Pleasantville's Will Shortz Brings Crossword Puzzle Tournament Home

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. -- What's an eight-letter word for "home?"

Will Shortz
Will Shortz Photo Credit: File

If you're Pleasantville resident Will Shortz, the crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times, and the mastermind behind the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT), it's Stamford.

That's where the first competition was originally held back in 1978 but grew so big after the movie "Wordplay" debuted, that it was moved to Brooklyn. Now, for the first time in seven years, the event is being held this weekend at the Stamford Marriott

"Attendance has declined about 15 percent since ACPT's post-'Wordplay' peak, so we can now squeeze into the Stamford Marriott again, which we couldn't do in 2008-09," explained Shortz.

Marc Lanzarotto, senior sales manager for the hotel, said he's thrilled to host the group after a long absence. 

"This is where ACPT started and I think now that they're back to a core group of enthusiasts, they are happy to be back 'home,'" he said. 

Shortz agrees the Connecticut space is more personal.

"At the Brooklyn hotel, we might as well have been a convention of the National Pipe Fitters' Association, and we were just one of many groups. At Stamford our quirky group is special," he said.

About 600 to 700 attendees are expected to attend along with hundreds of noncompetitors, guests, and officials. The tournament officially begins Saturday at 11 a.m., with three crosswords in the morning, three in the afternoon, and one more on Sunday morning. The puzzles are all from top puzzle makers and range from easy to hard.

Contestants score points for accuracy and speed and prizes are awarded in 21 categories -- for skill level, age, and geography -- with additional prizes for the top rookies. First prize is $5,000.

In addition, there is a warm-up competition on Friday night from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. with pioneering Multimedia Crosswords, solved on iPads, in which more than half the clues contain video, audio, or picture elements, followed by a wine-and-cheese reception.

On Saturday night, the directors of "Wordplay," the hit 2006 documentary about Shortz and the ACPT, will discuss the movie and feature show outtakes. For details about the program, go here

Don't have the full weekend to devote to puzzle play? No worries. Shortz says you can drop in at the tournament, at 11 a.m. on Sunday for an hour of entertainment, followed by the playoffs. You'll receive copies of the tournament puzzles and everything will be over by about 1:45 p.m. The cost is $25. 

The tournament puzzles can also be solved from home, either online or by mail. The cost is $20. Details are here.

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