I might not blog like I used to, but I'll never miss out on the chance to point out when it's my turn in the American Values Club rotation. It's a relatively light offering; hope you like it. And if you're not a subscriber... come on; we've been over this. Or you can buy just this one puzzle for an even buck.
I'll also take this opportunity to point out a few Kickstarter campaigns that are winding down. You have about a day left to back Matt Jones's crossword project. You can get the main set for just twenty cents a puzzle, but I recommend throwing in a little more to get the bonus pack as well. And when you're done with that, join more than 14,000 people excited for a new immersive game from Cyan. If you don't remember who they are, perhaps this next sentence will help: I'm honestly Myst-ified that this project didn't reach the goal in no time flat. I really want to see this one get to the finish line!
Lastly, congratulations to Eric LeVasseur on taking top honors at this year's Crosswords LA event. Hope everyone had fun at our new setting in Santa Monica. Did you miss the tournament? No worries; you can buy this year's puzzles to support charity.
This may well have been the subject of much speculation, since my last post immediately preceded my participation in the perilous Famine Game. Rest assured that Team Apetitius Giganticus acquitted itself very well and emerged successful from the Capitol.
No, the reason for my month-long lapse in posting is more or less what I alluded to in a previous entry; to wit, the appeal of posting dryly about all the puzzle events I'm doing is losing its appeal for me. I'm hoping I'll be inspired to post more long-form stuff when subjects arise. We'll see how that goes. For now, here's the rundown of what's happened in the last four weeks or so:
- I mentioned The Famine Game... it really was tremendous fun and probably the best puzzle event I've played in. The puzzles were uniformly clever and satisfying, and I can't recall a single erratum. A few were truly unique works of genius that I'll always remember. Great thanks to Todd Etter and everyone else who helped design and run the event. What a weekend!
- A different team of mine did not enjoy similar success at the latest Real Escape Game, Escape from the Bank. I won't go into the details here, but, as I said on Twitter, I'm completely baffled as to how we let ourselves get stuck where we did; it really was a rather easy puzzle. I still shake my head when I think about it. You can talk to me privately if you want me the details; please bring me a beer when you do. The good news is that SCRAP have another game all queued up, as well as a sequel to their popular game that one team at a time does in a single room. Also, Southern Californians, the first American game, Escape from the Werewolf Village, will be staged in LA in early November!
- My team, Friday the 13th Part VI, won the Expert division of the latest Mastermind Hunt in San Francisco! This was a whirlwind few hours of solving small puzzles and dashing around the city to get our answers. The trophy will reside with us for another year!
- Looking ahead to this weekend, it's Crosswords LA! I'll be on hand as the puzzle wrangler, tournament official, and finals commentator. (Whew!) Join us in Santa Monica; it should be a great day!
- In somber news, Puzzle Pile is going on a few months' hiatus for personal reasons. I know I'm not alone in wishing Bran well. We'll be eager to resume reading when he's ready to make his return.
Greetings sports fans! After months of anticipation, it's time for The Famine Game! I have no idea what to expect from tonight's feast or the thirty straight hours of puzzling that will begin tomorrow morning, but I am looking forward to battling fiercely alongside the rest of Team Apetitius Giganticus. Prepare to be vanquished in a manner appropriate to the context of this game, other teams!
This will be the second time I enter an instance of The Game, the third if you count my playtesting of Doctor When. The other was WarTron in Portland last year; you can read my recap of that event here and here. I'm hoping to carry forward some lessons from that game, some related to solving and some related to personal enjoyment:
- Always investigate, or at least vocalize, a solving idea that sounds even remotely reasonable, particularly if it won't take long to decide if it's fruitful or worthless.
- Don't leave the clue site unless you're absolutely sure you don't need to be there anymore.
- Be prepared to revisit assumptions about how a puzzle works. (This was a big problem for me on this month's Shinteki puzzle and I'm still mad at myself about it.)
- Rein in the adrenaline and take mental, meditative breaks between clue sites; don't burn so much energy early on!
- Give myself a break when I don't get something I should get. (This verges on impossible for me, but I'm putting this here anyway.)
I'm sure there are others, which I hope will come to me when they're applicable.
Oh, and our team has a Twitter account, so follow that for updates, quotable quotes, and other fun. Looking forward to seeing everyone and doing battle in DC!
The mysterious YouTube channel Pronunciation Book has reached the end of its 77-day countdown, about which I wrote briefly. When I awoke on Tuesday morning, the final day, I didn't know what to expect; I was just trying to enjoy the ride. That wasn't the case for many people across the Internet, who seemed to spend much of their waking lives on forums dissecting every detail of the countdown videos, the picture encoded by the buzzing therein, Pronunciation Book's previous work, and a strange Tumblr that popped up with twenty days remaining. Excitement and speculation ran high.
The channel turned out to be merely a sort of art project, in conjunction with the spam Twitter account horse_ebooks, which was also unmasked on Tuesday. The responsible parties held a one-day exhibit in a New York City gallery in which a few people sat a table, answering phone calls with horse_ebooks tweets and immediately hanging up. (Gawker posted a look at the proceedings.) More enticingly for those who want the creativity to continue, a new alternate reality game called Bear Stearns Bravo was announced in the two accounts' final releases, though the material appears to be related to neither Pronunciation Book nor horse_ebooks.
Many followers were disappointed and upset. Was that all? No grand climax or big reveal? YouTube and the forum at 77days.net were besieged with angry messages. (I suppose that's normal on YouTube, but still.) I can't help but find the backlash a bit silly. The analysis of Pronunciation Book was rife with all sorts of conspiracy theories and insane leaps of logic; there's not much that would have lived up to the creators of those fanciful ideas. Some railed against the ARG, saying it was lame and that there was no way they were going to pay to play it. I disagree; I think it could be a cool experience and I'm willing to pay a measly seven bucks to dive in. I heard about but did not participate in This Is My Milwaukee, another Synydyne project, so I'm eager to experience their work firsthand this time around. In short, I think a lot of people got really carried away and are now crashing back to Earth, and frankly I think these folks need to lighten up.
See you in the Cowboy Cafe!
It's been a while since I've mentioned a new puzzle-related Kickstarter... oh, look, here's one from Matt Jones of Jonesin' Crosswords! For a mere pittance, Matt is offering a hefty pack of barred crosswords, a grid type that's very rare outside the realm of variety cryptics. I've chipped in to see Matt's good work and you should too!
To finish this entry, I'm wondering where I should go with this blog. I post only the puzzle news that lands on my radar, and often I do so quite tardily. I doubt anyone's hearing about these matters for the first time from this site. Blogs like Puzzle Pile do a much better job of casting a wider net in a more prompt fashion. Perhaps I and you would be better served by writing less frequently, but putting up nice meaty posts when I do write. These could be deep recaps of events like tournaments and hunts, or opinionated essays like The War on Fill. Based on comment count, these certainly seem to be the popular posts anyway. Plus, if I post less, perhaps I could work on putting up the occasional original puzzle here. (Don't expect weekly!) Thoughts?
Attention American Values Club subscribers: My latest crossword comes out today! The title of this blog post refers to the difficulty level, but hopefully you think the quality is up there too. Have fun!
I'll have my own solving fun this Saturday at the day-long Elevate Tutoring hunt. I've heard nothing but good things; should be an entertaining and meaty event!
Check out the Links page if you haven't recently; I've edited some descriptions that were a little obsolete. More importantly, there's a new section for puzzle tournaments, most of which are local crossword competitions. If I've missed one and it has a website, tell me about it!
First of all, big congratulations are in order for Al Sanders, who, after some near misses at crossword tournaments, took top honors at Lollapuzzoola 6! Wish I could have seen it.
Shifting to a sixth annual local tourney closer to me, BACFill, the Bay Area's crossword competition, comes to Oakland on September 14th. Your registration fee, which can now be paid with a credit or debit card, will benefit Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Spend part of your Saturday solving future New York Times puzzles in pursuit of the title!
Today is the start of an event that remains unfulfilled on my personal puzzling bucket list: the Great America Hunt from Ravenchase! This year's trek is five days long and will wend its way from Pittsburgh, through Columbus and Cincinnati, and finally to Chicago. While I couldn't get involved this year, I can live vicariously through some of my west-coast puzzler friends. Looking forward to seeing what they get up to!
Also being staged today is the second Elevate Tutoring Puzzle Hunt to benefit that charity. The second run of the game is in two weeks, and that's when I'll participate. Hope everyone has fun!
When you think of crossword tournaments in New York City, well, you probably think of the big one. But you should also remember Lollapuzzoola, a light-hearted competition that will mark its sixth year on Saturday. This isn't your typical solving contest, largely because the puzzles contain more freeform creativity. There's a pizza party, too!
Puzzle Pile has an excellent interview with founder/organizer Brian Cimmet if you want to learn more. Though I won't be there because I suck, you should definitely attend if you can!