Saturday, June 3rd, 2017
Continental Ballroom
Marvin Center, George Washington University
800 21st St NW, Washington, DC 20052

The Indie 500 crossword tournament is happening for a third consecutive year and we couldn't be more excited! The tournament will once again be held on a late-spring Saturday afternoon on the GWU campus in Washington, D.C., and as always we have an all-star roster of crossword constructors lined up to create original and clever puzzles for the event. The theme of this year's tournament is TIME, which really just means that while we'll try to make the tournament and meta puzzles vaguely time-themed, we just have an excuse to make awful time-related puns. We hope that doesn't tick you off (that's literally the best one we could think of).

Registration for the tournament is NOW OPEN. If you can't make it to the tournament, 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 contestants.

Also, we are once again preparing a suite of interconnected meta puzzles to raise hype and funds for the tournament, and are taking pre-orders for those puzzles currently. And lastly, we are practically giving away packets of past tournament puzzles for the low price of $5 each. Be sure to head over to the REGISTER page to order any of these items.

Oh, and of course...

there will be pie
Andy Kravis
is a crossword constructor and trivia writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Since 2013, he has published free crosswords on his blog, Cruciverbalist at Law. He has had the occasional puzzle published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, 20 Under 30, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Fireball Crosswords. He also edits variety crosswords for Outside the Box Puzzles with Joon Pahk.
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. 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.
Erik Agard
is just trying to make it to 2018 so he can see BLACK PANTHER and A WRINKLE IN TIME in theaters like 7 times each. in the meantime, he'll most likely be mostly writing crosswords (some of which you'll find here).
Sample Puzzle
Neville Fogarty
is a math professor at Christopher Newport University in Newport News, VA.
Sample Puzzles
Tracy Bennett
is a managing copy editor at Mathematical Reviews/MathSciNet in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A lifelong lover of puzzles and word games, Tracy began constructing crossword puzzles with a mentor’s guidance in 2012. Her first puzzle appeared in Knitty Magazine, followed by acceptances from the Chronicle of Higher Education, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times, and she was honored to construct puzzle #1 for the 2015 ACPT. Tracy creates feminist, LGBTQ-flavored, politically liberal and occasionally R-to-X-rated puzzles for BUST Magazine, and most recently became a regular contributor to the Daily Celebrity Crossword. Tracy adores her housemates, husband George, son Daniel, and cat Pepper.
Sample Puzzles
Come Play (PUZ) - (PDF)
Like a Boss (PUZ) - (PDF)
Paolo Pasco
is a high school junior in San Diego, California. He has had crosswords published in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fireball Crosswords, BuzzFeed, and the American Values Club. When he's not making/solving puzzles, he's probably playing piano, listening to musical cast recordings, volunteering for his church, or trying to manage all his classes. He also played Chino in his school's production of West Side Story, which he's really proud of for some reason.
Sample Puzzles
Allegra Kuney
is a tutor, compulsive tweeter and dumpling enthusiast living in Astoria, New York. She has a B.A. in Religious Studies from Baruch College, and impressed all her friends in high school by knowing how to do the New York Times crossword puzzle. In her spare time, Allegra enjoys singing the occasional ARIA, especially songs by ELLA, ETTA or ENYA. She also enjoys mai tais.
10:00 AM − 11:00 AM Registration / Schmoozing
11:00 AM − 11:30 AM Introduction
11:30 AM − 4:00 PM 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 sixth and final puzzle will only be solved by the three finalists from each skill division, on whiteboards 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 20 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. Contestants are distinguished by skill 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 division with the lowest cumulative score will compete on a sixth and final puzzle on whiteboards. Both the Inside Track and Outside Track finals will be conducted using a puzzle with the same answer grid, but each division will use different sets of clues. The Inside Track clues are intended to be more challenging than the Outside Track clues.

Contestants will have 20 minutes to solve the final puzzle. In each final, all three 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 divisions based on order of finish on the final puzzle. 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

There are ramps and wheelchair lifts located at the main entrances of the Marvin Center and 3 elevators in the lobby. The tournament is on the third floor. Although there are stairs at the main doors to the room, there is a ramp into the room via doors next to the main entrance. Tournament organizers and volunteers will be happy to assist you with entering and exiting the room.

Getting There

The Metro is recommended for getting to the tournament. The nearest station, roughly a 4-minute walk from the tournament venue, is Foggy Bottom-GWU on the Orange, Silver, and Blue lines. 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 right in front of the door are possible). The Marvin Center parking garage is unfortunately not open on weekends, but paid parking is available 24/7 in the University Parking Garage, located at the Science and Engineering Hall one block from the venue. Access is via H Street between 22nd and 23rd Streets. Payment is self-serve and all major credits (but not cash) are accepted. Rates are as follows:

1 hour: $10
Up to 2 hours $16
Daily Maximum: $23
Weekend Daily Maximum: $12
Evening Maximum Rate (after 5 p.m. until 2 a.m.): $11
**Rates subject to change**

Please visit for complete information on GWU parking.


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. 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 nearby.

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