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For Dobbs Ferry Resident, Solving Crossword Puzzles Is A Family Affair

Will Shortz, the founder of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.
Will Shortz, the founder of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Photo Credit: Submitted

DOBBS FERRY, N.Y.. -- Call it an all-in-the-family moment.

David Hodes, of Dobbs Ferry, a retired pediatrician and professor of pediatrics, remembers his mother writing to Will Shortz, the crossword puzzle editor for the New York Times every time she disagreed with one of his puzzle's definitions.

"I picked up the habit in college," said Hodes after years watching his mother tackle the puzzles. His wife also is an enthusiast and his oldest daughter inherited the enthusiasm. According to Hodes, she has become the most able solver in three generations of his family.

It seemed only natural, then, that for the last six years Hodes and his daughter have been attending the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, where Hodes says he struggles to finish above 500th, while his daughter is always near the top 10 percent.

This year, however, the tournament is closer to home. For the first time in seven years, the event is at the Stamford Marriott, where it first began, rather than in Brooklyn, where it had moved for space reasons.

"Attendance has declined about 15 percent since ACPT's post-'Wordplay' peak,":explained Will Shortz, a Pleasantville resident and the recipient of many of Hodes' mom's letters, "So we can now squeeze into the Stamford Marriott again, which we couldn't do in 2008-09." 

"Wordplay" was a 2006 documentary about Shortz and the ACPT that swelled the tournament to include thousands.

This year, approximately 600-700 participants are expected to attend.

The tournament officially begins at 11 a.m. Saturday with three crosswords in the morning, three in the afternoon, and one more 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.

Go here for event details, including ways to play online or by mail.


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