This past weekend was the 37th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Puzzlers descended upon Brooklyn, NY, for what more than one Twitter user affectionately referred to as “The Nerd Olympics.”
I’ve spoken to several participants — all veterans of the tournament who often enjoy the socializing as much as the actual puzzles — and much fun was had by all.
The tournament flowed smoothly, despite Daylight Saving Time stealing an hour’s sleep from competitors on Sunday. Topnotch solvers emerged early with blistering times, and other solvers challenged themselves to reach new personal bests and performances to be proud of.
In previous years, the biggest hurdle for most solvers has been Puzzle #5. It’s routinely the toughest, and this year’s puzzle proved to be no exception. Only a few dozen solvers completed the puzzle in the half hour allotted.
Here are two of my favorite tweets that captured the impression left by Puzzle #5:
I asked Penny/Dell variety editor and friend of the blog Keith Yarbrough about Puzzle #5. As a multiple-time attendee of the ACPT, one who has placed in the top 20% on more than one occasion, he had some valuable insight into the infamous puzzle:
If they didn’t have puzzle 5, the top solvers would all be bunched up with roughly the same scores, and it would be a mess trying to figure out the top three for the finals. Puzzle 5 separates those people a bit and is the price we mortals have to pay for it.
(For the constructor’s thoughts on the puzzle, check out Brendan Emmett Quigley’s blog post here.)
On Sunday, after the ceremonial final solve in front of an audience — click here to check it out on YouTube! — the winners were crowned, and to no great surprise, Dan Feyer scored his fifth consecutive ACPT title, tying Tyler Hinman’s formidable streak. The top solvers were a who’s who of ACPT puzzlers, including Joon Pahk, Anne Erdmann, and Jon Delfin — and a thoroughly impressive 43 solvers managed to solve all 7 puzzles without any errors!
And friends of the blog had a terrific showing this year! Crossword gentleman Doug Peterson placed 14th, Los Angeles Times crossword editor Rich Norris placed 71, constructor David Steinberg (of the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project) placed 136, Uptown Puzzle Club editor Patti Varol placed 145, and editor Keith Yarbrough placed 212. (When you consider the nearly 600 entrants, those numbers are stunning.)
For a more complete rundown of the tournament, I highly recommend you check out the Twitter feed of The Puzzle Brothers. They virtually live-tweeted the tournament — their coverage of the final puzzle is terrific — and it’s a really fun read overall.
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