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.