Saturday, February 28, 2009

Standings Through Six Puzzles

1. Dan Feyer
T2. Francis Heaney
T2. Trip Payne
4. Tyler Hinman
5. Al Sanders
6. Jon Delfin
7. Roger Barkan
8. Amy Reynaldo
9. Anne Erdmann
10. Katherine Bryant

25. Robert Mackey

50. Dave Mackey (pending review of Puzzle #2 scoring)

Standings Through Four Puzzles

1. Dan Feyer
T2. Francis Heaney
T2. Tyler Hinman
T2. Trip Payne
5. Al Sanders
6. Stella Daily
7. Jon Delfin
8. Roger Barkan
9. Amy Reynaldo
10. Eric Maddy

41. Dave Mackey
43. Robert Mackey

Puzzles 4, 5 and 6

Here's how the fourth, fifth and sixth puzzles shook out. The fourth puzzle was a 15x by Andrea Carla Michaels and Myles Callum. The #5 puzzle - referred to by various unfamily-friendly monickers - was by Patrick Merrell. For the first time in five years I finished Puzzle #5. And Puzzle #6, as always, was the dessert after a hearty meal - that's the Maura Jacobson puzzle.

I think I'm headed toward a personal best for this tournament. We don't have any posted results yet, but the general feeling in the room is that there may be a new champion this year. Tyler Hinman told me he needed to gain a minute on the Maura puzzle, and just missed it by seconds.

For now, we've got a nice chunk of time where we'll just be chilling. Game Show night begins at 8:00. Look for me or Bob downstairs if you want to be on the Puzzle Brothers' team for Family Feud. Remember: the team must have one under 30, one over 50, and no more than three A or B solvers. The Puzzle Brothers are not quite yet 50 and are A & B, so choose wisely.

New Wrinkles In Scoring System

The actual scoring method hasn't changed, but what has is the way the papers are being processed.

The corrections to the papers are now being done with special green and yellow pens. Then, each paper has a special sticker attached which includes a bar code corresponding to the contestant's number. The papers are scanned and the score table is automatically updated. The score tables will be updated online for those using computers, but I still expect to see papers taped to the walls with everyone's scores.

Moreover, the contestants can now look at the scanned puzzles online by providing their contestant number, and see exactly where they screwed up without having to bother the judges or send endless emails to Will.

The technology to do this is all housed in the Jackie Gleason ballroom. Kudos to Matt Ginsberg and Doug Heller for making this work.

Puzzle #3

A characteristically punny puzzle from Merl Reagle rounded out the morning session. We have heard of at least one top solver who overlooked one of Reagle's sneaky puns. So did Bob, for that matter. BEQ said on his Facebook that Ellen Ripstein was first in on this puzzle.

Puzzle #2

BEQ. And quite a few people didn't survive this puzzle.

BEQ noted on his Facebook page that Kiran Kedlaya was the first to solve this one.

Puzzle #1...

By Byron Walden. What a shock.

Brendan Emmett Quigley is providing tournament updates via Twitter. He noted that Francis Heaney was the first one to finish this puzzle.

Saturday Morning

Bob just got back from a brief sojourn downstairs. He reports the only person walking the earth this hour is former ACPT champion and our elder stateswoman, Miriam Raphael.

We are looking forward to getting back into the action this morning. There were some spirited games last evening and we are looking forward to a little more action on that end tonight, after the game show night presentations.

Bob thinks the eight puzzles are going to break this way:




We'll see. Keep tuned HERE for all the latest this morning and afternoon as what we came here for - the competition - gets underway!

Friday, February 27, 2009

The KenKen Song

Here's an excerpt from the song about KenKen. Sung by Amanda Yesnowitz with her little band.

KenKen Lecture

Next up was Tetsuya Miyamoto, the inventor of the KenKen puzzle, combining the numeric thrills of Sudoku with the addition of mathematics skills. The first KenKen puzzle, produced in 2004, was a 4x4 puzzle and only used multiplication. He discussed the evolution of the puzzle into its present form.

Test Videos

Friday At The Tournament - Bloggers' Panel

The bloggers' panel was first. Amy Reynaldo, Ryan Hecht and Brian Cimmet, Jim Horne and Michael Sharp.

Michael Sharp - He says "the community boggles my mind... it's opened up a whole new dimension in looking at the puzzle." Michael was grateful for the early support of Amy Reynaldo.

Amy Reynaldo passes to Ryan and Brian.

Ryan and Brian - They found the blogs of the others, then struck out on their own. The boys don't claim to be the best solvers. Ryan started the blog and Brian really took it off by adding the "Fill Me In" podcast. They also discussed their Lollapuzzoola tournament.

Brian passes.

Jim Horne - "Never follow dogs, children, Ryan or Brian." Jim talked about shutting down his own crossword blog due to being asked to do an official one for the New York Times.

Amy Reynaldo - Her blog started in 2005, discussing not just the NYT but all the major syndicated and little online puzzles. "You take your solitary hobby of doing crosswords... you can read what other people have to say about it... it's a lot of fun."

Q&A's from the audience! Michael Sharp says he doesn't read the other blogs. "The last thing I want is someone else's voice in my head." Amy reads 'em all. "I just can't stay away." Ryan tends not to for the same reasons as Michael. "I don't want to get sued by these three people." Jim reads the others via RSS. "It's fun for me to read about puzzles, and if I get contaminated, I get contaminated."

Michael talked about his "Rex Parker" pen name. "I couldn't imagine writing a blog with my real name." His name comes from a Hawaii beach trip where everyone got fake names. Will asked about porn names, first pet and street you grew up on.... "Mine would be Alice Teelman," said Rex.

Jim was asked why more male bloggers than female bloggers. "Blogging is this ridiculous commitment that a sane, normal person wouldn't do." Jim has had a related question about solvers being roughly half male and half female, but why are there more male constructors? Jim just chalks it up to it being a small sample. Amy said "most mommy bloggers are mostly women."

Blogging is a 365-day a year commitment. These things just grew out of whims and have now pretty much become fulltime jobs for them. Amy says she has had to have guest writers when she wants to go away. Ryan does not want to let the 10-15 people who read their blog down. Jim says, "People find you because they look for clues." Jim also mentioned that no one is going to get rich doing blogs, so it's a labor of love. The bloggers also discussed what they all do to pay the bills.

Number Of Contestants And Other Wrinkles

A list of preregistered contestants indicates that there are 616 pre-registrations for this year's tournament. A fair amount of walk-ins are going to need to walk in to push this tournament over last year's record of 699 contestants.

The Saturday game show night will include "Crossword Clued Family Feud" by last year's producers of the "1 vs. 700" extravaganza, Greg Pliska and John Chaneski. The other game shows will be "Last Quizzee Standing" by Stan Newman and "Chain Reaction" by Will Shortz.

There's also some musical entertainment on the horizon - a small musical group which includes the esteemed Vic Fleming was heard rehearsing a song about KenKen in the ballroom.

UPDATE: Will has stated 645 preregistrations. That may include noncompetitors.

Puzzle Authors in the Tournament

Patrick Berry, Maura Jacobson, Patrick Merrell, Andrea Carla Michaels and Myles Callum, Brendan Emmett Quigley, Merl Reagle, Mike Shenk, Byron Walden


The PuzBros in da house! We have arrived and checked in to our room. We're never quite sure what sorts of stories are going to emerge from this 32nd ACPT but we can assure you this - we will be all over the place gathering stories and soaking up the local color.

I just saw Tyler Hinman yawn.

Welcome to the Tournament!

BEQ's "Biggest Involvement"

Might we actually know the identity of one of the contributors to this year's ACPT? Brendan Emmett Quigley hints of some rather big doings this year.

And On This First Day Of The Tournament...

The Puzzle Brothers present the gallery from the 2006 Community Blood Services Tournament.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


The Puzzle Brothers will be rolling into Brooklyn about late afternoon tomorrow. We usually like an earlier entrance, but circumstances are keeping us closer to home until the latest we actually have to leave and still be considered early. If you are on the New York Times "Cru" we will be happy to see you at the Cru Dinner tomorrow evening.

Mrs. Puzzle Brother will not be with us again this year. In two weeks, she will be having surgery, plus she has other family commitments this weekend. We are both hopeful that Tracy will be healthy enough to join us in full fettle next year.

We will be passing along as many of the particulars of the tournament as we can, but as usual, we have to keep the content of the puzzles themselves secret, as there are online and at-home solvers that the tournament serves and although they are not competing for the big bucks, we would like to make sure their solving experience is as unsullied as possible.

Now, to pack, and to do some final training. As they say in the biz, see you tomorrow!

Meet the Stars!

From today's Chicago Tribune, a profile of that city's other hometown favorite, Amy Reynaldo.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Games Between The Games

For the uninitiated, one of the side effects of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament - now kicking off just five days from now - is the rabid late-night gaming community. These activities would take place in the ballroom in Stamford, but for security reasons, the ballroom in Brooklyn is closed at night, so the games have moved to tables set up in common spaces. These games are not your dime store, mass produced games. Usually they are boutique card games with small but faithful followings and games that are home made such as "Jeopardy!" boards created by the likes of Adam Cohen and Trip Payne. If you have a Quizzard device, either separately bought or out of the old "Sale of the Century" home game, bring it! It will certainly be useful.

The Puzzle Brothers are going to be bringing three games that we don't believe we've ever seen at the games festival. They are, listed in order of anticipated interest:

  • Likewise (Buffalo Games): Up to 6 can play this fast paced party game which harkens back to the original "Match Game" of the 1960's. There are two card decks, one with descriptors and one with nouns. Shuffle the decks and draw one card from each. Everyone must write an answer on their paddles (dry erase pens included) and points are scored for matches. There are 71 of each kind of card, meaning there are thousands of random combinations.

  • PDQ (Gamewright): There is one deck of 84 cards with all letters of the alphabet on it. You draw three cards and you must make up a word that begins with the first letter drawn and has the other two letters in order somewhere within it. Dennis James and Dick Enberg not included.

  • Ninety Nine Or Bust (Legendary Games): Fast action card game, family approved, rated highly educational. Teaches quick addition skills.

We look forward to playing with you Friday and Saturday night!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Two Weeks To Go!

We are but two weeks away from The Big One. I don't know how much solving Bob has been doing, but I've been going like a house afire on Friday and Saturday New York Times puzzles. The other day I did six Merl Reagles in a little more than an hour, so I'm ready for his puzzle, whatever it may be. Still have to drill on some Maura Jacobson puzzles, as she's always the sixth puzzle.

The Puzzle Brothers will be snapping pictures at the tournament and please don't be shy about having your picture taken. The galleries will be created on-site this year, as last year, so you can plug in your notebook and look at pictures from the weekend as things are happening.

From our vantage point as competitors, we will be letting you know how our own personal tournament is going. Last year, Bob finished 23rd (down three places from the year before) and Dave finished 76th (down 10 places). Clearly, we both want to do better this year.

And don't forget that for the last three years, the Puzzle Brothers has been FIRST ON THE WEB with the unofficial tournament results, so if you're not at the tournament this year, just tune into our website and refresh, refresh, refresh to your heart's content! Will Tyler win his fifth? Will one of the new young turks topple him off his crown? What about the veterans like Ellen and Al and Jon? Lots of questions that will be answered on Sunday, March 1. We hope you join us. Look for us in our distinctive TPB gear.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

More ACPT Updates

The program is slowly but surely being fleshed out.

The special guest this year is Tetsuya Miyamoto, who is the inventor of KenKen. For the uninitiated, KenKen is a Sudoku-like number game that uses addition, subtraction, multiplication and division to arrive at the correct numbers in each square. The championship playoff round will once again be announced by Neil Conan, who is returning after a year's absence (Grant Barrett did the honors last year). Miyamoto will help hand out the trophies at the awards luncheon, which will feature a buffet menu prepared by a surprise chef from Food Network.

Plans for the Saturday night game show night haven't quite jelled yet.

If you have yet to register, please visit the tournament website at and do it today! Credit cards and PayPal are being accepted. The tournament begins Friday, February 27 and ends Sunday, March 1.