January 07, 2009

2009 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

It's coming! At the end of next month! ACPT weekend is a good time for anyone who likes puzzles, unless they freak out in crowds. Me, I find the crowds of word nerds invigorating, so I love going. (Memo to Seth G: You gotta go. You'll love it!)

The program and registration info are here. The first thing to do is to book your travel. That link includes the group code you'll need to reserve your Brooklyn Bridge Marriott room (scroll down to the Accommodations section). If you're flying in to Brooklyn, buy your tickets now—airfares go up and up, they don't come down.

Will Shortz tends to tap one or two new-to-the-ACPT constructors each year, filling the other slots with tried-and-true constructing veterans. The marquee puzzle is the themeless one used in the A, B, and C divisional finals. Themelesses are my favorite puzzles in general, so I really wish I could play in the A finals every year and get to solve that puzzle competitively. You know what? That puzzle has been conquered by women finalists, but I don't think the finals puzzle has ever been constructed by a woman. I love Karen Tracey's themeless puzzles and am grateful that she's so prolific. It's been too long since Sherry Blackard had one of her killer NYT Saturdays, so I'd love to see one of her beastly grids in the finals. Then there's Paula Gamache, who is equally good at making themeless puzzles and easy themed ones—not a common combination. Will we see one of their puzzles gracing the finals this year? That will be a closely guarded secret until the tournament weekend. In any event, all eight puzzles are likely to be terrific and fun (though I hope Puzzle #5 will be wickedly challenging, because that's its own kind of fun).

I'm looking forward to the Friday night blogging panel at the tournament, too. Secretly, I don't mind being a center of attention at all. Shh, don't tell anyone.