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...)