Recreational Math

Math Puzzles

Are there contests for puzzle players?

Yes, there are many contests for puzzle players—from crosswords to regular puzzles, and from national to local contests. While most of us are content to work out a crossword puzzle at home on a lazy Sunday afternoon, there are those people who love to compete with others to solve a crossword or other puzzle. Thus, puzzle tournaments and contests were born.

There is one contest that is famous all over the globe: sponsored by the World Puzzle Federation, it is called the World Puzzle Championships. The United States team has competed in this forum for many years, solving some of the toughest puzzles found in any contest. (For more about the World Puzzle Federation, see http://; for more about the Team USA, see

One of the most well-known U.S. contests is the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which started in 1978 and is the first such contest since the 1930s. The contest had just five puzzles; points were awarded for correct letters, not words, in the grid, making it difficult to judge. Today, the grading and puzzles are more streamlined, making it popular; in fact, close to a thousand people now compete in the ACPT each year. For 30 years, the competition was held in Stamford, Connecticut; by 2008, because of the increase in participants and growing popularity of puzzles, it was moved to Brooklyn, New York. (For more about the ACPT, see; for more about puzzles, see “Mathematical Resources.”)

There are also more local tournaments, such as the Boston Crossword Puzzle Tournament. In 2011, it was held at Harvard University and drew over 150 participants from Harvard and the general public. They turned out to solve four puzzles developed by Boston-area constructors of puzzles; the on-stage final was held with the three top finishers all competing to solve a fifth puzzle.

Another local puzzle contest took place in 2011. Called the Bay Area Crossword Puzzle Tournament, it was held as a benefit for the nonprofit California Dictionary Project . The four puzzles used for the competition were developed by the crossword puzzle editor of the New York Times, Will Shortz (1952-), who donated unpublished puzzles.


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