Saturday, September 28, 2013

DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN - ACPT B Finals Replay Gives Bob Mackey His Fifth Westchester Championship

Bob Mackey realized early on that the finals of the 17th Westchester Crossword Tournament would most likely be a replay of the ACPT "B" division finals from this past March in Brooklyn and let everyone know it (the word "jinx" not being in his vocabulary). Scanning the room, he found Jeff Schwartz and Glenn Ryan, who harbored much the same desire. Nowhere to be found was defending champion Thomas Weisswange.

Glenn Ryan was the first clean finisher on the Monday NY Times puzzle from the forthcoming week, a construction by Ian Livengood. If not for one wrong letter, Bob Mackey would have qualified on the Tuesday puzzle of Joel Fagliano. Jeff Schwartz was the first eligible correct solver. And for the third puzzle, the Wednesday, October 2 by Paula Gamache, it was Bob as the last announced finalist, finishing just behind the already-qualified Jeff. The finals were set.

In spite of an early pen problem, Bob steadily worked through the Thursday puzzle - a nice rebus from first time NYT contributor Evan Birnholz - while the other two lagged behind, with Glenn out in front first, and Jeff eventually overtaking him in what little drama the finals had. Bob finished clean in a little over eight minutes, even with the pen mishap, to capture his fifth Westchester Crossword Tournament title (sixth if you count the doubles title in 2006).

Kudos to Will Shortz for keeping this tournament lively and interesting with the addition of a table tennis playoff for the top finishers on the Gamache puzzle. Afterwards, Westchester Table Tennis Club co-owner and resident pro Robert Roberts treated us to a demonstration.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


The cooler weather and turning trees mean only one thing - Westchester time is upon us! Will Shortz is again hosting his hometown Westchester Crossword Tournament at his Westchester Table Tennis Club, in Pleasantville. The 17th tournament, to be held Friday, September 27 beginning at 7:30 p.m., will again benefit the Pleasantville Fund For Learning.

Donationa to compete are $30 for single, $45 for doubles pair, or $5 if you just want to watch.

Competitors will tackle the next three Monday-Wednesday New York Times puzzles, then the top finisher on each puzzle (perfect in the quickest time) will solve the Thursday puzzle on stage using the familiar white boards.

Additionally, this year there will also be a crossword/table tennis biathlon. The top four finishers at crosswords who sign up for the biathlon will face off in table tennis to determine the biathlon champion.

Last year's singles champion was Thomas Weisswange. More information available at

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Al Sanders Takes Lollapuzzoola 6 Express Title

The image most people have in their brains of Al Sanders is the overconfident man who raises his hand to indicate "done" at the 2005 ACPT, only to realize he's left two squares blank in 1-Across, throwing his headset to the ground in frustration. We've all seen that movie before. (Except maybe for Oscar Cimmet.)

Yesterday, the ACPT perennial flew in from Colorado to participate in Lollapuzzoola 6 in New York City, and wound up besting another cross-country commuter, Trip Payne, and Francis Heaney in the onstage finals of the "Express Division", roughly equivalent to A- and B- class ACPT contestants.

Jonathan Brown wound up the winner of the "Local Division", defeating Erin Milligan and Angela Halsted (who was found to be the tournament's sole 6-time participant and the analogue to Jay Kasofsky at the ACPT). The extremely tough finals puzzle was constructed by Joon Pahk, who was unable to attend to defend his title from last year.

The tournament was under the capable supervision of co-creator Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer, who replaced co-creator Ryan Hecht a few years ago, and over the six years of its existence it has steadily attracted more top solvers around the country, including fourth place finisher Amy Reynaldo, the aforementioned Payne and Sanders, and Katie Hamill from Boston among others. This year's tournament set a record with over 150 solvers, including past ACPT winners Jon Delfin and Ellen Ripstein. The judges included the likes of Dan Feyer and Anne Erdmann.

In keeping with the tournament's irreverent streak, prize trophies featured figurines from such unrelated disciplines as karate and gymnastics (but were engraved for the first time) as well as leftover ACPT trophies. Clever word games helped fill the time and there was a metapuzzle that was related to the five crosswords solved by everyone.

More tournament information and pictures may be found at

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

ACPT Returning To Stamford?

After the ACPT's contract with the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott expires with the 2014 tournament, Will Shortz is seriously considering a return to the tournament's original home, the Stamford (CT) Marriott.

We encourage you to leave your comments on that page, so much so that we've disabled comments for this post. Bob has yet to weigh in on the matter, but my vote is for a return to Stamford.

Sunday, March 10, 2013


Dan Feyer does it again, but it was no walk in the park this year. Dan snagged his fourth American Crossword Puzzle Tournament championship in a squeaker over second place finisher Anne Erdmann, but third place finisher Tyler Hinman did not finish the puzzle in the alloted 20 minutes (yes, the puzzle was THAT TOUGH this year, so Will tacked on an extra five minutes.)

Dan was consistently on top of his game throughout the tournament, increasing his lead on the final three puzzles he solved to solidly take the first berth in the tournament. All three puzzlers found the bottom left corner particularly sticky in Kevin G. Der's tournament puzzle, but Dan was able to conquer it on the heels of a faster-moving Erdmann. Tyler finally finished his puzzle after the time was up, but the five-time champion had the crowd pulling for him to finish.


Robert Mackey returned to the B finals for the first time since 1998 and became only the second repeat B champion - the only other one was Randy Ross, who won in 1992 and 1996. Robert beat a consistent Westchester Tournament nemesis, Jeffrey Schwartz, and rookie Glen Ryan, who's still trying to find the number of that truck that hit him. Robert's win was quick and convincing, with one Twitter commentator noting that "he made it seem like a Tuesday puzzle".

Other winners today:
C: Benjamin Coe
D: Vegavahini Subramaniam
E: Matthew Paranto
Junior: David Plotkin
50's: Erdmann
60's: Ellen Ripstein
70's: Len Elliott
Senior: Bob Rubin
West: Hinman
Connecticut: Ryan
New York: Feyer
New Jersey: Barkin
Long Island: Thomas Weisswange
New England: Joon Pahk
Upstate NY: Michael Sharp ("Rex Parker")
Mid-Atlantic: Eric Agard
South: Plotkin
Midwest: Erdmann
Foreign: Emily O'Neill
Handwriting: Judy Cole

The 37th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament will be the same weekend next year - March 7-9.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Recapping Saturday's Action!

UPDATED 3/10/2013 5:57 AM

Saturday's puzzles are now in the books, and they from all the stuff I've read on the TPB and my own personal Twitter feeds, I can report that Puzzles 5 and 3 respectively were the ones that separated the field into the haves and have-nots.

With Puzzle No. 6, Dan Feyer increased his lead to three minutes over Tyler Hinman and six minutes over Anne Erdmann. As of Sunday morning, the rest of the Top 10 is Francis Heaney, Stella Zawistowski, Kiran Kedlaya, Howard Barkin, Joon Pahk, Al Sanders and Jon Delfin.

Glen Ryan is the top rookie in 14th place and could make the B finals. Due to scoring changes, the top native B scorer so far is Robert Mackey, who is in 17th place, with Jeffrey Schwartz in 20th place holding down the possible third spot on the B stage.

Benjamin Coe is the other hot rookie this year, currently sitting in 33rd place. His nearest C competitors are Jeff Davidson (67th) and Neville Fogerty (75th).

Puzzle No. 7 kicks off the Sunday festivities at 9:00 a.m. with the finals set to start after the talent show which starts at 11:00 a.m.


Three way tie at the top among Anne Erdmann, Dan Feyer and Tyler Hinman. Four way tie for fourth among Howard Barkin, Francis Heaney, Kiran Kedlaya and Al Sanders. Three way tie for eighth featuring David Plotkin, rookie Glen Ryan and Stella Zawistowski. Bob Mackey is part of a group of nine solvers in 11th place.

Another ACPT Absentee

The always colorful and wackily costumed j!m jen!sta will not be attending the ACPT this year. On the Facebook page for American Crossword Puzzle Tournament Attendees, he notes, "Despite my inclination to holler 'Damn the cardiologist, fill crosswords ahead!', I ended up listening to some alien voice in my head called 'prudence'."

Thursday, February 28, 2013


This year's ACPT constructors are:
  • Patrick Berry
  • Patrick Blindauer
  • Kevin G. Der
  • Liz Gorski
  • Lynn Lempel
  • Ian Livengood
  • Brendan Emmett Quigley
  • Mike Shenk
The big news this year is there's no Merl Reagle puzzle this year.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Due to a personal conflict, I will be missing the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament for the first time since I began competing in 2005.

There are a number of issues that are hastening my non-appearance this year, but the main conflict is a commitment to Region III of the New Jersey Music Educators to conduct their Elementary Honors Band this year. As such, I will be required to participate in the selection of the fifth and sixth grade band members on Saturday, March 9 - the day most of the puzzles will be solved. This is a daylong process that will culminate in the selection of up to 360 musicians in three separate Honors Bands. The concert itself is on May 4.

I am pleased to announce that I am not turning my back on crosswords entirely. I plan to get back into construction this summer and I am looking forward to catching up with everyone at Westchester in the fall, and at the ACPT in 2014. Have fun at the tournament, everyone!