Tag Archives: crossword puzzles

The big tournament

All eyes are on the big tournament. That great American competition that captures national attention this time every year. It’s time to see how your predictions will play out.

No, not the run-up to the Sweet Sixteen. It’s the official American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, held this weekend at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott. If only Word Nymph had the forethought to apply for press credentials.

Following opening ceremonies last night (not exactly the Olympics, but a nice wine and cheese reception), the bloodfest begins this morning at 11:00.

Throughout the day today, contestants will complete a series of six crossword puzzles against a ticking clock. Then tonight, look out! It’s Games and Quizzes Night, featuring “The ACPT-zing Race,” a puzzle version of television’s “The Amazing Race.” Then it’s “Life Is Shortz,” a one-act crossword play named for New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz.

Tomorrow morning, there’s a talent show by Tournament contestants and officials, followed by the championship playoffs, in which the top three contestants in three divisions compete in sudden-death rounds on giant grids. NPR’s Neal Conan and Washington Post crossword editor Merl Reagle will give live, play-by-play commentary on the final rounds. I’m all aquiver.

The top prize is $5,000 but the real thrill has got to be just being there for it all. Or even getting to meet  Shortz or Reagle in person. You can compete online for $20, but then you miss the excitement and pageantry of the event.

Yesterday I decided that, if I can’t get a press pass for next year, maybe I’ll try out as an amateur. On the ACPT website, there’s a sample puzzle that’s supposed to give prospective competitors a sense of  their worthiness. Apparently, if you are able to complete it in 15 minutes, you would be competitive at the tournament. A time of under 10 minutes would be excellent.

As part of my usual bedtime ritual, I set out to work that very puzzle, timing myself, to gauge my aptitude. After the pretend starting buzzer sounded, I sped through the clues, surprised to find them so easy. Alas, I stopped after 18 minutes, after answering only 68 of the 74 clues.

Truly, I am a faithful amateur. There hasn’t been day in the last 10 years that I haven’t worked a puzzle, though I’m years away from being an expert. There are certain rivers and playwrights whose names I’ll never commit to memory. But I love good wordplay and find nothing more satisfying than breaking the code on a Sunday grid and laughing out loud at the cleverness of the masters.

How cool would it be to cover the tournament live for this blog next year?

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Senior secrets

How long do you suppose you’ll live? Why? Have you ever known anyone who has lived 100 years or more and attributed a long life to a particular ritual or lifestyle?

If you are lucky enough to be fêted by NBC’s Willard Scott, then you have an opportunity to tell the world your secret to longevity. These secrets can be contradictory—some centenarians attribute their advanced years to eating bacon at every meal and a taking a nightly nip of gin, while others tout a life of temperance.

One of my recent favorites to receive a Smucker’s greeting from Willard was a woman whose secret to staying young is “using Crisco every day, on her face.”

Yesterday, a Jamaican-born Washingtonian turned 107. She has proudly has enjoyed a lifelong relationship with red meat, and shared a few other secrets in a Washington Post interview over the weekend.

Having had a milestone birthday of lesser proportions last year, I now pay attention to long-living seniors, and check to see how my own lifestyle matches up. Betsy Stanford, the 107-year-old honoree, is fastidious. Check. She plays Scrabble and works crossword puzzles. Check, check. She carries the phone numbers of family and friends in her head. Check (in my case, I am afraid I’ll misplace the list).

I’m not quite sure what I think of the key ingredient in Betsy’s daily diet—a Guinness and Ensure smoothie. I may have to give it a try.

What lifestyle secrets have carried you as far as your most recent birthday?

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