Cruciverbalists unite!

Today I’m nursing a neck injury sustained during a weekend of fierce competition. I feel like a spent triathlete…except this wasn’t a sporting event. In fact, the only physical activity involved was putting pencil to paper. Yes, my boyfriend and I embraced our inner nerd and competed in the Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament at Harvard on Sunday. For real. Competing as a pair, we twisted our necks, leaning and craning over each other and the puzzle trying to fill in empty square after empty square. It’s amazing we escaped without a pencil injury.

The event, hosted by New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz, drew hundreds of cruciverbalists who competed in four timed puzzles. As casual crossword lovers, we had low expectations for ourselves, mentally preparing for a last place finish. After all, other competitors attempt—and complete—the Times crossword puzzle every day and quickly. We were ecstatic then to even complete one of the four puzzles before the 25-minute time limit was up—until we heard the guy next to us had whipped it off in six minutes. Show off.

You will not defeat me, puzzle. OK, maybe you will.

You will not defeat me, puzzle. OK, maybe you will.

I’ve always liked crossword puzzles, but I’ve only recently applied myself, so to speak. Let me tell you, there’s a whole vocabulary out there and plenty of puzzles to challenge the intellect. I became a crossword regular after seeing the documentary Wordplay, which was way more entertaining than you’d think a movie about crossword puzzles could be. After that, I was addicted, jumping in anytime I heard my wordsmith co-workers working on a puzzle and hoarding newspapers to work out a puzzle or two on my commute. Now my boyfriend and I do them together for fun. We’ve been known to cheat at home when the answers were handy.

When we finished the day yesterday, dazed and cramped, we were curious to see how we did (not last) and to satisfy ourselves with the solutions. We never did find out the answers though to that tricky down clue, Run out of Time? or the 4-letter across clue: View from Buffalo. The puzzles plague me still. Luckily, the four puzzles will appear in The New York Times today through Thursday (we got a sneak peek), so we I suppose we will find out the answers with the rest of the world, even though I want to learn the words that defeated me now so I can excise them from my vocabulary. Bad words.


6 thoughts on “Cruciverbalists unite!

  1. If you get a chance, check out Stanley Newman’s Cruciverbalism: A Crossword Fanatic’s Guide to Life in the Grid. It’s a quick read, but it packs a lot of useful and quirky information into its 160 pages. I think Newman is a bit too critical of former NY Times editor Eugene Maleska, but it’s great otherwise.

  2. I just put the book on my wish list, so thanks for the suggestion! Perusing Amazon also allowed me to stumble on another good one: How to Conquer the NYT Crossword Puzzle. Just what I need.

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