American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

An American-style crossword
with a 15×15 grid layout.

The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is a crossword-solving tournament held annually in February, March, or April. Founded in 1978 by Will Shortz, who still directs the tournament, it is the oldest and largest crossword tournament held in the United States;[1] the 2009 event attracted nearly 700 competitors. The 39th annual tournament took place on April 1-3, 2016.

For its first 30 years the contest was held at the Marriott in Stamford, Connecticut, but owing to increasing popularity, in 2008 it moved to the larger Marriott Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn, New York. In 2015 the tournament returned to Stamford.

The tournament traditionally begins Friday evening with social games and a wine-and-cheese reception. More games are played on Saturday evening, many of them adaptations of television game shows.

Participants and divisions

Anyone can participate, though registration is limited. Participants compete as members of at least two divisions, with prizes awarded based on division. All participants are members of Division A and a regional division; those 25 years old or younger, or at least 50, are also members of an age division. Membership in Divisions B-E and the Rookie Division is based on the participant's past or present tournament status.[2] For the purposes of prizes contestants compete simultaneously in all divisions for which they are eligible, with no more than one cash prize per contestant.

The 11 regional divisions include ten U.S. divisions and a "Foreign" division for the rest of the world.[3] Geographically, three of the 10 U.S. divisions West, Midwest, and South span most of the country. The remaining seven divisions are in the northeastern United States, with three of the seven located in the state of New York.

Division Definition
A Everyone
B Contestants who have not won a Division A or Division B prize during their last seven tournaments
C Contestants who have not finished in the top 20% during their last three tournaments
D Contestants who have not finished in the top 40% during their last three tournaments
E Contestants who have not finished in the top 65% during their last three tournaments
Juniors 25 years and under
Fifties 50–59 years old
Sixties 60–69 years old
Seventies 70–79 years old
Seniors 80+ years old
11 Regional Divisions
(locations in italics are for illustrative purposes only)
(Northeast) New York City, Long Island, Westchester/Upstate New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Other New England, Other Mid-Atlantic
South Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida
Midwest Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio
West Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas
Foreign (outside of the United States)
Rookies Contestants competing for their first time. Rookies are not eligible for "D" or "E" prizes.


The main part of the tournament consists of seven rounds, each featuring a puzzle that all competitors solve. There are three rounds in the late morning and three in the early afternoon on Saturday, and the seventh round is on Sunday. Puzzles vary in size and difficulty from round to round. The puzzles are commissioned by Shortz from the top constructors in crosswords, with the fifth puzzle the hardest of the first six. The two three-round sessions consist of puzzles with 15, 17 and 19 squares in each row and column respectively. The Sunday puzzle is appropriately 21 x 21 squares, the size of regulation Sunday puzzles in newspapers. Tournament judges score the solved puzzles on accuracy and speed, and the puzzles are scanned and ranked. Judges typically include many of the nation's most prolific and/or well known crossword constructors and editors.

After these seven rounds, the top three solvers in the top three divisions progress to the final round, which consists of solving a very difficult crossword of 15 × 15 size on an oversize grid on a stage at the front of the tournament room. The competitors in this round wear noise-blocking headphones so that a team of commentators can remark upon the action for the spectators. The solvers hold a sheet of clues and write their answers on the grid with a dry-erase marker for all to see. Accuracy and speed are important as the competitors are ranked by fewest mistakes, then time. The winner of this round is declared the tournament champion. The top three competitors in the B and C divisions also compete on the same puzzle, though with different sets of clues, for their division titles.

Tournament history

As of 2016, there are six multiple winners: Jon Delfin (7 tournaments), Dan Feyer (6), Douglas Hoylman (6), Tyler Hinman (5), David Rosen (4), and Trip Payne (3). Three women have won the tournament — Nancy Schuster in 1978, Miriam Raphael in 1979, and Ellen Ripstein in 2001 — and 22 of the 76 (29%) second- and third-place finishers have been female.

Year Contestants Location Winner Runners-up (in order)
1978 149 Stamford, Connecticut Nancy Schuster (1) Eleanor Cassidy, Murray Leavitt
1979 154 Stamford, Connecticut Miriam Raphael (1) Nancy Schuster, Merl Reagle
1980 128 Stamford, Connecticut Daniel Pratt (1) Miriam Raphael, Joel Darrow
1981 125 Stamford, Connecticut Philip Cohen (1) Joel Darrow, John Chervokas
1982 132 Stamford, Connecticut Stanley Newman (1) Philip Cohen, Joseph Clonick
1983 146 Stamford, Connecticut David Rosen (1) Stanley Newman, Ellen Ripstein
1984 115 Stamford, Connecticut John McNeill (1) David Rosen, Stanley Newman
1985 110 Stamford, Connecticut David Rosen (2) Rebecca Kornbluh, Eric Schwartz
1986 130 Stamford, Connecticut David Rosen (3) Rebecca Kornbluh, Ellen Ripstein
1987 118 Stamford, Connecticut David Rosen (4) Ellen Ripstein, Ed Bethea
1988 137 Stamford, Connecticut Douglas Hoylman (1) Jon Delfin, Ellen Ripstein
1989 134 Stamford, Connecticut Jon Delfin (1) Douglas Hoylman, Ellen Ripstein
1990 143 Stamford, Connecticut Jon Delfin (2) Ellen Ripstein, Douglas Hoylman
1991 149 Stamford, Connecticut Jon Delfin (3) George Henschel, Douglas Hoylman
1992 172 Stamford, Connecticut Douglas Hoylman (2) Ellen Ripstein, Trip Payne
1993 192 Stamford, Connecticut Trip Payne (1) Ellen Ripstein, Douglas Hoylman
1994 216 Stamford, Connecticut Douglas Hoylman (3) Al Sanders, George Henschel
1995 232 Stamford, Connecticut Jon Delfin (4) Douglas Hoylman, Ellen Ripstein
1996 239 Stamford, Connecticut Douglas Hoylman (4) Trip Payne, Jon Delfin
1997 255 Stamford, Connecticut Douglas Hoylman (5) Ellen Ripstein, Trip Payne
1998 251 Stamford, Connecticut Trip Payne (2) Jon Delfin, Ellen Ripstein
1999 254 Stamford, Connecticut Jon Delfin (5) Douglas Hoylman, Al Sanders
2000 286 Stamford, Connecticut Douglas Hoylman (6) Ellen Ripstein, Trip Payne
2001 310 Stamford, Connecticut Ellen Ripstein (1) Patrick Jordan, Al Sanders
2002 401 Stamford, Connecticut Jon Delfin (6) Zack Butler, Al Sanders
2003 495 Stamford, Connecticut Jon Delfin (7) Trip Payne, Al Sanders
2004 478 Stamford, Connecticut Trip Payne (3) Jon Delfin, Al Sanders
2005 455 Stamford, Connecticut Tyler Hinman (1) Trip Payne, Al Sanders
2006 498 Stamford, Connecticut Tyler Hinman (2) Kiran Kedlaya, Ellen Ripstein
2007 698 Stamford, Connecticut Tyler Hinman (3) Al Sanders, Francis Heaney
2008 699 Brooklyn, New York Tyler Hinman (4) Trip Payne, Howard Barkin
2009 684 Brooklyn, New York Tyler Hinman (5) Trip Payne, Francis Heaney
2010 644 Brooklyn, New York Dan Feyer[4] (1) Howard Barkin, Anne Erdmann
2011 655 Brooklyn, New York Dan Feyer (2) Tyler Hinman, Anne Erdmann
2012 655 Brooklyn, New York Dan Feyer (3) Tyler Hinman, Anne Erdmann
2013 590 Brooklyn, New York Dan Feyer (4) Anne Erdmann, Tyler Hinman[5]
2014 588 Brooklyn, New York Dan Feyer (5) Tyler Hinman, Howard Barkin[6]
2015 568 Stamford, Connecticut Dan Feyer (6) Tyler Hinman, Howard Barkin[7]
2016 576 Stamford, Connecticut Howard Barkin Dan Feyer, David Plotkin[8]

2006 documentary

The 2006 documentary Wordplay, directed by Patrick Creadon, focuses on Will Shortz and the 2005 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. It includes interviews with many of the top competitors and climaxes with the final round of the 2005 tournament. The DVD release includes video from the final round of the 2006 tournament. Shortz credits the film as the main reason for the dramatically increased attendance (an increase of 200 contestants) at the 2007 event,[9] which necessitated the subsequent move to Brooklyn.

Dr. Fill

Dr. Fill, a computer program, was an unofficial competitor in the 2012 and 2013 contests.[10]


External links

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