Tournament Rules and Procedures

Rules and Procedure


The tournament consists of seven crossword puzzles on which all contestants compete, and a championship playoff among the top three. The puzzles will be presented digitally at specified times and must be solved when they are released.


The tournament has five skill divisions—A, B, C, D, and E. Contestants simultaneously compete in all divisions for which they are eligible. Division A is open to everyone. Division B is open to contestants who have not won a Division A or B prize during their last seven ACPT's. Division C is open to contestants who have not finished in the top 20% in their last three ACPT's. Division D—top 40%. Division E—top 65%. First-time contestants are not eligible for Division D or E prizes.


Note: The results of this year’s virtual tournament will not affect contestants’ skill divisions in future in-person tournaments. First-time contestants will, however, lose their Rookie status.


Pairs Solving


A team entered in the Pairs competition will submit only one solution per round. Pairs can work together either physically or remotely and can communicate by any means they choose.




In addition to the five skill categories listed above, prizes will be awarded in 17 special categories: Juniors (25 years and under), Fifties (50-59), Sixties (60-69), Seventies (70-79), and Seniors (80+), Rookies (contestants competing in their first ACPT), and the top solvers in each of 11 geographical zones (as indicated on the preregistration list). A prize will also be awarded to the top Pairs team.


The sizes and time limits of the puzzles are as follows:


            Puzzles 1 and 4        15 x 15 squares       15 and 20 minutes, respectively

            Puzzles 2 and 5        17 x 17 squares       25 and 30 minutes, respectively

            Puzzles 3 and 6        19 x 19 squares       30 minutes each

            Puzzle 7                     21 x 21 squares       60 minutes

            Puzzle 8                     15 x 15 squares       15 minutes


All contestants will compete on the same puzzles and begin rounds at the same time. When you have finished a puzzle, click “Submit,” after which no further work is possible.


Solving references, online help, or outside assistance of any kind is not permitted.


At the tournament director’s discretion, a contestant will be disqualified from the competition for any violation of the tournament rules.




A running tally will be kept of each contestant’s scores. Points will be awarded for each puzzle as follows:


  • Ten (10) points for every correct word entered across and down;

  • Twenty-five (25) bonus points for each full minute the contestant finishes early—this bonus, however, to be reduced by 25 points for each letter that is omitted or entered incorrectly, up to, but not beyond, the point the bonus returns to zero; and

  • One hundred fifty (150) bonus points for a complete and correct solution.


A solution that is not submitted within the time limit (that is, before the timer reaches 0:00) will receive a score of zero.


All prizes (except first, second, and third place in Division A) will be awarded on the basis of the scores on Puzzles 1-7.


In the event of a tie, the fastest overall solving time for the seven puzzles, calculated in seconds, will take precedence.


Eligibility for Division A Playoff


Contestants who want to be eligible for the Division A playoff must be filmed as they solve Puzzle 7, with sound, showing both themselves and their screens. The videos are to be uploaded afterward to a shared ACPT Google drive folder. (Contestants who are not competing for the Division A playoff do not need to be filmed.)


Championship Playoff


For the top three prizes in Division A, the three contestants with the highest scores on Puzzles 1-7 — and whose videos for Puzzle 7 have been approved by the officials — will compete on an eighth and final puzzle. It will be solved digitally, like the others, with the contestants’ screens recorded.


Contestants’ starting times will be staggered according to their scores on Puzzles 1-7. The contestant in first place will have a head start of one second for every 10 points that he or she is ahead of the contestant in second place. The contestant in second place will have a similar lead over the contestant who is third. The time limit for the puzzle is 15 minutes from the time that the third-place contestant begins work.


When finished, the solver should click “Submit,” after which no further work by that contestant is possible.


Placement will be determined strictly by accuracy of solutions, starting with the contestant who has the fewest letters omitted or entered incorrectly. Order of finishing will break ties, if any.


The decisions of the tournament director in all matters are final.