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Are you a Monday or a Saturday Puzzle?


Rufus Mangrove

Every year since 1978, crossword puzzlers from all walks of life come together to compete in the world’s largest crossword puzzle tournament, the ACPT, founded and directed by the one and only Will Shortz. He’s the editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle and the Puzzlemaster on NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday. This year, nearly 600 contestants squeezed themselves into a banquet hall at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott and over the course of three days, lived, breathed, worshipped, and on occasion, swore at the mighty crossword.

Some puzzlers had come for the first time. Many came together. Others were veterans and crossword legends in their own right. And then there were the puzzlers that could devour each puzzle in impossible times. But regardless of whether a player came to win it all, finish the puzzle, beat their times from last year, or just to meet and hang out with friends, there was one thing in particular that all the puzzlers had in common: a sense of true camaraderie.

This was my first time attending the tournament. I have been living in New York City for about a decade and I never knew that there was such a thing as a crossword puzzle tournament, much less that the one here in Brooklyn was the world’s largest. It was always my impression that crossword puzzles were done in the kitchen and that was the end of it. But that was until a few months ago when I caught the documentary, Wordplay, on Hulu, and then did a simple search on google and found blogs completely and utterly dedicated to the crossword puzzle. The realization then hit me that while crossword puzzling is for the most part a solitary endeavor, the sheer amount of people that play and live the New York Times crossword puzzle each day suggests that something a lot larger is at work here.

For more, please visit my American Crossword Puzzle Tournament photoessay here:


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  1. March 17, 2013

    Nerd alert: I regularly consume those big fat books of crossword puzzles that they sell at grocery store magazine racks (just crossword books; none of that anagram or word seach or other nonsense). It is strange in that it is a solitary hobby, but it’s like a secret handshake: you meet a fellow crossword-puzzler, and you each go up a notch or two in the other’s esteem.

    I really, really like the diagramless ones. I do ’em all in pen (arrogance!).

    • Rufus Mangrove #
      March 18, 2013

      Ha! Have you seen the movie Wordplay? Check it out on Hulu (it’s free). Absolutely fascinating. The top guys are doing the Saturday NY Times Puzzle in a few minutes. Mind boggling. But the pen comment is funny . . . in the movie Wordplay, they spend a few minutes on that issue. And, you’re in good company. Bill Clinton uses pen, as does Jon Stewart. You should come down and compete next year! There’s a whole range of levels of players, but it’s not so much the competition as it is nice people getting together to, as one of the champions told me, “geek out” on the crossword.

      • March 19, 2013

        Clinton, Stewart — and me? Us freedom-hating liberals are bold, man!

        I wanted to see Wordplay when it came out, but it wasn’t released where I live (the sticks of the PNW). I’ll have to hit Hulu!

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