The 2nd World Palindrome Championship

Will Shortz has announced the second World Palindrome Championship to held March 24th and 25th of 2017, during the 40th American Crossword Puzzle tournament. Eight word wizards from 3 continents will compete in the live, 2-day event.

Shortz' World Palindrome Championships have inspired other competitions, including the annual SymmyS Awards (the Oscars of palindromy). And this year, the prestigious Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland, Oregon (May 4-7, 2017) will include a show called "Palindrome Fight!" featuring 4 professioinal comedians: Myq Kaplan (Conan, Letterman), Zach Sherwin ("Rap Battles of History"), Mark Saltveit ("The Tao of Chip Kelly"), and Dax Jordan (NPR, Sirius/XM Radio). They will write palindromes based on an audience suggestion for a topic or constraint.


There will be two rounds. On Friday night, competitors will have one hour to create new palindromes matching a topic or constrainst that Will Shortz will spring on them. When the winners (by audience vote) are announced, Shortz will reveal a new topic or constrain for the final round. Entrants will then have until Saturday night to complete their masterpieces. The audience vote Saturday night will be weighted as 2/3rd of the fnal score.

The Documentary

A film crew led by filmmakers Vince Clemente and Adam Cornelius will be recording the event for a feature-length documentary. They are already filming participants from WPC I in preparation. Their award-winning short documentary on reigning champion Mark Saltveit is online at


Wike Saltveit Maguire Etherin
Fink Emmons Clear Agee

Superstar musician "Weird" Al Yankovic considered entering, and comedian Myq Kaplan (Conan, Letterman) was set to compete, but other obligations prevented it. Both have been interviewed for a feature-length documentary film about the competition, currently in production. The competitors are:

- Jon Agee of San Francisco, a best-selling author and illustrator who has published 5 popular books of palindrome cartoons starting with "Go Hang a Salami, I'm a Lasagna Hog"
- Mark Saltveit, editor of the Palindromist Magazine. He is also a standup comedian and writes about football, Daoism, health, science and pop culture.
- Doug Fink, Connecticut actuary who won Will Shortz' first palindrome contest in 1991 in Games Magazine with "Lisa Bonet ate no basi."
- Martin Clear, a Sydney, Australia programmer and prolific palindromst who has won many SymmyS Awards
- Lori Wike, a Salt Lake City bassoonist know for her "palimericks" (reversible limericks). She has also won several SymmyS Awards.
- Anthony Etherin, a U.K.-based poet and musician who runs Penteract Press and posts constrained poetry on Twitter;
- Mike Maguire, a palindromic poet from Washington DC who authored the collections "Drawn Inward" and "11" and the novel "Three Days Breathing"
- Win Emmons, a retired math teacher, former actuary and amateur actor who runs the web page Palindromania.

World Palindrome Championship #1

Will Shortz' hosted the first World Palindrome Championship on March 16, 2012 as part of the 35th American Crossword Puzzle Tournament in Brooklyn, New York.

It was inspired by the brash and highly publicized claims of Boston's Barry Duncan to be "the world's first Master Palindromist," though Agee had already published several best-selling palindrome books at that point. Duncan finished last among the 7 WPC entrants and did not respond to an invitation to the current event.

Will Shortz hosted his first palindrome competition in print, back in 1991 as editor of Games Magazine; Connecticut's Doug Fink won with "Lisa Bonet ate no basil." Fink also competed in WPC1 and will repeat in WPC2.

WPC 1 featured seven competitors who had 75 minutes to create up to three palindromes each with one or more of three constraints. Pictured, L to R: Jon Agee, Nick Montfort, Mark Saltveit, Barry Duncan, Doug Fink, Martin Clear. Not pictured: John Connett.

WPC finalists


4th place: Nick Montfort, for his epic poem The Millenium Falcon Rescue

3rd place: Jon Agee ("ZONING" IS MR. AL AXE'S SEX ALARM SIGN IN OZ)  84 votes

2nd place: John Connett ("Not Newt!" Ron's snort went on.)   165 votes

1st place: Mark Saltveit (Devil Kay fixes trapeze part; sex if yak lived.)  169 votes


All palindromes had to follow one of these rules:

1) Use an x and a z in the palindrome;

2) Write a palindrome on a person or event prominent in the news during the last 12 months; or

3) Write a palindrome about this competition (which could be interpreted either as the WPC, or the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament of which it was one part).

Complete List of Palindromes

Each competitor introduced themselves and read their 3 palindromes, with a brief introduction for each. They then picked one favorite for the audience to vote on (above). The palindromes, in reverse order of length, were:

John Connett: 

"Not Newt,' Ron's snort went on.    (prominent person)

Yen more to vote Romney ?  (prominent person)

Sex Rex, Roz, or Xerxes. (x and z)


Jon Agee:

MITT'S ART? NO CONTRAST, TIM. (prominent person)


A HOST? NO WILL, I WON'T! SO – HA!  (about the competition next year)


Doug Fink:

I risk row work, Siri.  -- (prominent person or event -- the iPhone/iPad robotic assistant Siri)

On Hugo lists, I log, “Uh, no”   (prominent person or event -- the film Hugo)

Deny barb to hero Will: I wore hot bra by Ned. [Will Shortz, that is -- about competition]


Martin Clear: 

"Sex attacks," I rewrote, "misuse jazz if I fizz a Jesus I met or we risk cat taxes." (x,z)

Some metal boxes I fill (I wore zero) ... will I fix oblate memos? (x,z)

Sexes, red, let a fez amaze fat elders' exes. (x,z)


Mark Saltveit:

Devil Kay fixes trapeze part; sex if yak lived (x,z)

I tan. I mull. In a way, Obama, I am a boy -- a wan Illuminati. (prominent person)

Gal, smiles are stellar ere crossword rows sorcerer Al lets era's elim's lag. (this competition) -- A prediction of victory in the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament for Al Sanders, who tragically lost in the film Wordplay, eliminated for accidentally leaving two squares empty.


 Nick Montfort:

One long poem for the x,z constraint, about Hans Solo and other Star Wars characters (57 words):

"The Millennium Falcon Rescue"

"Wow, sagas ... Solo's deed, civic deed.
Eye dewed, a doom-mood.
A pop.
Sis sees redder rotator.
Radar sees racecar X.
Oho! Ore-zero level sees reviver!
Solo's deified!
Solo's reviver sees level: ore-zero.
Oho: X, racecar, sees radar.
Rotator, redder, sees sis.
Pop a doom-mood!
A dewed eye.
Deed, civic deed.
Solo's sagas: wow."



Barry Duncan:

One long untitled palindrome (70 words):

"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).
One tilt on Sat (oh!), Sun. It is “7 across: Orca.”
7 sit in. Us. Hot as not. Lite. Nod.
I lose? I won't! Never!
I: a fan, eh? That one, of all.*
I wonder if: Taps? I won? How?
(Oh, it's “a pod” on 7.)"

*He pointed to Will Shortz when he read this line.

Copyright © 2012 by Barry Duncan