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The King/Kimes NY Times’ Crossword Challenge You Never Knew You Needed

In advance of Dec. 21's National Crossword Puzzle Day, two of ESPN's more "puzzling" wordsmiths square off in completing a Friday NYT crossword

“This is kind of like golfing with Tiger Woods, I would think,” said avid golfer and ESPN Senior Vice President, Original Content Rob King, reflecting on his just-completed 12 minute and 19 seconds official time to tackle last Friday’s New York Times crossword puzzle.

King’s Tiger on this day was a six-letter word for “Puzzling fella” – SHORTZ – as in Will Shortz, the fourth-ever editor of the prestigious crossword known for stumping Presidents, comedians and athletes alike.

The man who went from being a seven-letter word for “Indiana University undergraduate” – HOOSIER to a three-letter word for “Virginia post grad” – HOO – was in Bristol, Conn., to “ref” a good-natured reckoning in the rivalry between King and ESPN Daily podcast host Mina Kimes.

The contest centered on who is the quicker completer for the week’s more complicated puzzles (Fridays and Saturdays). The battle coincides with tomorrow’s celebration of “National Crossword Puzzle Day.”

Prior to the showdown, King was nervous about one thing: “I think Mina gets help from her dog, Lenny. And we know from listening to Mina’s podcast that Lenny is pretty slick.”

You’ll have to watch the video above, produced by ESPN PR’s Emily Archacki, to find out who took the title (HINT: The winner is a four-letter name, with “n” as the third letter.)



    • Last Friday was not Shortz’s first visit to ESPN’s campus as his other love, beyond puzzling of all sorts, table tennis brought him to town for a sit-down interview and feature with ESPN host and reporter Jeremy Schaap in 2016. Shortz also operates a table tennis club near his home of Pleasantville, N.Y.
    • Shortz confirmed there have been 113 ESPN-themed clues in the puzzle’s history. Last weekend’s 50 x 50, “Super Mega” puzzle (in a dedicated puzzle pull-out section) included this clue for 178 Across: Annual prizes for athletes – ESPYS.
    • Shortz said one of his favorite ESPN-related clues from the past was: Locker room shower – ESPN (it’s not shower, like with water and shampoo but shower, like showing something on TV!). “I’ll never read that word the same again,” King said.
    • Prior to the King/Kimes duel, Shortz sent the same Friday puzzle to some of the Times’ top solvers. “The current national champion did it in 2:45. And one solver did it in 2:14. “I cannot even fathom a brain doing that,” Shortz said.
    • Two tips from King for crossword puzzle solving:

      1. He saves the longest clues for last.
      2. He tries to not get stuck in one place, always keeping his eyes moving.

      “My main goal is to keep my brain moving, that’s why I do the puzzles in the first place.”

– David Scott

Emily Archacki shot and produced the video. Molly Mita contributed to this post.

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