Date: January 22, 2009
Byline: Marianne Sullivan
Will Shortz Suggested… Library Tweaks Crossword Tournament Rules
When Director Richard Conroy announced the Essex Library's First Annual Justus Paul Memorial Crossword Puzzle Tournament, he was making up the rules as he went along. Come to find out, Will Shortz, puzzle editor for the New York Times, had a few suggestions. He also offered a few crossword puzzles.
"On Will's advice, we are going to change the rules slightly," Conroy said last week. "And he is going to provide us with unpublished puzzles from the following week's Times for use in our contest."
Conroy and Shortz have been communicating by email.
"He's been very generous with his time and suggestions," the library director added.
While Conroy had devised a point system for contestants, as well as elimination rounds, Shortz suggested a different approach. And where Conroy was planning to use Times crosswords from previous years, Shortz offered a new option.
"I'll be happy to supply unpublished Times crosswords for your upcoming event," Shortz told Conroy. "Typically at events like this, I provide the puzzles for Monday through Thursday from the following week's Times. Most solvers can't do anything harder than a Thursday, so I never bother with Friday or Saturday."
For those readers who may not be crossword puzzle cognescenti, it is important to explain here that the degree of difficulty in crossword puzzles increases as the week progresses. Monday's puzzle is the easiest, Tuesday's somewhat harder, Wednesday's harder still, and so on.
Shortz wrote, "I run an annual charity contest myself in my hometown of Pleasantville, N.Y. every fall" and, as a result, he wrote up his rules. "Here's a quick summary," he said. "All the solvers tackle the first three puzzles. Each puzzle has a time limit of 15 to 20 minutes. The first correct solver for each round qualifies for a playoff at the end of the event. The playoff puzzle, of course, is the Thursday."
Want to play? Want to match wits with other crossword fans? Here's your opportunity. The Essex Library Justus Paul Memorial Crossword Puzzle Contest will be Saturday, Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. at the library, 33 West Avenue. Call the library to register.
Here are the amended rules of play:
The contest consists of three unpublished, daily (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday) New York Times crosswords on which all contestants compete, and (for the individual solvers) a final, playoff puzzle for the three winners of the preliminary rounds.
Solvers will have 20 minutes to solve the first puzzle and 30 minutes to solve each of the second and third puzzles.
Everyone will begin rounds at the same time.
A contestant who finishes early may signal a referee to pick up his or her answer, after which no further work by that person or team will be allowed.
Solvers who finish early must remain seated and silent until the round is over.
Solving references and outside help are not permitted.
At the tournament director's discretion, a contestant will be disqualified from the competition for any violation of the tournament rules.
Individuals: The first contestant to finish a puzzle correctly in the allotted time will qualify for the playoff round. A different solver will qualify each time.
Winning will be determined by accuracy of solutions. Solving time will break ties, if any.
Doubles: For each puzzle, the first team to finish correctly will be a winner.
The contest is open to anyone who is not a professional puzzle constructor, editor, or proofreader. For everyone else, sharpen those No. 2 pencils and join other crossword fans Jan. 31. For more information call the library at 860-767-1560.