Hoffman Hall (basement)
University of Southern California


I enjoy crossword puzzles, but I’m not an expert. Will I feel like I don’t belong?

Absolutely not. Crossword tournaments typically attract puzzlers with a broad range of skills. Some competitors will be experts, but many will be there simply because they enjoy puzzles. In an effort to maximize everyone’s enjoyment, we have created different participant divisions. If you simply enjoy puzzles and think it might be fun to try your hand at a competition, there’s the Rookie division. If you enjoy the puzzles and have competed before, but recognize that you’re not up there with the Experts, there’s the Regular division. If you’d like to complete the puzzles without any competitive pressure, there’s the Casual division. Our bottom line: This event is about having fun and giving to a great not-for-profit organization.

I’m an expert at crossword puzzles. Will the tournament be too easy?

The Expert Division was created especially for people like you – in large part to ensure that you could be challenged by those of similar skill level. While you’re likely to find some of the puzzles straightforward, we hope that competitive requirements of “speed” and “accuracy” will make things interesting. Too, you may be challenged by some puzzles. There is always at least one puzzle that can slow down even the best solver.

I want to watch the tournament, but really don’t want to compete. Is that possible?

Absolutely. For people who want to spend the day with the competitors, without the competitive pressure, we have a Casual division. That means you’re promised a seat in the tournament room – and copies of the puzzles, to solve while the competitors are solving. The only difference: You don’t hand the puzzles in for scoring when time is called. Casual registration includes lunch, but no welcome pack.

Which of the divisions should I join?

If this tournament is your first ever, we encourage you to sign up for the Rookie division. For individuals who have competed in at least one tournament, the Regular or Expert division is the way to go. Experts are typically individuals who have placed in the top 20 of a prior Crosswords LA event or at the very top of the B or C divisions at an American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. If that information still leaves you guessing, make your choice based on your skill in solving New York Times puzzles. If you can solve a Saturday puzzle with ease, you’re probably an expert; if you can solve through Thursday with ease or with some difficulty, but slow down quite a lot when you hit Friday or Saturday, then you probably belong in the Regular division.

“Regular” is a very “ordinary” name for a division. Can’t you think of something better?

No. If you have a better alternative, please share it with us.

How is the competition scored?

We use the same system developed for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. This system calculates your tournament score as the sum of all individual puzzle scores – with each puzzle assessed on the basis of completion time and completion accuracy. If competitors are tied at the end of the regular competition, a tiebreaker puzzle will be used to help identify finalists.

One or two people will score each puzzle. If a competitor thinks a score is incorrect, an appeal can be lodged. Although scoring uses a partially automated system, it is primarily a manual task that depends on a team of volunteer scorers who work as quickly as possible on tournament day. Though every effort is made to ensure perfection in scoring, mistakes occasionally happen.

Will other people find out my scores? Can I compete anonymously?

It’s typical in crossword tournaments for scores to be posted by contestant name and contestant number (the latter of which will be assigned to you on the day of the tournament). If you don’t want others to know your scores, you can use a fictitious name when you check in on tournament day. Of course, privacy is not possible for the three leaders who compete in the tournament final. Well, we suppose it’s technically possible ... But if an anonymous entrant scores in the top three, we will either convince that person to make him– or herself known (or choose the next highest, non-anonymous entrant to compete in the finals).

Some photographs may be taken during the event and posted to the website in the days thereafter. We will not associate names with photos unless specific permission is given. If an individual makes a specific request that a photo be pulled from the website, that request will be heeded.

Where is the tournament?

A map and directions are provided on the Directions page. In planning your travel, please assume that it will take at least 15 minutes to find a parking space and walk to the tournament venue.

Will I be able to register at the event?

The event room can accommodate 140 competitors and up to 10 casual participants. It is expected that empty seats will be available for last minute entrants on a first-come, first-serve basis. But, to be 100% sure of a seat, you should both register AND pay online in advance. (We cannot guarantee seats for individuals who register early without paying, though we will try to warn them in advance if we approach seating capacity. Seats are only guaranteed for those who both register and pay early.)

I hear tell of freebies and prizes. Tell me more!

Prize packs will be awarded to the top three finishers overall — and to divisional champions. Other prizes are also likely to be available, including raffle giveaways. All competitive entrants will receive small tokens of our and our sponsors’ appreciation when they check in on tournament day.

What’s free? What costs money?

Anyone can come to see the Finals, free of charge and without registering. The Finals are scheduled to begin at 3:30 PM. All others (who aren’t volunteering to help) must register as participants and pay for admission. There is a reduced price for “Casual” participants who would like to enjoy the tournament and solve the first 5 puzzles without being scored.

What is the history of crossword puzzle competitions?

The modern era of crossword puzzle tournaments began in 1978 with the launch of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament (ACPT).* The tournament has been held annually since then. In the years after national release of the popular documentary film "Wordplay," the tournament has grown to include almost 700 competitors.

In February 1985, crossword constructor Merl Reagle organized the Great Western Crossword Tournament in Los Angeles. Reagle went on to become one of the most recognized and beloved crossword constructors around. Launched in 2009, Crosswords LA was the first tournament held locally since the Great Western event. 2015 marks the seventh year of the tournament.

* For a brief history of crossword puzzles, click here.

What happened at earlier Crosswords LA events?

2017 Event:
  • 1st: Al Sanders
  • 2nd: Eric LeVasseur
  • 3rd: Eric Maddy

2016 Event*:
Pen(cil)-&-Paper Division
  • 1st: DAN F
On-Screen Division
  • 1st: XHIXEN
  • 2nd: ED BRODY
  • 3rd: FEEBSTER
* In 2016, we held an online tournament, in which participants (i) solved using paper or on-screen puzzles; (ii) self-reported their times; and (iii) selected a roster name to post (all caps, real name or other).

2015 Event:
  • 1st: Eric Maddy
  • 2nd: Brian Fodera
  • 3rd: Jon Berman

2014 Event:
  • 1st: Eric Maddy
  • 2nd: Jordan Chodorow
  • 3rd: John Beck

2013 Event:
  • 1st: Eric LeVasseur
  • 2nd: Eric Maddy
  • 3rd: Jordan Chodorow

2012 Event:
  • 1st: Jordan Chodorow
  • 2nd: Eric LeVasseur
  • 3rd: Doug Peterson

2011 Event:
  • 1st: Jordan Chodorow
  • 2nd: Eric LeVasseur
  • 3rd: Eric Maddy

2010 Event:
  • 1st: Eric Maddy
  • 2nd: John Beck
  • 3rd: Jon Berman

2009 Event:
  • 1st: Eric Maddy
  • 2nd: Eric LeVasseur
  • 3rd: Jordan Chodorow

If you have further tournament questions, send them to info@CrosswordsLA.com

© 2014 E. Grossman. All rights reserved