Minnesota Crossword Tournament

Just a “Friendly” little competition…

Professional Crossword Puzzle Constructors

The fifth annual Minnesota Crossword Tournament was Sunday, June 12, 2016, but you can learn all about the annual tournament here.
Sign up for email updates and join us in 2017.

Order the Play-At-Home Puzzle Pack for just $5 (PUZ and PDF)

Scores are now available for the 2016 Tournament!

Open to Experts, Amateurs and Teams

Solvers at each level of competition will tackle three original crossword puzzles created and edited especially for the tournament by nationally recognized and local, professional crossword creators whose work has been published in the New York Times, LA Times and other publications. Scoring will be based on accuracy and speed. Solvers with the highest combined scores from the first three rounds will move on to the finals, with championship puzzles solved in front of the audience.

Prizes will be awarded to winners in each category as well as several special awards.

A “bundling” option for team players is again offered this year: Up to four players can compete as a team and as four individual competitors (amateur or expert) — saving up to $30 on registration fees.

We offer sample puzzles created by our tournament constructors in the weeks leading up to the tournament:

  • Goldy Oldie by Tom Pepper, edited by George Barany
  • Of Course by George Barany and David Hanson, edited by Victor Barocas

Get location directions, and add to calendar >>

Schedule, Scoring and Rules — 2016 (PDF) >>

Sign up for email updates >>

Complete scores listed here:  2012  |  2013  |  2014  |  2015  | 2016 (Also includes the special award winners)

Meet the Constructors Below

The Minnesota Crossword Tournament offers sponsors an opportunity to be part of the only competition of its kind in the state. With the help of some of the top crossword constructors in Minnesota (and nationally – with Minnesota connections), the tournament is designed to be enjoyed by everyone from experts to amateurs. Last year more than 150 puzzlers and wordsmiths lined up to compete, and at least 200 competitors are expected this time around. Beyond the thrill of the competition, the Minnesota Crossword Tournament features an incredible venue – the beautiful Landmark Center in downtown Saint Paul. Companies that sponsor our events and programs receive statewide recognition, publicity and positive brand affiliation. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Greg Giles, Vice President of Development and Community Engagement, at 651-366-6499 or greg@thefriends.org

Thank you to our sponsors and partners:

A.J. Schaake Logo
A.J. Schaake Company

American Values Club Crossword

Screen Shot 2015-06-09 at 1.43.54 PM
Aries Puzzles


Common Good Books

Crossword Nation

The Crossword Century by Alan Connor
“The Crossword Century” by Alan Connor

Fireball Crosswords
Fireball Crosswords

Magnetic Poetry
Revealing the Poet Within

Mintahoe Catering and Events

For a Good Crime, Call!


Puzzaz | The Best Way to Solve Puzzles in the Digital World
The Best Way to Solve Puzzles in the Digital World

Stan Newman's Crossword Land

Subtext Books-01
Satisfy Your Curiosity

The Year of Puzzles
The Year of Puzzles


Meet our puzzle constructors:

George BaranyGeorge Barany is a Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering. His first New York Times puzzle, a collaboration with Michael Shteyman, appeared on a notable Sunday anniversary in January 2006.  He has additional puzzles in The New York Times, as well as others in venues such as the Chronicle of Higher Education and The Wall Street Journal. Solve more than 300 puzzles from Barany and Friends.

Victor BarocasVictor Barocas is a Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Minnesota, and he has lived in Minnesota 20 of the past 25 years. He enjoys all sorts of word puzzles and games, especially solving and constructing crosswords. Victor’s puzzles have appeared in numerous outlets, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. He has helped to organize the crosswords for this tournament for the past four years.

Don GagliardoDon Gagliardo is a piano technician who works in the Columbus, Ohio area. His first puzzle was published in The Los Angeles Times in 2006, and he went on to construct many more over the years. In 2010, Don began collaborating with C.C. Burnikel, a relative “newbie” on the constructor scene. Each participates in the creation of a theme, the construction of the grid, the word fill, and the clues.

C.C. BurnikelC.C. Burnikel runs the LA Times Crossword Corner blog. Together with Don Gagliardo, they’ve collaborated on more than 50 crosswords for The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Crossword Club.


David HansonDavid Hanson grew up in the Twin Cities. He graduated from Mariner High School in White Bear Lake in 1982 and from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in Mathematics in 1986, and works as a Chargemaster Analyst with Gillette Children’s Hospital in Saint Paul. He has had crosswords published in The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times, and two of his creations were chosen by Will Shortz as the weekly qualifying quiz for NPR’s Sunday Puzzle. Hanson has been a member of the National Puzzlers’ League since 1997.

David Liben-NowellDavid Liben-Nowell is a faculty member in the computer science department at Carleton College. His research focuses on social networks, and he has written about a dozen crosswords for The New York Times, The New York Sun, Games, and Penguin Classics Crossword Puzzle Collection. Recently, David has been dabbling with Psychobabble, a kind of network-based word game produced by Ultralingua.

Andrea Carla MichaelsAndrea Carla Michaels grew up in Minneapolis across the street from Lake Harriet. After a career in stand-up comedy, “Dating Game” chaperoning and writing for game shows and sitcoms, she now resides in San Francisco. With close to 50 crosswords published in The New York Times and dozens of others from TV Guide to the Los Angeles Times, she is known for her early week puzzles which are on the lighter, easier side, but still fun to solve. As a company/product namer and founder of ACME Naming.com, her life is words, words, words. She also won a Motorhome on “Wheel of Fortune”.

Tom PepperTom Pepper is the Finance Director for the City of Eagan. He has survived 45 Minnesota winters. His few brushes with fame include having Ann Curry as a guest at his wedding and co-constructing crossword puzzles with Victor Barocas. Tom’s puzzles have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Andrew RiesAndrew J. Ries has been constructing crossword puzzles for more than 10 years. His work has been published in Fireball Crosswords, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the New York Times. He has also has written six books of crossword. In addition, Ries is a skilled solver, placing in the top 50 at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and the top 30 at Lollapuzzoola.

David SteinbergDavid Steinberg is the crossword editor of the Orange County Register’s associated newspapers.  At age 14, he became the second-youngest New York Times crossword constructor to be published under Will Shortz’s editorship.  Since then, more than 250 of his puzzles have appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and various other print and online markets.  His second book, Juicy Crosswords, was published in May 2016.  David is a rising sophomore at Stanford, where he tries not to complain too much about 60-degree winter temperatures!

JeffreyWechslerJeffrey Wechsler calls himself a “cruciverbal Rip Van Winkle.” He had a few puzzles published by the New York Times in the 1960s, then took a 40-year hiatus before starting to create puzzles again in 2009. He is now one of our most prolific constructors, with puzzles published regularly in in The Los Angeles Times and The New York Times. Perhaps indicative of his propensity to do things the “old fashioned way,” he still constructs puzzles by hand.


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