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Roberts Creek resident competes in American crossword tournament

Patricia Gray attended her third American Crossword Puzzle Tournament
N. Crossword
Patricia Gray competes in the 44th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, Connecticut.

Fourteen letters, name of a crossword puzzle solver or writer. If you guessed “cruciverbalist” you may be interested in the results of the 44th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT). 

Between April 1 and 3, Patricia Gray of Roberts Creek attended her third tournament, hosted in Stamford, Connecticut. She competed in 2018 and 2019 (which saw a record-breaking attendance), but the crossword event was crossed off the schedule entirely in 2020 and held online-only in 2021. 

Resuming in person meant a lot to Gray. 

“I absolutely adore crossword puzzles,” she said. As a child, she read the dictionary for fun. She began getting “serious” about crossword puzzles about 15 years ago, and completes them everyday as part of her training. 

“Everybody who goes to this tournament has the same love of crosswords as you… It's like going where your interest is and being surrounded by people who all love words, love crosswords, love to talk about crosswords. So you don't feel like a fish out of water. You're with your people.”

Of the 474 contestants – eight of whom were Canadian – Gray finished up in the 418th spot. While the result was “disappointing,” Gray may be featured in an in-the-works documentary about the ACPT. 

“There's a group of people who come to this tournament who are like crossword whizzes,” she said, and may complete a puzzle within minutes of the allotted time. The first puzzle, being an American tournament, was about the U.S. presidents, “which for a Canadian was a nightmare.”

The ACPT remains the U.S.’s oldest and largest crossword competition. Will Shortz, the editor of the New York Times crossword puzzle, directs the competition and is among the judges. Scoring is based on accuracy and speed, according to the tournament’s website. Josh Wardle -– of Wordle app recently acquired by the New York Times – was a guest speaker, and presented a challenge to contestants.

For the seventh time, Tyler Hinman was crowned the champion. Dan Feyer (who has won the tournament eight times himself) and David Plotkin finished second and third, respectively. 

“Last night I arrived back and I was thinking that I just had such a wonderful weekend, I could hardly wait to go back,” Gray said.