Crossword King Promises 'Full-Body Mental Workout' in $5,000 Puzzle Contest to Benefit the Alzheimer's Foundation of America

Sep 22, 2011, 12:15 ET from Alzheimer's Foundation of America

NEW YORK, Sept. 22, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As the clock counts down to the start of the National Brain Game Challenge on September 25, legendary crossword constructor Merl Reagle today revealed that players should rev up for a "full-body mental workout" as they race to solve puzzles with unusual shapes and deeply-hidden clues in the inaugural online contest to benefit the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA).

Reagle, whose popular Sunday crossword is syndicated in 50 newspapers across the country, said that the real challenge in Sunday's contest will be how to "bust through the bedrock that's hiding the clues. They're three levels deep, and you have to keep drilling down until you get them all. Fortunately, once the first level is breached, the next levels are not so tough."

AFA is sponsoring the crossword competition—with a top prize of $5,000—to creatively call attention to the rising incidence of Alzheimer's disease and to promote successful aging, while raising funds to support its vital programs and services nationwide. The National Brain Game Challenge aligns with research that suggests that crossword puzzles and other mental activities are good for brain health.

For Reagle, the contest fulfills a dream to both do an online puzzle contest and acknowledge the heroic role of caregivers. He and his wife, Marie Haley, of Tampa, FL were caregivers for "1,000 days" for Marie's mother, who had Alzheimer's disease.

According to the puzzle master, participants will get "quite a run" for their $25 registration fee. Carefully crafted during the last several months, he noted that the series of four crosswords have unusual shapes and internal designs that relate directly to the theme of the contest.

"In the early days of crosswords the puzzles often had unusual shapes," Reagle said. "Since this contest has an historical basis—which I can't divulge yet—I thought I'd do unusual shapes as a throwback to earlier crosswords."

The puzzles ultimately lead to four key answers that have a secret link in common. Players will send their responses to a secret e-mail address revealed in one of the puzzles.    

Registration is open now to anyone from crossword buffs to those who simply want to do crosswords for the cause. Registered players will be able to download the instructions and puzzles on September 25 at exactly 3 p.m. ET. The contest ends September 27, and AFA will announce the winners the following day.

Top winners will be determined by skill and speed, with $5,000 as the grand prize and more than a dozen other awards up for grabs. For specific rules and to register, visit

Eric J. Hall, AFA's president and CEO, said AFA couldn't have asked for a better master behind the magic of the contest.

"Merl has approached this contest with not only his genius, but also his passion for our cause," Hall said. "Whether contestants win or lose, their participation, like Merl's, serves the greater good. A growing number of Americans with Alzheimer's disease need to know that people care."

Currently, Alzheimer's disease, which results in loss of memory and other intellectual functions, affects as many as 5.1 million Americans. It's the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, and its incidence is rising in line with the nation's aging population. Advanced age is the biggest risk factor.

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America, based in New York, is a national nonprofit organization that unites more than 1,600 member organizations nationwide with the goal of providing optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families. Its services include counseling and referrals by licensed social workers via a toll-free hot line, e-mail, Skype, and live chat; educational materials; a free quarterly magazine for caregivers; and professional training. For more information about AFA, call toll-free 866-AFA-8484 or visit

SOURCE Alzheimer's Foundation of America