll. Sometimes you can sign up as a group and sometimes we are randomly assigned. If you have never done this sort of puzzle hunt before I would recommend starting off as a stroller to get a feel for what it’s all about.

Sunday Awards – our Sunday program is a wrap-up and awards session. Willz will announce the winners from the various competitions throughout the weekend. They will also randomly draw some of the completed con cryptics for those folks to win prizes as well. The constructors from the flat competition who received the most bangs and kudos will also get prizes. The prize table is divided into A, B and C levels with A prizes being the ones higher valued and so forth. Who gets what level of prize and what things deserve prizes is totally determined by Willz. It’s all in good fun and everyone enjoys cheering each other on. We will also give an account of the weekend, tie up any loose ends and get ready for next year!


When the con program ends for the evening each day the fun definitely doesn’t stop. It is not at all uncommon for folks to stay up all night (literally all night) to play games and solve puzzles. Some people will have brought group games with them that are game-show style and they will run them in sessions throughout the weekend. A common one is to run a “Jeopardy” which is exactly what it sounds like – the host will have made a set of Jeopardy questions and will run the questions multiple times with groups of 6-8 people. If you walk up to a group playing a repeatable game they might stop and ask “are you ever going to want to play this?” because the questions will always be the same and if you hear some of the answers then you can’t play later. So they are trying not to spoil you. Some of the constructors will announce when they are running a session, some might have sign ups. It’s all very free flowing but don’t be afraid to speak up if you want to play something. It also can be quite fun to sit and listen if you don’t feel like playing. People will also play other games and solve more causally – playing board games, working on con cryptics or other handout puzzles, group word games and party games, all sorts of fun stuff. Don’t be afraid to say hi and ask what folks are up to (though, if it looks like an organized game, maybe wait until it’s over to ask the host what it is – that way you don’t risk hearing anything you shouldn’t) or find other Krewe milling around and get something started.

See the Unofficial Program page for a list of some of the things that will be happening.


We will take a convention photo Saturday at 5:30pm. You are welcome to dress up if you like. I will have a sign-up sheet for folks who would like an actual hard copy of the 8x10 photo, otherwise an emailed digital version will be sent out after the convention. When we are done taking the photo you will hear people scream, “Don’t move!” That is because we will pass sheets of paper around where you will write you name or nom in order across the row so that we are later able to identify everyone.


The hospitality suite is where you will find the puzzles that people have brought to share with everyone at the convention, as well as any Portland runarounds. (A runaround puzzle is something that you do out and about in the city during your free time. It might focus on a single museum/location or it could take you to different locations). There will also be snacks and drinks so that you can grab something late night when you take a break from solving. We will also have blank copies of the convention program that are there to be signed and sent to those members of the Krewe who usually attend convention but were not able to make it this year.


Everyone will get a nom tag to help us all get to know each other and we ask that you wear it throughout the weekend. They are also a good conversation starter – ask someone why they chose their nom and you will get lots of interesting stories. For those of you without a nom your name will be on the tag. If you decide over the weekend that you would like to take a nom let me know and we can make you a tag with your new nom on it.


You do not need to be a member of the NPL to attend the convention but we strongly recommend that you join the organization to stay in touch and get our monthly magazine the Enigma. At only $30 or $20 (for printed or digital Enigmas respectively) NPL membership is one of the best deals in puzzledom and we really appreciate your support. See myself, Willz, or any board member and we will help you take care of the details.


That’s about it! My biggest advice would be to relax, explore, meet new folks and have fun! Con is meant, above all else, to be a good time. If at any point you are no longer having a good time, for any reason, please come see me, or a member of the board, and we will do everything in our power to fix it. I look forward to meeting you all in Maine!