This weekend marks the thirty-seventh annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament at the Brooklyn Marriott, where hundreds of the nation’s speediest and most competitive solvers gather to test their mettle. In past years, we’ve been able to bring back reports from the world of cruciverbalism, but unfortunately we’re both sitting it out this year.
Still, for those with an interest in vanilla (i.e., non-cryptic) crossword puzzles, the ACPT is one of the highlights of the calendar. Run by Will Shortz, it features puzzles by some of the most ingenious and challenging constructors around, and allows ordinary solvers a chance to see how they fare under tournament conditions.
Those conditions are simple but stringent. The competition consists of seven crossword puzzles, ranging in difficulty from a fairly simple Monday or Tuesday level 15×15 (which the top solvers can generally knock out in three minutes) to mind-crunching inventions with gimmicks that can stop even hardened competitors in their tracks. The scoring is based on a combination of speed and accuracy; most of the top finishers get through all seven puzzles without a mistake, but some of the most lightning-fast solvers have been known to make up for an error by getting through subsequent puzzles even more swiftly.
For everyday solvers, ACPT is an opportunity not only to observe the champions in action (the final playoff round of the tournament takes place in full view of an audience, on oversized whiteboards) but to set and meet individual personal goals—breaking into the top 100, for example, or outpacing last year’s performance. For crossword fans, it’s also an occasion for stargazing (within admittedly nerdy parameters). If there is a constructor whose work you’ve admired over the years, or even just once, it’s a pretty safe bet that he or she will be in attendance, and be happy to talk puzzles with you.
Have you attended ACPT? What was your experience? Please share here, along with any quibbles, questions, kudos or complaints about the current puzzle or any previous puzzle. To comment (and see other readers’ comments), please click on this post’s title and scroll to the bottom of the resulting screen.
And here are four links:
• The current puzzle
• Our e-books (solve past puzzles on your iOS device—many hints provided by the software!)
• A Nation puzzle solver’s blog where every one of our clues is explained in detail.