Crossword fans — read this

 Vindy Crossword Challenge

Vindy Crossword Challenge

The Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County will host its second Crossword Puzzle Challenge this Saturday.

Through the library and The Vindicator, you can win a free seat in the competition, along with a $20 gift card from Panera Bread.

Here’s how: From Monday through Thursday this week on The Vindy’s Facebook page, we will print a 6-word crossword challenge plucked right from that day’s Vindy crossword puzzle.

Read the clues we give you, figure out the answers, and email them into us by 8 p.m. each night. We will pick one random winner from the correct entries. One entry per email address.

All entries should be emailed to We will announce the winners by 10 a.m. the next day on The Vindy Facebook page.

If you need a little extra help, go to each day’s Vindy to sort through the rest of the puzzle to help figure out the six answers. The puzzle can always be found in the classified advertising section.

One winner a day will get free admission to the April 21 Crossword Puzzle Challenge, as well as a $20 gift card to Panera Bread.

Take the Challenge!

Betty Bannon admits she cheats.

She’s obsessed with crossword puzzles, including The Vindicator’s daily offering.

She’s become such a master that she has most puzzles solved in 10 minutes.

Some will give her a hard time. If she’s not done in 30 minutes, she’ll turn to Google to help her out, she said.

But solving each day’s puzzle is a must because life seemingly does not start without that daily event.

“It helps me get organ-ized for the day,” said the Boardman resident. “I have a morning routine. First, I get my coffee going, then my dog goes outside, and I get my Vindy off the porch. I go right to the puzzle without even reading the front page.

“Then I get to the front page.”

Betty put her obsession to the test last year in the first-ever Crossword Puzzle Challenge hosted by the Public Library of Youngstown and Mahoning County.

She will be there again this Saturday when Year 2 kicks off at 10:30 a.m. at the Poland branch.

Four of you can be there too — for free.

It’s courtesy of The Vindy and the library folks.

To celebrate the second year of the event and with hopes to build it into an annual event that rivals, say, the Big Tap-In Real Craft Beer fest that will fill the Covelli Centre the same day, we’re having a daily crossword contest on The Vindy’s Facebook page.

Each day starting Monday and ending Thursday, we will offer six questions pulled from that day’s puzzle in The Vindy. They will be posted on our Facebook page each morning by 9 a.m.

Participants will have until 8 p.m. each night to answer the six questions. Answers will be emailed to The Vindy per the instructions on the page. (Logic hint: DO NOT POST YOUR ANSWERS on the Facebook page — puhlllleeease.)

From all the correct entries emailed by 8 p.m., we will pull one at random to win free admission to the Saturday contest ($10 value) and a $20 gift card courtesy of our friends at Panera Bread.

The day after each contest, by about 10 a.m., we will post the winner and the correct answers.

So that will happen starting Monday and ending Thursday.

Betty’s not the only person to be obsessed with crossword puzzles. At one paper I worked, we actually had a contest to pick between two styles of crossword puzzles. One was the New York Times puzzle — the gold-standard of crosswords authored by verbal rock star Will Shortz. The other was a less-difficult offering.

One pocket of our readers loved the difficulty of the Times puzzle, while others despised it.

After some sampling and feedback, we opted for the less difficult puzzle under the (flawed) thinking that we would engage more of our readers.

And I still remember the follow-up subscriber letter ... Oh boy do I ...

It went something like:

“Dear Mr. Franko — thank you for making my life less challenging. With your example, I know now that others will follow. We will now have school tests that will allow everyone to graduate; all jobs will pay more than $100,000 per year; and sports standards will allow for all teams to have equal number of wins and all kids have equal playing time ...”

He went on for several more examples and closed with something to the effect of:

“You’ve demonstrated that life is not about rising above obstacles, achieving, winning and competing. And that will certainly make us a better society. Thank you.”

Yep ... True letter ... Stung right through to the marrow.

But absolutely spot-on. And with an apology and that letter fronting our explanation, the New York Times puzzle was reinstated.

So newspapers and crosswords have a strong bond. As do players to their puzzles.

Betty was actually snobbish, she might say, about her skills — until she entered last year’s inaugural contest.

“I wasn’t near as good as I thought I was. I could not believe how proficient some of the people were. I’d just be getting started, and some are turning theirs in,” she said.

We compete in America, inferred my legendary letter writer. So does Betty — including completing the Sunday Times piece — the toughest of the week.

“After last year’s contest, I got a book to study like crazy so I can do better this year. I complete the Sunday one now. I finish them, cut them out and put them in my Will Shortz book.”

You can learn more about the Saturday competition by contacting the library. There is a kids division that starts at 10 a.m., before the adults kick in at 10:30 — all at the Poland library. Entry fee is $10.

And if you want a free seat at the competition, turn to The Vindicator’s Facebook challenge Monday through Thursday this week and compete.

Four folks will win admission plus $20 in Panera goodies to boot.

Todd Franko is editor of The Vindicator. He likes e-mails about stories and our newspaper. E-mail him at He blogs, too, on

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