Crossword challenge comes to town


Published: Friday, January 30, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 29, 2009 at 10:32 p.m.

"The clue was 'black and white killer.' He wrote 'Oreo.' It was 'orca' but if you eat enough Oreos, I guess," said syndicated crossword puzzle maker Merl Reagle.

Reagle, who strives to make puzzles entertaining, will be co-hosting the third annual North Florida Crossword Puzzle Tournament on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Savannah Grande downtown.

Reagle was featured in the documentary "Wordplay." He also made an appearance on "Oprah" and most recently on an episode of "The Simpsons."

"Last year there were a total of 70 participants," said tournament coordinator Joel Daunic - a cross-section of students, faculty members and seniors.

"We want to find a closet crossword puzzle person," said Daunic.

Daunic is challenging a younger generation to take the plunge into crosswords, as last year's champion was 73-year-old Arch Roberts, who had never competed before.

The winner of the tournament wins an all-expense-paid trip to Brooklyn, N.Y., to compete in the 31st annual American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

"Hey, don't worry if you're not the top puzzle person," said Daunic. "Everyone is going to walk away with something pretty decent."

As for the competition itself, "It all takes place in about four and a half hours, which we think is pretty cool," said Daunic.

Each person gets a puzzle and 30 minutes allotted to finish it. After everyone has finished two puzzles, the top finishers go into the final round.

The final round involves three people working on their respective puzzles with earphones on while a commentator watches and amuses the spectators.

Reagle's role in Saturday's tournament will be a sort of comic relief between rounds.

"We don't think crosswords are these stuffy, encyclopedic word tests," Reagle said. Rather, they should be a brain-tickling exercise and the funnier the better, he said.

Proceeds from the tournament go toward the Generation Connection, a day camp in Gainesville that brings active seniors and young campers together to learn from each other.

Entering the tournament costs $40 a person or $100 per team of three, with discounts to seniors and students. For more information, go online to www.thegenerationconnection.com/crossword.php.

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