Usually, my coverage of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is one-and-done. I recap the event, share photos and links, and that’s it until it’s time to start hyping the event next year. (Of course, I do review the tournament puzzles later, but that’s more my own impressions and divorced from the event itself.)
But that’s not to say that there aren’t stories from the tournament that continue beyond the confines of that weekend. For instance, last year one solver was mistakenly given Puzzle 5 to solve instead of Puzzle 4. He managed to solve it in the shorter time allotted for Puzzle 4, but then ran into trouble afterward. You see, Puzzle 4’s trick was confusing, and the judges actually explained the puzzle before the competitors began Puzzle 5. So this solver couldn’t fairly solve Puzzle 4 in Puzzle 5’s place, because it had been explained to him.
It wasn’t until days after the tournament that I found out he ended up getting an averaged-out score for Puzzle 4, which was considered the fairest way to proceed. (Much fairer than the zero points he’d originally been given for a mistake that wasn’t his.)
So when it comes to intriguing stories emerging from the tournament, this year is no exception.
It all starts with self-reported errors. The ACPT has a long tradition of competitors honestly reporting their own errors which have been missed by either the tournament officials scoring their puzzles OR the computers that scan the grids afterward.
I know several solvers honest enough to have reported missed errors in the past, even though doing so hurts their scores and their standings in the field. They’d rather compete honestly, which is a marvelous quality indeed.
In fact, this year, the tournament even instituted the George Washington Award for self-reporting errors that judges missed.
And one error reported this year changed the entire outcome of the B block of the tournament.
As you might recall from my write-up of the event, the B division final came down to Matthew Gritzmacher, Brian Fodera, and Arnold Reich, with Brian Fodera scoring the victory.
So you can see why some competitors were confused when they logged into the ACPT website to see the following text:
Because of a scoring error in the preliminary rounds, which was not discovered until too late, the results of the “B” division playoff were nullified. The top three finishers after seven rounds: 1) Matthew Gritzmacher 2) Arnold Reich 3) Adam Doctoroff
During his train ride home, Brian noticed that his Puzzle 7 score was impossible, given the number of minutes remaining. Brian reported the error to tournament officials, who determined that when his puzzle was scanned into the computer, a filled-in grid square was misread as a black square by the computer. This boosted the word count of the puzzle and awarded additional points to Brian’s score.
As it turns out, the winner of the B division was never intended to make the finals, and Adam Doctoroff was meant to be in that spot.
Brian has relinquished any claim to the title, the prize money, or any honors granted by his win, suggesting that the final be vacated and the prize money split among the three men who should’ve been on the dais.
It’s an amazing gesture, one befitting the goodness, honesty, and respect of the many puzzlers who congregate at the tournament every single year.
I don’t yet know if the tournament officials followed his recommendation regarding distribution of trophies, prize money, etc., but I suspect they will.
Kudos to Brian for truly earning that George Washington Award this year. And who knows? Maybe next year, we’ll see him in the finals again. After all, he’s now proven he can win it all.
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