Delving into the Lollapuzzoola 14 Puzzles!

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The fourteenth edition of Lollapuzzoola, as is tradition, arrived on a Saturday in August, but for the second year in a row, it was hosted online to allow tournament solving from home.

I was not in virtual attendance, but I did sign up for the Next Day Division puzzle packet. Last weekend, I finally had a chance to sit down and try my hands at this year’s tournament puzzles, and I was not disappointed. Lollapuzzoola continues to push the envelope with inventive themes and unique spins on how to bring crosswords to life.

This year’s theme was “This Time, It’s Virtual… Again.” Every puzzle had something to do with social media, social distancing, or some other aspect of virtual life that emerged during the pandemic, and the constructors were clearly inspired in all sorts of ways. Let’s take a look at what they came up with.


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Two rehearsal puzzles served as a warm-up for this year’s tournament crosswords. The first was constructed by Brooke Husic and Sid Sivakumar and entitled “Hit Me Up!” This puzzle immediately reminded solvers that anything could happen at Lollapuzzoola.

Not only were the theme entries reading down — which isn’t that weird, but it’s fairly uncommon — but there were animated GIFs as clues for three of the answers. The theme was fairly accessible: phrases that started off with a method of communication like ZOOM or TEXT, confirmed by the revealer CONTACT HIGH (since the method of contact was the highest part of the down entry). All in all, a puzzle with a solid hook, complimented by good grid fill. Exactly what you want from a warm-up.

The second rehearsal puzzle was constructed by the same duo (but with Sid leading off the byline this time) and entitled “Box Score.”

This was a strong follow-up, featuring the word WIN as a rebus-style single-box entry, which allowed for some devious crossings (like ENTWINE crossing RAW INGREDIENTS). The fill was smooth and I learned that KOREA is the home of the Baekdu-daegan mountains. Neat!

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Puzzle 1: Extremely Casual Friday by Robyn Weintraub

The tournament puzzles kicked off with this enjoyable opener, a 15x grid with clean fill and quite the appropriate theme for a virtual tournament.

Each theme entry was a phrase starting with a type of pants — SWEAT, PAJAMA, YOGA, and hilariously, NO — tied together with the answer word PANTS in the bottom-right corner.

Well constructed, humorous, and a great solve… it’s the recipe for an ideal Lollapuzzoola puzzle #1.

Interesting grid entries included REPLY ALL, SLOPPY JOES, and BEST BET, and my favorite clue was “This puzzle was constructed by Brooke Husic, e.g.” for LIE.

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[Here, Deb Amlen (blue checkmark and all) demonstrates Twitter tagging.]

Puzzle 2: Tag! by Amanda Rafkin

This 17x puzzle embraced the social media theme by embedding @ symbols in the grid as starters for the theme entries (where @ represented AT, like in @ASTANDSTILL), allowing for some fun crossings.

The theme was encouraged further by the revealer TWITTER MENTIONS, as well as a blue checkmark next to Amanda’s byline. (For the uninitiated, the blue checkmark, aka the blue tick, is used on Twitter to indicate someone is a verified user. It’s often a source of some small social media clout as well.)

With strong fill and some signature Rafkin flare — it’s very Amanda to have a Sondheim reference — this was a great confidence-building solve with a heap of style. I quite enjoyed this puzzle.

Interesting grid entries included AW NUTS, EYE DOC, and STAYED INSIDE, and my favorite clue was “Sound that might drown out some $%!#ing bad words” for BLEEP.

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Puzzle 3: Get the Message by Sid Sivakumar

This 19x grid with vertical symmetry was a definite step-up in difficulty after the first two puzzles, but it’s also a strong puzzle with a great design.

The theme for this one involved chat/texting slang like TTYL and ROFL, and like the second rehearsal puzzle, it had a rebus element where those abbreviations were contained in a single box, used by two crossing entries. This was supported not only by the cluing — which included a fake username and comment to indicate some chat or textspeak was involved — but the revealer CHATBOX in the middle of the grid.

I probably wouldn’t have realized as quickly that there was a rebus involved if I hadn’t had rebuses on the brain after solving the rehearsal puzzles. But even without all hints, this was a fairly tight grid that made the most of its theme. (I wasn’t a huge fan of IN appearing three times in the grid, but that might be seen as a nitpick.)

Interesting grid entries included PRESS KIT, SASHAY AWAY, SIERRA MIST, and EVIL ONE, and my favorite clue was “Bar, barn, or barrel” for UNIT.

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Puzzle 4: Connecting… by Brooke Husic

Okay, here we go.

Puzzle 4 was a 15x grid with one doozy of a gimmick. Most of the down clues were replaced with an animated GIF of three dots moving (like the one above), the instantly-recognizable image of a message either being typed or incoming, but that hasn’t arrived yet. (For Next Day Division solvers, there was no animation, just three dots, but the message was still clear.)

All the across clues were still there, and SOME of the down clues as well. The remaining down clues were long, and almost felt like the clues from a cryptic or British-style crossword, because they didn’t seem to quite fit the answers in the grid.

I can only imagine the baffled terror I would have felt in the moment during the tournament if I tackled this puzzle live. I imagine it would have been similar to this poor soul’s experience:

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Thankfully, I finally realized what was going on. The down clues weren’t just for their particular coordinate, they were for all of the words in that column. For instance, 55-Down was clued “A+ hosts,” and the answer to 55-Down was MCS. That could fit. But only “hosts” applied to 55-Down. “A” and “+” were the clues for the two down entries above 55-Down: 1-Down ALPHA and 32-Down AND.

Across-only solvers probably got farther than most with this one at the start, and I can imagine the grid would feel almost impenetrable if you didn’t figure out the gimmick.

But man, this is clever as hell and a solving experience nobody is going to forget anytime soon.

Interesting grid entries included HIGGS, OPEN SECRET, and SVELTE, and my favorite clue was either “A+ hosts,” as listed above, or “Get the picture SO much” because “SO” clued BOO and I thought the misdirect was very clever.

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Puzzle 5: You’re Muted by Patti Varol

After a brain-melter like Puzzle 4, Puzzle 5 was clearly designed as a cool-down puzzle before the tournament final. And I’m sure it served that purpose amiably for many solvers.

But for some reason, this theme took me the longest to get, and I felt so dumb when I realized how obvious it was.

This 21x grid featured theme entries where part of the phrase that sounded like “You’re” had been removed. For instance, JUNIOR EXECUTIVES became JUNE EXECUTIVES, and VEGETABLE PUREE became VEGETABLE PAY.

For some reason, the sound aspect of it just blew past me several times on the way to the forum, and I was done with the grid for MINUTES before it finally dawned on me. Patti is going to be so disappointed with me.

The theme is terrific and the grid fill is solid. This was a great capper for the tournament proper, helping bring (most) solvers back down to earth after the whirlwind that was Puzzle 4.

Interesting grid entries included SNIVEL, SINEWED, MOONSTRUCK, PHOTOBOMB, and ALL TIME LOW, and my favorite clues were “Dirt pie ingredient” for OREO and “Notable Ford of the 1970s” for GERALD.

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[The tournament finals, live on Twitch!]

Puzzle 6: Finals by Wyna Liu

As always, there were two sets of clues for the Finals puzzle, the Local and the more difficult Express clues. No matter which clues you were working with, you were in for a terrific tournament finale.

This themeless 15x was tough but engaging, featuring lots of long entries and unusual phrases crossing, making for a satisfyingly challenge finale and a suitable final boss for the top contenders. The entry NHL MVP tripped me up more than once, what a brutal combination of letters, but the tight grid and strong cluing for both the Local and Express solvers made this an excellent wrap-up to a great day of puzzling

Interesting grid entries included CRAFT VODKA, THE ROYAL WE, “I’M NOT A CAT” (referencing that amazing online legal proceeding debacle), ACID ROCK, Y-AXES, and LEO X. Both the Local and Express sets of clues had some gems, so I’ll list them separately below:

Local clues:

  • “Saved butt” for ROACH
  • “Ah, this is the life (to Mario and Luigi)!” for ONE-UP
  • “Ones for the books?” for SCHOLARS
  • “Moving parts of a painting on ‘Scooby-Doo'” for EYES

Express clues:

  • “What might require a blunt instrument?” for ROACH
  • “Congress, after adjourning?” for BREAKUPSEX
  • “Video game life form?” for ONE-UP
  • “Cabs, e.g.” for REDS
  • “Whence a popular countdown in Times Sq.” for TRL

There was also a tiebreaker themeless mini by Nam Jin Yoon. The mini was a quick and satisfying solve, anchored around the grid-spanning entries GATECRASHER and READ THE ROOM. Loaded with great vocabulary, this puzzle offered a nice wind-down after a strong tournament and several really engaging puzzles.

Interesting grid entries included RAHRAH and TOO SOON, and my favorite clue from the mini was “Some fishy characters?” for MERMEN.

[There was also a meta-puzzle suite AND a collection of ten mini-crosswords dubbed the Mid-Day Mini Meta which was constructed by a small army of strong up-and-coming constructors, both of which are absolutely worth your time.]


The puzzles at Lollapuzzoola always impress, and this year was no exception. The grids were neatly constructed, there was little crosswordese, and the creative themes, grid designs, clues, and puzzle mechanics ensured that not only would fun be had by all, but that the puzzles would linger in your memory. Especially Puzzle 4.

The puzzles were varied and engaging, and the Next Day Division solving experience is always a treat. Congratulations on the competitors and the organizers who made it all happen, especially in a virtual format with so many additional solvers. (Click here to check out the Twitch feed of the entire tournament!)

Lollapuzzoola is only getting more creative, more groundbreaking, and more clever with each passing year, and it’s just awesome to watch it grow and evolve.

I can’t wait to see what they come up with next year!


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PuzzleNation is Sponsoring This Year’s Lollapuzzoola!

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The summer is always a marvelous time for puzzly events. We just had the Boswords tournament, and next weekend, there’s another online crossword tournament awaiting solvers!

Lollapuzzoola returns on Saturday, August 21st, and this year, we’re proud to announce that PuzzleNation is one of the tournament’s sponsors!

That’s right, we are providing free subscriptions to The Crosswords Club Digital to all twelve of the tournament finalists (12 in all).

Be sure to click the link for more details, or to sign up for this year’s event.

And if you’re unfamiliar with The Crosswords Club Digital, let’s fill you in on the details!

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It’s a digital subscription service that provides you with six Sunday-sized crosswords each month, created by some of the sharpest crossword constructors in the business today, and edited by puzzle luminaries Patti Varol and Brad Wilber.

You can solve them on your desktop, on your tablet, or printed out, and each month is guaranteed to provide you with puzzles as fun as they are challenging. Plus each month, you receive a bonus word puzzle!

Click this link to check out a sample of the terrific puzzles you’ll get through The Crosswords Club Digital.

I have been a huge fan of the The Crosswords Club for years, and their Digital service is another fantastic way to get top-notch puzzles with the click of a button.

You can check out the full details for The Crosswords Club Digital here, and don’t forget to give Lollapuzzoola a chance as well.

They’ve announced the constructors for this year’s tournament, and the field is loaded with talent! This year’s puzzles will be handled by Brooke Husic, Sid Sivakumar, Wyna Liu, Amanda Rafkin, Patti Varol, and Robyn Weintraub. (Plus they’ve assembled a dynamite ten-person team to craft their bonus event, the Mid-day Multi Mini Meta Mayhem.)

Will you be virtually attending Lollapuzzoola, fellow puzzlers? Or checking out The Crosswords Club Digital? Let us know in the comments section below! We’d love to hear from you.


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Delving into the 2021 Boswords Tournament Puzzles!

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I finally had a chance to sit down and try my hand at the puzzles from the Boswords Crossword Tournament. Given the talent involved amongst the organizers and constructors — as well as the reliable puzzles featured in the previous three tournaments — I had high expectations, and I was not disappointed.

So let’s put those puzzles under the microscope and see what’s what!


Practice Puzzle #1: One Direction by Ezra Lieb and John Lieb

The first of two unscored opening puzzles, this 16×14 grid was a terrific warm-up solve, designed to get the puzzly brain moving and kick off any solver ring rust that might be lingering about.

It was quick, accessible, and the grid fill flowed nicely. There were four themed entries, each containing the word EAST in some capacity (naturally, as a CT boy, PHINEAS T BARNUM was my favorite of the four). Plus, as the solver worked their way down the grid, EAST slowly migrated further east in each successive themed entry, which was a nice touch.

Interesting grid entries included JASON MOMOA, NAVAJO, DRECK, and THE FED, and my favorite clue was “Stamp with a raised design, like the Oreo’s fleur-de-lis” for EMBOSS. Seeing “Oreo” and “fleur-de-lis” together was a treat.

Practice Puzzle #2: Vowel Language by John Lieb

Boswords’ resident master of warm-up puzzles strikes again with a fun fill and a solid hook in this 16×15 grid. The themed entries were all two-word phrases where the words started with the same vowel (EARLY EDITION, e.g.), running through all five vowels (sorry, Y) as the grid was completed.

In fact, apropos for a letter-based theme, this grid was nearly a pangram (only missing J and V). Creative and interesting fill helped elevate this puzzle nicely.

Interesting grid entries included ZESTY, KENNY G, I QUIT, and MYST, and my favorite clue was “Enjoy a certain 7-Eleven drink, say” for SLURP.

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Puzzle #1: Self-Contained by Malaika Handa

The tournament proper launched with this great 18×15 starter, packed with themed entries that both started and ended with the letter I. These entries were helped along by both the title (which I loved) and the revealer GIVES SIDE EYE.

Couple that with some clever cluing — both informative and wordplay clues abound in this puzzle — and you have a very strong opener to this year’s tournament.

Interesting grid entries included HYDRA, OBEY ME, SAY CHEESE, and LATVIA, and my favorite clues were “Org. that might investigate your case” for TSA, “Something popped by toasters?” for CHAMPAGNE, and “Heady challenge for Hercules?” for HYDRA.

Puzzle #2: For Your Amusement by Hoang-Kim Vu

The second tournament puzzle eschewed a wordplay-based book for a very cool visual element. This 15x grid had the word TEACUP six times in the grid, spelled out in circled loops in the grid, and even tied it all together with the word TEACUPS reading down the center of the grid.

This did mean for some difficult grid fill in order to suit the gimmick, but the puzzle remained a solid solving experience and a pleasant shift in style for a tournament that’s often quite wordplay-heavy in its themes.

Interesting grid entries included LUCIDITY, HETERO, I TRY, and ASANTE, and amidst a load of informative and colorful clues, my favorite was “Aging texting acronym that some in Gen Z replace with a skull emoji, as in ‘You kill me'” for LMAO.

Puzzle #3: Rise to the Occasion by Garrett Chalfin and Andrew Kingsley

This 17x grid utilized its themed entries’ crossings in an engaging visual manner, as the double O’s in each phrase were stacked vertically instead of being spelled out — turning DOOM AND GLOOM, for instance, into DOM and GLOM with double O-words crossing the puzzle at the O’s. This gimmick was smartly explained by the corner revealer STANDING O’S.

This was arguably the toughest puzzle of the tournament, mixing the visual element with some interesting grid fill to make Puzzle #3 a step-up in difficulty in vintage Boswords tournament style.

Interesting grid entries included PAR THREE, NO DICE, AGAWAM, and TIME WARPS, and my favorite clue was “Answer that doesn’t belong here among the Downs?” for UPS.

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Puzzle #4: Art Heist by Chandi Deitmer

This 18x grid featured the names of artists hidden within larger phrases — KAHLO inside HOOKAH LOUNGE, for instance — but added an additional twist to the solve by ignoring the letters in those artists’ names for the Down entries. So, while KAHLO filled the circled letters reading across, the answers reading down (as clued) would exclude those letters.

But, most importantly, those circled letters STILL formed words reading down, just not the one being clued. So, for example, 4-Down was clued “Comedian whose ‘seven dirty words’ spurred a 1978 Supreme Court ruling on media censorship” gives you the answer CARLIN, but if you include the letters of two artists’ names that the down entry crosses, you get CAROLINA.

It took a little while to get used to using the letters across and ignoring them down (or, at the very least, considering the clued answers down without them while still forming the longer down words), and this made for a fun, yet challenging solve. This was a very cool and well-executed hook for the puzzle that added a lot to the traditional word-hidden-in-phrase crossword theme.

For the third year in a row, Puzzle #4 features my favorite gimmick of the tournament. What a streak!

Interesting grid entries included BEER ME, ANO NUEVO, STUNT DRIVER, and ENGULF, and my favorite clues were “Cliff notes?” for YODEL, “What a designated driver shouldn’t have to pick up?” for TAB, and “Proud papa with a cygnet ring?” for COB.

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Puzzle #5: Hollywood Extras by Rob Gonsalves and Jennifer Lim

Gonsalves and Lim return to Boswords after a successful debut last year and close out the tournament’s open competition puzzles with a solid 18×17 grid, cooling the solvers down nicely after the one-two punch of puzzles 3 and 4.

This movie-themed puzzle added a letter to film titles — THE BOOK OF ELI becoming THE BOOK OF DELI, for example — and the bonus letters spelled out DRIVE, making the revealer DRIVE-IN MOVIES tie the whole puzzle together nicely.

It’s a really fun, accessible theme that allowed for some fun cluing — I particularly enjoyed MONA LISA SIMILE — and served as a nice capper for the event before the final puzzle.

Interesting grid entries included BOUGIE, GIBRALTAR, CRETAN, and LET’S EAT, and my favorite clue was “Dwarf planet beyond Pluto” for ERIS, because I will forever stand up for Pluto and Eris as planets.

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Puzzle 6: Championship Themeless by Wyna Liu

For the third year in a row, a different constructor tackled the challenge of creating the final boss for Boswords, and Liu absolutely smashed it. This was a terrific 15x themeless grid, jam-packed with interesting fill and great crossings.

The strong construction was highlighted by two sets of solid clues — both the MILD and the SIZZLING clue sets had some clever entries for solvers to unravel — and all in all, this was a worthy obstacle for the eventual winners to overcome.

Interesting grid entries included UNO CARD, BLOBJECT, SUSHI CHEFS, ARTIVISTS, and BIKE RIDE (which I KEPT trying to make BICYCLE to my continuing dismay).

As for favorite clues, here’s a list:

  • MILD: “Academic fire safety?” for TENURE
  • SIZZLING: “Lift a paddle?” for BID
  • SIZZLING: “Keeping track?” for TENURE
  • SIZZLING: “Place to see a metal band?” for RING FINGER
  • SIZZLING: “Number of syllables in ‘Milano’ or ‘Napoli'” for TRE

Overall, Boswords continues to impress. Between the summer tournament and the seasonal themeless leagues, Boswords has really stepped up their game over the last two years, and as always, I was impressed by the array of puzzles assembled for this year’s tournament.

There were tricky themes, visual themes, and even a teacup ride, all of which made great use of both the cluing and the grids themselves. Every puzzle made an impact, and the tournament puzzles as a whole were challenging and creative in their design without being off-putting or getting too esoteric.

While I do think this year’s tournament was a bit harder overall than previous years, Boswords remains the perfect tournament to introduce solvers to tournament-style puzzling, making up for difficulty with accessibility, playfulness, and straight-up solid grid construction.

Once again, I cannot wait to see what they cook up for us next year.


But then again, we don’t have to wait that long for more Boswords fun! At the end of the broadcast for this year’s summer tournament, they announced the roster of constructors that will be contributing to the upcoming Fall Themeless League!

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That is one heck of an all-star team to look forward to! See you in October and November for this year’s Fall Themeless League!


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The Boswords Crossword Tournament Returns This Weekend!

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Yes, fellow puzzlers, it’s tournament time again!

This Sunday, July 25th, from 1 PM to 6 PM Eastern, the Boswords Crossword Tournament returns! The fifth edition of this event will be contested online for the second year in a row, so it’s the perfect opportunity to test your puzzly skills.

If you haven’t signed up yet, registration closes tomorrow at 5 PM Eastern.

With two divisions to choose from — Individual and Pairs — puzzlers of all ages and experience levels are welcome to enjoy some challenging and clever crosswords in a day of puzzly fun and camaraderie.

Tournament organizers Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb (along with talented puzzle editor Brad Wilber) have gathered a diabolical Ocean’s Eleven-style crew of terrific constructors for this year’s puzzles. The five themed puzzles in regular competition (as well as the championship themeless final) will be constructed by Malaika Handa, Andrew Kingsley, Chandi Deitmer, Wyna Liu, Hoang-Kim Vu, Rob Gonsalves, and Jennifer Lim!

Boswords is asking for $25 for adults, $35 for pairs, and $5 for students to (virtually) attend and compete, which is a real bargain! (Also, for anyone with financial difficulties, there is a discounted rate available.)

If you want to solve the puzzles at your leisure and outside of the competitive setting, it’ll only cost you $10 for the puzzle packet, which you’ll receive Monday by email.

To check out the full details of this year’s event, click here! (And for our rundown of last year’s tournament puzzles, click here!)

Will you be attending the Boswords tournament, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you.


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Loads of Crossword Tournament Info! Boswords, Indie 500, and Lollapuzzoola!

In the last week or so, crossword fans have been treated to a bevy of announcements regarding upcoming tournaments and events, and we’ve got all the details for you!

So let’s get started!

First off, Boswords is back for the summer!

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Sunday, July 25th, from 1 PM to 6 PM Eastern, puzzlers from all over will virtually gather for the fifth edition (and second edition online) of the Boswords Tournament, and registration opens today!

With two divisions to choose from — Individual and Pairs — puzzlers of all ages and experience levels will have the opportunity to test their puzzly wits.

Tournament organizers Andrew Kingsley and John Lieb have gathered a murderer’s row of talented constructors for this year’s puzzles. The five themed puzzles in regular competition (as well as the championship themeless final) will be constructed by Malaika Handa, Andrew Kingsley, Chandi Deitmer, Wyna Liu, Hoang-Kim Vu, Rob Gonsalves, and Jennifer Lim!

Boswords is asking for $25 for adults, $35 for pairs, and $5 for students to attend and compete (or as a discounted rate), which is a real bargain!

(And if you want to solve the puzzles but not compete, it’ll only cost you $10 for the puzzle packet, which you’ll receive Sunday night by email!)

You can visit the BosWords website for full details! And to check out our thoughts on last year’s tournament puzzles, click here!


The team behind the Indie 500 crossword tournament also reached out to solvers to announce that they’re releasing the puzzles intended for the 2020 edition of the tournament as a downloadable puzzle packet.

And they’re doing so as part of a charity fundraiser. All it takes is a $10 donation to one of the charities listed here, and you’ll receive some top-flight puzzles.

What a marvelous way to do some good AND keep the puzzly spirit of the Indie 500 tournament alive. (Click here for full details!)


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But that’s not all. The Lollapuzzoola team also posted updates regarding this year’s virtual edition of “the best tournament held in New York on a Saturday in August.” Saturday, August 21st, will be Lollapuzzoola 14!

The format is simple. Two divisions — Solo and Pairs — pit their puzzly minds against clever clues and crafty constructors.

There’s also the Next Day Division, where you’re outside of tournament contention but you get the puzzles the next day to solve on your own!

With five tournament puzzles plus the championship round (and bonus puzzles!) — designed with inimitable style, both fun and befuddling in how often they innovate classic crossword tropes — you’re guaranteed to get your money’s worth as you solve!

Click here to solve the announcement puzzle, and to check out the full details of this year’s event, click here! (And for the rundown of last year’s tournament puzzles, click here!)

Will you be virtually attending Boswords or Lollapuzzoola, or contributing to the Indie 500 charity promotion, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you!


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Two Crossword Anniversaries This Week!

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Crossword history isn’t exactly a field of study that dates back to ancient times — I mean, we only celebrated the centennial of the crossword back in 2013 — but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge amount of historical crossword material out there to be commemorated.

In fact, this week marks two fairly meaningful crossword anniversaries, one to be celebrated today, the other tomorrow.

The first crossword anniversary to observe is the 150th birthday of Arthur Wynne.

[Image courtesy of express.co.uk.]

In 1913, Arthur Wynne created the first modern crossword puzzle — which he called a Word-Cross puzzle — and over a hundred years later, we are still enjoying the ever-increasing variety of puzzles and clues spawned by that “fun”-filled grid.

Wynne was born on June 22, 1871 in Liverpool, England, but moved to the states in the early 1890s, spending time in Pittsburgh and New York City before creating his Word-Cross puzzle for the New York Sunday World.

Of course, the crossword as we know it — with its square grid and the black-and-white square patterning — are due not to Mr. Wynne, but to his former associate, future first New York Times crossword editor Margaret Farrar.

But, speaking of figures who helped elevate crosswords to greater prominence, that brings us to our second anniversary.

Tomorrow marks the 15th anniversary of the release of the influential crossword documentary Wordplay.

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Wordplay introduced several famous names in crossword tournament circles, like Ellen Ripstein, Trip Payne, Tyler Hinman, Jon Delfin, and Al Sanders, as well as highlighting many celebrity crossword solvers like Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, Bill Clinton, and more. The documentary also chronicled the 2005 edition of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, bringing national attention to the tournament (and inspiring a Simpsons episode about crosswords).

Wordplay sparked a 40% increase in attendance the year after it aired, and the growing interest in the yearly event caused the tournament to actually change locations to a larger venue in New York City for 7 years!

(It has since returned to the Stamford Marriott, its traditional setting, despite actually topping the biggest NYC attendance in 2019, and again virtually in 2021.)

But the impact Wordplay had on the tournament itself, and interest in crosswords in general, cannot be overstated.

And this week, we celebrate both crossword anniversaries, one marking the genesis of crosswords, and the other marking how far crosswords had come, and how much farther they could go in the future.

It’s a pretty cool confluence of dates, to be sure.


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