Date: April 1, 2007
Byline: Jeff Holtz
'07 Down: Stamford; '08 Up: Brooklyn
QUICK — what's an eight-letter word for why the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is moving to Brooklyn after 30 years in Stamford?
"We really have been busting out of this hotel for a quite a few years," Will Shortz, the puzzle editor of The New York Times, said last weekend at the Stamford Marriott, where he organized the first tournament in 1978.
He said there were almost 700 contestants this year (up 200 from last year), ranging in age from 13 to 89 and from as far away as France and Switzerland, compared with 149 contestants, mostly locals, at the first tournament.
Rooms at the Marriott were sold out, and some contestants had to stay at a nearby Holiday Inn, he said.
"That's really not a great way to run an event," Mr. Shortz said on Saturday morning, as he watched players take their seats across and up and down the main ballroom. The players were separated by yellow cardboard dividers as they prepared to compete for the $5,000 first prize.
Mr. Shortz credited the 2006 movie "Wordplay," which starred himself and featured cameo appearances by Bill Clinton and other celebrities, with increasing the tournament's popularity.
Tyler Hinman, 22, a bond trader from Chicago who grew up in Hebron and appeared in the film as the tournament's youngest winner (in 2005), won on Sunday for the third straight time. He finished the championship puzzle in 13 minutes — nearly two minutes more than last year.
Next year, the tournament will be at the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott, where the main ballroom, Mr. Shortz said, is 75 percent larger than Stamford's. Peter Griffith, director of marketing for the Stamford Marriott, said the tournament brought in about $125,000 to the hotel. He said he was sorry to see it go.
"Anytime you have a group come in every year for 30 years and then leave, it's a big loss," he said. "But we're also happy that we helped the event grow."
Jay Kasofsky, 66, a retired history teacher from Woodridge, N.Y., said he had played every year in Stamford and had made lifelong friends. He also said the tournament had become much more challenging.
"With computers coming to the fore, people have the type of minds that solve puzzles a lot more quickly than 25 or 30 years ago," he said.
Mr. Kasofsky said he, too, would miss Connecticut.
"Coming to Stamford every year has been a part of my life," he said. "I'm sure I'll go to Brooklyn, but it just won't feel the same."