April 6th, 2009


Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament

Yesterday, my very generous wife allowed me to leave her to do a major part of the Pesach cleaning while I traipsed off to Cambridge to compete in the first ever Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

For the past few years, I've been serving as a "personal puzzle trainer" for saxikath (who doesn't really need my help, but we have fun when I time her on the puzzle every morning). She was one of the people scoring the puzzles at this tournament, so I knew I wasn't going to have to compete against her. I had set myself a personal goal of coming in dead last, but legitimately – meaning that I wasn't going to give up, but I was going to try to solve all the puzzles to the best of my ability. I failed in my goal, which is actually a good thing.

A lot of NPL Krewe were there, but since I'm not that active in the NPL I'm guessing most of them don't know me. I sat in the front row with 530nm330hz because it seemed like a good place to be.

There were four puzzles to solve throughout the afternoon, and New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz was a special guest, so we got some free entertainment to boot. After the competition, I took this photo of Will and Andrew, who has had one of his puzzles published by Will and collected into a recent book of Sunday puzzles.

Will Shortz, Andrew M. Greene Will Shortz, Andrew M. Greene
New York Times Crossword Puzzle Editor Will Shortz and Crossword Constructor Andrew Marc Greene at the Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament, April 5, 2009. Photo copyright ©2009 by Michael A. Burstein.

As for the competition itself, the puzzles were in order from easiest to hardest, and if you look at the standings, you'll see I came in 89th out of 122 competitors. I'm actually quite proud of how I did, though, because I was more interested in accuracy than speed. I managed to get both the first and the fourth puzzle completely right, and I knew as I was solving the other two that there were things I just didn't know, so I wasn't expecting to get high scores on them. My four scores were 1105, 845, 780, and 1110, for a total score of 3840. (And note that means that I did better on the hardest puzzle than on the easiest one. Wow.)

To give you some idea of what the total score means, the winner had a score of 5190. I would explain the rules if I remembered them, but I don't, and they don't seem to be posted on the website. Essentially, you get points for handing in the puzzle early, and you lose points for every letter wrong. There's also a point bonus for a completely accurate puzzle.

I'm particularly proud of 530nm330hz, though, for coming in at seventh place. Hey, Andrew, need a personal puzzle trainer?

By the way, Will Shortz answered questions, and I got to ask him two questions I've always wondered: first, does he regret not being able to compete in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament? (As the guy who organizes the whole thing, it would be unfair and impossible for him to compete.) It turns out he doesn't really regret it; the impression I got is that he probably thinks he'd do okay if he competed, but that's all.

My second question: isn't he glad that he didn't run the "Election Day" puzzle for the 2000 election? (He was.) Needless to say, that would have been interesting.