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The Boston Globe

Ideas

The Word

Rise of the crossword robots

Computers vs. humans hits the next frontier

This Saturday, as about 700 of the nation’s top crossword solvers gather in the Grand Ballroom of the Brooklyn Marriott for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, there will be an interloper lurking in the back of the room.

The interloper is known as Dr. Fill. Unlike the other assembled crossword experts, Dr. Fill is not human. The Doctor is a crossword-solving program, and will be running on the notebook computer of Matt Ginsberg, a software engineer from Eugene, Ore. When the bell rings and humans start solving the first of seven championship puzzles, Ginsberg will hit “enter” and Dr. Fill will get to work, in an attempt to achieve the highest score in the tournament. (Dr. Fill isn’t officially entered, but anyone whose final score is better will get an “I Beat Dr. Fill” button from tournament organizer Will Shortz.)

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