Wracking brains to crack the puzzles

Wracking brains to crack the puzzles

Must have watched Indian Premier League (IPL), Indian Badminton League (IBL), or for that matter, Hockey India League (HIL). Now read about the first-ever Indian Crossword League (IXL, 2013), which was inaugurated in Patna in October. The event concluded in Bangalore on December 21 where Deepak Gopinath from the host city pipped other finalists to emerge as the unseeded winner.

X denotes Cross in the crossword playing society, and hence it was named IXL instead of ICL. The league was an individual crossword solving competition to be played in a round-robin league format.

Hundred years after the first crossword was created and published by Arthur Wynne in New York World in 1913, the first season of IXL 2013 was launched here for crossword enthusiasts of India. A unique initiative to celebrate the centenary of crossword, it was organised by Extra C, a civil society organisation founded to promote extra-curricular activities.

“The participants needed to register themselves on www.crypticsingh.com in order to be a part of IXL 2013. This league was open to all the residents of India,” senior IAS officer Vivek Kumar Singh, the brain behind this unique initiative, told Deccan Herald.

Crossword centenary

The first known published crossword puzzle appeared on December 21, 1913 in a Sunday issue of the New York World. By the 1920s, other newspapers gradually picked up the newly discovered pastime and in a short period of ten years, crosswords became a popular feature of all the leading journals in America.

In Britain, however, crosswords became popular a decade after its birth in the US. The British crossword puzzles quickly developed their own style and were found to be considerably more difficult than their American counterpart. The cryptic crossword was in fact developed in Britain and became popular among the coming generations of crossword fans.

The game of crosswords became a favourite among people who could see words puzzled together in a given geometrical pattern and were capable of twisting and turning words into word plays. Even the people, who were mildly intrigued by this game, started enjoying it over the years, making crossword a popular adult as well as teenage pastime.

Hundred years down the line, the Indian Crossword League 2013 was launched in Patna on October 5, 2013 in the presence of top bureaucrats. Minutes had passed since the launch and the website www.crypticsingh.com saw 250 registrations and by the end of the day 97,000 hits. This left the organizers awestruck, for their expectations were surpassed within hours.The weekly Round 1 of the IXL 2013 was the maiden puzzle of the eight round online league.

The weekly online round was a unique concept. A cryptic crossword puzzle was to be published every Saturday at 10:30 am and the participant with the fastest accurate solutions was to be awarded 100 points which descended by one point for each subsequent correct solution. The results of each round were to be published next Saturday.

Weekly round

The first weekly round was won by Kishore M from Bangalore followed by Mohsin Ahmed for the 2nd and 3rd round, Vinod Raman for the 4th round, Kishore M for the 5th, S Upadhyay for the 6th round, Mohsin Ahmed for the 7th and 8th round. The online weekly rounds gradually became a fad among the existing crossword enthusiasts and various blogs over the internet. The winners of the online rounds won themselves exciting prizes ranging from Google Nexus 7 to luxury watches.

After the end of the 4th online weekly round i.e half way through the online rounds, a letter to invite the suggestions regarding the format and the location of the Grand Finale was sent to participants. Bangalore, after emerging invincible at the online rounds, had six of its residents among the Top 10 finalists of the IXL 2013. This gave the organisers no choice other than opt for Bangalore to be the perfect location for the National Grand Finale.

Sanjeev Singh, the Director (Technology) of the IXL 2013, developed a software for the Finale.

It was 9:30 am on December 21, 2013 at the TERI Auditorium in Bangalore. All the top 10 finalists had arrived in time. The finals began with all the 10 contestants participating in it.

 Vinod Raman, who has been solving crosswords since high school and has also been the crossword setter for Mint and The Hindu, won the round convincingly. The ‘Mentathlete of the Year’ round included four sections namely clue writing, logical aptitude, quiz and cryptic crossword puzzle.

Six of the top performers of this round went on to match their skills at the final Crossword round. They were Mohsin Ahmed (Bangalore), Dr. S. Venkatesh (New Delhi), Kishore M. Rao (Bangalore), Vinod Raman (Bangalore), Retd. (Col.) Deepak Gopinath (Bangalore) and S Upadhyay (Bangalore) in that order.

In the knock-out crossword round, played on the stage amidst audience, Deepak Gopinath and Mohsin Ahmed were engaged in a neck-and-neck battle till the end. Finally, Deepak Gopinath pipped Mohsin Ahmed to the top position with a score of 50 against Mohsin Ahmed’s 45.

“A bigger and a better Indian Crossword League is up in the charts for the year 2014. There is a plan to organise an international level competition in 2014 and its preparations will commence soon,” averred Vivek Singh, joyous over the success of IXL 2013.

“The IXL will also work to promote crossword among school and college students and will soon be launching a new competition — ‘One clue a day’. 
Participants will have to log on to www.crypticsingh.com for taking part in the event,” said Singh, before signing off.

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