Sunday, November 28, 2010

Deb Amlen Taking Over NYT "Wordplay" Blog

The New York Times will be introducing a new crossword blogger after the first of the year. Crossword constructor Deb Amlen will be taking over the "Wordplay" blog from Jim Horne, with frequent guest appearances by Patrick Merrell. Deb will give daily commentary on the New York Times puzzles. The blog replaced the old message boards on the New York Times website several years ago.

Deb should be expected to lace her blog with a dose of her trademark humor - she has her own humor blog called "Can't You Get Along With Anybody?" at, and this year published her first book, "It's Not PMS, It's You!: A Totally Non-Hormonal Analysis of Male Behavior". In addition to appearing in all the usual crossword markets, Deb also creates the puzzles for Bust Magazine. The Puzzle Brothers wish Deb well in her new adventure!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Ben Bass at Westchester

Ben Bass recently competed at the Westchester Tournament. He sat next to... well, let's put this way, in his words... "Now I know why no one wants the stall next to Tiger Woods at the driving range."

Saturday, October 02, 2010

The Fabulous Fifties

In 2011, the Puzzle Brothers will become eligible to compete in age-related brackets at the ACPT for the first time. Coming off a very strong Westchester Tournament win in which he swept all the puzzles, Bob Mackey is going to be the new force in the 50's age bracket. (Me, minorly so.)

We are absolutely pleased to be in the same company, albeit for a few years, with former champions Ellen Ripstein (who will join the 60's bracket for the 2013 tournament) and Jon Delfin (2015), as well as prominent non-winner Al Sanders, who at the age of 52 is our closest contemporary among the elite solvers. By 2019, Trip Payne will be in his 50's as well... it's going to be interesting to see if we can all hold our skills as we rack up more tournament experience.

Westchester Tournament Moving

Aah, the charm of St. John's Episcopal Church. Great place to have a crossword get-together. Unfortunately, the demand has far exceeded the space. Will Shortz announced at last night's tournament that in 2011, the new venue will be Shortz' own Westchester Table Tennis Club. No report as to whether next year's winner will go on to the Bonus Round, challenging Shortz one-on-one in table tennis.

Friday, October 01, 2010


Results - Bob Mackey in first, Elaine Lippman in second, Ken Stern in third. Bob came first in all three puzzles, Stern second. Lippman was in third place on the third puzzle. Puzzles by Adam G. Perl, Paula Gamache, Ian Livengood, and Patrick Blindauer. More reportage, team results and pictures to come.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Cathy Allis Named New York Co-Constructor

Change at New York Magazine, where Maura Jacobson has held sway as regular crossword constructor for the last 30 years. Cathy Allis (Millhauser) has been named regular co-constructor, who will alternate weeks with Jacobson. Here's how New York Magazine announced the change:

"Regular solvers of New York's crossword puzzle may have noticed an unexpected byline this summer, and now we're making it official. After several weeks of puzzles, Cathy Allis has joined us as our regular crossword co-constructor. She'll be alternating issues with Maura B. Jacobson, who's been with New York since 1980 and, we hope, indefinitely. Allis is best known for her New York Times puzzles, notably one in which she constructed a grid around clues written by Bill Clinton. Her own non-presidential work has built a real following for its wit and accessibility. (Sample clue: "A race that's always a tie." Answer: ASCOT.) We hope you will find her work both charming and maddening."

Monday, September 06, 2010

14th Westchester Is October 1

One of the favorite tournaments the Puzzle Brothers customarily attend is the Westchester Crossword Tournament, held in Pleasantville, New York, and hosted by Pleasantville's own Will Shortz. The 14th edition of the tournament has been scheduled for Friday, October 1, 2010, at the tournament's traditional home, St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Pleasantville. As is the custom, the event will benefit the Pleasantville Fund for Learning. Jeffrey Schwartz is the event's defending champion; for the two years prior the tournament was won by The Puzzle Brothers' own Bob. We have already marked our calendars for this annual event and are looking forward to seeing all our friends and colleagues in the puzzle world.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Administrative Stuff

We have decided to no longer maintain as a separate domain. Our blog will remain available at and will also be accessible from Facebook.

We are in the process of republishing our other pages at blogspot. This may take a few days.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Dan Katz Tries His Hand At "Jeopardy!" Tonight

Puzzlers may recognize the name Dan Katz. So, too, may "Jeopardy!" fans, as twenty years ago there was a five-time champion by the same name. Well, the Dan Katz who placed second in the B division in 2009 (losing to that Dan Feyer guy) is going to be on "Jeopardy!" this evening. Puzzlers have the first chance to root on one of their own since Stella Zawistowski was on a few years ago.

Katz placed 18th in his most recent ACPT, in 2009.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Return of the Washington Post Sunday Crossword!

Starting Sunday, April 11, the Washington Post will run a weekly 15x themeless. It will be edited by Peter Gordon and will have the following constructors: Trip Payne, Patrick Berry, Frank Longo, Michael Shenk, and Karen Tracey. (Thanks to Trip for the info)

Monday, March 15, 2010

"How I Met" Will Shortz

The tweet from Neil Patrick Harris offered some enticing wordplay in the style of the master as he effused about the show's latest big-name guest star. "Ten letters, 'Death Document' plus 'legless pantz'. I geeked out. I'm a fan."

New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz flew to Hollywood to make a cameo appearance on the hit sitcom "How I Met Your Mother", which stars the former Doogie Howser child star who has become quite an adult star in his own right, thanks to his TV appearances and his riotous performances in the "Harold and Kumar" movie series.

The episode, entitled "Robots vs. Wrestlers", casts Shortz as a guest at a party that Barney and friends decide to crash; another party guest is Arianna Huffington, queen of the The Huffington Post. The episode is expected to air on CBS during the May sweeps.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The 30-Second Workout

We have heard via our friend Trip Payne that starting next year, the tournament is going to be timed to the half minute, rather than the minute. This will help prevent the logjam of ties among the top solvers. We will try to get official word on this.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

ACPT Final Replay


Dan Feyer has won the 2010 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in a very entertaining "A" finals over Howard Barkin, second, and Anne Erdmann, third. Dan was the only one to complete the playoff puzzle correctly in A and one of only four (not three as originally thought) solvers to do so in all three skill levels.

In his first tournament, Joon Pahk finished ahead of all B-level solvers earning him a trip to the B finals, defeating Katie Hamill and Ron Sweet there.

C division belonged to Louis Lana. He defeated young rookie David Plotkin and Barry Haldiman to earn that crown. Dan Singer had earned a seat in the C finals due to Pahk's ascension to the B division, but failed to show for the playoff round.

Other winners:

D: Beth Welch
E: Ryan Hecht
Junior: Tyler Hinman
50's: Al Sanders
60's: Doug Hoylman
70's: Julie von Hamm
Senior: Mimi Raphael
Rookie: Joon Pahk

West: Tyler Hinman
Connecticut: Jan O'Sullivan
Other New England: Kiran Kedlaya
New York City: Dan Feyer
Long Island: Peter Gordon
Upstate New York: David Plotkin
New Jersey: Howard Barkin
Mid-Atlantic: Doug Hoylman
South: Trip Payne
Midwest: Anne Erdmann
Foreign: Jeffrey Krasnick

Congrats to all the winners. The 34th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament will be held on March 18-20, 2011. Hope to see you all there.

expected finalists

A: Dan Feyer, Howard Barkin, Anne Erdmann
B: Joon Pahk, Katie Hamill, Ron Sweet
C: David Plotkin, Louis Lana, Dan Singer


1. Dan Feyer
2. Howard Barkin
T3. Anne Erdmann
T3. Tyler Hinman
5. Trip Payne

17. Robert Mackey
49. Dave Mackey

Happy Sunday Morning From Brooklyn

Within a few hours, we will know if Tyler Hinman has won his sixth American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, or if there will be a new champ. What's in his way? Specifically, three people: Dan Feyer, Howard Barkin, and Anne Erdmann. He's somehow got to find a way to overcome the one-minute lead of Barkin and the three minute lead of Feyer, all the while hoping that Anne Erdmann somehow slips. The fourth puzzle will tell the tale.

Early indications are that if there is a tiebreaker between Hinman and Erdmann and everyone was still solving to form, it would go to Erdmann. Cold truth: Tyler may not even make the podium this year.

We'll try to get interviews with some of the contestants and we will be interspersing them throughout our live coverage. Come back here around 12:00 noon and the Live Blogging Window will suddenly spring to life with Robert and myself providing live play by play of all three final divisions.

As expected Puzzle #7 was by Merl Reagle. This leaves Mike Shenk to handle the final puzzle.

Last evening's games were "Clueless Crossword" with John Chaneski. You had to literally remember all of the Across clues from Puzzle #1. This game is a constructor's dream and you really had to think like Stan Newman.

This was followed by "Who Are You" and "Listmania" - in the latter game, teams of four had to complete a series of lists, such as (these are examples) continents, chemical elements beginning with C, or National League baseball teams. The game had written qualifying round and an on-stage playoff round, which resulted in one of the funniest tournament moments ever. The category was "Books of the Bible that end with the letter 'S'". One team member said, "Romans," immediately followed by a loud "SON OF A...!" from another stage player. The room exploded with laughter.

More Videos

Pit game in the hallway.

Who Are You? In this game, you had to guess the name of the girl that was being sung about.

New Vlog

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Feyer Maintains Lead After Six

Dan Feyer has continued his good streak at the tournament, holding his fifty-point lead over Howard Barkin after six puzzles. Ann Erdmann and Tyler Hinman remain in the mix, with the top eight having solved the Maura Jacobson grid in less than five minutes. Ellen Ripstein, Katherine Bryant and Eric Maddy maintained their relative positions while each falling back by 25 points.

The Puzzle Brothers have been perfect through the first six puzzles. Bob Mackey is now in 17th place, behind Joon Pahk by 75 points. Pahk will likely be the year's top rookie, with a slot in this year's B finals quite possible. Dave Mackey is 49th, five points behind Barry Haldiman.

Standings Through Five Puzzles

1. Dan Feyer
2. Howard Barkin
T3. Anne Erdmann
T3. Tyler Hinman
T5. Kiran Kedlaya
T5. Trip Payne
T7. Stella Zawistowski
T7. Francis Heaney
T7. Ellen Ripstein
T10. Eric Maddy
T10. Al Sanders
T12. Amy Reynaldo
T12. Katherine Bryant

21. Robert Mackey
48. Dave Mackey

Six Down, Two To Go...

We are recovering from a day of doing puzzles. Puzzle 5 was not the "bitch mother" of previous years... it was a solid, solvable puzzle.

As you can see below the official standings have been posted. We did not realize that Howard Barkin was step-for-step even with Feyer when we posted our vlog about the first three puzzles. Some of our friends from Facebook have been posting their own little tidbits. Stella Zawistowski for one is surprised at her performance (currently tied at 11), since she's under the weather today.

Bob and I looked at our scans of the first three puzzles and they are clean. We think we've both aced the final three puzzles of the day. We are looking forward to No. 7 tomorrow which in all likelihood will be by Merl Reagle, and then the playoff puzzle tomorrow which will be by Mike Shenk. And please remember that Bob and I will be here tomorrow at 12:00 for all the playoff puzzle action, in real time for the first time.

Top Solvers Through 3 Puzzles

T1. Howard Barkin
T1. Dan Feyer
3. Anne Erdmann
T4. Tyler Hinman
T4. Trip Payne
T6. Kiran Kedlaya
T6. Al Sanders
8. Katherine Bryant
9. Ellen Ripstein
10. Steve Smith
T11. Francis Heaney
T11. Eric Maddy
T11. Stella Zawistowski

17. Robert Mackey
57. Dave Mackey

Both Puzzle Brothers were perfect on the first three puzzles.

Day One, Part One

Here are the Puzzle Brothers themselves with their take after three puzzles have been solved by the entrants.

The Official Word

Here is the link to official standings information. The electronic scoring system installed last year has been upgraded with new computers and scanners, thanks to the good work of Matt Ginsberg and Doug Heller. As mentioned before, since the judging will be done in green pen, you cannot use green ink in your solving.

As of last night, the contestant count was 634. That number will fluctuate as people register today and others simply do not show up.

We Want To Know About Your Local Tournament

Hi everyone! Good Saturday morning. The Puzzle Brothers are enjoying coffee in their room. Haven't ventured out yet, and we're 2-1/2 hours to showtime.

Anyway, the first thing we bring you this morning is a public service announcement. You will notice that our sidebar has grown significantly since we've arrived at the tournament, thanks to the various flyers hanging around the ballroom and foyer areas. We'd like to help publicize YOUR crossword-related event! If you are the contact person for any kind of crossword tournament, corner us at the tournament with the information. Who are we? The guys wearing the hats!

Night 1 Is Done

Save a few laggards at the bar, no one is staying up late tonight. The first night of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament saw many of the high-profile solvers steering clear of Friday evening activities. Those who did hang around enjoyed the traditional Friday wine and cheese festivities and social games. The Puzzle Brothers enjoyed the company of many of the contestants who weren't too proud to hang out with the B and under crowd and try to figure out if a Norwegian gentleman was lying or not about how he punched Ingemar Johansson in the stomach at the age of 3.

Our first gallery of pictures is up. We hope to have many more when the big guns surface.

Also, watch the space below, for soon a video will magically appear. This is video of an indignant solver calling in to complain about a recent Frank Longo puzzle. It's sort of hard to hear so Will will provide a translation. I hate rebuses as much as the next person, but geez....

Friday, February 19, 2010

Let The Games Begin... And End

The Friday night icebreaker games have concluded. Eric Berlin brought a variation on Siamese Twins puzzles that used visual clues projected in random order three seconds at a time. Magnus Palm offered a series of statements about Sweden, where he is a puzzle master, and you had to guess true or false. Grand prize: his crossword cufflinks.

The Tournament Before The Tournament

Bob vs. Stan Newman on my themeless. Bob had a one minute head start. Stan pretty much has the puzzle filled in now. But Stan was stumped on some clues. Bob wins this round.

First Juicy News from ACPT

The first rule of the 2010 ACPT is NO GREEN PENS.

The second rule of the 2010 ACPT is, NO GREEN PENS.

Your constructors in no particular order: Patrick Berry, Liz Gorski, Maura Jacobson, Stan Newman, Mike Nothnagel, Brendan Emmett Quigley, Merl Reagle, and Mike Shenk. Only given is Maura is #6 as always.

Haven't counted the contestants yet. Bob will be a walk-on this year.

Jay Kasofsky will be competing for the 33rd time, a unique distinction. The only 32-year competitors are Mimi Raphael and Ellen Ripstein.

Puzzle Brothers On Facebook - Follow Us!

If you would like to see our 2010 ACPT tournament updates on Facebook, please visit!/pages/The-Puzzle-Brothers/332613355217?ref=ts. (Thank goodness you don't have to type that in. We will try to sync both the blog and Facebook.

33RD (and a third?) REVOLUTION

The number 33. It's not a prime number 3 x 11 = 33. It may mean different things to different people. The speed of a long playing record, plus that pesky little third. The mysterious digits on the side of a bottle of Rolling Rock. With an apologetic little ', it becomes a year in the great Depression, the same year that Popeye the Sailor Man made his first cartoon in the New York studios of Max and Dave Fleischer. The year that FDR introduced a lot of his New Deal agencies. But most importantly, the year Prohibition ended.

Whatever the number 33 means to you, to about 700 crossword fanatics, it is the magic number for this weekend as today begins the 33rd annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, at the Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, the tournament's newly established home. Welcome to our pre-game show.

As always, Will Shortz presides over the marquee event of the cross-world, attracting the best solvers and constructors who gather for an always-magical weekend of solving and side activities. Much of what goes on is already known - games Friday night, cocktail hour afterward, six puzzles Saturday, #5 will kill a lot of on-the-fence solver, "Puzzle number six is by Maura Jacobson," and the nail-biting Sunday finals.

Yet questions remain. The biggest is can Tyler Hinman hang on and win his record-shattering sixth straight ACPT? Is there ANYONE OUT THERE who can beat him? Some say yes. A lot of the crossword community is putting money on a relative newcomer to the elite ranks, Dan Feyer. I fully expect it to be a two-way shootout between Hinman and Feyer. Who will be the third wheel? Lots of logical choices - Trip Payne, Al Sanders, Jon Delfin, Ellen Ripstein... I just can't choose, but the anticipated Hinman-Feyer tilt is going to keep a lot of people in that ballroom after the lower prizes have been handed out.

Sure, the playoff puzzle is the Cadillac event, but the first six hold the key. Those early puzzles are going to be key in determining who takes the stage on Sunday - last year, four solvers were in a dead tie for A contention, and it came down to tiebreakers to determine who went to the podium. (And for the record, that fourth solver who was shut out of A-level contention? Dan Feyer, who went on to win the B division.)

Tournament No. 33 marks the end of an era for Dave and Bob Mackey: The Puzzle Brothers will be competing in their last ACPT ever in which they will not have an age designator next to their name in the standings. Reluctantly, we are entering the ranks of the fifty-plus solvers next year. I fully expect that Puzzle Brother Bob will be the cream of the new crop of 50's as the likes of Al Sanders, Jon Delfin and Ellen Ripstein move on to the next strata.

Naturally, we are excited about what the weekend will have in store. We are looking forward to seeing you all there.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

ACPT Registration Up From Last Year

A source within the ACPT has informed me that preregistrations are up from last year. The tournament packet last year boasted 616 contestants. The final number of contestants last year was 675, and the all-time record number of contestants was in 2008, the first year in Brooklyn, when 699 people played in the tournament.

Don't let that statistic stop you! We're looking forward to seeing you in Brooklyn. You could be the next champion if you're good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, if people LIKE you! (Apologies to Sen. Franken.) The 1998 tournament in Stamford had a last-minute entrant who wound up winning the B division and the rookie trophy (I'll leave it to you to find out his identity). So it's not too late. Go to and get all the details. Join the party!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Our 2010 ACPT Puzzles

These will be distributed at the Tournament but you can do them at anytime online using Across Lite!

Dave's Themeless
Bob's Themeless
Hold That Note
Lose Weight Now! Ask Me How!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Live Blogging Of ACPT Finals

We are upgrading our coverage of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament this year.

Thanks to a service called Cover It Live, we will be live-blogging in real time the tournament in a special window on our website. The live blogging coverage will begin at 12:00 noon on the day of the finals, Sunday, February 21. The real time blogging means that you won't have to wait for a round to be finished to get the play-by-play.

Our finals coverage will include live blogging with (for the first time) commentary from both Puzzle Brothers (unless one makes the podium) of all three upper-echelon divisions, C, B and A, fun polls, videos, and hopefully interviews. Results of lower divisions and age and geographic champions will be disclosed at that time as well.

We thank Harry McCracken, an old friend of the Puzzle Brothers for over two decades, for pointing us toward this site. Cover It Live was used quite a bit yesterday at Apple's launch of the iPad, but didn't work quite so well. Over the next few days you will see the blogging window and reminder posts. You can pre-register and get an e-mail reminder. We hope that our live blogging is the next best thing to being in Brooklyn.

If you want to see what the live blogging will look like, visit our sister blog, for Dave's annual review of the Super Bowl Sunday advertising campaigns.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Will Will Pong For Charity Tomorrow

Will Shortz is among the celebrities taking part in "So You Think You Can Pong", a charity table-tennis event to be held Wednesday, January 13, at Spin New York, on 23rd between Madison and Park. The beneficiary is 826NYC, a non-profit that helps young people with their expository writing skills.

Other participants in the tournament will include hockey player Sean Avery, actors Mike Myers, Catherine Keener and David Schwimmer, authors Sarah Vowell and Dave Eggers, and chef Mario Batali.

You can support Will or any of the other celebrities via a donation or you can even play in the tournament should there still be spots available. For more information visit their website.

Monday, January 11, 2010

One Puzzle Brother Going To Brooklyn

I have sent in my registration for The Tournament. I am looking forward to seeing my crossword friends in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

When Do We Eat?

The preliminary schedule of events for the 2010 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament has been posted and there is a huge change on Sunday - there is no longer going to be an awards luncheon.

Sunday instead will have the "Puzzler's Variety Program" at 11:00 a.m., followed by a brief awards presentation at 12:00, then the finals at 12:15 in the C, B and A divisions. As always, the Puzzle Brothers will be on the scene live-blogging the finals.

No information yet on the Friday and Saturday evening programs other than the Eric Berlin "Visual Crossword" scheduled for Friday night.