Puzzle Fans From Westport Compete In Annual Crossword Tournament

STAMFORD, Conn. — Bruce White has competed in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament about eight times. But this year was special: His daughter was with him in person.

Bruce White is one of the nearly 600 competitors at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford this past weekend.

Bruce White is one of the nearly 600 competitors at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford this past weekend.

Photo Credit: Jay Polansky

“She flew all the way from London,” White, a Dobbs Ferry, N.Y. resident, said Saturday at the 39th annual event held at the Stamford Marriott. “We’ll do the same puzzles every day, and we'll compare answers and notes over chat.”

The competition, which is organized by renowned New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz of Pleasantville, N.Y., drew over 575 competitors from Connecticut to California. Many, like White, have enjoyed crossword puzzles for years. But White said the crossword puzzles don’t necessarily get easier with time.

“You'd think I get better at them, but I don’t,” White said with a chuckle. “I think I’m getting worse.”

Saturday marked the first time he had competed in recent years, but White said he routinely works on crossword puzzles on his train commute from Westchester into the city.

He noted that the first puzzle in the competition -- much like Monday's New York Time's crossword puzzle -- is the easiest. The puzzles get harder as the competition progresses, he said.

The first round kicked off at 11 a.m. Saturday. Shortly before the competition, the Marriott’s ballroom buzzed with conversation. But once the judges passed out the puzzles, the room fell silent.

Each puzzle gets a time limit. Referees come to the competitors and mark down their time as they finish.

Competitors earn 10 points for each correct answer and 25 time bonus points for each full minute they beat the time limit. But fast inaccurate solvers beware: They lose 25 points for each letter wrong.

Outside the competition ballroom, vendors offered crossword memorabilia for sale. One seller had a book titled “The Puzzle Lady vs. The Sudoku Lady" on display.

Nearby, some strolled around the lobby dressed for the occasion: One attendee wore a scarf with a crossword pattern and another wore a crossword puzzle T-shirt.

The event concluded Sunday with a talent show, awards presentation and championship playoff, with first-time winner Howard Barkin of Hillsborough, N.J., taking the top prize.

Connecticut was well represented, with over 30 competitors from towns including Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Norwalk, Westport, Danbury, Ridgefield, and Fairfield.

For more information on the annual tournament, visit its website here.

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