The Indie 500 crossword tournament is back for a fourth year and we couldn't be more excited! The tournament will be held on Saturday, June 2nd, 2018, in Washington, D.C. We are also pleased to announce that we will be in a new venue this year: The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church at 1313 New York Ave NW. We once again have an all-star roster of crossword constructors lined up to create original and clever puzzles for the event. Hope to see you there!

Registration for the tournament is not yet open, but you can always purchase the tournament puzzles from previous years for only $5. Also, the 2017 meta suite is still available but once the 2018 meta suite drops it will be gone forever. Don't delay! Head on over to the PUZZLE PAGE to get your fill before registration opens.

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

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 until this year the tournament was 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