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My Puzzling Friends: Katherine Bryant

One of the people I feel very privileged to be friends with is Katherine Bryant (LJ: saxikath). And this weekend, I have many reasons to wish her good luck. But first, some background.

Katherine Bryant Solves a Sunday Times Puzzle Katherine Bryant Solves a Sunday Times Puzzle
Photo copyright © Michael A. Burstein. All rights reserved.

I first met Katherine in my sophomore year of college, when she was in her first year. We met through the Harvard-Radcliffe Gilbert & Sullivan Players' production of Princess Ida. We were both in the chorus, and as it so happens, the director chose to make us a G&S couple, so that gave us a chance to talk. Even back in college, I was impressed with her quick wit, her love of wordplay, and her ability to solve puzzles. (Embarrassed yet, Katherine? Be glad I didn't mention your appearance on Jeopardy!)

Our own lives caused us to drift apart for a few years until we found ourselves working together at the same company. During that time, Katherine became very well-known in the puzzling community. For one thing, she served as the editor of The Enigma, the monthly magazine of the National Puzzlers' League. And for another...

For the past few years, she's consistently scored in the top ten at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. The ACPT is known as Stamford to many people, since until this year it was held at a hotel in Stamford, Connecticut. This year it's been moved to Brooklyn, where it will probably remain for the foreseeable future.

Katherine was already placing in the top ten at the ACPT even before we started working together in December 2005. But after she returned from the 2006 ACPT, I decided that I wanted to help her out. So since March of 2006 or so, I've taken on the role of being Katherine's personal "puzzle trainer." Essentially, every workday morning I've made a copy of that day's New York Times crossword puzzle, and then timed her on it. Katherine routinely finishes the puzzle in anywhere from two to six minutes. On occasion, it's taken her a little longer, but those occasions are few and far between.

Last year, Katherine went to the 2007 ACPT and returned with triumphant news. Although she had not placed in the top three, she had managed to complete every puzzle of the competition without a single error. (As her trainer, I was busy that weekend too, reciting Psalm 121 over and over. Did that help? Who knows? But in the words of the old joke, it couldn't hurt.)

This weekend, Katherine will once again be competing in the ACPT, and I'll be staying at home, rooting for her in my "Team Bryant" warm-up jacket. I hope she manages to get to the top three, and then win, because then I'll get to check that off my list of life goals: have a friend who wins the ACPT. But even if she doesn't, I'm still delighted that she's allowed me to be a part of it over the past two years.

Good luck, saxikath!

Katherine Bryant Solves Andrew Greene's Puzzle Katherine Bryant Solves Andrew Greene's Puzzle
Photo copyright © Michael A. Burstein. All rights reserved.


Kath is my semi-cousin and a cross/word/play goddess. I look forward to losing to her this weekend!
:) My first time... be gentle
I wish I were going; it would be nice to see you again.
Indeed! I'll look you and N. up when next I'm back in Boston.
Much luck to her!

(And if I had known this, I'd have asked her how she writes so fast - Dad is really good at crosswords and can't do a Sunday puzzle in less than 20 minutes.)
Solving a crossword puzzle quickly is an interesting combination of figuring out the answers, finding their location in the grid, and writing the answer in. Since all ACPT puzzles are solved with pencil and paper, it's a skill people tend to pick up from practice.

I don't know what her Sunday solving times tend to be; I rarely administer a Sunday puzzle to her.

For myself, a Sunday puzzle takes about a week. :-)
Right - Dad has about 40 years of practice, doing it every day. :)
Very cool! You know the ACPT is in Brooklyn this year.
Yes! It's Stamford in Brooklyn. People are trying to figure out what to call it.

You should stop by the hotel and see what it's like, if you can.

December 2016

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