Date: February 4, 2008
Byline: Kristen Huff
The Independent Florida Alligator: News - Gainesville residents compete in crossword puzzle tournament
Click "source" above to listen to puzzlers talk about their experiences.
When Arch Roberts had to use pen in the final round of the 2nd Annual North Florida Crossword Puzzle Tournament, he was unfazed.
Roberts, 73, of Gainesville, who won the tournament Saturday, always uses pen when completing puzzles because he waits until he knows the answer for sure before he writes it.
Placing accuracy over speed served him well, as he came in first out of 27 individual solvers.
The tournament was divided into an individual and team competition, with 59 people registered in total.
At the end of the individual competition, the top three puzzlers — whose ears were covered with earplugs so an emcee could give a play-by-play — completed giant crosswords that were placed on easels in front of the crowd so the audience could watch the competitors work.
They were given 30 minutes to answer as many clues as they could.
Roberts was the only finalist in the history of the tournament to complete the entire puzzle.
He answered his final clue — 62 down, "Try to pledge," to which the answer was "rush" — with less than one minute remaining.
Roberts, who did not make it to the final round when he competed last year, said this year he had a better idea of what to focus on.
"Last year, I didn't check my answers," he said.
If competitors turn their puzzles in early, they can earn bonus points. However, 25 points are deducted for each incorrect square.
As the first-place winner, Roberts won a trip to Brooklyn, N.Y., to compete in the American Crossword Tournament on Feb. 29. He said he doesn't think he will train for the competition.
Stories of competitors getting upset with themselves for not being able to complete crosswords in less than two minutes have left him thinking there isn't much he can do at this point.
Helene Hovanec, who has worked for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament for 30 years, was present to help organize the Gainesville event.
Hovanec said people engage in this "positive addiction" for many reasons.
"It's a dual process — they come to have fun and they come to see how good they are," she said.
Proceeds from the tournament will benefit The Generation Connection, a one-week day camp that joins seniors and children ages 8-12 in activities such as horseback riding and swimming.
Joel Daunic, who started the camp, collaborated with friends to organize the tournament.
Last year, the event paid for eight camp scholarships.