This is it: The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is upon us. Well, it's tomorrow. But still. Anyway, I'll be there, hopefully you'll be there, too. Once again, I'm rerunning an old puzzle from a previous tournament to get you pumped up. Or, possibly to get you prepared. You do know I have a puzzle in this year's batch, correct? Yes I do. It's always humbling to watch people plow through a puzzle I labored over for days. Nothing like it. Makes me wonder what's it's all about.
One of those people who are going to slice through my work like there's nothing to it is the ACPT reigning champion Howard Barkin. Howard's one of the nicest guys in the field, and a hell of a solver. He'd have to be if he took down the superhuman Dan Feyer. Anyway, their rematch starts this Saturday, should be fascinating. Let's do the interview.BEQ: How's the prep going for this year? HB: Not bad, I'm not a crammer. But keeping up the daily Times habit, and also binge-solving the indies and subscription puzzles when I do get a chance. BEQ: How much pressure do you feel going into defending? Do you anticipate any difference feeling chased as opposed to doing the chasing yourself? HB: For this, I don't feel pressure. It's too much fun. I'm not gonna be favored anyway overall, and even if that were true, I'm here to have fun, meet up in the bar, and have fun puzzling with "my tribe." Not gonna put pressure on myself for that. BEQ: It figures that the year I miss the finals, you win it all. But I watched your victory on Ben Zimmer's vine. In fact it was so infectious, I watched it a bunch. How many times have you watched it this past year? HB: I watched it a couple times after and got a laugh, it was pretty out of character for me. But on a train ride home width some of my hockey team, a couple guys found the YouTube while Googling each other and totally called me out on it. Was like my secret alter ego was revealed. BEQ: Hockey, eh? HB: We play street hockey (ball hockey, in Canada) in local leagues, NJ Red Dragons. Each year they send a team to Las Vegas for a national tournament, but I've got family, and I'm too old and slow for that game now. 😉 Played a few years ago in an over-35 tourney in Ontario, and the local province teams wrecked us. Was the best time I had. Tim Horton's in the morning, beatdown after, hang with friends at night. Nowadays I play all positions if needed, was goalie in a pinch last season. Fun stuff. But mostly now just being daddy [Howard has two lovely daughters]. BEQ: Be honest, you like your chances for a repeat, don't you? HB: Hell no. I got about as much chance as winning Dancing With the Stars and an Olympic medal, together. BEQ: C'mon. HB: Okay, maybe not the medal.