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Renowned host Will Shortz returns to Crossword Puzzle Contest

Danisha Nasution
Glen Ryan, winner of the Crossword Puzzle Contest, accepts his award while being congratulated by the runner-ups.

With heads bent low in concentration, the library is a scene of quiet intensity. Whether absorbed in completing a puzzle or observing from above, avid puzzle players who are prepared to win first place fill up the tables. The atmosphere is filled by the soft scratch of pencils writing answers; these puzzles evoke a profound silence unmatched even by the bustling of SATs and midterms. When people finish their last crossword, competitors catch up with their crossword buddies from all over America; they laugh and play as collaborative games are introduced. When the puzzles are scored and efficiency is determined, the year’s Crossword Puzzle Contest Winner is established.

The 25th annual Crossword Puzzle Contest, hosted by New York Times Crossword Editor Will Shortz, brought back many players from the past along with newcomers. Shortz began the contest by introducing the rules of the game: each competing individual is given 20 minutes to complete three puzzles with a five minute break in between each crossword. As competitors settled into the Tretz Forum in the Westport library, spectators were advised to watch from the second floor to grant competitors a silent place to concentrate and think about their answers. 

I have the world’s only college degree in puzzles. I devised a whole curriculum on puzzles and I’m the only person ever to do this.

— Will Shortz

Shortz works hard to create the puzzles for this competition. 

“I put myself in the shoes of the solver based on what I know and what I think people will know,” Shortz said. 

His many years of puzzle experience and his crossword knowledge may surpass an average solver, so making the hints is significantly challenging. 

“I have the world’s only college degree in puzzles,” Shortz said. “I devised a whole curriculum on puzzles and I’m the only person ever to do this.” 

Shortz aims to share his insight on his passion for crosswords. When hosting the event alongside the Westport library’s executive director William Harmer, they both are able to provide a contest for individuals who also hold this passion. One such individual is first place winner Glen Ryan. 

“I do at least 10 puzzles a day, like the New York Times and other major puzzles,” Ryan said. 

This competition has become a yearly routine for him. 

“I’ve been here since 2011,” Ryan said. “This is the 13th time [I’ve been at this contest].” 

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