Thursday, March 29, 2007

That Wacky Trip Payne

As April Fool's Day nears, the annual ritual of the Wacky Weekend Warrior is resurrected at the hands of Trip Payne, with Peter Gordon lurking somewhere about. I did it this morning and there's a few good chuckles in there. Available tomorrow in the print New York Sun, or wherever .PUZ files are kept.

Monday, March 26, 2007

New In Print...

If you click above, you can order this New York Times crossword book of 75 puzzles published during the spring and summer of 2006. The indicia usually indicates the date range of puzzles published and the ending date is July 26, 2006.

Thanks, Will! I belong to the ages now.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Stamford - Final Report


In an eerie recreation of the movie "Wordplay", Tyler Hinman has again won the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament title, at the expense of Al Sanders. Sanders finished the championship puzzle by Stanley Newman first, but had one letter wrong. Tyler won the trophy for the third year running and this year's prize check of $5,000. Francis Heaney (shown at right in the photo above) was a distant third, not even finishing the final puzzle.

In another development, the B class has an asterisk this year. Due to a judging error, Howard Barkin was awarded duplicate B prize money. However, he will stay in B class for next year's tournament.

The breakdown of winners:

Geographic: West, Al Sanders; Connecticut, Ron Osher; New England, Kiran Kedlaya; New York City, Francis Heaney; Long Island, Kathy Konarck; Upstate NY, Zack Butler; New Jersey, Howard Barkin; Mid-Atlantic, Dave Tuller; South, Trip Payne; Midwest, Tyler Hinman; Foreign, Fraser Simpson.

Juniors: Tyler Hinman; 50's, Ellen Ripstein; 60's, Doug Hoylman; Seniors, Arthur Schulman; Rookie: Eric LeVasseur.

Special $100 gift certificate prizes for the 100th, 200th, etc. finishers: 100 - Fraser Simpson; 200 - Sandy Fein; 300 - Kim Blanchard; 400 - John Reid; 500 - George Sneddon Jr; 600 - Francoise Kemp.

As for the Puzzle Brothers, Robert maintained 20th place finish while Dave improved to 65, but it's likely there was a mistake on the final puzzle that dropped him down from 44th and out of the C finals. We'll be back strong next year. For now, we're taking a few days off from puzzling. Good bye for a while.

Stamford - A Finals

Only 25 points separated Francis Heaney, Al Sanders and Tyler Hinman. Robert reports the A clues are very tough. Being busy blogging, I haven't had a chance to really solve this so there's no way to tell how I would have done had I made the C or B finals. Congrats to all those guys and gals by the way. I'll be up there with you next year, I swear.

The blank grids have been put up and Will is now summoning the three finalists into the room. Al will be at the left, Tyler in the middle, and Francis on the right. There is only a 2 second head start for Tyler. Al's been in 8 playoffs, Tyler three and Francis, one.

Shouts of "Go Al!" come from the room, hoping he doesn't repeat his ZOLAESQUE mistake of 2005. Francis is the last to put his headphones on. We begin the finals.

"Stanley made the clues up over a three-day 'Goodfellas' festival," jokes Neil. Tyler is working the right side center first, Al top left corner, Francis top left as well. Francis has 1-Across but has gotten into a trap. Al's making minimal progres, and Tyler seems stymied in the corner. Now he's writing fast. Tyler now has a mistake too. The last time Stan did a finals puzzle for a tournament we were at, no one solved it correctly. Merl with another anagram! Where does that gift come from?

Al has no mistakes so far and seems to be doing good so far. Tyler isn't doing a lot of writing right now. Francis has fixed one of his problems. Tyler now has the bottom left done. Al is working very carefully. Tyler has another mistake. He's fixed something. Doing finger erasing. Not very sanitary but it saves seconds. Tyler may be able to put something together here, and Al is still grinding away. Francis is still having some problems. "The trap door underneath the podium has opened up," says Neil. Al has now made a mistake. He's assuming a plural in -S. Not always. 8:00 left. Al finished 1-Across, which was his 2005 downfall. Francis is still a little slow. Tyler has one corner left to go and then a few spots to fill in. (Careful there!)

Al's got a letter blank in a corner - hope he checks it. No one seems particularly close to finishing after 10:00 of solving. This one could... go... all... the... way... down to the wire! Merl notes "'I hate you' has all the vowels once, including Y." Tyler has one corner to go but another mistake. Al's filled in that missing square I was worried about. Now he should find his mistake. Will he? Tyler is staring at his blank corner. Francis still in this thing? Al is now working the bottom. Still has one mistake though, so does Tyler. Tyler now has one less mistake. This is going to be a nail biter. 3-1/2 minutes left and they've all got the same mistake. Al is almost done and he's gotta find that mistake. Tyler is now working his bare corner.

Tyler has now fixed the mistake everyone had. Tyler is close to being done. Al is close to being done. Tyler has one square left. Tyler is now stuck with 2 squares done. Al is done with one letter wrong. Tyler is done perfect. Francis is still working. Al as given Tyler his congratulations. Francis has run out of time.

3rd - Francis Heaney
2nd - Al Sanders
1st - your 2007 ACPT champion, Tyler Hinman

More later!

Stamford - B Finals

In the B division, we have Bryon Walden, Eric Maddy, and Eric LeVasseur. They are now working with harder clues. And now, Neil Conan and Merl Reagle take their places at the mikes. Will explains the background noise tapes. "Someday I may sell it as a sleep inducer." The puzzle begins with Eric M, then Byron, then Eric L.

"It's a beautiful day for a crossword puzzle championship!"


Neil makes a really bad pun on referring to Eric as "Eric L." "By the way, Byron's clues are printed backwards for payback for last year's finals." Merl has some fun with anagrams. As always I can't talk specific puzzle details as these puzzles continue as saleable items. Eric L has a big mistake in the upper left so far but has recovered. Eric M. is working on the bottom. Byron seems to have a foothold in the upper left. More anagrams for Merl. "If you want to write these down for later..." and then also riffs on his tournament puzzle. Byron is working the left which is good because it gives starts of words. Byron's got some of the bottom done now and has begun attaching the right. Again, I can't see what Eric L. is doing because I am on the far left of the room relying on AC power. Byron still needs the right corners. Stan's written some nice clues for this puzzle. 9:00 left. Byron has must one corner to go. BTW, there is a word in the clue that's repeated in the grid. Ugh. Byron is finishing up. Byron is looking it over and declares done. Eric L. is getting closer now. Eric M. is lagging behind. Eric L. then finishes with about 7:24 but has gotten one letter blank. So Eric M. can take his time and doesn't know it. Eric M. finishes at 5:55

3rd - Eric LeVasseur (one letter missing)
2nd - Eric Maddy 8:13
1st - Byron Walden 6:50

As Bob Murphy once said, "Fasten your seat belts!"

Stamford - C Finals

The contestants in C are Gerry Tansey, Anne Erdmann, and Katie Hamill.

Will started by giving the contestants instructions while their headphones were on. 30 years and he'll get it right someday. The puzzle is by Stan Newman, who 25 years ago today won at Stamford. Anne starts first, then Gerry, then Katie. Anne has some words filled in at upper right so far. Gerry has a 1-Across then erases it. Hard to see what Katie is doing from my vantage point. Anne's got the upper left about done. So does Gerry. Katie seems to be working in the same part of the puzzle. Did I Mention a 15 minute time limit? Yes. Jerry has one of the long words. This is an 8/6 stack format. Anne has made progress into the left center of the grid. Jerry too is working his way diagonally. Nobody seems close to done yet. Gerry is working the bottom right now. Looks like Anne is the farthest along. Gerry has now finished the bottom right corner and has moved to the left center. Anne's wrapping up the bottom now. Who's gonna finish first? Katie's made some headway and she has indicated first done. Anne and Gerry are still working. Anne is next, then Gerry finishes with about 8 minutes left.

3rd - Gerry Tansey
2nd - Anne Erdmann
1st - Katie Hamill

Sunday Stamford - Puzzle 7

Whew! Most of us are now done with the tournament, but for nine, it will get more intense as the C, B and A division finals play out in the ballroom. Puzzle 7 was by Bob Klahn and Puzzle 8 will be by Stan Newman.

Unofficially (and since ranked stats were not available), Tyler Hinman and Francis Heaney were tied for first, with Al Sanders, Trip Payne and Ellen Ripstein also in the hunt.

Your Puzzle Brothers are doing well. Bob was 20th after the first six puzzles (one place ahead of Amy Reynaldo) and I was 44th, a vast improvement over last year with no mistakes going into the final round.

And that former talk show host? No threat. Phil Donahue placed 631st after the first six puzzles.

Our next dispatch will be LIVE from the finals. See you in a little more than a half hour!

Is It Sunday Already?

Neither Puzzle Brother felt like staying out late and playing games this year. So, we took the rest of the night off.

We did play some games while everyone else who hadn't seen "Wordplay" was watching a bonus screening. We got some great pictures of game playing, unfortunately we're having a little issue with FTP access and can't put any more pix up until we get back later tonight.

In the meantime, it's now time for breakfast and getting cleaned up, and at 9:00, we'll do Puzzle 7. Hopefully not the last one for either of us!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Saturday Night Almost Live!

First of all, we had the special puzzle by Francis Heaney. He constructed a 15x using words that should be in more vocabularies. Erin McKean, who has a great blog called Dictionary Evangelist, is actually making a documentary show about words and their usage for Discovery Channel, and there was a film crew taping the proceedings. The winner of the special puzzle was Patrick Jordan (Trip Payne actually finished first but had an error in his puzzle) and two others were chosen at random, j!m jen!sta and Mark Maximov.

We had three entertaiments tonight! First, Will ran by us the puzzle you'll hear tomorrow on the NPR show. You are given a definition for a 7-letter word, remove first and last letters, and you get a five-letter word that you have to guess the definition of.

Then, a wonderful skit: What if "Wordplay" were a musical? We were treated to the first few minutes of such a musical, featuring Stella Daily, Vic Fleming, Harvey Estes and Ben Tausig.

Finally, an hour long collection of "Wordplay" outtakes and promotional appearances, including Will's stints on "Late Show" and "Charlie Rose" and the joint appearance of Will and Merl Reagle on "The Oprah Winfrey Show". We got to see some of the contestants whose profile footage was cut out of the film, including Zack Butler, Scott Weiss and Doug Hoylman.

Right now, Patrick Creadon is hosting a screening of the film downstairs, but I think people want to play games, so at least a portion of the ballroom has already been converted back. We'll check back with you on Sunday morning with standings, and then later Sunday morning, our ALMOST LIVE coverage of the C, B and A division finals! You wanna know who won? Keep it here! We'll have it as soon as Blogger will let us!

The Quiet Man Speaks!

Unbelievably, this is my first post since landing on Planet Stamford yesterday evening. What took me so long? Maybe since I take the competition aspect of this thing a bit seriously, breaking each puzzle down into the time I expect to finish it in, anticipating whose puzzles will show up where (Paula Gamache first basically a given), monitoring the early returnees, getting feedback from those who have fallen. And bumping into the folks I generally see once or twice a year, with twenty old friends bumped into on the way to the registration desk alone.

I am doing very well on the competition front, having saved up 112 minutes in solving the six puzzles. The rough solves as advertised by Will Shortz weren't terribly Waldenesque, with Cathy Millhauser and Merl "The Evil Genius" Reagle providing the supposed brain strains. It looks very good at this point for me to carry that New Jersey trophy back to Eatontown, if not the bragging rights for all PathMark employees everywhere.

Talking to the constructors, now my merry mentors, has provided many colorful stories. Byron Walden told me a great story about how the clue Last character seen in "Casablanca" was a homage to a clue from a British cryptic (Joiner character in "Pyramus & Thisbe" (9)). Rich Norris talked of the traps laid and super clues placed in today's New York Times. And Merl Reagle, that jolly old elf, never stops being Merl Reagle.

Tonight is kick back mode, with "Wordplay" outtakes and a contest centered around a Francis Heaney puzzle which will include a combo words not seen since the dawn of Farrar and words Shortz hasn't even learned existed yet. The action will be videotaped for a Discovery Channel show focusing on words. Then comes a batch of great board games in the main ballroom, and an informal video program presented by the Brothers which will include three epsiodes of the 1986 version of "Crosswits" and some crossword-related surprises. Tomorrow, the final two puzzles, one by Stanley Newman, the other by Bob Klahn. And the awards -- and maybe some glory thrown in.

Six Down, Two To Go!

Hello all!

We are now relaxing after Puzzle 6. The 4-5-6 went down smoothly for me (a ACPT first!) and I'm fairly confident of good news tomorrow when the standings are released.

Mike Shenk did Puzzle 4, Merl Reagle did 5 (a sneaky but gettable one) and Maura Jacobson, as always, did Puzzle 6.

We're going to be uploading more pictures as the events of the next day or so unfold. For now, we're taking a well-earned rest.

saturday am @ Stamford

The morning session is now complete. Puzzle#1 was constructed by Paula Gamache. The people who seemed to do the best on it were:Tyler Hinman, Robert MAckey,Scott Weiss and Dave Mackey. Puzzle #2 was constructed by Patrick Merrell. Al SAnders, Stella Daily, Trip Payne, and Dave and Robert Mackey all seemed to put in their best efforts. Puzzle # 3 was constructed by Cathy Millhauser. Stella Daily, Trip Payne,Tyler Hinmna, DAve and Robert Mackey all seemed to put it their best. Look back for the afternoon results and more pics.

First Pics From Stamford!

Click here for new images every day. We have some images of some of last night's speakers and some of the contestants and judges. Enjoy!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Greetings From Stamford

Okay, the cold hard facts.

As of just before 8:00 p.m. this evening, there were 682 contestants entered for the tournament. So much so, that we're using a second auxiliary ballroom and rotating contestants in and out of it (except for the A-listers, who must stay in the main ballroom). Will's capable associate Doug Heller will run the tournament in the auxiliary ballroom.

There are 250+ first timers this year including one man who gave his occupation as "former talk show host". Hmmmmm. We won't let the cat out of the bag on that one just yet.

Zack Butler won the Norwegian contest, and a crew that included Dan Katz (we couldn't hear all the names because of the poor sound system) won the 30 years timeline game so well executed my Mr. and Mrs. Scott Weiss.

Tracy and I are in for the night, and Robert is still downstairs playing games. Tomorrow we should see some pix. But for now, enjoy three new puzzles from us, just for you. (Tech problems precluded the uploading of the fourth puzzle.) Even if you're not at Stamford, it's our little way of saying "wish you were here". Click the names on the sidebar and they'll load into Across Lite. Have fun!

Good night until tomorrow from Stamford.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The 2007 Dysfunctional Crossword Family Reunion

This is the last year we kick it Stamford style. Next year we'll be cookin' in Brooklyn.

Within the next 24 hours, some 650-700 puzzlers and maybe a few non-puzzle types will be rendezvousing one last time at the Marriott in Stamford (except for those of you who booked late and must stay elsewhere) for the 30th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Will has confirmed the tournament site next year will be the New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, which has a much larger space for the expected crowds as crossword puzzling continues steamrollering in popularity. (They have got one smaller meeting room named for Jackie Gleason, which is coolness itself.)

We don't have any official affiliation with the tournament, but we'd like to think we did a darn good job blogging about the tournament last year (including our Almost Live finals coverage), so we're going to do it again. Puzzle Brothers staff and management will be wearing their PB-T's on Saturday and Sunday morning, soon to be available through Cafe Press along with other items for all you acolytes.

Don't be strangers, folks. Say hi to any of us. Me, Bob, and Tracy. We'd love to hear your stories and perhaps maybe Tracy can take some pictures of you. We will have much more in the way of picture galleries (those 2006 galleries will soon be moving to our site, when we have some more time not occupied by training for Stamford and stripping bathroom wallpaper).

This is our last dispatch from here. Next time you hear from us, it will be Friday night in Stamford... one last time.

Stamford No More

Here's where the 2008 tournament is going to be held, according to an article in the Stamford Times.

Somehow "Brooklyn" doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fresh New Puzzles Coming!

On Friday, to celebrate the beginning of the Tournament, the Puzzle Brothers will be posting up four new original crosswords! (Joy!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Interesting Article!

Here's an article from today's Newark Star-Ledger about the upcoming Stamford tournament.... and you'll never guess who they managed to wrangle an interview out of!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Stamford Habitue Helps Make Jeopardy! History

Stamford veterans and NPL members will immediately recognize the gentleman at left as Scott Weiss. You have him to thank for this history making moment on last Friday's episode of "Jeopardy!" - for the first time in 5,190 episodes, all three players wound up with the same exact score. All three men will return on Monday to play another game.

Using his vast store of knowledge honed from years of advising College Bowl at his school (Mount St. Mary's University in Maryland, which took 4th place in the recent Region 3/4 Championship Tournament), Scott already has banked $61,001 in his three days on the program. He's also done well at Stamford, too. A scan of the last ten years or so shows him placing consistently in the top 30, with an 11th place finish in 2004.

We wish Scott all the best on "Jeopardy!" and at the tournament next week.

Photo Courtesy Sony Pictures Entertainment

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Record Number Of Competitors Expected For Stamford Tourney

The 30th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is already shaping up to be the biggest ever - and this is more than a week before Will Shortz gives the command to turn the papers over and begin solving.

We hear from one of our sources that there are approximately 620 registrations for the tournament so far; we're not sure if this includes non-competitors. It would almost certainly mean that this year's contestant pool will be the largest ever. Last year's tournament saw a record 498 contestants try their skill. I'm sure Will expected a bump in tournament attendance in the wake of "Wordplay", but you think he could have expected this many people coming to the tournament when he started it 30 years ago? (The earliest years of the tournament saw approximately 150 contestants per year, mostly from the New York metropolitan area.)

As a result of the huge number of people scheduled to descend on the Mariott, one change has been made to Friday evening, where Allie's Restaurant traditionally hosts the dinner party held by members of the New York Times crossword forum (the Cru). Marriott management has negotiated a buffet dinner in lieu of eating at Allie's. The menu will include grilled flank steak, lemon chicken breast and penne pasta. Additionally, reservations are not being accepted for the restaurant the two evenings of the tournament. My advice is to try to find some good food off site. (Paging Tim Zagat...)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

"Nobody Puts Nucky In A Corner!"

While we're counting now the DAYS until Stamford, I wanted to put in a plug for Simon & Schuster #254. As you well know, 7x7 corners are a very hard thing to pull off. Frank Longo's done it in a 19x called "Four Corners" which includes four 7x7 corners, and of course it's at a price - this creates four alleys of 3-letter words. But it's a nice construction nevertheless and there's not a lot to quibble with in the corners. Pick up a copy and give it a try.