I finally did my tournament crosswords yesterday. I was cleaning house and found them in a pile of magazines.
Years ago, my Dad and I entered the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Stamford, Connecticut. It was great fun aside from having to spend the night by LaGuardia Airport when our flight was cancelled. Since then, I've done the at-home version. For $20, they send you the tournament puzzles after the contest is over. You do the puzzles at home, timing yourself, and return them. They send them back to you graded, and tell you your ranking in the categories you can enroll in.
So late this morning until mid-afternoon, I sat at the dining room table with the kitchen timer and a pencil and did puzzles. For the first time, I completed all the puzzles to my satisfaction. In every batch, there are two that are more difficult than the others. Usually, I get all tangled up in one of them, and can't complete it. They tell you which are the most difficult, so after I finished the third puzzle, I was dreading the fifth. The tough one was by my favorite puzzle constructor, Merl Reagle. I've done enough of his to know to pay careful attention to the title and hint at the top. I finished it with room to spare.
My times in minutes, compared to allowed time:
#1 8.5 / 15
#2 20 / 25
#3 28.5/ 30
#4 12 / 20
#5 22 / 30 (woohoo)
#6 24 / 30
#7 34 / 45
The championship playoff puzzle is included in the packet, but doesn't affect the standing (unless you are one of the top three in your categories). These puzzles have three sets of clues: Medium, hard, and very hard. I chose the middle (hard) one. I completed it in the 15 minutes allowed...that is, I had something in every space, but was redoing one corner when I ran out of time, and when I spent a bit more time looking at it, realized that I got 8 or 9 squares wrong. Still, it was my best showing to date, I am sure. I'll let you know when I get the results.
[The Merl Reagle Sunday Crossword gift basket, with treats, pencils, erasers...everything to get your favorite puzzler to become a complete hermit, available from Kemp Florist]