Sunday, September 21, 2014

By The Skin Of His Teeth, Bob Mackey Wins His Sixth Westchester Trophy

What a final round of the 18th annual Westchester Crossword Tournament. Two puzzlers finished. Bob Mackey looked over his whiteboard for mistakes. Ken Stern looked over his whiteboard for mistakes. Neither knew the game of Chicken that was being played. Bob was looking for something that would complete a specified number of thematic elements in a future New York Times puzzle. Ken's puzzle was clean.

Finally, Bob found the final missing piece and broke the tense silence.


One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Misissisppi. Ken echoed...


It could have gone the other way if Ken had signaled "Done" just seconds earlier, or if Bob had done the same without checking his work, but the final outcome of the 18th annual Westchester Tournament was the same as five of the previous installments, with Bob Mackey taking home the championship trophy.

(SPOILER ALERT: You may not want to look at the picture if you have not yet solved the puzzle to be published on October 2, 2014.)

Although Glenn Ryan was the third man in the scenario working the left board, all the focus was on the two solvers at center and right, with Bob taking an early lead and Ken steadily catching up, when finally the two solvers had no more blank squares. To some it looked like Bob was being super cautious, but the puzzle's notes had indicated that there were six thematic quirks. Bob kept counting, and counting, and counting, but could only find five. He finally found the final crossing that completed the theme requirements, a mere four seconds before Ken Stern threw up his hands in surrender. All three solvers completed the puzzle with no errors.

In the first of a year of homecomings for tournament emcee/host Will Shortz, the Westchester Tournament returned to its prior home, the St. John's Episcopal Church in Pleasantville, after a three year residency at the Westchester Table Tennis Club. Next spring, the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament will be once again in its birthplace of Stamford, Connecticut. One wag noted that perhaps Will will bring Games Magazine back from the dead next.

Bob's qualifying puzzle was the Tuesday, September 30 puzzle by Andy Kravis, who was the only constructor present at Friday's tournament. Judges for the tournament included perennial head judge Stan Kurzban, Ellen Ripstein, Mimi Raphael, Frank Longo, Hayley Gold and Pat Merrell.

As always, proceeds from the tournament benefitted the Pleasantville Fund For Learning.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


The 18th edition of the Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament will be on Friday, September 19, and the tournament is moving back to the St. John Episcopal Church in Pleasantville, once again to benefit the Pleasantville Fund for Learning. As always, the tournament will feature the four New York Times puzzles from the following Monday through Wednesday, with the Thursday puzzle serving as the playoff puzzle for the top finisher on each of the three puzzles. $30 to compete singly, $45 as a team, or $5 just to watch.

Last year's tournament finals involved the same three solvers from the 2013 ACPT "B" finals, Glenn Ryan, Jeffrey Schwartz, and Robert Mackey, which culminated in Mackey winning his sixth Westchester trophy - five singles and one doubles title with Dave Mackey.

The tournament was held the last three years at the Westchester Table Tennis Club, which is owned by New York Times crossword guru Will Shortz. No reason was given for the change, although a Facebook post by perennial Westchester finalist Elaine Renner noted "the acoustics are better" in the church.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


(Updated 8/11/2014)

Jon Delfin showed he can still run with the puppies when he proved victorious at the seventh installment of Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer's Lollapuzzoola, held on August 9 (a Saturday in August) at the All Souls Church on the upper East Side of Manhattan.

Delfin, who will begin competing in the Sixties age bracket at next year's ACPT in Stamford (and who has won that tournament a record seven times), defeated the decades-younger Francis Heaney and Scott Weiss in the Express bracket. None of the three made any mistakes on the championship puzzle by Patrick Berry.

L-R: Scott Weiss, Patrick Blindauer (holding Weiss' clue sheet for him), and Patrick Heaney
In the Local bracket, Simon McAndrews finished first but had one void square. Patti Varol, who finished second, was crowned Local Champion and Sara Nies was third.

Rounding out the top 10 overall finishers in the Express division were Jeffrey Schwartz, Andy Kravis, Joon Pahk (who solved using only Down clues - the only other competitor to do so was Peter Gordon), Andrew Feist, Ellen Ripstein, Robert Mackey and Thomas Weisswange. Pahk also won the Worst Handwriting Award.

For the second year in a row, Marcia Hearst and Julian Ochrymowych won the Pairs title.

The only competitors to solve all five competition puzzles cleanly were Heaney, Delfin, Schwartz, Pahk, Ripstein, Weisswange, Elaine Lippman, Matt Sandler, Richard Hovan, Dave Mackey (who finished 25th, an improvement of 100 places from last year), Brendan Emmett Quigley, Patty Buethe, Amy Goldstein, Sasha Shapiro and Josephine Quinones.

The rest of the top 10 in Local was Rebecca Moody (who also won the Rookie award), Martin Davis, Vegavahini Subramaniam, Thomas Perretti, Finn Vigeland, Aaron Riggio and Amy Paepke.

The slogan of the tournament this year was "It Ain't Over Till It's Over", which was of course a phrase coined by Yogi Berra, the great baseball manager and coach, and some of the puzzles - including a very accessible meta by Blindauer - had a baseball theme. In fact, Blindauer (who probably has a closetful of St. Louis Cardinals jerseys) led TWO singings of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game", and at least one Puzzle Brother was familiar with the first rendition...

The finale version was the conventional singing, a la Harry Caray. Of course, the cheese ball snacks (joined by a blue Cotton Candy version) and other familiar trappings of Lollapuzzoola returned, surrounded by some great puzzles that included audio and visual clues and other tricks you would never think of. The puzzles, in order, were by Cathy Allis (14x16), Mike Nothnagel (17x), Tony Orbach (21x), Blindauer (15x) and Doug Peterson (21x).

More information and final standings are available at

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Celebrity Puzzlers Revealed!

If Patrick Creadon ever intends to make a sequel to "Wordplay", these two ladies should be featured. At left, comedienne Suzanne Whang, the original host of "House Hunters" on HGTV, has revealed herself to be quite the crossworder, and has dipped her toe into the construction arena with a recent American Values Club crossword co-authored by Tyler Hinman. She was also a recent contributor to the New York Times crossword blog, authored by her friend Deb Amlen, a funny lady in her own right. Suzanne's Twitter is @suzannewhang.

Kat Dennings is immediately recognizable in her yellow and red waitress outfit from the CBS sitcom "2 Broke Girls", and is currently on a vacation where she has discovered the New York Times crossword puzzle, as evidenced by some of her recent Instagram posts, including one where she's clearly solving in pen with the caption "Confidence", and another displaying the fully solved grid of the Saturday, May 13 puzzle by Sam Ezersky. Later that day, she posted on her Twitter: "Where have you been all my life, crossword puzzles".

Kat's Instagram: katdenningsss
Kat's Twitter: @officialkat

Sunday, March 09, 2014


Dan Feyer Extends Streak To 5 Wins In A Row

Michael Sharp put it best when he tweeted after the ACPT this year....

For the fifth year in a row, Dan Feyer was the fastest and smartest solver at the 37th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, ringing down the curtain on a seven year run at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott.

Dan's solve of the Mike Shenk finals puzzle was smooth as anything previously seen by the newly transplanted Californian, handily beating competitors Tyler Hinman (second place) and Howard Barkin (third place). All three solvers were perfect on the final puzzle.

Not so B division.

Benjamin Coe emerged triumphant over Kevan Choset and Andy Kravis, the latter two of whom made the same exact mistake on the puzzle. There's quite a difference between LAO and TAO, isn't there? Oh, WAO.

Your other winners:

Remainder of Top Ten: Joon Pahk, Anne Erdmann, Jon Delfin, Erik Agard, David Plotkin, Francis Heaney, Ellen Ripstein
C: Michael Megargee
D: Chris Popp
E: Maureen Kildee
Rookie: Megargee
Junior: Agard
Fifties: Erdmann
Sixties: Ripstein
Seventies: Doug Hoylman
Senior: Bob Rubin
West: Feyer
Connecticut: Glen Ryan
NE: Pahk
NYC: Delfin
LI: Thomas Weisswange
Upstate NY: David Heinick
NJ: Howard Barkin, then Robert Mackey
Mid-Atlantic: Agard
South: David Plotkin
Midwest: Erdmann
Foreign: Emily O'Neill

The handwriting award was noteworthy because for the first time it was won by a man - Jeremy Lin. (No, this guy wasn't the basketball player.)

The 2015 ACPT will be March 27-29, 2015 in Stamford, Connecticut. Beat you to the breakfast buffet!


Five time champion and the once and future king of Brooklyn!

Playoff Puzzle Participants

C - Matt Sandler, David Heinick, Michael Megargee
B - Benjamin Coe, Kevan Choset, Andy Kravis
A - Howard Barkin, Tyler Hinman, Dan Feyer

Talent Show underway....

Some good talent so far from the likes of Tommy Lee Cook, Ben Bass and Vic Fleming, as the final scores and rankings are computed. The play by play on the finals puzzles will appear on Twitter (@thepuzbros), with recaps here.


The Saturday session of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament 2014 edition has ended. Here's how things are shaking out....

The six puzzles so far have shown three familiar names atop the leaderboard: Dan Feyer, Tyler Hinman and Howard Barkin, with the B leaders being Andy Kravis, Adam Cohen and Kevan Choset.

Not a lot of controversy with this year's puzzles, which in order of appearance, were authored by Kelly Clark, Patrick Blindauer, Merl Reagle, MaryEllen Uthlaut, Brendan Emmett Quigley, and Anna Shechtman, other than the usual bad crossings and general hard feelings about that fifth puzzle. Neither Puzzle Brother  successsfully completed that puzzle. Bob is presently in 34th place and Dave 121st.

The Saturday evening activities involved a game of  Clever Clues. Will had three words,  NEST, ELOPE and ARSON and had actual NYT clues with only the first letter of each given. If you got it off the first letter only you gave yourself 10 points. The second letter of each word was then added, and if you got it then, you scored 5. The winners of that contest were Doug Hoylman, followed closely by Thomas Weisswange and Jonathan Olsen.

David Steinberg was up next with a brief talk about the Pre-Shortzian Puzzle Project. David and his team of litzers have now completed the daily NYT puzzles (which began in 1950) and are as far back as 1948 with the Margaret Farrar-edited Sunday puzzles. "I can see the light at the end of the tunnel," noted David, who now needs proofreaders to make sure the litzing is accurate. The project has had some unexpected benefits such as confirming the first puzzle constructed by Bernice Gordon, which was litzed by Howard Barkin and included the first use of the entry MAMIEEISENHOWER. That was back in 1953. David also noted that during the Shortz era there has actually been a decline in the number of female constructors, mostly due to the adoption of computer construction software.

Finally, Matt Ginsberg presented an updated version of his Dr. Fill computer-solving software chalk talk, complete with a demonstration of all six tournament puzzles so far. Some of the puzzles were perfectly solved, some were not.

Festivities resume tomorrow at 9 a.m. DAYLIGHT SAVING TIME with puzzle 7!

Friday, March 07, 2014


Greetings and welcome to the 37th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, almost live from Brooklyn.... for the last time. Will Shortz announced in an interview with the New York Times Wordplay columnist Deb Amlen that the tournament will return to the Stamford Marriott in Connecticut on March 27-29, 2015.

Lots of excitement around the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott as for the final time we look forward to two days of crossword competition. The big question remains (as it has for the last three years) "can Dan Feyer make it (number of tournaments won +1) in a row?"

Consider in the past decade, all the time I've been going to these tournaments, there have been only two champions: Tyler Hinman (2005-2009) and Dan Feyer (2010-2013). Will someone new come to the fore?

Be that as it may, here is your A-list of 28 contenders (of 555 pre-registered contestants):

Erik Agard
Howard Barkin
John Beck
Kathie Conarck
Jon Delfin
Len Elliott
Anne Erdmann
Dan Feyer
Peter Gordon
Katie Hamill
Francis Heaney
Tyler Hinman
Eric LeVasseur
Frank Longo
Robert Mackey
Eric Maddy
Joon Pahk
Doug Peterson
David Plotkin
Amy Reynaldo
Ellen Ripstein
Glen Ryan
Al Sanders
Jeffrey Schwartz
Ken Stern
Scott Weiss
John Wilson
Stella Zawistowski

The Carnival of Puzzles has concluded with co-winners Robert Mackey and Al Sanders.

For the latest on the tournament follow @thepuzbros on Twitter!