The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, the world’s oldest and largest crossword event, is celebrating its 35th event in a few weeks.
Nearly a thousand crossword aficionados from more than 35 states, Canada and abroad — ranging in age from teens to 80s — will compete at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott from March 16 to 18. The ACPT is the brainchild of its director, Will Shortz, crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times and Puzzlemaster for NPR.
Contestants compete on seven crosswords created especially for the event. Each puzzle has a time limit of 15 to 45 minutes, and contestants score points for accuracy and speed. At the end of the tournament the top three scorers appear on stage to solve an eighth and final puzzle, printed on giant boards for all to watch. The playoff round will be announced by Liane Hansen, former host of NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday,” and Greg Pliska, quizzicist for public radio’s “A Way with Words.”
The most common professions represented at the tournament are computer programmers, musicians, teachers, writers, editors and attorneys. Last year there was also one each of: excursion boat captain, archeologist, concierge, soldier, “domestic goddess,” and zymurgist (a fancy word for a brewer).
The tournament puzzles are made by leading contributors to The New York Times, Games magazine, and other publications.
In the very first contest, 149 contestants competed, and there were only five puzzles. It began at 3 p.m. on a Saturday afternoon and concluded with a final puzzle on Sunday morning. Points were awarded for correct letters (not words) in the grid — a giant headache for the judges, who literally stayed up all night grading papers.
Nancy Schuster, a Queens housewife, won the first contest. She is now a regular official at the event.
Over the years the winners’ ages have ranged from 20 (Tyler Hinman, of Chicago) to 54 (Doug Hoylman, of Chevy Chase, Md.).
The reigning champion is Dan Feyer, who won the tournament in 2010 and 2011. The most frequent champion is Jon Delfin, a pianist from New York City, who has won the tournament seven times.
One contestant, Jay Kasofsky, has competed in all 34 previous tournaments and will be attending this year’s event.
The event was the focus of the 2006 hit documentary “Wordplay.”
Prizes are awarded in 22 categories, based on skill, age, geographical region and rookie status. The grand-prize winner receives $5,000 and an unabridged dictionary.
The event is sponsored by St. Martin’s Press, New York Times Digital, and Penny Press.
Registration continues up to the day of the event. For more information visit www.crosswordtournament.com, where sample puzzles and an archive of past winners are also available.