American Crossword Puzzle Tournament 2008

THE FIRST BROOKLYN

— by WILLz

For the first time since its founding in 1978, the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament was held outside Stamford, Conn. — in the spacious Brooklyn Bridge Marriott in New York City. And you know what? Despite the fancy new digs and a hotel staff that was unfamiliar with our ways, things felt pretty comfortable and ran pretty smoothly. As soon as the hotel understands that some of the tournament people want to play games all night (not just till 2 a.m., when the staff shooed everyone out of the public areas), I think we’ll feel completely settled in.

Some things don’t change: Mosayc won his fourth consecutive championship, finishing perfectly a viciously clued playoff puzzle in 16 minutes 21 seconds. Qaqaq was actually the first to finish it, in 9:52 — but he had two wrong letters, and thinking Mosayc was hot on his heels, he declared “Done!” without giving the problem area more thought, so he came in second. Mr. Do!, who was almost done when time ran out, finished third.

One of the highlights of the weekend was a Brooklyn-themed team crossword extravaganza on Friday night, created by Story (who was sick and couldn’t attend in person). Amusingly, and completely coincidentally, Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn Borough President, gave away the final answer to the extravaganza in his remarks at the start of the evening. I won’t give this answer away, in case anyone still wants to try the puzzles. Story is making them available at a nominal price at ericberlin.com/?page_id=2071.

Another highlight was a Saturday night quiz game, “1 vs. 700,” based on TV’s “1 vs. 100,” in which the audience tried to outlast past ACPT champions (and vice versa) on a series of multiple-choice language- and puzzle-related questions. Chainsaw and G Natural created and ran the show.

For the first time the NPL had a vendor’s table at the event, and we acquired or reacquired 15 members as a result. Thanks to Chainsaw for arranging for the table, getting sample puzzles, making minisample copies, finding volunteers to staff the table, and, best of all, ordering and getting a brand-new NPL banner under deadline.

Altogether a record 114 NPLers took part in the weekend, and 9 of the top 10 solvers were NPLers. Following are the complete Krewe results. An asterisk (*) indicates a member joining or rejoining at or shortly after the event: 1—Mosayc (also 1st Junior, 1st Midwest), 2—Qaqaq (1st South), 3—Mr. Do! (1st New Jersey), 4—En (1st Fifties, 1st New York City), 6—Anomaly (1st Mid-Atlantic), 7—Lunch Boy (2nd New York City), 8—Coach (2nd Fifties), 9—Kray (1st New England), 10—Squonk (2nd Mid-Atlantic), 12—Quotidian, 13—Saxifrage (2nd New England), 16—Xyzzy, 17—Nucky (2nd New Jersey), 19—Trazom, 20—Sanit (1st Sixties), 22—T McAy, 24—Kegler, 26—QED, 30—Tyger, 31—Saphir (1st Upstate New York), 33—Spelvin, 34—Midas (2nd South), 37—Jeffurry, 38—Scarlatti (2nd Sixties), 41—Noam, 43—Wampahoofus (3rd Sixties), 44—G Natural, 47—*Blackpool, 50—Taz, 51—Lyric, 53—Cazique, 57—Al DeSuda (2nd Long Island),70—Mnemonica, 92—Charts (1st Seventies), 94—Gabby, 96—Libby Gorman, 100—Victor Mather, 101—Hypatia, 104—*C’atty, 108—Minimus, 117—Zoidberg,119—Munro, 124—*Lisa Schumaker, 127—Janet Bradlow, 132—Toonhead!,133—Ucaoimhu, 135—Pintac, 136—Marie desJardins, 139—Ditto (1st Seniors),153—Maso, 60—*Jason Keller, 162—Carol David (2nd in the D division), 174—Marionette, 180—Sprout, 181—Eau, 185—Cramerica, 202—D. Ness, 205—George Tolley, 221—*Tom Bell, 224—Rosebud, 231—Becketh, 241—Doc J, 248—treacle, 250—, 268—Contralto, 273—Mizzy, 294—Barry Weprin, 296—Gary Sherman, 305—*Pete Mitchell, 323—Queen B, 372—Badir, 428—*Amanda Yesnowitz, 430—*Tommy Lee Cook, 448—Josh Solomon, 481—Lilith, 521—*Frances Lindsey, 533—Philip Spiegel, 555—Minipearl, 564—*Zuty, 570—Neuromancer, 597—Bedad, 600—Arcs, 603—*Marci Stern, 609—*Philip Metzidakis, 611—Ennirol, 649—*Onlydemi, 663—*Jack Pansegrau, and 674—Rebel.

Noncompeting NPLers present were Applause, Asobi, Chainsaw, I, JrMan, Sarah Keller, La Do La Li/Ti, Mr. Tex, and Treesong. Weekend drop-ins included *Meredith McGroarty and Otherwise. The officials included Degas, Evita, Famulus, Forty-two, Helene, Manx, Poi, Quip, Señor, Sluggo, Spout, Tihz Wa, Trickme, Wagstaff, and me.

In addition, about a dozen NPLers competed from home either online or by mail. The tournament puzzles can still be ordered through www.crosswordtournament.com, where you can also find photos, videos, and more reports on the event.

ACPT ADVENTURES

— by Rosebud

Leap Day is an event that occurs once every four years. The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is an event that has occurred every year since 1978. Before 2008, I’d experienced 10 leap days and zero ACPTs — but both of those numbers increased by one on Feb. 29.

Although I’ve been an NPL member for 11 years, I’d never met in person any other members not living in the Twin Cities, so I was very excited to finally be able to put faces to the many noms I’ve seen for so long.

A few weeks before the tournament, Tyger sent out an invitation to meet for lunch on Friday. I flew into JFK, so I was able to “Take _ Train” to the Brooklyn Marriott, the new home for the tournament after three decades in Stamford. I checked into the hotel, spotted in the lobby a few people I’d seen in Wordplay, then hopped another train to Chinatown.

Tyger had suggested we meet at Jing Fong’s for dim sum. I got to the restaurant a bit early and realized I was waiting for an unknown number of people I wouldn’t recognize. In a bit, another man showed up and it was obvious that he too was waiting for some others to arrive. I introduced myself and met Wampahoofus. Soon, we were joined by Tyger and Mr. Do! The four of us had a wonderful meal of dim sum. The total cost for all of us, including tip, was only $32. During the meal I asked for tournament advice. The others were happy to supply me with tips for grid flow and clock management. “How should I handle a rebus puzzle?” I asked. “I haven’t seen a rebus puzzle here for some time,” Tyger replied, “but here’s what I’d do . . .” Thanks, Tyger. “And don’t ask for my tips while he’s here,” Tyger said, indicating Mr. Do! (They were the top two New Jersey competitors at the 2007 tournament.) Sorry, Tyger.

After lunch, I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. Halfway across the river I caught up with another pedestrian, who was wearing crossword-patterned sneakers. This turned out to be someone I’d corresponded with a few times on the cruciverb-L website, so I added another face to a name.

Friday evening we were presented with a fun seven-part contest constructed by Story, but that almost didn’t happen. Story was ill, and unable to attend. Just as Willz was about to announce that we didn’t have any copies of the puzzle, the back doors of the ballroom were thrown open and in marched several people with huge boxes full of puzzles. It was like the courtroom scene in Miracle on 34th Street, where the postal workers deliver Santa’s letters to Kris Kringle.

Since this was meant to be a socializing event, we were told to form groups of three to work together on the puzzles. There were two men in the row behind me who needed a third, Steven Seidel from Alabama and Dan Bartnik from Minnesota. All three of us were rookies, but we decided to give it a shot. Story’s extravaganza was very well put together, and we were pleased to be team #41 to complete it. Willz had announced that there would be a prize for the quickest team as well as prizes for five randomly-drawn finishers. During the wine and cheese reception that evening, he gave out these prizes, beginning with the randomly drawn teams. Our trio was the first to be called. We each got our pick of one of many books available, which Willz was happy to sign for us. I think that means that I can legitimately claim to be the first prize winner of the 2008 tournament, can’t I? In any case, it was pointed out that, for a while at least, this group of rookies had each won more than reigning champ Mosayc. I take my victories where I can.

Saturday consisted of six puzzles — three in the morning and three in the afternoon. Puzzle 1 was an encouraging 15×15 by Andrea Michaels which got me going with a lot of nice words.

Puzzle 2 was a 17×17 by Manx, with a variation of a word ladder approach. Solving the word ladder itself didn’t give any extra points, but it did help me break into the south and southeastern sections of the grid. The southeastern part of this grid gave me my first “That’s a word?” reaction of the tournament, but from now on I’ll always remember what [that kind] of event is called.

Puzzle 3 was a 19×19 by Merl Reagle which also gave me a couple of “That’s a word?” moments — unfortunately for me, the answer was “No, those aren’t words.” Still, I was pleased with my results. I’d finished each puzzle so far, and was ranked 226 out of 699 — well above where I’d expected to be.

After lunch with Steven and Dan, it was time to tackle Puzzle 4, a 15×15 from Forty-two whose four theme answers all had the same four-letter clue: Digs. Thankfully, this did not elicit any of those other four-letter words.

That changed big-time with Puzzle 5 by David Kahn. Traditionally, this is considered the toughest puzzle of the event for most people. It lived up to its reputation for about 500 of us. It was a nicely crafted 17×17 whose trick was laid out well, in order. I got rather discouraged when someone in the row ahead of me turned his grid in. I had only four words filled in, none of which crossed or were particularly close to one another. Eventually I made some headway on the east side of the grid and worked my way west, but time ran out for me with a little more than one-third of my grid empty.

Puzzle 6 was a 19×19 by Maura Jacobsen. She has traditionally constructed the #6 puzzle for the tournament. This was a nice light puzzle with an easily graspable theme — just what was needed at that point.

The evening session consisted of a viewing of Wordploy, a short film by Ed Stein which chronicled with tongue in cheek his third-place finish in the 2007 tournament. After that, Willz gave us some puzzles from his radio show, then Chainsaw and G Natural led us in a mob uprising against past tournament winners, in a game of “1 vs. 700.” I’m happy to say I outlasted one champion, but then again I missed the first question against another.

Puzzle 7 was on Sunday morning, and was appropriately sized at 21×21, by Oliver Hill. Things went well for me here, until I got to a certain crossing in the south-central section. It was a proper noun last name crossing with a word I’d never heard of. My first guess based on the proper name actually was correct, but I talked myself out of that for a different letter. Afterward, talking to others out in the hallway, there were plenty of people who got that combination correct, but lots of others who like me had no idea what to fill in there. In my experience,that was the most talked-about crossing in the grid.

The A finals consisted of three NPLers: Mr. Do! and Mosayc tied for first, with Qaqaq in third. From my seat, I could see Mosayc’s and Qaqaq’s boards, but since color commentary is included, I could follow what was happening on Mr Do!’s board.

Although he started a few seconds after the other two, Qaqaq jumped out to a nice lead, moving well ahead of the others. In the southeast corner of the grid,he made one slight error, leaving him with three incorrect words. As he moved off to the northwest corner to finish up, one of the announcers pointed out his error and mentioned he likely wouldn’t spot it before finishing. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t. He was obviously disappointed when he removed his headphones and heard not cheers but gasps, but he held himself up well.

As time ran down, it appeared he might still have a chance. With about five minutes left, both Mr. Do! and Mosayc were looking at lots of empty or incorrect cells. At one point, Mosayc wrote BEATSME in one column which was giving him trouble. It’s amazing how these top-level solvers can keep their sense of humor even during a situation like this. That bit of levity must have cleared his mind, because soon after that Mosayc had a breakthrough and started filling in his last cells. The tournament had its first four-consecutive-year winner. Qaqaq was second, and Mr. Do! was third. My final results put me in slot 224 — much better than I had expected and certainly enough to make me want to come back next year. But the tournament itself had already done that.

Thanks to all those involved with the ACPT who made it so much fun for this rookie. Thanks also to the many NPL members I met, including Badir, En, Kray, Mr. Do!, Pintac, Qaqaq, Saxifrage, Treesong, Tyger, Ucaoimhu, Wampahoofus, and Willz. [Thanks, Rosebud! Mosayc (http://tylerhinman.com), Qaqaq (http://qaqaq.livejournal.com), and many others have blog accounts of the tournament. —Ed.]

 
misc/acpt2008.txt · Last modified: 2008/05/10 09:47 by kite
 
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