Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Crossword App Comes To Facebook

Crossword constructors who've gravitated to Facebook for conversation and fellowship now have a major-league puzzle application that includes tournament and head-to-head play, as well as solo play.

Crosswords by PuzzleSocial features puzzles from the AV Club, Newsday, and CrosSynergy groups, as well as custom Celebrity crosswords. The constructors and editors are all major players. So you know it's good stuff.

There are three daily head to head contests. The Celebrity puzzle at 3:00 p.m. Eastern, the Newsday puzzle at 9:30 p.m., and the CrosSynergy puzzle at 10:00 p.m. There will also be challenge solving added to the app soon so you can test your skills against a foe of your choosing. The solving app is very similar to Across Lite and worked quite well on a few test puzzles. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed.

Monday, December 19, 2011

ACPT 35 Registration Now Open

Registration has now opened for the 35th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which lasts from March 16-18. The program is still being hammered into place but this year we will have new commentators for the Sunday morning puzzles: Greg Pliska and Liane Hansen.

As most of the puzzles will be solved this year on St. Patrick's Day, potential contestants must be aware of traffic delays if going through Manhattan, where the annual parade will be staged.

The cost for all events, if paid in full before March 9, is $250. Hotel rooms at the Marriott are going for $213/night. More details at

Thursday, December 01, 2011

New Fan of "Wordplay"

Late to the table, but welcome nonetheless, is actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, who plays Mitchell Pritchett on "Modern Family". He recently had "Wordplay" come up in his Netflix queue, and loved it.

Ferguson tweeted to his over 220,000 followers, "After watching the great documentary 'Wordplay' I am certain I just saw insight in to the world of the people who spell check my tweets."

We won't tell him that "in to" is one word.... will we?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kiran Kedlaya's In "Jeopardy!"... but not for long

Kiran Kedlaya, who is a perennial top-10 finisher at the ACPT, appeared on "Jeopardy!" on November 29 and 30, 2011, winning one match and a total of $32,801, including a $2000 consolation prize.

Kedlaya's best ACPT finish came in 2006, when he finished second to Tyler Hinman in the A finals.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Election Results....

One less crossword constructor will be sitting on the council in Rye, New York. Paula Gamache lost her re-election bid last night.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Joon Pahk Reaches "Jeopardy!" Semi-Finals

As he did in many of his games before, Joon Pahk made quick work of his opponents Tom Kunzen and John Krizel in the "Jeopardy!" Tournament of Champions quarterfinal round, winning convincingly on Friday night's episode. The semifinal rounds begin airing on Wednesday, November 9th and involve the five quarterfinal winners and the four players who had the highest dollar totals. UPDATE: Pahk's semi final game will air on Friday, November 11. The finals will take place on November 14 and 15.

Pahk was the only contestant who got the Final Jeopardy! clue: "Harpo Marx attended this organization's last meeting at NYC's Rose Room in 1943; there was nothing left to say." Correct response: "What is the Algonquin Round Table?"

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bob Mackey Prevails Yet Again At Westchester

Bob wins Westchester on TwitpicBob Mackey continued his dominance of the Westchester Crossword Tournament last evening at the new Westchester Table Tennis Center, beating second-place finisher Jeffrey Schwartz and third-place finisher Elaine Lippman by about two minutes on the Thursday, October 27 New York Times Crossword. Bob has now won four of the last five Westchester Tournaments, with the one off year being two years ago when Schwartz won. And the year prior to beginning his almost unbroken string, Bob and Dave won one of the team trophies and finished first on each of the first three puzzles.

Photos and additional details forthcoming.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Pahk's "Jeopardy!" Run Ends; TOC Next

With no Daily Doubles to buttress his score, Joon Pahk failed in his eighth episode of "Jeopardy!" and leaves with $201,000 in cash and a Tournament of Champions berth. He will make his first TOC appearance on Friday, November 4.

Pahk now ranks sixth on the all time list of "Jeopardy!" money winners, not counting tournaments or other special events.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The $199,000 Answer: Who is Joon Pahk?

The oft-intersecting worlds of crosswords and game shows have been colliding for roughly the last week or so. Joon Pahk, B division winner of the 2010 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and also a constructor, has been making regular appearances on "Jeopardy!" and thanks to broad general knowledge and kamikaze wagering on Daily Doubles, has amassed $199,000 over his first seven appearances on the program. (Opponents found both Daily Doubles in the Double Jeopardy! round on Tuesday's program, but Pahk still made it a runaway.) As early as his second or third appearance on the program, Alex Trebek was already making comparisons to Ken Jennings, the show's all time money winner. Pahk can't say if he's still taping the show or how much he's won, but he's been reporting nightly on his adventures to his Facebook friends after the show has aired. Nancy Shack has been making his appearances available on YouTube; later today we'll post a complete list of links so you can track his progress.

It's generally held that the best showing by a crossword personality on a game show prior to Pahk's run has been that of Stanley Newman, the New York Newsday crossword editor, who won $112,480 (about $177,000 adjusted for inflation) on the 1991 program "The Challengers", hosted by Dick Clark and produced by game show master Ronnie Greenberg. (Yes, Jennings competed at Stamford in 2006 and won C division and rookie trophies - that was also the year I won the D trophy - but he hasn't been back to the tournament.)

There have been a number of other crossword and other puzzle folk who've been on "Jeopardy!" including Ellen Ripstein, Stella Zawistowski, and Scott Weiss, whose crafty wagering enabled the show's first and only three-way tie. Comment if you know of others and I'll add them to this post.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Jeopardy! Alert

The intersection set of crossword mavens and Jeopardy! contestants has grown by one. Joon Pahk made his first appearance on the program Monday evening and won his game. He will be back on tonight's show; check local listings.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

15th Westchester Set For October 21

Friday, October 21, will be the 15th annual Westchester Crossword Tournament, which will be held at the Westchester Table Tennis Center, 175 Tompkins Avenue, Pleasantville. Begins at 7:30. Can you beat defending champion Bob Mackey?

Fourth Annual Bay Area Crossword Tournaments

Congratulations to Jordan Chodorow for winning the fourth annual Bay Area Crossword Tournament. Chodorow noted on his Facebook page that the tournament win was made possible by two-time defending champ Eric Maddy's absence this year. Reed Galbraith was second and Eric LeVasseur was third.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Brooklyn's Crossword King And Queen Duke It Out

Brooklyn Brainery will present a seminar on "Solving Crossword Puzzles" on Monday, August 15, at 8:30 p.m. Cost is $15. The seminar will be moderated by Brooklyn's own Francis Heaney and Stella Daily Zawistowski, who will compete to see who is the Brooklyn crossword champ. Brooklyn Brainery is at 515 Court Street in Brooklyn.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Puzzle Brothers Set To Do Battle At Lollapuzzoola 4

Originated three years ago by Ryan Hecht and Brian Cimmet, we didn't lend all that much credence to the Lollapuzzoola tournament, but we now admit that the two gentlemen have created a monster, and possibly the best-attended tournament on the East Coast this side of Brooklyn. Last year's champion of the "Express" division was Jeffrey Harris, and the "Local" winner was Jeffrey Dubner.

This year, with Patrick Blindauer taking over co-administrative reins from Hecht, the tournament is moving to Manhattan, to the more spacious All Souls Church on Lexington Avenue. Even more exciting than that, this year, for the first time, The Puzzle Brothers will be there! one Puzzle Brother will be there. Dave is unable to attend due to a family event.

The tournament format will be five puzzles everyone solves plus one challenger at the end, using the same dry-erase boards from the big tournament. The puzzle constructors include Doug Peterson, Elizabeth C. Gorski, Mike Nothnagel, Tony Orbach, Andrea Carla Michaels, and Byron Walden. Solvers can compete in "Express" or "Local" classifications, or can team up. Unlike in the big tournament, solvers can also get help if stuck via something called "Google Tickets". There will also be group games and admittedly modest prizes.

The cost to participate in the tournament is $25, and if you want pizza and ice cream you can kick in another $5. If you just want to stand around and watch, fork over $10.

More information at The Puzzle Brothers look forward to seeing you there - and competing.

Westchester Table Tennis Center Grand Opening

Owned and managed by Will Shortz and Robert Roberts, the Westchester Table Tennis Center will have its grand opening on Saturday, July 16, from 10:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m. Admission and all play is free on Saturday, including the opportunity to play the master himself as Will has pledged to take on all comers. (Be ready for a workout. Will knows his stuff.) The club had its soft opening in May.

The address is 175 Tompkins Avenue in Pleasantville. This is signficant because sometime in the fall, Shortz will fold up the table tennis tables and host the 15th annual Westchester Crossword Tournament there, moving there from the St. John Episcopal Church.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Recent Tournament Action!

We would like to congratulate Jeffrey Schwartz, longtime friend of the show, on his winning the Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament on April 23. Matthew Mattera was second and Jan O'Sullivan was third.

Just this past sunday, the Crosswords LA Tournament was held at Loyola Marymount University, and the winner of that tournament was Jordan Chodorow, with Eric LeVasseur coming in second and Eric Maddy placing third. Congratulations again to everyone!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Maura Jacobson Retiring From New York Magazine Crossword

Maura B. Jacobson is putting away her grids. The veteran crossword constructor has announced her retirement from the New York Magazine crossword, a slot that she has held since 1980.

Ms. Jacobson had learned puzzlecraft at the feet of the first New York Times crossword editor, Margaret Farrar. Jacobson had been hired to do a crossword for a magazine that was eventually folded into New York, Cue, at the recommendation of Will Weng. Beginning in May of 1980, Jacobson's byline had begun appearing in New York Magazine, usually appearing with a cryptic puzzle. Jacobson's puzzles were hardly brain-busters, but were accessible to casual solvers and always great fun. Even before that, Jacobson had been tapped by a brash young crossword editor named Will Shortz to provide one puzzle a year for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Jacobson's Puzzle No. 6 slot hopefully will continue in perpetuity.

Signs that the Jacobson era was soon to end started appearing last year, when Cathy Allis (Millhauser) shouldered half of Jacobson's workload. Allis will take on the construction chore full time after the final Jacobson puzzle appears, at a date yet to be determined. But the legacy of Jacobson lives on. Constructor Liz Gorski noted on her blog that "...Maura's extensive puzzle-ography has had a profound effect on my confidence as a solver...and later, as an aspiring puzzle writer. Seeing a woman's byline over that big New York puzzle each week made all the difference. Maybe I could make a puzzle some day. And if Maura B. Jacobson uses a byline with a middle initial ... so will I."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

CoverItLive Replay of ACPT Finals


In much the manner he did last year, Dan Feyer took home his second straight American Crossword Puzzle Tournament championship in what had to be the most exciting finals since Tyler Hinman took home his last title two years ago.

Feyer earned his second bowl and $5,000 check, defeating the aforementioned Hinman, who returned to the finals this year by besting fourth-place contestant Francis Heaney by one minute on Puzzle #7, and another returning finalist, Anne Erdman.

All of the contestants who made podium appearances today completed their puzzles cleanly with no mistakes including David Plotkin, who defeated Ken Stern for the B title by a mere fraction of a second.

Dave Mackey briefly spoke with the happy winner.

Both Puzzle Brothers slipped from their 2010 rankings. Bob finished 67th and Dave finished 70th.

Once again, a very well-run tournament, thanks to Will Shortz, Helene Hovanec, Doug Heller, and a team of devoted judges. This year's contestant figure stabilized at 655, ahead of last year's 643 but still off the all time 2008 record of 699.

Shortz ended by stating that the 35th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament would be held at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott on March 16-18. 2012.

More videos will be coming over the course of the night, including a review of the talent show today.

Delay In Program

The Crossworders Got Talent variety show is running over its anticipated time. We will begin our live blogging with the awards show, presided over by cartoonist Roz Chast, in approx. 30 minutes.

Delay in Posting Videos!

We have shot some quick video interviews with our possible finalists Anne Erdmann, Tyler Hinman, and Francis Heaney. Due to some video difficulties here at the Marriott, we are not able to get them up in a timely manner. They hopefully will be up at some point later today, if not tomorrow.

Here It Is... Sunday At ACPT

There's an odd mix of excitement and melancholy on the Sunday of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. It's always sad to say goodbye to a great weekend event, but there's that knowing that the most exciting time is yet to come, with the triple-stacked C, B and A finals.

This morning is Puzzle #7. That kicks off at 9:00 a.m. The "Crossworders Got Talent" variety show will follow. This year's talent includes Eleanor Dantignac, Tommy Lee Cook, Susan Hoffman, Lorinne Lampert, Fiona Newman, Dan Sadoff, Ken Seims, Bruce Wrighte, and Amanda Yesnowitz with Brian Cimmet.

The awards ceremony will be presided over by the great cartoonist from The New Yorker, Roz Chast. And after that, the finals in the C, B, and A classes. We will be live blogging those this morning starting at roughly 11:45 a.m., so you look at that big box at the top of the blog - it's going to mysteriously come to life. So come join us! (I know Mr. and Mrs. Feyer will be out there.)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday Night's All Right For Racing

Another brain teaser from John Chaneski and Greg Pliska, as they presented "The ACPTzing Race", which was a geographic quiz which took contestants on a trip around the world without leaving the ballroom. A four-man team headed by Tyler Hinman took home top honors.

An interesting play was also presented. "Life is Shortz" featured a married couple doing a Saturday NYT puzzle whose clues provide a parallel for their lives.

And for those of you keeping score at home, here are your scores through six:

1. Dan Feyer
2. Anne Erdmann
3. Francis Heaney
4. Tyler Hinman (once again a tiebreaker on Puzzle 5 puts Hinman in fourth)
5. Trip Payne
6. Kiran Kedlaya
7. Ellen Ripstein
8. Howard Barkin
9. Dave Tuller
10. Jon Delfin

61. Bob Mackey
73. Dave Mackey

We interviewed Dan Feyer about his chances.

And then, we did our recap show, and we had some guests!

Results Through 1 Puzzle

This just in - 22 solvers solved Puzzle #1 with 12 minutes left on the clock. Barkin, Bryant, Cohen, Delfin, Dubner, Erdmann, Feist, Feyer, Heaney, Hinman, Kedlaya, R. Mackey, O'Neill, Pahk, Payne, Plotkin, Ripstein, Sanders, Schwartz, Steinway, Tuller, and Zawistowski. 56 more are tied for second and and an additional 100 are tied for third. For up to the minute results visit

Tournament is underway

Puzzle #2 in progress. Most top solvers banked 12 min. on Puzzle #1 by Kelly Clark. Pete Muller did #2.

Dawn Of A New Day

The nice thing about this tournament is that everyone starts at zero. It's what happens in between that makes it interesting.

By the time Saturday afternoon rolls around, we should have some idea about who will be representing for each contestant class. We are going to try to update you both on this website and via our Facebook page. There, you can like us and tag yourself in our pictures.

We've already informed you about a number of significant no-shows, but what may be the x-factor this year is the number of solvers who have taken it easy on the intense training. Of those we've talked to, only Dan Feyer and Ellen Ripstein have put in a lot of time just solving and solving.

We will be posting our first analysis video after Puzzle #3, from our perch outside the Jackie Gleason Ballroom. Talk to you then.

2010 ACPT Video #1

Friday, March 18, 2011

Brooklyn Is Cookin'

The Puzzle Brothers officially welcome one and all to the 2011 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. (Yes, there's another tournament going on this weekend, but we're not concerned about that big BYU-Gonzaga game.)

Tournament attendees have been treated to a most entertaining presentation by David Kwong, mixing crosswords and sleight-of-hand. David's been a contributor to several puzzle venues, has worked with the master magician Ricky Jay, and was the "cruciverbal consultant" to the Sandra Bullock movie, "All About Steve".

Ross Beresford (a/k/a "Crosspatch") gave a very interesting demonstration on the differences between US and UK cryptic crosswords, with tournament attendees trying their hand at one of each. Richard Silvestri was responsible for the US version, while the setter of the UK flavour was Don Manley.

Director Will Shortz estimates the number of registered contestants so far at 650, which is ahead of last year's total. More reportage, pictures and videos later!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Image Problem... Lots of 'em, in fact...

We are having problems right now with the ACPT galleries from years past. We are working to rectify the situation so you can enjoy pictures of those ACPT moments from the last few years you might have missed.

There's A Tournament Tomorrow? Really?

Yes, really. And the Puzzle Brothers, along with 629 other pre-registered contestants, are looking forward to the opportunities the weekend presents.

What will make this year's tournament quite interesting - aside from the possibility of Dan Feyer steamrollering all comers in the tournament as he did last year - is the number of top-level solvers who won't be showing this year. A quick glance of the contestant rolls shows top-50 names like Katie Hamill, Eric Maddy, Ron Sweet, Barry Haldiman and Eric LeVasseur not competing as of this morning. This year's confirmed A contestants are:
  • Howard Barkin
  • Katherine Bryant
  • Adam Cohen
  • Jon Delfin
  • Len Elliott
  • Anne Erdmann
  • Dan Feyer
  • Peter Gordon
  • Francis Heaney
  • Tyler Hinman
  • Doug Hoylman
  • Will Johnston
  • Kiran Kedlaya
  • Joshua Kosman
  • Frank Longo
  • Brian Olewnick
  • Joon Pahk
  • Trip Payne
  • Doug Peterson
  • Arnold Reich
  • Amy Reynaldo
  • Ellen Ripstein
  • Al Sanders
  • Dan Seabolt
  • Dave Tuller
  • Thomas Weisswange
  • Stella Zawistowski
The top B-level solvers, if last year's rankings hold, are expected to be Bob Mackey, Richard Kalustian, and Susan Hoffman. Bob has been relegated to B by virtue of winning no A- or B- level awards in the last seven tournaments, and Joon Pahk, last year's B champion, has been moved up to A. Katie Hamill will not be at the tournament this year, owing to other commitments; nor will last year's third-place contestant in B, Ron Sweet. For the record, I will again be competing in the B level this year but realistically won't make the podium, there's just too much of a logjam. Louis Lana (last year's C winner) and David Plotkin move up to B this year, and Boone Gorges makes a big jump from D to B.

The C division will be populated with even more up and coming solvers this year as several people did well enough last year to move up a class or two, including Brian Cimmet, Amanda Yesnowitz and David Moulton.

Stay with The Puzzle Brothers for complete tournament coverage - video updates throughout the day on Saturday, and on Sunday, we will be bringing you live as-it-happens blogging of the final round, brought to you by Cover It Live.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Here Are Our Gifts To The Brooklyn Crowd

Can't go, or don't want to go to Brooklyn this year? We know there are a few of you out there who are missing this year's tournament. We are dedicating these puzzle files to you, and it's our way of saying we hope you all come back next year. It is recommended you right-click and download.

Bob's Themeless
Cherub Chatter
It Is Apuzzlement!
Bob's Themeless - The Revenge!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Martha Gives Good Swag

Here's the breakdown of the goodies handed to Martha Stewart's Puzzle Show audience. This does not include the KenKen books given to the three participants in that contest.

Will Shortz Presents The Double Flip Book of KenKen and Sudoku $14.99

The New York Times Little Luxe Book of Crosswords $14.95

KenKen Page-A-Day Calendar $12.99

New York Times Crossword Society 1-Year Subscription $49.99

Hasbro Ji-Ga-Zo 300 Piece Jigsaw Puzzle Kit $29.99

Brainpower Game Plan by Dr. Cynthia Green $25.99

Good Thinking Kit from Marbles $19.99

ELMS Puzzles Gift Certificate for 75 Piece Custom Jigsaw Puzzle $150.00

Mindware Extreme Dot-To-Dot – 4 books $35.80

“Made You Look” Picture Puzzle Book $16.95

TOTAL $371.64

I did not count the value of the KenKen pencil or the New York Times crossword tote bag.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Martha Stewart Puzzle Show

Puzzle Brother Bob Mackey with Zoe Wheeler on his left
 and Deb Amlen on his right.

Martha Stewart this morning devoted her Hallmark Channel program to a discussion of puzzles. Her entire audience was full of puzzle enthusiasts, including crossword freaks, KenKen lovers, Rubik's Cube manipulators, a puzzle team from Brown University, and even a Mah-Jongg club.

The program kicked off with Will Shortz describing KenKen, which is the Sudoku-like game involving logic and mathematics. Prior to the program, a sheet with three KenKen puzzles was distributed to the audience. The first two audience members were selected to play a round of KenKen, tournament style, against the national KenKen champion, teenage Molly Olonoff. One of the Brown coeds, Zoe Wheeler, and our own Bob Mackey were selected to participate. True to form Molly very easily breezed through the puzzle, and Bob and Zoe were the 2-3 finishers, but everyone got the same prizes - a comprehensive set of KenKen books.

Will next turned his attentions to crosswords, and gave some pointers on what to look for in the clues to help you become a better solver, using today's NYT puzzle by Ian Livengood (who was in the studio) as an example.

Other guests included Richard Gariott, who collects wooden mechanical puzzle boxes, Dr. Cynthia Green, a psychologist who talked about how doing puzzles can improve your memory skills, and Rose Guay, a jigsaw puzzle creator. Warm-up comedian Joey Kola (previously from "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" and "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire", where we saw him in 2001) also executed a dot-to-dot puzzle of Martha.

All audience members received a tote bag full of puzzle books and related items, including crossword, Sudoku, KenKen, connect-the-dots and picture puzzles, Dr. Green's book "Brainpower Game Plan", Hasbro's Ji-Ga-Zo jigsaw puzzle and software, which allows you to create an endless variety of jigsaw puzzles based on your own designs, and a gift certificate for a custom-made 75-piece jigsaw puzzle (value approx. $150) from ELMS Puzzles.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Martha Stewart Wants Puzzlers!

Martha Stewart is planning a special episode about puzzles which will tape in February for later broadcast. She is hoping to have an entire audience chock full of puzzle fans - be it crossword, sudoku, KenKen, mazes - for this taping. One of the guests will be Puzzlemaster to the World, Mr. Will Shortz. If you want free tickets to the taping, go to Martha's website and tell the audience coordinators about your puzzling activities.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Starbucks Winner Has The Last Laugh; Cashes Gift Card for $$$$$$$

If you will remember, Starbucks sponsored a crossword contest in conjunction with the New York Times in 2006, which featured six weekly puzzles distributed through the coffee chain (all very well crafted by Patrick Berry), plus a tiebreaker puzzle with the all-too obvious answer "Starbuck". The winner of that puzzle likely called in with a lucky guess not a minute after the phone lines open. Trip Payne, among others, was up in arms. There were also runner up prizes, likely also going to guessers.

Now comes word that one of those runners-up, who won one of the extremely rare Crossword gift cards valued at $500 (the grand prize was an approximately $73,000 gift card, representative of one cup of coffee a day for life), has auctioned off his card on eBay for over $10,000. Apparently, there were only six of these cards made, making them the rarest gift cards of all time and are highly sought after by cartodorologists, or gift card collectors.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sylvia Burstzyn 1948-2010

Los Angeles Times Sunday crossword author Sylvia Burstzyn has died at the age of 62. The crossword creator died of natural causes on December 30, 2010.

Burstzyn co-authored the Sunday crossword with Barry Tunick from 1980 until 2007, when Tunick passed away. Burstzyn's puzzle appeared biweekly from that time on, and her last puzzle was published on Sunday, January 9. The Merl Reagle puzzle will begin appearing weekly in the Calendar.

More details in the L.A. Times obituary.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

ACPT Registration Now Available

Registration is now open for the 34th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, to be held March 18-20 at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott.

The tournament will follow the same format as most years past. Once again, no awards luncheon. The variety show and awards (presented this year by Roz Chast, cartoonist for The New Yorker) will precede the C, B and A playoffs. Friday night games will include a cryptic crossword contest.