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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 in the United States, and the only major tournament in New York City. The term "Lollapuzzoola" was coined by Amanda Yesnowitz, as a play on the Lollapalooza music festival. Lollapuzzoola 14 will take place online on August 21, 2021.

For its 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 All Souls Church in New York, New York. In 2018, the tournament relocated again, still within New York City, to Riverside Church.

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 its founders are discussed in David Astle's book "Puzzled."[5] Lollapuzzoola has also been frequently mentioned on the weekly crossword podcast Fill Me In, which is cohosted by Cimmet and Hecht.

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 with 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 the first one is traditionally 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; and 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 4'33''. 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 onstage at the front of the 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. The competitors are ranked by fewest mistakes, then time. The winner of this round is declared the champion. The top three competitors in the Express and Local divisions compete on the same puzzle with different sets of clues for their titles.

Tournament history[edit]

Date Title Location Constructors
August 23, 2008[6] Lollapuzzoola 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 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 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 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 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) 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 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! 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 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: Passing the Torch New York, NY Paolo Pasco (1), C.C. Burnikel (2), Erik Agard (3), Francis Heaney (4), joon pahk (5), Mike Nothnagel and Doug Peterson (finals)
August 18, 2018 Lollapuzzoola 11: Back to School New York, NY Aimee Lucido (1), Erik Agard and Yacob Yonas (2), Patti Varol (3), Jeff Chen (4), Paolo Pasco (5), Mike Nothnagel and Doug Peterson (finals)
August 17, 2019 Lollapuzzoola 12: Be Part of the Future New York, NY C.C. Burnikel (1), Stella Zawistowski (2), Paolo Pasco (3), Maddie Gillespie and Doug Peterson (4), Robyn Weintraub (5), Mike Nothnagel (finals)
August 15, 2020 Lollapuzzoola 13: Don't Touch That Dial! online only Brooke Husic (1), Sid Sivakumar (2), Rachel Fabi (3), joon pahk (4), Stella Zawistowski (5), Robyn Weintraub (finals)
August 21, 2021 Lollapuzzoola 14: This Time, It's Virtual ... Again. online only Robyn Weintraub (1), Amanda Rafkin (2), Sid Sivakumar (3), Brooke Husic (4), Patti Varol (5), Wyna Liu (finals)

Four times during Lollapuzzoola's history, New York Times crossword editor Will Shortz purchased puzzles commissioned for the tournament for publication in the newspaper. On September 5, 2009, Mike Nothnagel's final puzzle from Lollapuzzoola 2 was published in the New York Times (see page). On August 20, 2011, Byron Walden's final puzzle from Lollapuzzoola 4 was published (see page).[12] On September 11, 2014, Patrick Blindauer's puzzle "Change of Heart" from Lollapuzzoola 7 was published (see page). On August 9, 2016, Andrea Carla Michaels's 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 and to give information about the winner and their 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 instance of an editor besides Shortz since he began working for the Times.

Past Champions[edit]

As of 2018, there has been one multiple winner: Jeffrey Harris. Past champions traditionally return in subsequent years as judges and/or constructors.

Year Express Division Winner Local Division Winner Pairs/Group 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
2017: Lollapuzzoola 10 Andy Kravis Simon McAndrews Michael Sharp & Penelope Harper Matthew Gritzmacher David Plotkin
2018: Lollapuzzoola 11 Stella Zawistowski Joseph Burke Peter & Claire Rimkus Hannah Krug David Plotkin
2019: Lollapuzzoola 12 Simon Porzak Kathryne Bevilacqua Evan Birnholz & Vicki Jones Kathryne Bevilacqua David Plotkin
2020: Lollapuzzoola 13 David Plotkin Ryan Booker Kevin Carde, Vivian Kuperberg & Yuval Wigderson [not awarded][a] [not awarded]
2021: Lollapuzzoola 14 Will Nediger Roman Koshykar Vivian Kuperberg & Yuval Wigderson [not awarded] [not awarded]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "CROSSWORD #254 & Lollapuzzoola recap". Crossword Puzzles by Brendan Emmett Quigley. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  2. ^ "Coming Up: NYC's Lollapuzzoola 4 Crossword Tournament - Crossword Nation". Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  3. ^ Gaffney, Matt. "Crossword Puzzle Tournament — Lollapuzzoola 5 - Matt Gaffney". Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Astle, David (June 2012). Puzzled: Secrets and Clues from a Life Lost in Words. ISBN 978-1846685422.
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-11-13. Retrieved 2012-08-06.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Puzzlegirl (26 August 2009). "Lollapuzzoola 2". Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  8. ^ Horne, Jim (4 September 2009). "Judging Lollapuzzoola with Deb Amlen". Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Lollapuzzoola 4 details -". Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  11. ^ "Crucimetrics - Share and Compare: Lollapuzzoola 5". 5 August 2012. Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  12. ^ Amlen, Deb (19 August 2011). "Saturday: A Special Puzzle From Lollapuzzoola". Retrieved 12 May 2019.
  1. ^ The highest-scoring rookie in 2020 was Matthew Luter.