American Crossword Puzzle Tournament

After 30 years, crossword puzzle tournament leaving Connecticut

Source: Boston Globe
Date: March 23, 2007
Byline: AP

After 30 years, crossword puzzle tournament leaving Connecticut

STAMFORD, Conn. -- Synonym for farewell. Seven letters.


That's the word from the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, whose organizers have announced it will leave Stamford after completing its 30th annual contest there this weekend.

The tournament, which debuted in 1978, gained widespread interest after the release last year of a documentary that included footage from the 2005 event.

But the spike in interest had the unintended side effect of forcing the organizers to seek a larger venue, organizers said. In 2008, the tournament will move to the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott in New York City.

"It's going to be sad to leave," said Will Shortz, the tournament's founder and the crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times. "It's ironic that this movie that has brought out these feelings is going to be the reason we can't stay in Stamford."

The documentary, "Wordplay," was nominated for the Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize, and the attention helped draw many new crossword tournament entrants.

The event began with about 150 contestants, but was "elbow to elbow" last year with about 500 entrants, Shortz said. This year, the hotel is booked solid with a record 750 people registered to compete.

The crossword tournament was proposed in the 1970s by Stamford Marriott's first marketing director to help fill rooms on a slow winter weekend when the hotel was new, Shortz said.

Shortz, then 25, was living in Stamford and working as a puzzle editor for Penny Press, a crossword publisher now based in Norwalk, when he helped launch the tournament in 1978.

Peter Griffith, the hotel's current marketing director, said he hopes a related event will be organized there if the tournament cannot stay.

"Maybe Will will bring his Sudoku tournament here or something," Griffith said, referring to a popular numbers-based logic puzzle. "Maybe that's going to be the next generation of perennial Will Shortz events."