Saturday 21 December 2013

At the Indian Crossword League 2013 Finals

The Grand Finale of the Indian Crossword League (IXL) 2013 was held in Bangalore today, in which the top ten scorers of the online rounds participated. It was great fun to be part of the action! Here's an account of what happened.

Prelim Round

The elimination round had 4 sections – a clue-writing exercise, a GK quiz, a logical aptitude test and a 15x15 cryptic to solve. The first three of these were judged for a separate "Mentathlete" award, the last was scored for the crossword championship.

Clue-writing: 5 words (INDIAN, CROSSWORD, LEAGUE, EXTRA, SEE) had to be clued within 10 minutes.

GK Quiz: 20 questions from a range of topics e.g. What is a sigil? Where is Baikonur Cosmodrome located? Who wrote 'The Lowland'?

Logical Aptitude: Questions of the GMAT/CAT variety. e.g. find the next number or pattern in a series.

15x15 cryptic: To be completed within 30 minutes.

[How did I fare? Rather horrendously - though I did scrape through into the last round with the top 6 :-) Logical Aptitude was the only section I managed well. In clue-writing, I started with what I thought was a promising wordplay idea for INDIAN ("Shut out Hindustani, perhaps?"). I was trying to convert it into a proper &lit when I found that the clock gave me only 5 more minutes. So I closed with a couple of cringe-worthy clues. The GK round was way out of my comfort zone, and the cryptic gave a lot of trouble in the top-left and bottom-right. None of the finalists could complete the crossword! The best score was Mohsin's who had about 5 left after the 30-minute mark.] 

Pictures of us at the venue, before and after the prelims:

IXL finalists with THC setter Gridman
(L to R) Venkatesh, Prabhanjan, Mohsin, Bharati, Vinod, Chaturvasi (Gridman), Colonel Gopinath, Padmanabhan, Kishore.

Sharing a laugh

Inside the auditorium: Getting ready for the prelims

Done with the prelims, time for high tea 
(L to R) Top row: Bharati, me, Colonel Gopinath;
Middle row: Kishore, Prabhanjan, Vinod, Mohsin;
Bottom row: Rahmat, Venkatesh, Padmanabhan, Chaturvasi.

Final On-Stage Round

6 of the 10 finalists got to participate in the final round, which was about solving a crossword interactively in quiz-style on stage. The crossword was displayed on a screen in front of us.

Stage set for the last round

The contest started with the Across clues and proceeded to the Down clues in sequence. A clue from the crossword was put to each contestant – if the contestant could not answer it, the clue passed to the next contestant. A direct correct answer meant 10 points, a passed correct answer meant 5.

Clue 1 ACROSS in focus over the backs of our puzzled heads. All six of us passed – the audience got it!
(L to R) Colonel Gopinath, me, Mohsin, and anchor Ochintya Sharma

With this format, luck naturally played a role in determining the scores. Who got the easy clues (especially those with obvious crossings in the later rounds), who was seated next to whom, mattered. But as they say, fortune favours the deserving. The finals champion Colonel Deepak Gopinath was a winner all the way – he made no slip-ups, smoothly answered the Athabasca clue that Mohsin and I passed, had his direct answer ASTRONAUT pat even before the clue was read out! 

The champion's name is announced

At the end, the crossword championship ranks were:

1. Deepak Gopinath
2. Mohsin Ahmed
3. Kishore Rao
4. Vinod Raman (also won the Mentathlete title)
5. Shuchismita Upadhyay
6. Dr S Venkatesh

The press clicks the winners: Mohsin (Championship runner-up), Vinod Raman (Mentathlete), Colonel Gopinath (Championship winner) with Kushagra Singh, Director (Legal & PR) IXL.

My wins: The certificate - and a Google Nexus 7!

Check out the video messages from the IXL 2013 winner, judge and organisers.

December 21, 2013 is a special day for crossword lovers – it marks the 100th anniversary of the crossword puzzle. The IXL Finale was a wonderful way to celebrate the Crossword Centenary – many thanks to the IXL organizers.

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Anonymous said...

Whew, Shuchi, that was a quick bit of blogging. It was fun to meet all the contestants and lose to worthy competitors.

BTW, I notice that the clue for ASTRONAUT was the same as used in Round 2 of the Online rounds

Shuchi said...

What a memory you have Kishore!

I had a great time today! Though I'm kicking myself for missing the PARTICLE clue :-)

Shrikanth said...

What an illustrious crowd! Should I even add brilliant... All of us will now go out and crow that we know three out of six almost personally. You guys rock

VMA Nair said...

Super fast blogging Shuchi

Shuchi said...

@Shrikanth: It was a lovely gathering. Wish you had been there too.

@Ajeesh VM: I could hardly wait!

Anonymous said...

"Though I'm kicking myself for missing the PARTICLE clue :-) "

People playing footers include self for "Knelt" and surely Vinod and Venkatesh for "Nano"

Anonymous said...

1 A was so near (~Sonia)', yet so far !

raju umamaheswar said...

Great coverage,in pics and video, Schuchi ! I reckon, I missed a great event that has given shape to my dream of making Cryptic crosswords a national habit and an academic subject in schools and colleges. Thanks to the organizers. My loss in missing to meet all of you bloggers from the Crossword Unclued and THCC and few others. Congrats to Mohsin for adopting crosswords at this young age of 21 ! Wish there are more like him out there !
Looking forward to many more and maybe one in Coimbatore too?