Date: March 15, 1999
Piano player from N.Y. takes top crossword prizeJon Delfin said he struggled with the final puzzle in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament at the Marriott hotel in Stamford until he was enlightened by an eight-letter synonym for "enlivened."
A piano player from New York City, Delfin said he filled in the answer "spiced up" and, "It was like putting a key in the lock.
"They gave us the nastiest clues...and I kept putting in just a letter, just a word," Delfin, 44, added yesterday. "It took me forever to find a foothold in the grid."
Of course, "forever" means something a little different to the five-time winner of the tournament. Delfin and his two opponents in the final round had 15 minutes to complete the puzzle commissioned by Will Shortz, crossword editor of the New York Times who founded the tournament in 1978.
More than 300 crossword enthusiasts from 30 states, Canada and Ireland competed in the three-day event that began Friday. The tournament is the oldest and largest continuously run crossword competition in the world.
After warm-up games Friday and a day of competitions Saturday, the field was narrowed down to nine players. The finalists, who were seeded by their past performances, competed in three divisions yesterday, working puzzles on large boards so all the other contestants could watch.
Contestants earned points for accuracy and speed, handling clues like "Preparation for making preparations?" -- home ec -- and "It's a little flat" -- studio.
During the tournament, cash and prizes totaling $3,000 were awarded in 21 categories.
Delfin took home first prize of $1,000 and a dictionary.
"Crossword puzzles have always been around, sort of like music," said Delfin, who was competing for his 13th year. "My parents were crossword solvers, and I tried to help."
Ron Osher, a 39-yeqar-old management consultant from Stamford, finished No. 1 among Connecticut players.
Winning his first tournament in five appearances, Osher said his final puzzle hit only one snag -- when he answered a clue looking for the place you buy a Persian rug with "Baghdad," when the answer was "bazaar."
Osher said thinking Saturday night that he had not made it to the final round helped.
"It kept me from really agonizing over it too long," he said.