September 13, 2009

Bay Area Crossword Puzzle Tournament recap by Eric Maddy

I asked Bay Area champ Eric Maddy to give us a recap of Saturday's event. His story is behind the "read more" link.

We had 61 avid puzzlers competing yesterday in the second annual Bay Area Crossword Tournament. The tournament is organized by Andrew Laurence and held at Alameda High School in the island city of Alameda. (That 61 doesn't include Tyler Hinman, who did not compete, but was among the judges and constructed the final puzzle of the contest.)

The format consisted of four puzzles: the Monday (9/14), Tuesday (9/15), and Wednesday (9/16) NYT puzzles, as well as Tyler's 21-by-21 creation "Californication."

I'm not going to give detail on the puzzles, primarily because I don't want to give spoilers and secondarily because the only thing I usually retain after a speedsolve is the one letter/word I wasn't sure of when I turned the darn thing in. Theoretically, the first three puzzles are supposed to increase in difficulty, but between a hard Monday, a medium Tuesday, and a relatively easy Wednesday puzzle, there wasn't much of a difference in the top times on each of the first three puzzles.

Eric LeVasseur, a fellow Orange Countian, won last year's tournament (on tiebreaker), and I believe he and I had identical times through the first three puzzles. Joshua Kosman and Nick Meyer were probably a minute or two back.

On Puzzle Four, I struggled a bit to dive in, but I caught onto the "Californication" theme pretty quickly. As I was about 85% done, the silence was broken by the shuffling of chairs across the room, and cranked it up a notch to make sure I stayed within a minute of the chair-shuffler. Still not sure who created the distraction, as I understand I was the first finisher on the final puzzle, but they probably got me an extra minute's worth of bonus. So I figured I was no worse than tied for first. But…as it turned out, Eric Levasseur had left a square blank on puzzle 3, eliminating him from the running. (Second time in as many years an apparent front-runner has fallen to an error; Byron Walden was a minute ahead of Eric L. and me last year, but had an error on one puzzle.)

So I ended up on top, four minutes clear of Joshua. Nick Meyer was (I believe) a minute or two behind Joshua for the four puzzles.

The NYT puzzles will run this week; Tyler's puzzle may appear in the near future on his website ( or the tournament website (

Oh, and for any West Coasters who are kicking themselves for missing this event: representatives from the other two California crossword events showed up to promote their events. The fourth annual Silicon Valley Puzzle Day in Morgan Hill (just south of San Jose) will be February 20 and 21. The second Crosswords Los Angeles Tournament is scheduled for May 1 at Loyola Marymount University in Westchester. More information on those events is available at and, respectively.

Congratulations again, Eric, and thanks for the recap.