The 5th annual Indie 500 Crossword Tournament
Saturday, June 1st, 2019
The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church
1313 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC 20005

Registration for the tournament is NOW OPEN. Last year was all about getting dressed up for the crossword fashion show, but this year we're taking off with a travel-themed set of tournament puzzles. So forget about your getup, let's get up and go!

We want everyone to be able to get in on the fun, so if actual travel is not an option for you we are happy to register you in our Solve-at-Home division. We'll email you copies of all of the tournament puzzles and, if you choose to send back your completed grids and solving times, we'll score your puzzles just as we do for in-person competitors.

We are also proud to present "Where on the Globe Is Carla Sacramento?", a suite of interconnected meta puzzles constructed by the tournament organizers. We're just putting the finishing touches on it, but it is currently available for pre-order and will be sent by email when it is ready (this will be soon, hopefully, but definitely before the tournament).

Oh, and, as always...

there will be pie
Erik Agard
is an American puzzlemaker who doesn't know how to drive.
Sample Puzzle
Jenna LaFleur
once competed at a crossword tournament in her hometown of DC. She struck up a conversation with one of the organizers afterwards, and two years later, she's very excited to be joining the Indie 500 team! She's had puzzles published in Queer Qrosswords, the Puzzle Society Crossword, and on various indie blogs, but she mainly considers herself a solver rather than a constructor. She's currently a linguistics major at UCLA, and is a great enthusiast of fluffy cats, post-punk music, and terrible jokes.
Sample Puzzles
Show One's Stripes (Puzzle Society 2018-09-10) (PDF)
Andy Kravis
is a puzzlemaker, editor, and trivia writer living in Brooklyn, New York. In addition to constructing and editing crosswords for various publications, he also edits variety word puzzles for Joon Pahk's site Outside the Box Puzzles and co-teaches the JASA Crossword Class with Natan Last.
Sample Puzzles
Number One Singles, Doubled (Chronicle of Higher Education, 3/15/2019) (PUZ) (PDF)
Themeless (Los Angeles Times, 1/27/2018) (PUZ) (PDF)
Angela Olson Halsted
lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her two teenaged children. She pays the bills by working as a legal secretary. Angela's puzzles have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the American Values Club, and the Wall Street Journal. She also contributes puzzles to the new Daily POP crossword app. Angela obsessively follows the Washington Nationals and the University of Iowa wrestling team. She types faster than anyone you know and has excellent blood pressure.
Neville Fogarty
is a math professor at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA.
Peter Broda
is a father of three who does computer/puzzle/trivia stuff in Regina, SK. His travel highlights include visiting The Principality of Hutt River and enjoying an audience with Prince Leonard, eating stinky tofu at a Taipei night market, and successfully navigating NYC with a 6-month-old.
Bryan Betancur
is a professor of Spanish at Bronx Community College (City University of New York). He is relatively new to puzzle-making and created the bilingual (Spanish/English) puzzle blog Crucilingual to celebrate both his bicultural (Hispanic/US) heritage and his nerdy love of word puzzles.
Janie Smulyan
was born and bred in Baltimore but now makes her home in NYC. Since 2011, her puzzles (collaborations and solo ventures) have been published by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Fireball Crosswords, The Unemployed Philosophers Guild, and the Goucher Quarterly (her college alumnae/-i mag). What a treat now to be tapped as a constructor for the Indie 500!
Sample Puzzles
Why Not (Chronicle of Higher Education, 8/3/2018) (PUZ) (PDF)
Rebecca Falcon
is so excited to be a part of this year's Indie 500! She is a life-long New Yorker whose work in film festivals, theater, and museums has sent her around the world. Her love of crosswords started when her mom would construct puzzles out of her spelling words and has only grown since then. Her puzzles have been published with The Inkubator and The American Values Club.
Yacob Yonas
is so delighted to have a chance to construct one of the puzzles for this year's Indie 500! He considers himself a newer crossworder since he only discovered puzzles in the past couple years, but since he started, he's fallen in pretty deep :) Last November, he made his NYT debut and also constructed a tournament puzzle with Erik Agard for Lollapuzzoola. He hopes you all enjoy his Indie puzzle and hopefully you'll see more puzzles from him in the future!
Sample Puzzles
NYT, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018 (solution)
10:00 AM − 11:00 AM Registration / Schmoozing
11:00 AM − 4:00 PM Introduction and Puzzles 1−5 (including a 90-minute break for lunch)
4:15 PM − 4:45 PM Presentation of awards
Announcement of finalists
4:45 PM − 5:45 PM Puzzle 6
(solved by finalists, on stage; all other guests welcome and encouraged to watch but attendance is not required)
5:45 PM − 6 PM Awards presented to finalists and champions
Closing remarks
Tournament Overview

For those of you who attended last year's Indie 500, the format and scoring of this year's event will be very familiar. For those who have competed in other crossword tournaments but not this one, some features of the Indie 500 will be familiar, while others will be a little different.

The tournament will feature six crossword puzzles. The difficulty of these puzzles ranges from easy to very challenging. Each of the first five puzzles is themed and everyone will solve these five puzzles. The scores calculated from these puzzles will be used to determine the finalists in each division. While every player will have the opportunity to solve the sixth and final puzzle for fun, all division finalists will be scored on this puzzle to determine the winners. Demographic division finalists will solve the final puzzle on paper as with the first five puzzles, while the finalists in the two main skill divisions will solve on large boards on the stage to determine the overall winners. Contestants are scored for both solving speed and the accuracy of their solved puzzles, with accuracy weighted far more heavily than speed.

Each puzzle will have a specified time limit (anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, depending on size and difficulty). Contestants will receive scores for everything correctly entered into their puzzles at the end of the time limit, whether or not the puzzles are completed. There will be a ten-minute break between puzzles, as well as a 90-minute lunch break between Puzzles 3 and 4.

Solvers may not talk in the solving area while a puzzle is being solved. Solvers also may not use any external solving aids, including phones or written materials, while a puzzle is being solved. If you do either of these things, we reserve the right to disqualify you from a puzzle or from the tournament.

Skill Divisions

The tournament has two skill divisions: the Inside Track and the Outside Track. Any contestant who has finished in the top 25% of the field in a crossword tournament with published standings in the past five years (including previous Indie 500 tournaments) will be placed on the Inside Track. All other contestants, including first-time crossword tournament competitors, will be placed on the Outside Track.

Players may also be grouped into additional (and possibly overlapping) divisions based on demographic information collected at the time of registration. These divisions may change from year to year based on the distribution of contestants within the demographic categories.

Contestants are distinguished by division only for the purposes of scoring; all contestants will compete on the same puzzles in the same room, begin rounds at the same time, and have the same amount of time to complete each puzzle.


A contestant's score for each puzzle consists of three parts:

  1. The contestant's base score for each puzzle will be the number of seconds they take to complete the puzzle.
  2. If a contestant's puzzle contains any incorrect squares, that contestant will be given a penalty. A penalty adds 500 seconds (8 minutes and 20 seconds) to a contestant's score for that puzzle.
  3. In addition, for each incorrect square in a puzzle, 30 seconds are added to a contestant's score.

So, a contestant's final score for a puzzle equals:

(seconds taken to complete the puzzle) + (incorrect squares * 30) + (500, if there are any incorrect squares)

The three contestants in each division with the lowest cumulative score after five puzzles will advance to the sixth and final playoff puzzle.

In the event of a tie between contestants for a spot (or spots) in the finals, there will be a tiebreaker puzzle given to all affected contestants. The first contestant(s) to solve the puzzle cleanly, or, if no contestant solves cleanly, the contestant(s) with the lower score using the scoring method described above, will advance.

If, after the fifth puzzle, an Outside Track contestant has one of the top three overall scores, they will qualify for the Inside Track finals. In that case, the next-lowest-scoring Outside Track contestant will be given that contestant's spot in the Outside Track finals. Inside Track contestants cannot qualify for the Outside Track finals.


The three contestants in each skill and demographic division with the lowest cumulative score will compete on a sixth and final puzzle. All finalists will solve the same answer grid, but the Inside Track finalists will have a more challenging set of clues.

Contestants will have 20 minutes to solve the final puzzle. In each final, all contestants will begin solving the puzzle at the same time, regardless of their scores on Puzzles 1−5. The contestant with the fewest errors will be declared the winner. If two or more contestants have the same number of errors (e.g., the likely scenario that more than one contestant completes the puzzle perfectly), the contestants will be ranked in order of speed.


Awards will be given to the top three solvers in both skill divisions. For demographic divisions, only the top solver will receive an award. In addition, several other awards will be given, including:

  • The PuzzleGirl Prize for Rookie of the Year
  • Titan of Tittling Award for Penmanship
  • joon pahk award for worst handwriting
  • Indie Spirit Award
  • Yogi Berra Best Wrong Answer
Venue Accessibility

The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church is accessible from the entryway on the side of the church on New York Avenue. Elevators, ramps, and electronic doors enable access to all floors and gathering places in the building, including the sanctuary on the second floor. Tournament organizers and volunteers will be happy to assist you with entering and exiting the building and room.

Getting There

The Metro is recommended for getting to the tournament. There are two stations within two blocks (roughly a 5-minute walk or less) of the tournament venue. McPherson Square Station is the closer of the two and is on the Orange, Silver, and Blue lines, while Metro Center Station is on those three lines plus the Red line. Each line runs every 12 minutes from 7am-9:30pm on Saturdays (and then less frequently until midnight when the metro stops running), so you shouldn't have to wait long. However, there is sometimes Metro track work on the weekends which can affect travel times and how frequently trains arrive. Be sure to check and plan accordingly.

There is limited on-street parking available near the tournament building (although drop-offs near the door are possible). Street parking is metered on New York Avenue and H Street.


There are a number of hotels within walking distance or a short metro trip of the tournament building. Following is a list of hotels that tournament attendees have stayed at in the past and have recommended to us (note that the tournament was formerly held at George Washington University and many of these hotels are within walking distance of that venue rather than this year's venue). It is by no means exhaustive, and we do not officially endorse or vouch for any of these; they are listed here simply to give you some idea of what's available in the area.

  • The Georgetown Inn West End
    Very close to the metro
  • Holiday Inn Rosslyn at Key Bridge
    Located across the river in Arlington, but just a few metro stops away on the Orange or Silver line
  • University Inn
    Older character building, very affordable and close to the metro
  • Hotel Hive
    Smaller upscale modern rooms at a reasonable price, very close to the metro
  • Club Quarters
    Small but cheap rooms