Whew. What a weekend. Big tip of the cap to Dan Feyer on his four-peat at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. While I don't think this was Dan's most impressive win (that would be last year's where he managed to win it all even with two errors), it's still an awe-inspiring feat. Maybe Dan could chime in on the comments section, but from my perspective it felt like Dan was playing it conservatively. That is to say, he wasn't going as fast as he was capable of going, but rather just fast enough to still comfortably take first. I could be wrong. Maybe the myth of Dan has supplanted the truth. Having said that, it looks like the way to maybe beat Dan is in the finals. If there's a possibility that someone who can just annihilate themeless puzzles, I don't know, say Francis Heaney or Joon Pahk, were able to get up on the boards maybe, just maybe. But then one of these wild cards would have to get over two other speed solving legends.
For the third year in a row, the A finals pitted Dan against those legends: Tyler Hinman and Anne Erdmann. And, like last year, it looked like Tyler might have reclaimed the crown. He had half of Kevin Der's championship puzzle filled in before the others. Granted, it was the easier of the two sides of the grid. And "easy" is a relative term here. But still. A lead's a lead. Didn't matter though, as the left side was about as tough as you're ever going to see in the ACPT finals, with no obvious entry points and unhelpful letters to build off. So once Tyler hit the wall, it was enough for Dan to sneak past him, as well as Anne who took second, her highest finish yet. It turned out to be an especially pleasant birthday present for her, as yesterday was her annual 29th birthday party. As for Tyler, his streak of 79 complete solves in a row without an error at the tournament is kaput.
If you're curious about solving the puzzles, why not click here and do 'em at home?
So how'd the ole' Biz Quig's puzzle turn out? Well, it turned out to be one of the killers at the event. My biggest victim was Dr. Fill, the crossword solving A.I. who was "competing" in the event. Dr. Fill was clean through the first two, but then flummoxed by my theme, which was adding the phonetic sound "say" to the beginnings of words that had then altered the spelling. For example "say" + G-string = SEIJI STRING. Turns out that while Dr. Fill was programmed to read and understand phonetic changes by referencing the CMU pronouncing dictionary, my puzzle was riddled with proper names that weren't necessarily in that list. Looks like I killed a few human solvers, too. May I bring to your attention this contestant's entry.
As always, it was a blast to meet all the fans of BEQ.com. Thanks again to all who came up and said hi. To all our new fans, welcome. Enjoy the archives.
Share the puzzle. New one on Thursday. UPDATE: Dan Feyer shot me a private email this afternoon. Here it is unedited:
Thanks, Brendan! Your puzzle gave me the lead for good. I was right on your wavelength, and knew those two eight-letter TV actresses immediately. I finished in about 5:05, just missing a two-minute advantage on the field.
Conservatively?? Only on Sunday morning's Puzzle 7, when I just needed to avoid disaster to stay in the finals. In fact, handing in Puzzle 6 without looking it over was a bit reckless.
No, I legitimately had plenty of trouble with the final grid, as Will and Kevin intended. I never feel like I want to rush through a Puzzle 8 -- don't mark down many unsure letters, and make sure I grok all the clue/answer combos. When I hit a wall, I just remember that the others have to deal with these crazy clues too.