Minnesota Crossword Tournament

Just a “Friendly” little competition…

ladies with crosswords

Solvers will tackle three original crossword puzzles created and edited especially for this tournament by local, professional crossword creators whose work has been published in the New York Times. Scoring to 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 finalists and winners in each category. We are delighted to offer three sample puzzles created by several tournament constructors:

Registration now open for Amateurs, Experts, Teams and Spectators.

RegisterMap and add to calendar >>

Tournament Scoring and Rules 2015 >>

Sign up for email updates!  Complete scores listed here: 2012 | 20132014

Meet the 2014 Constructors Below


Thank you to our 2014 sponsors and partners:


Meet the Puzzle Constructors

George 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. You can solve more puzzles (nearly 200) from Barany and Friends by visiting http://tinyurl.com/gbpuzzle or clicking here. New York Times puzzles published: 4.

Victor Barocas Profile PicVictor Barocasis 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, and he has helped to organize the crosswords for this tournament for the past two years.

ZhouqinBurnikelZhouqin (C.C.) Burnikel runs the Los Angeles Times Crossword Corner blog. She graduated from Northwest University (Xi’An, China) in 1994, worked in Guangzhou for 6 years, and moved to the United States in 2001. She started solving crosswords in 2008, and has dabbled with construction since 2010. C.C. was mentored by veteran constructor Don Gagliardo, and they’ve collaborated on over 50 crosswords for the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times. New York Times puzzles published: 10.

Michael DavidMichael David grew up in Minneapolis and has been teaching high school math in Portage, Wisconsin since 2004.  He is a graduate of Ripon College, where he majored in Mathematics and French, and holds a master’s degree in Mathematics Education from the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh. His other hobbies include attending Scrabble tournaments and playing piano. New York Times puzzles published: 3.

Don GagliardoDon Gagliardo has lived in Ohio all of his life and now lives in Columbus, where he has been a piano technician since 1982. He made the connection to this tournament through Brooklyn Park resident Zhouqin Burnikel, with whom he has had a very successful collaboration on many puzzles in many venues. Don’s puzzles are mainly published by the Los Angeles Times and The Crosswords Club. New York Times puzzles published: 5.

davidhansonDavid Hanson grew up in the Twin Cities, Minnesota. 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 the NPR’s Sunday Puzzle. Hanson has been a member of the National Puzzlers’ League since 1997.  New York Times puzzles published: 1.

dankantorDan Kantor is a published author and composer, musician, graphic designer and brand strategist, and the co-owner of the Kantor Group brand consultancy, based in Edina, Minnesota. Kantor received a B.A. in music from the College of Saint Thomas, Saint Paul, Minnesota, carried out graduate studies at Hamline University, also in Saint Paul, and has taught in the Fast Trac program at the Opus College of Business at Saint Thomas. New York Times puzzles published: 8.

Jay Kaskel is a freelance advertising writer based in Minneapolis/St. Paul. His work has appeared in print, radio, TV and online. Jay received a B.S. in Advertising from the University of Illinois. He is anxiously awaiting to see his next puzzle (a collaboration with Dan Kantor) appear any week now in the New York TimesNew York Times puzzles published: 6.

Andy Kravis (right guy)Andy Kravis is a civil rights attorney living in Brooklyn, New York. Andy received a B.A. in Women’s Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and a J.D. from Columbia Law School. Since 2011, his crosswords have been published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times20 Under 30, and weekly on his own blog, Cruciverbalist at Law. He is also a competitive solver, finishing 13th at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in 2014. New York Times puzzles published: 1.

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 SunGames, and Penguin Classics Crossword Puzzle collection. Recently, David has been dabbling with Psychobabble, a kind of network-based word game produced by  Ultralingua. New York Times puzzles published: 8.

Andrea Carla MichaelsAndrea Carla Michaels is a company and product namer in San Francisco. A former Stand-up comic and TV sitcom writer, she now confines most of her wordplay to crosswords and Scrabble. New York Times puzzles published: 43.



Pepper, TomTom Pepper is, by day, Finance Director of the Twin Cities suburb of Eagan. The Saint Paul Pioneer Press ran a nice article about Pepper shortly after his debut New York Times puzzle was published in February 2012. New York Times puzzles published: 4.



Andrew RiesAndrew J. Ries,  currently living in St. Cloud, MN, began constructing crossword puzzles in 2006. His work has been published in various venues such as Fireball Crosswords, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. In addition, he has written five books of crosswords: Minnesota Crosswords, Michigan Crosswords, Wisconsin Crosswords, Texas Crosswords, and For the Birds Crosswords. His current project, Spooky Crosswords, is slated for a fall 2014 release. In addition to constructing, Ries is a skilled solver, placing in the top 50 at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and the top 30 at Lollapuzzoola. You can solve more of his puzzles at www.ariesxword.com and www.ariespuzzles.comNew York Times puzzles published: 1.


The annual 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, 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 more. If you are interested in learning more, please contact Lynn Giovannelli, Director of Corporate Sponsorship, at 651-366-6483 or lynn@thefriends.org


2013 Finalists and Winners

(followed by solving time in minutes and seconds)


First Place: Ginny Agresti – 7:38 Second Place: Brian McGill – 7:49 Third Place: Katie Gray – 10:37


First Place: Jake Gelfand – 13:39 Second Place: Carl Voss – uncompleted Third Place: Marcia Brott – uncompleted


First Place: “SnowQ Puzzlers” (Andrea Sachs and friend)  6:36 Second Place: “Pen, Never Pencil” (Maria Ryden and friend) – 7:37 Third Place: “Word Warriors” (Claudia Lowe and friends) – 13:57 Back to top