What a weekend. No doubt by now you've already heard that Dan Feyer won the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament this past weekend. That makes it seven for ole' Steely, tying him with Jon Delfin for the most-ever. There's the two titans up above. And yeah, out of all the post-Finals pix I took, I liked this one the most. So there we have it, seven and seven. Fire up some Love while we relive (some of) the weekend. After that, fire up Ben Zimmer's video of the electrifying conclusion. But if you want to do the puzzles spoiler-free, why don't you just hit up the site and order the play at home version today.
So the Finals puzzle was tough, no question. It's a pretty impressive construction by Michael Shteyman (the northwest corner is especially bananas), but there was a couple things going for it that some of us judges felt it would fall quickly. One, it was a 72-worder and those tend to go faster than more wide open grids. Two, the blurb announced that it was especially Scrabbly, and so when the solvers got stuck, they would have likely gone with the rarer letters. Three, the B finalists were accidentally given the A level clues (which are demonstratively harder) and the winner, Brian McCarthy, did it in about 10 minutes. And so, for a brief moment that quick work theory looked to be the case as third-place finisher Tyler Hinman just annihilated it. It really seemed like he was going to finally vanquish his rival. But alas, while speed counts, accuracy counts more, and so, you guessed it, Tyler finished first but with a mistake. It was great drama. Yes, Feyer was in front from wire to wire for the whole ACPT, but with the upset victory last year, and Tyler almostbutnotquite taking it, Dan's starting to look more ... human? I mean, he's clearly the favorite, and a lock for the '18 finals already. But he looks plausibly potentially beatable, maybe. Fascinating stuff.
Notice I've gone two whole paragraphs to avoid mentioning that my man Joon Pahk took second? Yeah, I noticed that too.
So how was my weekend? Well, a lot of it was spent correcting all the darned puzzles. Well, most of them. I was in the ballroom in the morning waiting patiently to see how y'all did with my puzzle. Number 3. Reviews seemed to be mixed from either loving it to wondering what happened. Well, it was supposed to be hard. I mean, we have to thin the crowd out somehow. And yet, Will Shortz thought it was one of the easier ones. Coulda fooled the judging room. The gimmick did involve some word play, but it also required a bit of science know-how as well as some current events. Regardless, grading speed solvers doing your own work is probably a bit like what purgatory must feel like. You get to relive all the good and bad of what you've done in the past over and over and over. Regrets about a certain clue? You betcha. Second thoughts about the alphabet soup over certain answers? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Acknowledgment that a couple of the crossings might not have been entirely fair? Oh yeah. It was never ending.
Mike Shenk's #5 was another mother to grade. But we don't speak ill of a Crossword Jesus. Ever.
To all who came up and introduced yourselves, thank you. It's always great to put faces to the fan's names. I appreciate that. Next time you can see me will be Lollapuzzoola.
Today's puzzle is another re-run. We'll be back to original content on Thursday.