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Crosswords Puzzle Pleasantville in Tournament

PLEASANTVILLE, N.Y. — It’s not an exaggeration to say that once a year Pleasantville becomes the capital of crosswords in the country.

That happens when Will Shortz, longtime New York Times crosswords editor and Pleasantville resident, directs the Westchester Crossword Puzzle Tournament in the village, for which he invites many other puzzle experts. “Will brings the crosswords luminaries to participate,” said David Perlmutter, of Chappaqua, a regular in the tournament.

The event, in its 15th stretch, took place Friday at the table tennis center Shortz opened last May on Tompkins Avenue. Seventy-five contestants, divided into age and skill categories, solved three unpublished New York Times crosswords, competing for trophies and puzzle books. The three winners selected from this first round had to then solve a fourth unpublished crossword on a large board, watched by all others in anxious silent.

Helping Shortz with the organization were the people he called "the notables," New York Times contributors and staff, writers of puzzle books, and some of the best crosswords solvers and constructors in the country. People like Dan Feyer, who won the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in the last two years and can solve a typical crossword in little more than a minute – or Miriam Raphael, 93, who won the most crossword tournaments in history, according to Shortz – or Joe Cabrera, who wrote the program that Shortz uses to format the crosswords.

Many participants were also experimented crossword solvers, even if some felt overshadowed by the experts. “My friends all think that I am an incredible fast solver, but when I come here I become humble,” said Barry Weprin, of Mamaroneck, adding that he solves the New York Times crosswords every night before going to bed.

Bob Mackey, of Eatontown, N.J., was the biggest winner of the night, completing the board crossword in five minutes and 40 seconds, 1.5 minute ahead of his two opponents. “I’ve done this a lot, so it was just like another day in the office,” said Mackey, who won four times in the last five years.

David Phethean, the winner in the Pleasantville-resident category, has won eight times in the last nine years. “It turns a solitary activity into a social activity and also a competitive activity,” he said.

The proceeds, estimated in $2,000, will go entirely to the Pleasantville Fund for Learning, an organization that supports the village’s schools.

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