The Best Time I Said the Wrong Thing to Will Shortz

At the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, we are judged on accuracy and speed. When we are done with a puzzle, we raise our hand so as to stand out from the other 570 solvers, and someone comes and takes our puzzle, noting the time remaining, and then hurries off to retrieve another person’s puzzle in order to make sure that person get the full bonus for time remaining. If there is 9:56 or 9:01 remaining, you still get credit for 9 minutes remaining, so if you are closer to 9:56 it’s smart to check your work, and if you are closer to 9:01, I don’t know what you are supposed to do. What I did, on the seventh and final puzzle, was not even look at the clock until I was sure my puzzle was perfect, and then when I saw there was 19:07 remaining I shot my little hand high in the air and waved like I needed a cab to the hospital. I wanted my bonus for 19 minutes remaining! And so Will Shortz himself came over. He took my puzzle.  Remember: now he has to go get someone else’s puzzle. People are waving their own cab-hospital hands and freaking out. He whispered a quick, “Congratulations.”

I whispered, “Can I take your picture for my mom?

The wrongness of this registered on us at the same time; he whispered, kindly but firmly, “Later” as I whispered, mortified, “No! No! You have to go!”

So this is a picture I took earlier, when he was just getting ready to make his little announcements before our final puzzle…before I had said the best wrong thing I could muster on shortz notice.


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