It’s No Puzzle Where Cruciverbalists Were Today

There are 2 ways to do the New York Times crossword puzzle:

  1. By yourself
  2. In a room with a couple hundred other people, racing the clock and all those other geniuses who know that frybread is a “Naan-like Native American food,” epee is a “sword’s name with two accents,” and that shandy is a “beer and lemonade drink.” They also know who Danny Ainge, Joni Ernst and Gotye are, plus tons of other random stuff.

All those people who enjoy option #2 gathered this afternoon at the Saugatuck Congregational Church. They competed — good-naturedly, but fiercely — in the Westport Library’s 20th annual Crossword Puzzle Contest.

Solving crossword puzzles takes concentration.

For the 20th year, it was puzzle-master-minded — and presided over joyfully and cruciverbally — by Times crossword editor (and NPR star) Will Shortz.

New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz and Westport Library director Bill Harmer entertain the crowd. The countdown clock is at right.

Contestants came from as far as North Carolina and Illinois. Ages skewed older, though there were enough younger faces to make Gotye a legit question.

After 3 rounds of increasing-in-difficulty Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday puzzles, the top 3 contestants (based on speed and accuracy) faced off for the title. They stood on stage, solving a tough Thursday crossword as the crowd watched.

The finalists (from left): Glen Ryan, Jesse Lansner and Ken Stern.

Glen Ryan finished in 6:50. However, he got one answer wrong.

Jesse Lansner was 2nd, in 7:30. But he got one wrong too.

So Ken Stern — slow, steady and perfect, in 11:37 — was declared the winner.

It was a fast, fun day. I know, because I was one of those solvers

I did not make the finals. But I was one of a few dozen to complete all 3 Monday through Wednesday puzzles perfectly.

Though I still have no idea who Gotye is.

16 responses to “It’s No Puzzle Where Cruciverbalists Were Today

  1. Willy Maliszewski

    The heyday of NYT crosswords was when Will Weng (alliteration) was editor. Clues: Drunk Chiang Kai-Shek style (Taiwan on). General Sherman south if the border (Juarez hell). 😮

  2. Barbara Sherburne '67

    I am extremely impressed, Dan. I could spend all day trying to figure out ONE New York Times puzzle and maybe figure out three answers, if I were lucky. Congratulations on doing a super job!

  3. Gotye is somebody that I used to know.

  4. J.W. Kaempfer, Jr

    Excellent!!!

  5. One of my high school math teachers used to do the puzzle in red ink. Is it true that the puzzles increase in difficulty as the week goes on?

  6. The most fun is having Sunday brunch at a Westport restaurant with someone you love doing the Sunday crossword together!!!

  7. Just wonderful A great story…, and congratulations on your Monday to Wednesday triumphs!

  8. FYI – THE CREATOR OF THE CROSSWORD PUZZLE WAS ARTHUR WYNNE. HIS DAUGHTER JANET VAAST LIVED IN WESTPORT FOR MANY MANY YEARS. SHE AND HER HUSBAND JULES VAAST (CADILLAC AGENCY) HAD FIVE CHILDREN INCLUDING A SON NAMED NAMED WYNNE. UNRELATED INFO: WHEN JULES DIED IN 1963 THE AGENCY WAS SOLD TO O’KEEFE WHO SOLD TO CURRAN WHO CLOSED THE AGENCY.

    • Patricia Workman

      Carol – thank you for the wonderful addition to this post. I’m sure you know that Mom is no longer alive but the stacks of articles on her father are boxed up in my attic. The five of us are scattered between Connecticut and Florida and Mom would be thrilled to know she now has 11 great grandchildren! When I walk through Terrain, so many memories flood back from my childhood – it’s hard to believe that it once housed Cadillacs & Oldsmobiles for sale. To honor my grandfather, I always work on the Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday puzzles – sometimes with success. Forget the rest of the week – and yes, they do progress from easier to harder. I’m so glad to see that this annual Crossword Puzzle (my grandfather called it “Crisscross”) event still continues and the memory of Arthur Wynne is mentioned once is a while!
      Patricia (Vaast) Workman *Way to go Dan on your attempt! So Close!

      • Patricia, you’ll be pleased to know that one of the trivia questions posed by library director Bill Harmer yesterday was, “Who invented the crossword puzzle?” He did not, unfortunately, mention the Westport connection!

  9. Interesting puzzle in itself : how do you get just one wrong in a crossword?

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