The 6th annual Indie 500 Crossword Tournament

For the safety of all involved, The Indie 500 will not be held in person this year. Instead, the tournament will be held as a solve-at-home event sometime this summer, date TBD. We're still working out the details of what that will look like, but we'll keep you updated as decisions are made. Additional details—including constructor list, theme, and meta suite info—will also be coming soon, so watch this space or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

Meanwhile, we are currently offering all of our past tournament puzzle packs for free. Use the links below to download.

Erik Agard
is the wrong Agard (teacher dad, weather analyst brother) to be putting in charge of anything science-related, but here we are.
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.
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.
Is this for me? What if I'm not good enough?

If you enjoy solving crosswords at all then the answers are "yes" and "it doesn't matter." We want you to have fun at The Indie 500 regardless of your solving ability or how competitive you are, so we work with the best and brightest independent puzzle constructors every year to craft what we think are some enjoyable, funny, and creative crosswords. While seeing how you stack up against other solvers like yourself can add an extra layer of excitement to the event, you'll find that most regular crossword tournament attendees keep coming back mainly for the opportunity to share some fun puzzles together with the wonderful and welcoming community, and not because they're trying to win.

How does it work?

You'll solve five themed crossword puzzles, ranging in difficulty from somewhere around a Monday/Tuesday to Thursday or beyond on the New York Times difficulty scale. Each puzzle has a time limit (usually around 15/20 min for the easier puzzles and up to 45 min for the hardest) and you'll receive points based on how long you take to finish it, with time added for errors and omissions. Correct answers are far more important than speed in our scoring system—a single mistake can add almost 9 minutes to your time! So don't worry too much if you're not a terribly fast solver, and just try to get some correct letters into the grid.

The scores from the first five puzzles will be used to determine the finalists in each skill division. Every player will have be given the chance to try their hand at the sixth and final puzzle just for fun, with the same time limit as the finalists. You can choose one of two difficulty levels: hard and harder (think Friday/Saturday NYT and Newsday Saturday Stumper, respectively)—good luck! Following that, all division finalists will solve this puzzle for real on large grids on the stage at the front of the room to determine the overall winners. There will even be play-by-play and color commentary for the Inside Track finals, and it's always an exciting race to watch!

Six puzzles? Is that it?

In addition to the tournament puzzles, we always provide a free warm-up puzzle or two. Additionally, we encourage any constructors to bring along their work to share with others (however we will not allow guests to sell puzzles or other goods at the tournament). We also host an informal, communal word game near the end of the day while we prepare for the finals. So, expect to have no shortage of puzzles to solve throughout the day!

What are the puzzles like?

In terms of format, the tournament puzzles are all standard, American style crosswords like you'd find in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Wall Street Journal (in fact, many of our puzzle constructors have contributed work to those outlets). At the same time, since this is, well, the Indie 500, we like to emphasize the fact that the constraints and perspectives of these mainstream puzzle outlets don't apply here, and we are free to take a few chances with outside-the-box themes and fresh and diverse language. If you're still curious you can solve a sample puzzle by Andy Kravis from our 2015 tournament (and chock full of early 2010s pop culture references!), available in PUZ or PDF format.

Will the puzzles be too hard/easy for me?

The puzzles cover a range of difficulty levels. As long as you can solve an early-week New York Times puzzle, then you should have no trouble completing at least one of the puzzles and making inroads on one or two others. On the other hand, we also have at least one fairly difficult puzzle for the very experienced solvers to sink their teeth into.

What can I win?

There are awards for the top three competitors in each skill division and for the top scoring competitor who has never competed in a crossword tournament before. In addition to these performance-based awards, we recognize things like handwriting (good and...not so good), amusing wrong answers, and something we call "Indie Spirit."

Winners will receive either a medal or trophy of some sort and possibly additional small prizes.

What else have you got for me?

Pencils will be provided, as will Indie 500-themed pens (though solving in pencil is strongly encouraged for the tournament puzzles). Of course, you are also welcome to bring and use whatever writing implements you prefer.

There are washrooms and water fountains right next to the tournament room. Coffee will be served throughout the day and pie will be served at some point (likely in the morning but possibly early afternoon). There is no charge for coffee or pie. There is no other food service onsite, but there are a number of restaurants and cafes within a few blocks of the venue and you are welcome to bring food and drink into the tournament room.

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 first by non-finalists for fun, and then by finalists on stage; all are welcome but attendance is not required)
5:45 PM − 6 PM Awards presented to finalists and champions
Closing remarks
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