I wasn’t able to attend the fifth annual Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest, so I sent Eric Maddy in my stead to report on the event. Wouldn’t you know it? He goes ahead and enters the competition, charging ahead to victory in the crossword tournament and doing well in the cryptic crossword, sudoku, and killer sudoku competitions, too.
Here are Eric’s notes on the puzzling weekend, after the cut. (No spoilers!)
Eric Maddy writes:
Crossword tournament: Please note throughout that this tournament used only the whole minute portion of elapsed time for scoring purposes; my “official” times for the crossword preliminaries were 2, 3, 4, though in reality I took 2:51, 3:38, and 4:58.
The four puzzles used were the Monday through Thursday NYTs from this week, in that order; the Thursday crossword was the championship puzzle.
It seemed after the three prelim puzzles that Brian Kulman (prelim times 2, 3, 7) and Jonathan Berman (prelim times 3, 4, 5) would be joining me in the final. But Berman made an error on Ron and Nancy Byron’s Tuesday puzzle, allowing Andrew Laurence (times 4, 5, 7) to claim the third easel. (Andrew is the founder/organizer of the Bay Area Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which has become an annual September event in his home city/home island of Alameda).
The final wasn’t really close. It was a Matt Ginsberg puzzle with a gimmick I won’t give away.* I didn’t finish it particularly quickly, but apparently quickly enough, as I seemingly had the easiest time of it and finished in 7:27. Andrew was second in 12-something, and Brian was more in the 17-18 minute range. (I think Tyler Hinman said he was in the 5:35-5:40 range on paper for this one).
Cryptic crossword tournament: Derek Kisman won the single-round Cryptic competition. I finished a few seconds ahead of him, so apparently I had an error (though final results aren’t up on the website yet as I write this). I will claim in tongue-in-cheek fashion that Derek had an unfair advantage, as being a native of Canada clearly gives him an edge on British-style crosswords compared to us south-of-the-borderites.
It was a little bit tougher than last year, as the theme entries were a little less obvious (last year, SILICON, VALLEY, PUZZLE, and DAY were four of the across entries, and I barely glanced at the clues on the latter three after grabbing the theme pretty quickly. This year, DUMBARTONBRIDGE and THEWAYTOSANJOSE were every bit as local without tipping themselves.)
Sudoku: James Wilson (an engineer for Bloom Energy who relocated from Chicago to the Bay Area a few months ago) won the Sudoku event. He had the best aggregate prelim time (4, 4, and 7 minutes for the three prelim puzzles), though I edged him on two of the three (my times were 14, 3, and 5; never found the break in on the first puzzle). James won handily in the final, and I finished a minute or two ahead of Derek Kisman for third. Reggie Jackson** apparently decided to take some more time to train and didn’t show up.
There was also a one-round Killer Sudoku event, which Derek, James, and I tied on. We all posted times of 5 minutes, but rather than use exact finish time as a tiebreaker, Wei-Hwa Huang hastily created a tiebreaker puzzle, and Derek won the tiebreaker.
Full lists of winners and standings are on the svpuzzle.org website.
*Amy says: Ooh! An upcoming NYT puzzle by Matt Ginsberg with a gimmick! I can’t wait to see it.
**Eric taught baseball legend Reggie Jackson how to solve sudoku puzzles on his flight to Northern California for Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest.