Monday, March 30, 2015

2015 ACPT RECAP: THAT OLD STAMFORD MAGIC

On the 10th anniversary (plus a few days) of the first ACPT championship won by Tyler Hinman in a heartbreaker over Al Sanders, Hinman almost regained the crown he has watched Dan Feyer walk away with for the past five years. But it was not to be as Dan Feyer sneaked in by a margin of about 1/2 second to win his record sixth consecutive ACPT title, as the tournament returned to its original home of Stamford, Connecticut after a seven-year run in Brooklyn, NY. Watch and see. (The "official" video is still being edited; that will be posted here when available.)
The value of banking time on Puzzles 1-6 became apparent this year as Dan Feyer's four-second head start enabled him to win the title, in spite of Tyler actually solving the Byron Walden-constructed puzzle faster. On his way to establishing that cushion, Feyer set a new tournament record this year when he solved Puzzle 1 in less than two minutes. Mike Nothnagel runs the numbers on that...
Dan's 7:13 is also the fastest winning solve time ever for A clues in the finals... with an asterisk noting Tyler's faster solve. For his efforts, Feyer won $5,000, a sixth bowl-shaped trophy, and a free roll into next year's tournament.

Andrew Feist won the B division finals over Elaine Renner and this year's top rookie, Vic Chandhok. Your other division, demographic and geographic winners....

Official Contestant Count: 567, off 13 from last year

4. Kiran Kedlaya
5. Anne Erdmann (who would have made the finals if not for one mistake on Puzzle 2)
6. Francis Heaney
7. Joon Pahk
8. Al Sanders
9. David Plotkin
10. Jon Delfin

19. Robert Mackey (one square wrong in puzzle 2, retaining his A ranking)
124. Dave Mackey (one square wrong in puzzles 2 and 4, six squares wrong in puzzle 5, so will be demoted to C next year)

C: David Steinberg - youngest division winner ever in the ACPT at 17 years of age
D: Jamie Womack
E: Susan Cocalis announced as champion; however a scoring change made John Morgan the actual champion

Junior: David Plotkin
Fifties: Anne Erdmann
Sixties: Jon Delfin (who just turned 60)
Seventies: Doug Hoylman
Seniors: Arthur Schulman

West: Feyer
Connecticut: Glen Ryan
New England: Pahk
NYC: Heaney
LI: Peter Gordon
Upstate NY: Jennifer Turney
NJ: Howard Barkin (Robert Mackey 2nd in NJ due to a mistake by Renner on her Puzzle 7... thanks Elaine)
Mid-Atlantic: Scott Weiss
South: David Plotkin
Midwest: Erdmann
Foreign: Emily O'Neill (from Vancouver, BC... all the Foreign contestants were from Canada this year)

The 2016 ACPT will be held in Stamford once again at a date yet to be determined.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saturday Afternoon Recap

The results are in from all of today's puzzles at the ACPT. In A division, Dan Feyer continues to enjoy a three minute advantage over Joon Pahk and Howard Barkin after the first six puzzles. Tyler Hinman and Kiran Kedlaya are also in the top five, four and seven minutes behind Feyer respectively. Anne Erdmann is in sixth place, hobbled by a mistake on Puzzle 2.

Rookie Vic Chandhok (all rookies start as C-level solvers) would be bumped up to the B final along with Elaine Renner and Jesse Lansner if those standings hold to form when Puzzle 7 is solved tomorrow. The other division leaders:

C: Rob Tricchinelli, David Steinberg, Mike Weepie
D: Jamie Womack, Ron Humpolick, Sandy Lawrence
E: Susan Cocalis, Alice Grun, Hannah Wezorek

In order, your constructors today have been Tracy Bennett, Joel Fagliano, Merl Reagle,Paula Gamache, Jeff Chen, and Lynn Lempel. That leaves the formidable duo of Patrick Berry and Byron Walden for the two Sunday puzzles - the 9 a.m. 21x, and the tournament finale.

A weird scoring anomaly took place when the Puzzle 1 results were announced, when a solver named William Hall appeared to have solved Puzzle 1 a full four minutes before Dan Feyer did. Since Dan solved the puzzle in less than two minutes - believed to be an ACPT first - that meant that Hall would have had to do some serious messing with the time-space continuum to finish the puzzle TWO MINUTES BEFORE HE EVEN STARTED.
Hall's score on puzzle 1 has since been adjusted.

Friday, March 27, 2015

THE FRIENDLY CONFINES

Greetings from the Stamford Marriott. And if you told me three years ago that I would be ever saying that again you'd think I was crazy. At this moment we are waiting in the Friday night games which are going to include Multimedia Crosswords by Henry Hook and Joel Fagliano. And an update to the Pre-Shortzian Project by David Steinberg in which he will talk about anonymous constructors.

Tournament host Will Shortz estimates about 560 contestant so far. As it has been for the past four years the big question is "can Dan Feyer win again". 

For the latest on the tournament follow us on Twitter @thepuzbros.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

By The Skin Of His Teeth, Bob Mackey Wins His Sixth Westchester Trophy

What a final round of the 18th annual Westchester Crossword Tournament. Two puzzlers finished. Bob Mackey looked over his whiteboard for mistakes. Ken Stern looked over his whiteboard for mistakes. Neither knew the game of Chicken that was being played. Bob was looking for something that would complete a specified number of thematic elements in a future New York Times puzzle. Ken's puzzle was clean.

Finally, Bob found the final missing piece and broke the tense silence.

"DONE".

One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Misissisppi. Ken echoed...

"DONE."

It could have gone the other way if Ken had signaled "Done" just seconds earlier, or if Bob had done the same without checking his work, but the final outcome of the 18th annual Westchester Tournament was the same as five of the previous installments, with Bob Mackey taking home the championship trophy.

(SPOILER ALERT: You may not want to look at the picture if you have not yet solved the puzzle to be published on October 2, 2014.)


Although Glenn Ryan was the third man in the scenario working the left board, all the focus was on the two solvers at center and right, with Bob taking an early lead and Ken steadily catching up, when finally the two solvers had no more blank squares. To some it looked like Bob was being super cautious, but the puzzle's notes had indicated that there were six thematic quirks. Bob kept counting, and counting, and counting, but could only find five. He finally found the final crossing that completed the theme requirements, a mere four seconds before Ken Stern threw up his hands in surrender. All three solvers completed the puzzle with no errors.


In the first of a year of homecomings for tournament emcee/host Will Shortz, the Westchester Tournament returned to its prior home, the St. John's Episcopal Church in Pleasantville, after a three year residency at the Westchester Table Tennis Club. Next spring, the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament will be once again in its birthplace of Stamford, Connecticut. One wag noted that perhaps Will will bring Games Magazine back from the dead next.

Bob's qualifying puzzle was the Tuesday, September 30 puzzle by Andy Kravis, who was the only constructor present at Friday's tournament. Judges for the tournament included perennial head judge Stan Kurzban, Ellen Ripstein, Mimi Raphael, Frank Longo, Hayley Gold and Pat Merrell.

As always, proceeds from the tournament benefitted the Pleasantville Fund For Learning.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

WESTCHESTER TOURNAMENT RETURNS TO ST. JOHN'S CHURCH SEPTEMBER 19

The 18th edition of the Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament will be on Friday, September 19, and the tournament is moving back to the St. John Episcopal Church in Pleasantville, once again to benefit the Pleasantville Fund for Learning. As always, the tournament will feature the four New York Times puzzles from the following Monday through Wednesday, with the Thursday puzzle serving as the playoff puzzle for the top finisher on each of the three puzzles. $30 to compete singly, $45 as a team, or $5 just to watch.

Last year's tournament finals involved the same three solvers from the 2013 ACPT "B" finals, Glenn Ryan, Jeffrey Schwartz, and Robert Mackey, which culminated in Mackey winning his sixth Westchester trophy - five singles and one doubles title with Dave Mackey.

The tournament was held the last three years at the Westchester Table Tennis Club, which is owned by New York Times crossword guru Will Shortz. No reason was given for the change, although a Facebook post by perennial Westchester finalist Elaine Renner noted "the acoustics are better" in the church.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

JON DELFIN TRIUMPHANT AT LOLLAPUZZOOLA 7

(Updated 8/11/2014)

Jon Delfin showed he can still run with the puppies when he proved victorious at the seventh installment of Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer's Lollapuzzoola, held on August 9 (a Saturday in August) at the All Souls Church on the upper East Side of Manhattan.

Delfin, who will begin competing in the Sixties age bracket at next year's ACPT in Stamford (and who has won that tournament a record seven times), defeated the decades-younger Francis Heaney and Scott Weiss in the Express bracket. None of the three made any mistakes on the championship puzzle by Patrick Berry.

L-R: Scott Weiss, Patrick Blindauer (holding Weiss' clue sheet for him), and Patrick Heaney
In the Local bracket, Simon McAndrews finished first but had one void square. Patti Varol, who finished second, was crowned Local Champion and Sara Nies was third.

Rounding out the top 10 overall finishers in the Express division were Jeffrey Schwartz, Andy Kravis, Joon Pahk (who solved using only Down clues - the only other competitor to do so was Peter Gordon), Andrew Feist, Ellen Ripstein, Robert Mackey and Thomas Weisswange. Pahk also won the Worst Handwriting Award.

For the second year in a row, Marcia Hearst and Julian Ochrymowych won the Pairs title.

The only competitors to solve all five competition puzzles cleanly were Heaney, Delfin, Schwartz, Pahk, Ripstein, Weisswange, Elaine Lippman, Matt Sandler, Richard Hovan, Dave Mackey (who finished 25th, an improvement of 100 places from last year), Brendan Emmett Quigley, Patty Buethe, Amy Goldstein, Sasha Shapiro and Josephine Quinones.

The rest of the top 10 in Local was Rebecca Moody (who also won the Rookie award), Martin Davis, Vegavahini Subramaniam, Thomas Perretti, Finn Vigeland, Aaron Riggio and Amy Paepke.

The slogan of the tournament this year was "It Ain't Over Till It's Over", which was of course a phrase coined by Yogi Berra, the great baseball manager and coach, and some of the puzzles - including a very accessible meta by Blindauer - had a baseball theme. In fact, Blindauer (who probably has a closetful of St. Louis Cardinals jerseys) led TWO singings of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game", and at least one Puzzle Brother was familiar with the first rendition...


The finale version was the conventional singing, a la Harry Caray. Of course, the cheese ball snacks (joined by a blue Cotton Candy version) and other familiar trappings of Lollapuzzoola returned, surrounded by some great puzzles that included audio and visual clues and other tricks you would never think of. The puzzles, in order, were by Cathy Allis (14x16), Mike Nothnagel (17x), Tony Orbach (21x), Blindauer (15x) and Doug Peterson (21x).

More information and final standings are available at bemoresmarter.com.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Celebrity Puzzlers Revealed!

If Patrick Creadon ever intends to make a sequel to "Wordplay", these two ladies should be featured. At left, comedienne Suzanne Whang, the original host of "House Hunters" on HGTV, has revealed herself to be quite the crossworder, and has dipped her toe into the construction arena with a recent American Values Club crossword co-authored by Tyler Hinman. She was also a recent contributor to the New York Times crossword blog, authored by her friend Deb Amlen, a funny lady in her own right. Suzanne's Twitter is @suzannewhang.

Kat Dennings is immediately recognizable in her yellow and red waitress outfit from the CBS sitcom "2 Broke Girls", and is currently on a vacation where she has discovered the New York Times crossword puzzle, as evidenced by some of her recent Instagram posts, including one where she's clearly solving in pen with the caption "Confidence", and another displaying the fully solved grid of the Saturday, May 13 puzzle by Sam Ezersky. Later that day, she posted on her Twitter: "Where have you been all my life, crossword puzzles".

Kat's Instagram: katdenningsss
Kat's Twitter: @officialkat