Date: March 25, 2007
Hinman wins puzzle tournament for third-straight year
STAMFORD — Tyler Hinman is no longer the fresh-faced champion of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.
He's still young, at 22, but on Sunday he won the event for the third-straight year, beating nearly 750 other competitors and taking home the $5,000 first-place prize.
Hinman, a Chicago resident who grew up in Hebron, Conn., breathed a sigh of relief after he won the 30th annual event. He wore the same black T-shirt he wore to the previous two tournaments, calling it a good luck charm.
"There were several panels that were causing me a problem," he said. "But I took a step back and it worked out."
Hinman, a bond trader, said the word that tripped him up in the final puzzle was "Gaspar," a variation of "Caspar," one of the three wise men in the Bible. He said he thought it started with a "C."
Championship playoffs were held Sunday morning in the top three divisions, "A," "B" and "C." Competitors had 15 minutes to complete their puzzles, which were different for each division, and judges tallied scores based on accuracy and speed.
Al Sanders, 48, of Fort Collins, Colo., finished second behind Hinman. It was his eighth appearance in the championship round, finishing second twice and third six times. He also placed second in 2005, when Hinman became the youngest champion in the tournament's history at age 20.
Sanders, a project manager for Hewlett Packard, took home $600.
"I'll just come back next year and give it another shot," Sanders said.
It was a bittersweet ending for the tournament, which has been held in Stamford since its inception.
Organizers, including founder Will Shortz, crossword puzzle editor for The New York Times, said they will move the event to the Brooklyn Bridge Marriott in New York City next year because of its rising popularity.
That popularity has increased since "Wordplay," a documentary about the tournament, was released last year and nominated for the Sundance Film Festival's Grand Jury Prize.
There were about 150 contestants the first year.
Byron Walden, 42, of Santa Clara, Calif., took home the $200 first-place prize in the "B" division. This was his first year competing after having designed puzzles for the tournament, including the final crossword in the 2005 championship won by Hinman.
"The puzzles were tricky, but not impossible," said the math and computer science professor at Santa Clara University who creates puzzles as a hobby.
Richard Maltby Jr., a Broadway composer and lyricist who has created cryptic crosswords for Harper's magazine, was a guest speaker during the awards ceremony. He said it was fun to be around fellow "crazy people."
"You have to be demented to do this," Maltby said.
On the Web: http://www.crosswordtournament.com/