Headline writers looking for an a propos title for your 2015 American Crossword Puzzle Tournament article: may I suggest "The Joy of Six"? Dan Feyer's your champ (again). That's six in a row. Two more and he'll pass Jon Delfin as most-ever championships, and then ... who knows? Hopefully by then his theater career will put him in a new tax bracket and he won't need the ACPT money to put food on the table and he can let somebody else win the darned thing. But I jest. It was as impressive a performance as Dan's ever done, by applying the old formula of starting the Tournement off in first place and then staying there for the whole event. That approach works every time it's tried, so if anybody plans on winning this thing, there's your strategy. It's just that, you know, in order to top Dan you have to break the two minute mark on Puzzle #1 (I mean ...?) and then beat Tyler Hinman by a fricking micromillisecond on the Finals board.
Was it a micromillisecond? Could have fooled me. For the first time in forever, there was a real sense that Tyler had a shot. Had A Shot, against Dan, the competitor with no Achilles heel. I mean, remember that one year that Dan fucked up a puzzle so bad just to make it interesting? Dan only had a couple two three wrong squares in Puzzle 3, which knocks mortals out of the running. Yeah, he won it all that year handily. So let's say it again, Tyler Had A Shot against Dan. The A Finals was insane to watch. Tyler finished the hardest corner first, the upper left with all the longest and most-trivia-heavy answers, while Dan crushed the easiest corner first, the upper right with the shorter answers and most quote-unquote gimmes. Then Tyler crushed the lower right corner effectively removing all the long answers while Dan slowly and methodically moved counter clockwise through the grid. So there it was, Tyler just had the smaller corners, while Dan still had those longer answers in the southeast. Everybody in the room were thinking the same thing: can Tyler perform another miracle? I mean, he already had performed one by beating the room by a minute on Sunday morning's Puzzle 7 to book his return to the big boards.
The anticipation that maybe just maybe we'd have an unexpected champ was so thick, when Dan and Tyler said they were done a split-second apart from each other, the room burst into a standing ovation while the third place contestant Howard Barkin was still working. I mean, there was nothing left to do to release all that energy. Howard, too, had no choice but to acknowledge the result and stopped solving to tip his cap. An amazing job by all. And while I'm here, thanks to Ben Zimmer for the above video.
More thank yous? Why not? Big thanks to everybody who came over and said hi at the Tournament. It's always great to meet the solvers. And thank you for everybody who has already kicked in to the Marching Bands Kickstarter. 62% of the way there as of this posting. If you haven't kicked in already, what's your excuse?
Share the puzzle. New one on Thursday.