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Across And Down, Crossword Puzzle Tournament Returns To Stamford

Will Shortz, founder of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.
Will Shortz, founder of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Photo Credit: File foto

STAMFORD, Conn. -- If all goes according to plan, the word for the day for Marc Lanzarotto, senior sales manager for the Stamford Marriott , will be "success."

That's because, for the first time in seven years, the hotel is hosting the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT), the nation's oldest and largest crossword competition.

The event runs this weekend beginning with a warm-up competition Friday from 8 to 10 p.m. with pioneering Multimedia Crosswords, solved on iPads. More than half of the clues will contain video, audio, or picture elements. That will be followed by a wine-and-cheese reception.

The tournament officially begins Saturday at 11 a.m., with three crossword puzzles in the morning, three in the afternoon, and one more on Sunday morning. The puzzles are all from top puzzlemakers and range from easy to hard.

Contestants score points for accuracy and speed. Prizes are awarded in 21 categories -- for skill level, age and geography -- with additional prizes for the top rookies. First prize is $5,000.

On Saturday night, the directors of "Wordplay," the hit 2006 documentary about New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz and the ACPT, will discuss the movie and feature show outtakes.

The Stamford Marriott is where the first competition was originally held back in 1978, but it grew so big after "Wordplay" debuted that they moved to Brooklyn, N.Y.

"Attendance has declined about 15 percent since ACPT's post-'Wordplay' peak, so we can now squeeze into the Stamford Marriott again, which we couldn't do in 2008-09," said Shortz, who created the tournament.

Fairfield resident Marion Strauss will be among the participants. She has been to six tournaments over the years, and says she plans her life around this event. "It's that much fun," she said.

Michael A. Goodman of Westport agreed. Though he has attended at least 14 times, he said he stopped going when it was in Brooklyn due the hassle.

"Now that it's in Stamford again, I’m eager to reconnect with other 'Word Nerds' and constructors," he said.

Lanzarotto, too, is thrilled to host the group after the absence and expects 600 to 700 people.

"This is where ACPT started, and I think now that they're back to a core group of enthusiasts, they are happy to be back 'home,'" he said.

"In fact," he said, "We have our fingers crossed they'll return next year. We're already holding the space for them."

Go here for event details including ways to play online or by mail.

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