Pondering The Rules Of Play, The 44th Annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament


Awareness of the outside world. From what I saw on screen, mask wearing was intermittent. Web page says proof of vaccination was required for admission, ACPT Brochure.

Thesis. Game popularity is tied to the achievability of success.

First I need to explain how the New York Times crossword app scores the daily puzzles.

If you solve the puzzle within a day of publication, you get a gold star.

If you solve the puzzle later, or ask for a hint, you get a blue star.

Okay. Sounds reasonable.

However, there is a loophole on the path to a gold star. You fill in all the letters. One or more is wrong. The app will tell you that the grid is not correct. This is automatic. It happens as soon as you complete the grid. It won’t say where or how many errors, just that errors exist. If you go back and correct these unspecified errors, you get the gold star.

Sure, fine, rules of the game. Therefore, I was quite pleased with self when I got a month of gold stars. [Totally Off Topic Brag]


The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament does not play by these rules. You get one shot. Fill out the puzzle. Hit the Submit button. Done. At last year’s (all-virtual) tournament, I had misses that would have been gold stars under daily puzzle rules.

Hmm. Alright. I’ll use tournament rules for the daily puzzle. Even when it gives me the option, I will not go back and correct. I will sink or swim by my initial grid.

Agg. Nearly impossible. I had not realize how much I relied on that chance to review. I have come nowhere near a perfect month since them. Probably don’t get past the first half of the month.

So, my point is, I wonder if the puzzle app folks introduced the error notice as a way to give people success. You still did the puzzle yourself. You got all the words yourself. You just got little nudge in the right direction. ‘Hey, maybe you wanna look this over.’

Insisting on tournament rules in a recreational space would frustrate too many people.

The Wordle dude said something similar.

For this year’s ACPT, Josh Wardle gave a talk and provided a special six-puzzle Wordle. The wrinkle was you could not repeat a word across the six puzzles. For those of us who have a standard start to the daily Wordle, this was a problem. A fun problem.


In his talk, Wardle said that he had created a prior version of Wordle back in 2013. It had two differences.

One. You could play it endlessly.

Two. It included obscure words.

The version that we’ve all heard about has changes.

One. Daily, as the NYT Crossword is. One and done. Gotta wait for the next day. Scarcity.

Two. Word list pared down to what most folks are likely to know. Finding the answer is difficult but humanly possible. Success.

He also said, three, Wordle has a social aspect, as the crossword does. I don’t, but I can see how people would.

Wardle gave a similar talk at Game Developers Conference, Axios: Wordle used to have a much harder wordlist, Totilo, March 25, 2022.

Such are my thoughts on puzzle construction. How did I do in the tournament? …

My Results

… Better than last year. [Let The Boxes Begin]

The 44th Annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament
April 1-3, 2022
IRL Stamford Marriott & virtual
missed boxes – 11 total
place – 127 out of 289
score – 9924. Includes a time penalty/bonus that I have not made brainspace for.
[virtual results]

Constructors & puzzle details are a matter of record. Here is data is unique to me.

Since I was playing virtually, I had the option to do the puzzles live or later. We had until Monday evening to complete all seven. I will confess to getting a few hints from Will Shortz reading out funny answers during the intro on Sunday morning.

Overall. Out of seven puzzles, I got four correct, had two off by one, and made a hash out of the problem puzzle, but less of a hash than last year, so I’m declaring progress, if not victory.

I took my time. I typed carefully. I did not go back to look over my answers. This was as much from impatience as from strategy. I’m done. Moving on. I have opted out of the speed element, other than getting the puzzle submitted in time. I’m looking at you number five.

Speaking of puzzle #5, I used every second of the time, got flustered, and did not take a screenshot of my final grid. Anything said here is based on reconstructing my answers. At least this year I understood the trick once it was explained. Last year, not so much.

Puzzle #1 – correct

Puzzle #2 – correct

Puzzle #3 – one incorrect box

95A Farfisa Professional 222 [Sly] STONETOOL (not cool)
92D Eight, in Italian OTTO (not octo)

A compact electronic organ used by Sly and the Family Stone. So says, Adventure News: Organs, Farfisa Professional Organ (1968).

Puzzle #4 – correct

Puzzle #5 – 6 blank, 3 incorrect

My final score says 11 incorrect letters. so looks like that means 6 blank + 3 errors here. Whatever, all but 2 errors are in this puzzle. Not unpleased, given a) my 30 blank squares last year, b) all in 3 spots where I knew I had problems, & c) I had 228 boxes correct for a solution rate of 96%.

Puzzle #6 – correct

Puzzle #7 – one incorrect box

10A “What a shame” SOSAD (not sobad)
12D Getting on board SURFING (not burfing)

Burfing? I burfed that puzzle.

Seven was the only puzzle I did live. It was the only one on Sunday. The rest were on Saturday. The same Saturday as the clinic. I only have two things to do in April, so of course they are on the same weekend. [Thoroughbred Theatrics, Rodney at the Ellen Beard Clinic]

Other People’s Results

Again, watching the finals was surprisingly interesting. They are fast. You are watching people fill out a grid, not stare blankly into space.

Westchester & Fairfield County Business Journals: Crossword puzzle tournament returns to Stamford after Covid absence, Hall, March 30, 2022.

Joe Pancake: A Month In Crosswords: ACPT and Me, one of the judges. “My job was to take graded puzzles (wrong answers marked with highlighter) and scan them into a computer. It’s not that simple, though, because you have to make sure everything scans correctly, and you have to make fixes manually if it doesn’t.”

Horace and Frances discuss the New York Times Crossword: ACPT SPECIAL REPORT, Saturday, April 2, 2022

Anjugation: The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament 2019

Crossword Posts

[Horses In The NYT Crossword]
[Let The Boxes Begin, American Crossword Puzzle Tournament 2021]
[Six-Letter Word For Repeat Performance]
[My Brief Superpower, Fiction Fragment]
[Missed It By THAT Much, Almost A Boast]
[Life Event, Dead Phone]
[The Sloth’s Pawprint, Fiction]
[Totally Off Topic Brag]

update [Exploring The Rabbit Hole] scroll down for the squee.


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