Ilivetolearn's Blog

March 6, 2009

American Crossword Puzzle Tournament; an exercise in humility

Filed under: crossword puzzles,Margo's life rules — ilivetolearn @ 4:27 pm

About this time last year, I entered a local crossword puzzle contest, a fundraiser for the Makefield area AAUW. This was a result of Margo picking up an event-advertising bookmark (she collects them), which was sitting on the circulation desk of the local library branch. “You should go, Mom…you’d be great. It would be fun.” As usual, she was right. Bill often says that if we want advice on how to live and especially how to get the greatest enjoyment out of life, we should just do everything Margo suggests.

There were between 40 and 50 people competing and although I came in 11th (they gave prizes to the top 10) I did bring home a prize for Sudoku, and I later realized that all the solvers who had beaten me were veterans of the ACPT (the national tournament run by Will Shortz) and had finished in the top 100 there! So, bitten by the competitive puzzling bug and mistakenly thinking I was in their league, I went to Brooklyn this past weekend to play against the big boys. There’s evidence of me sitting a couple of rows behind the now five-time winner at:

http://wordplay.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/the-tournament-begins/

In photo #7, you’ll see Tyler looking up; he’s finished and is checking the clock. I am looking down, probably thinking, “Damn! I don’t know half this stuff.” Other photos show how these ACPT-ers are a species unto themselves, with crossword-themed clothing, etc. They cheerfully label themselves geeks and nerds, and the overlap with Star Wars enthusiasts is about 90%. If you’ve seen Wordplay, you’ve had a glimpse of this alternate reality.

Let me just say that this year’s final was more exciting that any scene in that movie. And despite my lackluster finish (I was 427 out of 674, 83 out of 178 rookies), I at least squeaked out of the humiliating E division (the bottom 35%) so I’ll probably go back next year and proudly compete as a D-minus!

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