Five years of the ACPT

This year marks the 5th year I've attended the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. I've never been under the delusion that I had any chance of actually competing at the competition, but instead go to schmooze, network, and be surrounded by people for whom an enjoyable day is spent inside a ballroom doing crosswords silently: in other words, my people.

I figured five years is enough to start tracking my progress (after all, what fun is collecting data if not to be able to analyze it), but first, a report on this year. I finished 366th out of 675, putting me in the 47th percentile. I aced 4 out of 7 puzzles, with just one dumdum mistake on puzzle 7. Without that silly mistake, I would have jumped up to the top half, my very attainable goal. Puzzle 5 destroyed me this year, part of which I attribute to the fact it was written not with solvers in mind, but to outsmart Dr.Fill, the crossword solving computer program. I'm sore about it, but the puzzle was actually really good. I got to chat up some old friends and say hi to some of my editors and get some suggestions on where to submit new puzzles to. Overall, it was a good time, if not remarkably so.

When asked about how it went, I find myself responding, "Oh, about like always." And the data seems to support that theory. Here is a chart of my performance for the past 5 years. After a year or two getting comfortable with the format and pressure*, and with the fluke of acing Puzzle 5 in 2016, I can usually count on ending up just barely below the middle. Granted it's not a brag-worthy place to be, but being that these are the best solvers in the world, and I'm just merely a guy with a hobby, I don't feel so bad.

And while I don't feel so bad about my ranking, it sure would be neat to do a little better. And that's what will drive me back again: I would like to get 6/7 perfect puzzles and finish in the top 40%, both of which seem doable. Who knows, maybe I'll even get a mini-trophy for doing well in my category (affectionately called the "At-least-they-tried"s)

With crosswords becoming a bigger and bigger part of my life (and livelihood), attending the tournament was kind of a no brainer. It is a little oasis of nerdiness in this otherwise cool world, and I for one love it.
Friday March 30 2018File under: crossword

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