Date: March 19, 2001
Editor's ColumnThe "Susan Lucci of Crosswords," Ellen Ripstein, got the monkey off her back yesterday by winning the 24th annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament at the Marriott Hotel in Stamford, CT. Ripstein had been a Top 5 finisher in the tournament—the Super Bowl of Crosswords, if you will—for the past 18 consecutive years, but had never won the competition.
Soap opera buffs will recall actress Susan Lucci, who was an Emmy nominee 19 times before finally winning an Emmy in 1999 for her work on "All My Children." Now, the 48-year-old Ripstein has a connection to ABC herself -- she's scheduled to appear on "Good Morning America" today.
Failure attended the tourney in anticipation of a future article, and it's safe to say that the media in attendance were all pulling for Ripstein to come out #1. For a time, it appeared as if she would finish second, as she did in 2000, '97, '93, '92, '90 and '87. In fact, she finished the deciding eighth and final puzzle approximately four minutes behind the eventual runner-up Patrick Jordan. But Jordan made a single mistake on his grid, and since accuracy takes priority over speed, Ripstein took home the title and the $1,500 first prize.
While the prize money was meager compared to professional sports, the final round was not unlike a sporting event. Two announcers—one from National Public Radio and the other a crossword editor and constructor—did a live play-by-play of the progress in the three-person final. Imagine the call of a horse race, just substitute crosswords being done on 3' x 3' boards. And when Ripstein—the overwhelming sentimental favorite—was announced as the champion, she received a standing ovation. Who knew crossword puzzles could be a spectator sport?