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VOL. 38 | NO. 14 | Friday, April 4, 2014

All in the family for crossword, Sudoku champs

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Robin and Darren Morrissey, wife and husband, finished one and one at the 2014 Clinton School Puzzle Festival. That would be first place in crosswords and first place in Sudoku.

You might say they ruled the recent Arkansas Puzzle Day. Robin is a manager at the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration. Darren is an engineer. Congratulations to them both.

The 50 or so competitors, about two-thirds of whom were crossworders, filled Sturgis Hall at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service on a rainy Sunday afternoon. After two hours of filling grids, they adjourned to the Ron Robinson Theater in Little Rock’s River Market District, where another 10 or 12 souls joined them for a screening of the 2006 documentary “Wordplay.”

All of the above was, in part at least, in belated celebration of the 100th birthday of the crossword puzzle. The first modern crossword, dubbed at the time a “word-cross,” was published in the New York World on Dec. 21, 1913.

Sudoku is said to have been around since 1979, although it’s been a worldwide craze only since 2005. I’ve never solved a Sudoku, largely because I’m afraid I’d become attached. I’ve no room in my life for another hobby or habit.

I enjoy crosswords because, unlike most of the things we do in life, with a crossword there is but one solution. At home and in the work place, we’re presented with multi-faceted problems, which we work through as best we can.

Whatever may be said of the results we achieve, they are not perfect. With a crossword, one can say, “Hey, I aced that.”

On Puzzle Day, crossword contestants all solved three puzzles from different sources:

Puzzle 1, by John Lieb, was the next day’s New York Times puzzle.

Puzzle 2 was the upcoming week’s American Values Club puzzle, constructed by Caleb Madison.

Puzzle 3 was one that I had made especially for the event.

After three rounds, five players with perfect scores on all three competed head-to-head in Puzzle 4, the upcoming Tuesday New York Times puzzle by David Kwong, who was in Toronto prepping to give a TED Talk on puzzles.

Kwong was the featured guest at the previous Arkansas Puzzle Day event, in the fall of 2012. A Harvard graduate who makes his living as a magician, movie consultant and puzzle constructor, Kwong was a huge hit with a packed crowd at Sturgis Hall.

Thanks to Will Shortz and Ben Tausig, puzzle editors of the NYT and AVC, for contributing to the event. Also, to the Clinton School’s dean, Skip Rutherford, and program director, Nikolai DiPippa, for hosting the event.

And to the Daily Record, which donated a birthday cake and one-year subscriptions to the winners.

Noteworthy clues from Arkansas Puzzle Day:

Heart, winky face, and smile, e.g. – EMOJIS

Spherical light-reflector – DISCO BALL

One instrumental in history? – AMATI

Mayberry resident who became a Marine – GOMER PYLE

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.

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