Crossword puzzler scores trip to N.Y.


Eric Reinhardt, left, and Hugh Murphy, right, compete in the final round of the Third Annual North Florida Crossword Puzzle Tournament at Savannah Grande in Gainesville on Saturday.

Tim Hussin/Special to The Sun
Published: Sunday, February 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 31, 2009 at 10:12 p.m.

A touchdown was all that stood between 72-year-old Eric Reinhardt and a free trip to Brooklyn, N.Y., for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament on Saturday.

Reinhardt, a retired computer programmer from Jacksonville, won the trip in the Third Annual North Florida Crossword Puzzle Tournament at the Savannah Grande in Gainesville.

His final clue was "Giant sixes?: abbr." The answer was "TDS," as in, when the Giants score six, they get touchdowns.

Reinhardt completed the puzzle in less than 22 minutes in the sudden-death championship round, defeating second-place Hugh Murphy by 100 points.

Reinhardt, who said he began puzzling as a teenager, found out about the tournament from the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament Web site and decided it was worth the drive from Jacksonville. After arriving in Gainesville, he quickly became puzzled.

"When I got started and couldn't find a corner to work in," he said, "I started to panic."

He regrouped and finished with a flurry, making only one mistake.

Reinhardt said he has participated in the competition in Brooklyn for the last 15 years, but this will be his first year that his expenses are covered.

Reinhardt was one of 68 participants in the competition Saturday that featured 33 individual competitors and 12 teams. All participants worked on three puzzles, and the top three individual scorers each solved a fourth puzzle on a white board as spectators watched.

Merl Reagle, a syndicated crossword puzzle creator for The Washington Post, hosted Saturday's event, which benefits the Generation Connection, a senior-citizen-managed summer day camp for children.

"Having Merl Reagle here is big," said Alyson Adams, a tournament planning committee member. "In the puzzle world, he's a big celebrity."

Joel Daunic, founder of the Generation Connection, was one of the creators of the event. Last year, it generated $2,800 for the organization, which provided about 14 scholarships for students to the summer camp, which this year is tentatively set for July 20-24.

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