The American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is the largest and longest-running crossword competition in the world. The first-ever virtual event, necessitated by the pandemic, was the 43rd annual installment. It took place the weekend of April 23, 2021, and attracted 1,032 competitors, plus another 400 or so casual participants, from across the country and beyond.
Many people have never heard of the tournament, and I hadn’t before attending my first ACPT in 2002. The atmosphere of the event is infectious, an experience that goes beyond just solving puzzles. It’s a yearly pilgrimage of people who share a love of crosswords and wordplay — a “gathering of the tribe,” as the puzzle maker Merl Reagle used to say. I was immediately hooked.
The next year, having become a regular New York Times crossword contributor, I signed on as an official and have been attending ever since. What follows is a bit of what I’ve witnessed or come to know about this “Super Bowl of Crosswords.”