Sometime in the late eighties, either the year or the one before the Berkeley Convention, I believe Hot placed an ad in the East Bay Express looking for puzzlers, probably cryptic puzzlers. The ad said something about meeting at “Eskymo Jose.” That was easily transposed to Smokey Joe's, a local greasy spoon in my neighborhood. Further, the ad said to “wear a pencil,” which I somehow pinned on my lapel. Hot likely remembers the details better than I. By the way, I suck at cryptics!
Soon afterwards, we began the famous Equinox Parties in which I've enjoyed participating. Many Con puzzles have come from these fabulous parties.
My connection with words and puzzles has always been through Scrabble. I've been a tournament player since 1975 and have won more than 50 tournaments. Hence TILE (as in Scrabble tiles) GOD. Furthermore, TILEGOD is a 2-letter transdeletion from [my surname] GOLDSTEIN.