Last week we brought you coverage of the 35th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, held in Brooklyn. But there was another wordy competition held in conjuction with the ACPT: the first-ever World Palindrome Championship. Here's a full report of the back-and-forth action from The Palindromist Magazine.
A standup comedian from Portland, Oregon defeated two professors, two computer programmers, a cartoonist and a book clerk to win the first World Palindrome Championship, hosted by Will Shortz, the New York Times' crossword puzzle editor.
Six hundred word nerds filled the ballroom at the Marriott Hotel at the Brooklyn Bridge and watched seven prominent palindromists deliver new reversible verses written on the spot. Audience members voted by deploying signs that said "WOW" on one side (for their favorite) and "HUH?" on the other. Portland comic Mark Saltveit squeaked past Minnesotan John Connett, a professor of Biostatistics, by an audience vote of 169-165.
Saltveit's winning entry was an elliptical tale of kinky shenanigans:
"Devil Kay fixes trapeze part; sex if yak lived."
Connett nearly won with a political tale about Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich:
" 'Not Newt!' Ron's snort went on."
Cartoonist Jon ("Go Hang a Salami, I'm a Lasagna Hog") Agee placed third with another randy entry:
"'Zoning' is Mr. Al Axe's sex alarm sign in Oz."
MIT Professor Nick Montfort placed fourth with a long palindromic poem about Star Wars, titled "The Millennium Falcon Rescue."
Saltveit said "I actually thought my second entry was better, but the crowd loved the yak." He was referring to his second palindrome: "I tan. I mull. In a way, Obama, I am a boy – a wan illuminati."
Also competing were Boston's Barry Duncan, the "Master Palindromist" featured on NPR and in the September, 2011 issue of The Believer Magazine; Australian software analyst Martin Clear; and Connecticut programmer Doug ("Lisa Bonet ate no basil") Fink. The event was recorded by filmmaker Michael Rossi, who is working on a feature-length documentary titled "Master Palindromist," and took place on March 16, 2012.
Other palindromes in competition included Martin Clear's "Sexes, red, let a fez amaze fat elders' exes," Doug Fink's "Deny barb to hero Will: I wore hot bra by Ned," and Connett's "Yen more to vote Romney?" Jon Agee also discussed Romney by critiquing his artistic skills -- "Mitt's art? No contrast, Tim" -- and Montfort and Duncan produced long poem-like palindromes of 57 and 70 words, respectively. Montfort's work, "The Millenium Falcon Rescue," begins " Wow, sagas ... Solo's deed, civic deed. Eye dewed, a doom-mood. A pop." Duncan's untitled piece starts "7, no? Do! Past I? How? Oh, now I spat! Fired, no? Will: a foe? Not! Ah, then a fair event now (i.e., solid)."
The 7 finalists had 75 minutes to construct palindromes fitting any one of 3 constraints (use an X and a Z in your palindrome; write about someone prominent in the news in the last 12 months; or write about the competition itself). Shortz, who has run the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament since 1978, created the pioneering event as part of that tournament's opening night festivities.
The competitors have published many palindromic works. Jon Agee is the author of four books of palindrome cartoons, including "Go Hang a Salami, I'm a Lasagna Hog" and is preparing a fifth, "PalindromicStrips." Saltveit, the editor of The Palindromist Magazine, has published a sotadic book of days ("A Man, A Plan… 2002") as well as articles in Harvard Magazine, The Oregonian, Collective Fallout and Word Ways. Professor Montfort wrote "2002: A Palindrome Story" with William Gillespie. Martin Clear has written several articles for The Palindromist and published hundreds of palindromes on MockOK.com. Connett has several articles and hundreds of palindromes in Word Ways, The Palindromist and MockOK.com, and Duncan was the subject of a feature in The Believer as well as an upcoming documentary, and has published an article in Word Ways.
Full results of the World Palindrome Championship, including the full long palindromes and vote totals, are available on the website of The Palindromist magazine, at http://www.palindromist.org/results.