Saturday, March 9, 2013

Friday at the puzzle tournament

After spending most of the day waiting to board a 10:40 a.m. flight to LaGuardia that finally got off the ground at 2:35 p.m. because of bad weather in New York City, all ends well enough as I prepare to try my luck (and whatever skills I can muster) for the sixth time at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

The tournament doesn't really begin until Saturday, but there's a Friday night program of presentations and warm-up games.

One of the presentations, by Michelle Arnot, shows that there is something for crossword puzzle fans to celebrate this year: It's the 100th anniversary of the crossword puzzle, which was invented by a newspaperman named Arthur Wynne.

To mark the occasion, copies of eight very early crossword puzzles (they were originally called "Word-Cross" puzzles), most of them by Mr. Wynne himselsf, are passed out for us to do.

They're not like today's puzzles; the grid is shaped more like a diamond then a big square. And Mr. Wynne's clues can sometimes be a bit odd. Case in point: "To drive away by shouting 'scat.'" (Four letters.)

The answer? It's, um, "scat."

(Well, you can't say it wasn't in front of you all the time.)

Along with the celebration, a cause for sadness: Will Shortz, the puzzle editor of The New York Times who has run the tournament since it began in the 1970s, announces that since the last tournament, Doug Heller, who had been a mainstay of the tournament (and its webmaster) died.

In past years, the folks at the tournament have been kind enough to link to this blog, and over the years I've received one or two graciously complimentary notes about my blog entries. I did not really know Mr. Heller, but from our correspondence I didn't have to be a champion puzzle solver to figure out that he was a very nice guy, and even with my limited contact with him, I feel his loss.

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