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An American-style crossword
with a 15×15 grid layout.

Lollapuzzoola is a crossword-solving tournament held annually on a Saturday in August. Founded in 2008 by Brian Cimmet and Ryan Hecht, it is the second-largest crossword tournament held in the United States, and the only major tournament in New York City. The term "Lollapuzzoola" was coined by Amanda Yesnowitz, derived from the Lollapalooza music festival. Lollapuzzoola 9 will be held on August 13, 2016.

In 2011, celebrated crossword constructor and editor Patrick Blindauer replaced Ryan Hecht as cohost of Lollapuzzoola.

For the first three years, Lollapuzzoola was held at the First Methodist Church in Jackson Heights, New York, but owing to its increasing popularity, in 2011 the tournament moved to the larger, air-conditioned, and more centrally located All Souls Church in New York, New York.

Lollapuzzoola traditionally opens with a non-crossword social mixer game to get everyone chatting and friendly with one another. The entire day is a combination of puzzles, camaraderie, and all-around goofiness.

Puzzles are constructed by major contributors to the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the Onion, among other publications. They have included: Brendan Emmett Quigley,[1] Peter Gordon, Patrick Berry, Ashish Vengsarkar, Dan Feyer, Doug Peterson, Mike Nothnagel, Tony Orbach, Barry C. Silk, Elizabeth C. Gorski,[2] Karen M. Tracey, Byron Walden, Andrea Carla Michaels, Deb Amlen, Matt Gaffney,[3] Joe Krozel, Neville Fogarty, Patrick Blindauer, Joon Pahk, Aimee Lucido, Zoe Wheeler, Kevin Der, and Tyler Hinman.[4]

Lollapuzzoola, and Lollapuzzoola's original founders Brian Cimmet and Ryan Hecht are discussed in David Astle's book, "Puzzled."[5]

Participants and divisions[edit]

Anyone can participate. There are two skill divisions, a rookie division, a pairs division, and for those who can't attend in person, an at-home division. Prizes are awarded in all divisions, with trophies and cash/gift certificate prizes for the top winners in the two skill divisions. For the purposes of prizes contestants compete simultaneously in all divisions for which they are eligible, with no more than one cash prize per contestant.

Division Definition
Express Everyone
Local Contestants who have not ranked in the top 20% at either the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament or a previous Lollapuzzoola in the last three years.
Pairs Contestants can work in groups of two, but do not qualify for the Express, Local, or Rookie Division prizes.
At-Home Contestants can solve from home (via an emailed PDF), but do not qualify for the Express, Local, Pairs, or Rookie Division prizes.
Down Clues Only Players may voluntarily enter this division, in which they are only given the down clues for each puzzle.
Rookies Contestants competing for their first time at any tournament.


L-R: Patrick Blindauer, Will
Shortz, and Brian Cimmet.

The tournament consists of five rounds, each featuring a puzzle that all competitors solve. There are three rounds in the morning and two in the early afternoon. Puzzles vary in size and difficulty from round to round. The puzzles are commissioned by the tournament directors from the top constructors in crosswords, with the fourth puzzle the hardest of the set. The puzzles vary in size, shape, and difficulty, although traditionally the first puzzle is a relatively easy 15x15 grid. The puzzles are always themed, and frequently themed in off-center, wacky ways not commonly seen in newspaper-published crosswords. For example, puzzles have included a "Name That Tune" gimmick; a post-solve Twister game; a puzzle that instructs the solver to eat a Chips Ahoy cookie upon completion; a puzzle that required the entire room of solvers to make noises from their chairs, and thus perform an impromptu rendition of John Cage's "Four Minutes, Thirty-Three Seconds". Tournament judges score the solved puzzles on accuracy and speed.

After these five rounds, the top three solvers in the two skill divisions progress to the final round, which consists of solving a very difficult crossword on an oversize grid on a stage at the front of the tournament room. The competitors in this round wear noise-blocking headphones. The solvers hold a sheet of clues and write their answers on the grid with a dry-erase marker for all to see. Accuracy and speed are important as the competitors are ranked by fewest mistakes, then time. The winner of this round is declared the tournament champion. The top three competitors in the Express and Local divisions compete on the same puzzle, though with different sets of clues, for their division titles.

Tournament history[edit]

From 2008-2010, Lollapuzzoola was held in the Jackson Heights neighborhood in the Queens borough of New York City. Since 2011, it has been held in Manhattan.

Date Title Contestants Location Constructors
August 23, 2008[6] Lollapuzzoola 30 Jackson Heights, NY Brian Cimmet (1), Dan Feyer (2), Mike Nothnagel (3), Doug Peterson (4), Barry C. Silk (5), Ashish Vengsarkar (6)
August 22, 2009[7][8] Lollapuzzoola 2: Son of Puzzoola 74 Jackson Heights, NY Todd McClary (1), Brian Cimmet (2), Peter Gordon (3), Brendan Emmett Quigley (4), Doug Peterson (5), Mike Nothnagel (finals)
August 14, 2010[9] Lollapuzzoola 3: The Great Pickle Giveaway 107 Jackson Heights, NY Deb Amlen (1), Mike Nothnagel (2), Joe Krozel (3), Tyler Hinman (4), Neville Fogarty (5), Doug Peterson (finals)
August 6, 2011[10][11] Lollapuzzoola 4: Crosswords Take Manhattan 165 tournament
214 at home
New York, NY Andrea Carla Michaels (1), Patrick Blindauer and Tony Orbach (2), Doug Peterson (3), Mike Nothnagel (4), Elizabeth C. Gorski (5), Byron Walden (finals)
August 4, 2012 Lollapuzzoola 5: Amanda Goes Express 110 tournament
227 at home
New York, NY Tony Orbach and Patrick Blindauer (1), Mike Nothnagel (2), Elizabeth C. Gorski (3), Matt Gaffney (4), Doug Peterson (5), Karen M. Tracey (finals)
August 10, 2013 Lollapuzzoola 6: Words, Nerds, and Birds (NO BIRDS) 188 tournament
358 at home
New York, NY Aimee Lucido and Zoe Wheeler (1), Mike Nothnagel (2), Patrick Blindauer and Tony Orbach (3), Kevin G. Der (4), Doug Peterson (5), joon pahk (finals)
August 9, 2014 Lollapuzzoola 7: It Ain't Over 'til It's Over 192 tournament
366 at home
New York, NY Cathy Allis (1), Mike Nothnagel (2), Tony Orbach (3), Patrick Blindauer (4), Doug Peterson (5), Patrick Berry (finals)
August 8, 2015 Lollapuzzoola 8? LOLLAPUZZOCHO! 235 tournament
579 at home
New York, NY Patrick Blindauer (1), Anna Shechtman (2), Mike Nothnagel (3), joon pahk (4), Doug Peterson (5), Kevin G. Der (finals)
August 13, 2016 Lollapuzzoola 9: It's Hip to Be Squared 293 tournament
566 at home
New York, NY Mike Nothnagel (1), Patrick Blindauer (2), Doug Peterson (3), Evan Birnholz (4), Francis Heaney (5), Sam Donaldson (finals)
August 19, 2017 Lollapuzzoola 10 ? tournament
? at home
New York, NY ?

Four times during Lollapuzzoola's history, puzzles commissioned for the tournament were later purchased and published in the New York Times by crossword editor Will Shortz. On Saturday, September 5, 2009, Mike Nothnagel's final puzzle from Lollapuzzoola 2 was published in the New York Times (see page). On Saturday, August 20, 2011, Byron Walden's final puzzle from Lollapuzzoola 4 was published (see page).[12] On Thursday, September 11, 2014, Patrick Blindauer's puzzle "Change of Heart" from Lollapuzzoola 7 was published (see page). On August 9, 2016, Andrea Carla Michaels' puzzle from Lollapuzzoola 4 was published in advance of the upcoming tournament, and (in part) as a promotion of Lollapuzzoola (see page). Each time, an additional block of text was added to the puzzle to tell solvers that this puzzle had appeared in a national tournament, information about the winner, and solving speed. In the case of Walden's puzzle, the byline was extended to include "edited by Brian Cimmet and Patrick Blindauer", the first and only known instance of an editor besides Will Shortz since Shortz began working for the New York Times.

Past Champions[edit]

As of 2012, there has been one multiple winner: Jeffrey Harris. Traditionally past champions return in subsequent years as judges and/or constructors.

Year Express Division Winner Local Division Winner Pairs Division Winners Rookie of the Year At-Home Division Winner
2008: Lollapuzzoola Howard Barkin [n/a] [n/a] [n/a] [n/a]
2009: Lollapuzzoola 2 Dan Feyer Will Irving [n/a] Matthew Matera [n/a]
2010: Lollapuzzoola 3 Jeffrey Harris Jeffrey Dubner Amy Goldstein & Evan O'Donnell Dave Dickerson [n/a]
2011: Lollapuzzoola 4 Jeffrey Harris Andy Kravis Amy Goldstein & Evan O'Donnell David Blake Anne Erdmann
2012: Lollapuzzoola 5 Joon Pahk Glen Ryan Peter Coe & Caitlin Van Ness Glen Ryan David Plotkin
2013: Lollapuzzoola 6 Al Sanders Jonathon Brown Julian Ochrymowych & Marcia Hearst Jonathon Brown David Plotkin
2014: Lollapuzzoola 7 Jon Delfin Patti Varol Julian Ochrymowych & Marcia Hearst Rebecca Moody Trip Payne
2015: Lollapuzzoola 8 Francis Heaney Simon Porzak Julian Ochrymowych & Marcia Hearst Seth Kleinerman David Plotkin
2016: Lollapuzzoola 9 Erik Agard Paolo Pasco Julian Ochrymowych & Marcia Hearst Paolo Pasco David Plotkin

External links[edit]