i competed in my first american crossword puzzle tournament this weekend! i signed up to participate in person last year, booked a weekend at the stamford marriott ("you kick butt in that tournament!" said my reservation gal) and called dibs on a seat at the welcome dinner, then was promptly informed that the tournament was pandemic-stymied and maybe moving to later in the spring, or beyond (have you made plans based on will shortz's analysis of a potential global pandemic? it's chewy). i felt pretty good about how i was doing as of early this saturday afternoon, as i had four clean puzzles and had only missed one square in the bloodbath that is puzzle five, but two of my first five scores weren't showing up. but hey! clean puzzles, decent speed, and i reported my score glitches and figured the correction would puff me up to the first quartile, based on my back-of-the-bookmark-i-found-on-the-floor math.

no, no. i got a couple emails from the tech team at the ACPT this morning explaining that i'd started my puzzles far later than i should have (35 minutes in one case), per the rules (which they hyperlinked)—though when i read those rules they just said that they "must be solved when they are released." well, sure? i asked in the global chat about how long contestants had to start each of the puzzles, and apparently it's 60 seconds (per something will shortz said in an introductory livestreamed thing yesterday that was not described as compulsory.) internets, i was in no danger of doing really well in this tournament, but i got a little shirty when i got that email today about my lack of alacrity. i know that my reading comprehension is execrable as a general proposition, so when i know that i've overcorrected you are also going to know that i've overcorrected.

last night was the mingling portion of the tournament, and i joined zoom chats for both a 19-year-old standup comic from canada who told crossword jokes and a powerpoint presentation from a man who's had 13 puzzles published in the new york times (when i logged into the room he said, "oh, lauren has joined, so i should start over!") and had extensive correspondence between himself and both will shortz and will shortz's assistant. most of the saturday night presenters seem to have actually been at the stamford marriott—the comic was in the basement and made cracks about will shortz's EDM leaking down through the ceiling, and the puzzle designer was clearly sitting at a table in a ballroom with big old headphones and other loud-talking presenters leaking into his scene from elsewhere in the room.

things you should know about this year's confluence, per my notes:

i am usually a very sloppy rule-reader, but i read them all for this, and i think that you’re kind of asking someone to nitpick with you if you tell them their scores were DQ’ed because of rules (that you then hyperlink) and those rules don’t support what you said. i even re-read them just now to see if there was a Will Shortz Voice of God clause that made anything he said instant canon, and there is not; the closest they have is a line about how their decisions are final.

also please note that there is a player in the global chat known as Won’t Shortz

there is no talent show this year. instead there is a pre-taped crossword esoterica presentation.

oh man there’s a musical component.

it’s a rapped retelling of theseus and the minotaur

holy shit. consensus in the global chat: that totally slapped

okay, filmed finals with color commentary coming up

whenever someone’s name is called they list their letters’ point count afterward, eg OPHIRA EISENBERG (15)

much joking about how anyone who got the pfizer vaccine doesn’t have to film themselves completing the puzzles.

drawing out the pregame banter because the actual final will be about 3 minutes long.

asking the presumptive (and very taciturn) winner if he’s being held against his will.

also much trash talk: “pencils are for golfers and children”


and seeing the way they typed i get why this is a tech person’s game - they try incorrect things based on probability vs putting in words they know for sure first, and they don’t go straight down the acrosses and then straight through the downs - they solve quadrants.

in my heart and on my scratch pad i was in the top quartile, reader.


LPC said...

If your score is affected, so not fair not telling you the talk where they give you all the rules is compulsory.

Hannah Mae said...

Whyyyyyyyy must all things eventually devolve into tech solutions? Why can't you be a crossword or scrabble champ by loving weird-ass words instead of treating language as just an extremely large pattern problem? Math being the winning move in everything that looks like the arts is completely fucking up my worldview.

lauren said...

H, this is a question i will be asking in my next attempt at this tournament (i'm going to try again, which is such a bad idea!). the only game i know of that would weight weird-ass-word-love is, i don't know, punderdome? which is UNSAME