The Indie 500 Crossword Tournament returns tomorrow!

indie5002017

That’s right! Tomorrow, June 3rd, will mark the third annual edition of the tournament, and although registration is closed (because the event is full!), you can still participate from home for only $10! Click here for details!

Not only that, but once again they’ve whipped up a meta-suite of puzzles to boot, and you name your own price for it!

I expect great things from the immensely talented team of constructors and directors they’ve assembled: Tracy Bennett, Erik Agard, Angela Olson Halsted, Andy Kravis, Paolo Pasco, Allegra Kuney, and Neville Fogarty. With a curious time-centric theme, topnotch constructors, and pie (there’s always pie), you can’t go wrong!

You can click here for the Indie 500 home page, and click here for a rundown of last year’s puzzles!

Will you be competing? Or participating from home? Let us know in the comments below!


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

The Indie 500 Crossword Tournament returns soon!

indie5002017

Two years ago, a new crossword tournament joined the ranks of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and Lollapuzzoola, immediately carving out its own niche in the puzzle world. The Indie 500 offered topnotch puzzles and a pie-fueled solving experience both live in Washington, D.C., and for solvers at home.

And it’s back! The third edition of The Indie 500 is happening on Saturday, June 3, and this year, the theme is Time.

This year’s tournament follows the same format as previous years: five preliminary puzzles of varying difficulty, plus a finals puzzle for the top three scorers in both divisions.

15578613_353570111681999_3252505970116300828_n

[There’s also a fair amount of slapstick.]

Registration is open for the tournament, and if you can make it to D.C., it’s only $30 to compete! But don’t worry if you can’t, because solving from home is only $10!

Not only that, but there’s a time-themed meta suite that lets you name your own price, as well as access to the previous tournament bundles for $5 apiece. Those are super-affordable prices for some outstanding puzzles!

Andy Kravis, Erik Agard, and Neville Fogarty all make their third appearance as veteran constructors — understandable, since they’re also event organizers — and they’re joined by Angela Olson Halsted (who constructed last year) and tournament newcomers Tracy Bennett, Paolo Pasco, and Allegra Kuney!

And, of course, there will be pie.

pie

You can click here for the Indie 500 home page, and click here for a rundown of last year’s puzzles!

Will you be competing, or participating from home? Let us know in the comments below!


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

The Indie 500 Crossword Tournament returns soon!

Last year, a new crossword tournament joined the ranks of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and Lollapuzzoola, immediately carving out its own niche in the puzzle world. The Indie 500 offered top-notch puzzles and a pie-fueled solving experience both live in Washington, D.C., and for solvers at home.

And it’s back! The second edition of The Indie 500 is happening on Saturday, June 4, and this year, it’s all decked out in a prom motif.

I reached out to the team behind last year’s event, and constructor/director Andy Kravis was happy to answer my questions and offer some insight into this year’s event.

Andy has been published in the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Los Angeles Times, and other venues, and he was excited to discuss this year’s tournament with the PuzzleNation audience.

1.) I’m very glad to see The Indie 500 returning for a second year. What did you learn from the inaugural event, and what are you hoping to change/improve?

We’re glad to be back! Here’s a list of things we learned from the inaugural Indie 500:

How to run a crossword tournament.

None of us had ever done anything like this before, so every step was brand new to us. We all went into it knowing that building our own crossword tournament from the ground up was going to be a lot of work, but I don’t think any of us fully appreciated how much work it would be until we were already neck-deep in it. We started planning about a year in advance, and one thing I learned is that it takes almost exactly a year to plan a successful Indie 500, even with a team of five directors and a ton of wonderful volunteer test-solvers and staffers.

As for the tournament itself, a lot of our more ambitious ideas — writing a meta suite to raise funds for the tournament, using a new scoring system, having a contest to find a tourney puzzle by a new constructor — worked out really well, so we brought them back this year. We got some great feedback from attendees about which puzzles they enjoyed most, which parts of the program worked well, and so on, all of which we incorporated into our planning for this year. On the whole, the tournament will look a lot like last year’s: five preliminary puzzles of varying difficulty, plus a finals puzzle for the top three scorers in both divisions.

I would say the most visible change we’re making is getting lots of new faces involved. After last year’s event, Evan Birnholz was hired as the Washington Post‘s new crossword constructor (whoo!), and Neville Fogarty entered the last year of his Ph.D program, so they both had to step away from their directorial duties. We were thrilled to bring on Angela Olson Halsted, who’s been a terrific addition to our team, and we’ve also gotten to work with a lot of really talented constructors this year as well.

We’re always open to ideas of how to improve the tournament experience, so feel free to e-mail us at xwordtournament@gmail.com if you have suggestions.

[Andy, alongside Sara Nies, solves at the 2015 Lollapuzzoola event.]

2.) Last year’s theme was racing, and this year’s theme is prom. What about prom appealed to the team more than other possibilities?

We knew almost immediately after wrapping last year’s tournament that we wanted this year’s Indie 500 to be prom themed. The biggest upside, and the main reason we chose it as our theme, is that we really wanted to see what we could do when working with other new constructors in teams. By bringing on prom dates, we now have the opportunity to showcase not just the work of our contest winner but also of the additional constructors we’ve invited. Some of our constructing teams bring very different voices to the constructing process, and it’s been really cool to see how those styles have meshed. And of course you don’t have to take a date to prom — you can go solo, or you can go with a group — and we’ve also kept that in mind while planning the tournament.

We also love the aesthetics of prom. As we tossed around ideas for this year’s tournament, we kept returning to the similarities between a disco ball and a crossword grid, and Raina Zheng did an awesome job designing this year’s logo with that idea in mind. It was easy for us to see the aesthetics of crosswords in disco balls, tuxedos, limousines, and dance floors, and it’s also fun for us to think of ways to inject some of the colorful elements of prom back into a crossword tournament.

Plus, our tradition of playing entrance music for our finalists makes possibly more sense with a prom theme than it did with a racing theme.

In a broad metaphorical sense, I think prom is more in line with what we’re about than racing anyway. Racing seems like a natural fit for a crossword tournament — it’s an individual pursuit that’s about speed (plus the checkered flag and the Indy/Indie pun were too good to resist). But I think what’s great about crossword tournaments is that crossword people have an excuse to get together and have fun and celebrate.

[Possible crossword prom looks?]

3.) One of my favorite aspects of The Indie 500 is that you hold a contest for constructors to join the team and contribute a puzzle to the tournament. Last year’s winner was Finn Vigeland, and this year’s winner is puzzle newcomer Sam Trabucco. What sort of response did you get when you announced this year’s contest, and what made Sam stand out?

Those of you who solved last year’s puzzles know just how lucky we were to get Finn’s submission. We got a lot of excellent puzzles that year, quite a few of which we’ve since been pleased to see published in venues like AV Club and Fireball Crosswords.

We chose Finn’s puzzle because it had a unique combination of clean and lively fill, clues with a clear voice, and a tricky theme that had the potential to incorporate a unique visual element (namely, the candy bars that ended up going in the grid). The version of the puzzle that ran during the tournament ended up being one of my favorite puzzles that year.

[One of the candy bars from Finn Vigeland’s Indie 500 puzzle.]

We didn’t get quite as many submissions this year, and yet picking a winner was just as tough. After narrowing the group of submissions to four or five entries that stood out to us as the best of the bunch, we debated for a long time before picking the puzzle that turned out to be Sam’s. Without giving too much away, what we liked about Sam’s submission was that the theme was something we hadn’t seen before, and the fill was really fresh and showed a point of view.

One thing I want to mention is that after we unblinded the submissions, we were really disappointed not to have received more entries from women and people of color. We’ve already started talking about what we can do to encourage more submissions from that pool of talent next year. This is a top priority for us in running the best indie crossword tournament we can.

4.) Finally, and most importantly, will there still be pie?

Yes, there will be pie. In fact, we’re considering a Pie-Only division in 2017.

Thanks to Andy for taking the time out to answer my questions! You can check out the full details on The Indie 500 by clicking here!

(I’m already signed up to solve from home, and I can’t wait to see this year’s puzzles.)


Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on everything PuzzleNation!

You can also share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and explore the always-expanding library of PuzzleNation apps and games on our website!

Start your engines! It’s the Indie 500 crossword tournament!

Having recently attended the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament for the first time, I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for other puzzle events and tournaments to check out.

And I stumbled across an upcoming tournament with a lot of positive buzz and interest: The Indie 500.

I decided to reach out to one of the participating constructors, Evan Birnholz of Devil Cross. Having met Evan at the ACPT this year, I knew he would be the perfect go-to guy to fill me in on everything Indie 500.

1.) What is The Indie 500?

The Indie 500 is a new crossword puzzle tournament started by five guys with their own free, independent crossword websites: Erik Agard, Peter Broda, Neville Fogarty, Andy Kravis, and myself. We’re each writing and editing the puzzles and we’re excited to hold our first tournament on May 30 down in Washington, DC.

2.) How does it differ from other crossword tournaments/events?

I think our tournament is, first, an outgrowth of the work we do on our respective websites. On a larger scale, it’s essentially a celebration of indie puzzling. The five of us behind the Indie 500 had published only a few puzzles in mainstream outlets before launching our sites, and now most of our crosswords are things that we’ve created for self-publication.

Because we each drew inspiration from independent puzzle writers like Brendan Emmett Quigley and Matt Gaffney and Ben Tausig, we wanted to give others who didn’t have many published puzzles to their name a chance to have a spotlight of their own, so we held a blind, open submission contest to find a sixth tournament constructor with fewer than ten publications in mainstream venues like The New York Times, The LA Times, CrosSynergy, and so on.

If nothing else, we figured this would inspire new constructors to be creative and submit something that they wouldn’t normally send in to a newspaper. We got several amazing submissions, and ended up picking a winner in Finn Vigeland.

[The six contributors to The Indie 500, plus initials.]

I believe our unique voices as puzzle-makers will help set our tournament apart from others. The puzzles on our sites tend to skew younger in content compared with mainstream puzzles — no surprise considering we’re all 31 or younger (I’m the oldest) — and so we like to dabble in themes and clues that reference modern and sometimes edgy material.

Because we don’t have the same space or “breakfast test” constraints that a newspaper puzzle might have, that gives us a lot of liberty to work with fresh and creative clues and themes, and we’re hoping to bring a similar vibe to our event.

We’re also throwing in some fun features that you likely won’t see at other tourneys. First, we’ll be releasing a separate meta puzzle suite before the tournament featuring puzzles by all five of us co-founders; the suite isn’t required for solving the tournament puzzles, but we think it will be fun all the same.

Next, the solvers who make it to the finals will get to have their own individual entrance music while we announce their names in style. How cool is that?

But the biggest thing that sets our tourney apart? Pie. There will be Pie. No other crossword tournament can promise you that.

[Pie: an Indie 500 guarantee.]

3.) How did it start? How did you get involved in the tournament?

We each started talking about running our own collaborative gig shortly after the 2014 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. We just thought: events like this and Lollapuzzoola are such a blast, why not have our own tourney?

Of course we weren’t sure at first if it would be financially or logistically possible, but we got a great response from others in the puzzle world when we originally floated the idea. Over the last year, it’s just been a lot of planning, a lot of wrangling over the details, a lot of building and rebuilding grids… and now it’s almost here!

For myself, I just felt incredibly lucky to be included on the project with four other really talented puzzle constructors from the beginning. I had only published a small handful of puzzles on my website when we first discussed the idea of a new tournament, where the other four had been self-publishing for at least a year or two.

4.) As a constructor yourself, what’s your favorite part of an event like this? Do you have any favorite clues or puzzles you’ve crafted, either connected to the Indie 500 or on your own?

The best part about attending a crossword tournament is the camaraderie you get from hanging out with friends and meeting new people who enjoy the hobby of crosswords as much as you do. Solving the puzzles and creating them are fun to do, but that’s really secondary to the social aspect of a big event like this.

I’ve never had the chance to be on the other, more organizational side of things until now, but I will say that there’s a real rush I get from the thought of watching a whole room of people work on a puzzle of mine in real time.

[Solvers testing their skills at the Arlington Puzzle Festival.]

This won’t be the first time I’ve gotten that opportunity. Will Shortz once selected my first New York Times crossword as the final puzzle for the 2013 Westchester Crossword Tournament. That was a major thrill and I’m looking forward to that same adrenaline rush again.

As for favorite puzzles or clues of mine — I can’t really reveal much about what I’ve made for the tournament, but I’m a big fan of smooth grids with clues that really deliver a good a-ha moment, or at the very least make solvers laugh.

This early themeless puzzle is still one of my favorites because I was able to keep it relatively junk-free but still managed to fit in several longer, lively phrases.

This Halloween-themed puzzle was a nightmare to construct, but it had a fun gimmick and it gave me a chance to create some funny fake movie titles.

Often when I’m writing clues, I like to find quotations for famous people that may end up in my grids, especially comedians, since they’re usually a goldmine for funny sayings (like in 27-Down in this puzzle).

I’m also on the lookout for fresh angles on old crossword retreads — I once clued EDEN as [Apple site that was running perfectly until a couple of people violated its terms].

But for some reason, I still have a soft spot for a clue I wrote in the very first puzzle of mine that ever got published, in Ben Tausig’s Twenty Under Thirty compilation: [That’s what sheep said] (3 letters). The answer itself wasn’t exactly a great puzzle entry, but I figured, if the clue’s funny, people will still like it.


Thanks to Evan for taking the time out to answer my questions! You can check out the full details on The Indie 500 by clicking here!

I wish Evan and his fellow constructors the best of luck. Puzzle events and community-building efforts like this are always worthwhile endeavors.

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!