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Portland Crossword Puzzle Contest Saturday, February 03, 2007

As other competitors work diligently to complete their puzzles, Tom Gazzola (center), who finished early, passes the time by—how else?—doing a crossword puzzle.

A gathering of crossword puzzle afficionados could hardly be described as "typical Portland occurrence (8)," but more than two dozen met at the central library on Saturday morning to "get into the game, perhaps (4)."

he third annual Portland Crossword Puzzle Contest challenged all comers to test their wits with these and other clues in the quest for the top prize—a dictionary.

Organizer Caleb Burns, who describes the competition as "harmless," says he started the contest three years ago because there wasn't anything similar in the area. "It beats shooting smack, and you hardly ever get arrested for doing puzzles," he jokes.

The competitors, who sorted themselves into "elite" or "open" classes, had up to 15 minutes to solve each puzzle. To win, they simply had to supply the most correct answers. The faster solver was favored in the event of a tie.

The answers for each class were the same, but the clues were more difficult for elite class participants. Where elite-level contestants had to deal with "Show delight (4)" and "R. Sativus (6)," open participants were given "Ray of sunshine" and "Salad vegetable." The answers? Beam and radish, of course.
After three rounds of puzzles, the top three contestants in each class advanced to the "puzzle-off" round, solving large puzzles on easels.

Puzzler Bob Thiman, right, who has competed in all of the Portland contests, says that he doesn't do any special preparation for the contest. He just does the New York Times puzzle every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. "They get tougher through the week," he notes.

Syndicated crossword writer Matt Jones, who won the competition in its first year, created the puzzles for the final two rounds of this year's competition.

If crossword competitions aren't a typical Portland occurrence, what is? A "rainy day," of course. And how does one "get into the game?" Ante.

(right) Judges Jane Burns, Matt Jones, and Corinne Spiegel score the competitors between rounds.