In the email carrying this week's Fireball Crossword, Peter Gordon announced the Barnes & Noble puzzle events to which I alluded a couple entries ago. So here are the details!
In twenty stores across the country, Sterling Publishing's Puzzlewright brand will sponsor a night of puzzles and games, hosted by yours truly and some of my puzzler friends. There will be group challenges drawn from Puzzlewright books as well as crossword and sudoku contests. Winners get books and all attendees get a snazzy Puzzlewright pencil! You don't have to register and it's completely free, so check out the list of events and get to the one nearest you. I hope to see many of you on November 13th in Emeryville!
Here's a bunch of small items for you.
I forgot to talk about the NPL mini-convention in Las Vegas. It was once again great fun; we enjoyed some original games and puzzles as well as much of the fine food and drink that America's Playground has to offer. My girlfriend and I also mixed in a show, namely the Mythbusters: Behind the Myths show. Good times all around. One of the big puzzle-solving highlights was Mark Halpin's Labor Day extravaganza. It seemed a little bit easier this year; our group of nine polished it off in a few hours. However, it was still quite challenging and every bit as creative and well-made as in previous years. You still have some time to noodle on it before answers are posted, so have a go, and be sure to drop something in the tip jar to thank Mark for his great work.
If you're a Bay Area puzzler and you missed out on BANG 33, the rerun is on September 29th. It was a fun event in support of a good cause, so put a team together and get out there.
Last but not least, there's yet another website for quality independent crosswords. Erik Agard is a rising star in the crossworld; give his creations, including his newest contest, a try.
It's my least favorite week of the year: the week immediately following the National Puzzlers' League convention. I had a fantastic time with my second family. Highlights included playing terrific homemade games (both totally original and adapted from game shows), solving clever paper puzzles alone and in pairs (I still have quite a few left), meeting some new friends, and finishing second in the Saturday night extravaganza, this year deftly constructed by Francis Heaney, Rick Rubinstein, and Eric Berlin, whose Con write-up I recommend if you want a more in-depth account. That last victory (well, near-victory) earned me my only trip to this year's prize table, but I snagged one of those neat clipboards with the clear pocket in the back. There was a very slick-looking quick-reference for NPL puzzle types in there, and I've added a code sheet, an important tool for any puzzle hunter.
I pick the puzzling right back up this weekend, as I'm off to the Berkeley Mystery Hunt. This year, the League of Extraordinary Puzzlemen will be a bit more well-manned as we add a few girlfriends and colleagues. We're optimistic we can eclipse last year's not-quite finish.
In the world of online puzzles, I urge you to back this Kickstarter from Dave Millar, AKA The Griddle. He's looking to publish a real, physical book of his fun logical challenges. I've eagerly signed up to receive both the book and a custom puzzle just for me; an offer that's a steal at $13. Let's make this happen!
I also want to give a shout to Tortoiseshell Puzzles, variety crosswords from Nathan Curtis. Nathan, who is known in the NPL as (surprise!) Tortoise, was one of my teammates in last year's extravaganza triumph. Check out his work!
I have to start today's post with a little gloating: My team was the only one in our session to win Volume 2 of the Real Escape Game! My group of four and the pair with whom we were placed put in a total team effort; every one of us contributed at least one solve or crucial insight. A great thrill. There's more REG on the horizon, including an online event that will start obscenely early in the morning for us West Coasters. Stay tuned for that.
With that victory under my belt, my mind is firmly fixated on the National Puzzlers' League convention, which I'll begin enjoying in Portland on Wednesday. Should be a solid hundred hours among my second family and, of course, lots of great puzzles. It sure is difficult to focus on life's other responsibilities in the hours leading up to the trip! You can look forward to a recap here, of course. Hope to see many of you there!
Let's journey up the west coast from San Francisco and visit the locations of a few upcoming puzzle events.
In the north end of my home city, the second American edition of the Real Escape Game is taking place July 5-8 at Fort Mason. This version promises to be a little more active, as players will progress through three different rooms to solve puzzles and crack the mystery. I'm excited and hopeful that my teammates and I can tally a second victory! There are still plenty of tickets available for most of the game's sessions; I recommend giving it a shot!
Berkeley is a BART ride away, and the campus there is home to the Berkeley Mystery Hunt. The second annual event will be run for the public on July 21. I really enjoyed this hunt last year; it provides Mystery Hunt flavor in the scope of a Shinteki event or a long BANG. I know my team is determined to finish this year after falling short with a somewhat undermanned team last time around.
Moving up to Napa, there's a fun puzzle event this very weekend! Reigning crossword champ Dan Feyer is hosting the Napa Valley Puzzle Challenge on June 30 at the library there. There'll be a Wordplay screening, a solving contest (I can tell you that Dan and I will not be competing), and a panel to grill, so come on up!
Looking still further north and further ahead in the calendar, I'm getting pumped for this year's National Puzzlers' League convention, undoubtedly the highlight of my summer. We're gathering in Portland July 11-15 to enjoy the vast array of puzzles and games as well as each other's company. The convention brings the latest nights of my summer for a reason!
Also in Portland, but a few weeks later, teams of eager solvers will take on the WarTron game August 3-5. It'll be a very immersive event; I'll have to make sure to stock up on sleep before my second visit to Rip City in four weeks.
Some fun weekends coming up! I remain grateful to live in what has to be the best area of the country for puzzlers. Yeah, I said it!
Another Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest is in the books! Thanks to everyone who came out to the talks and/or participated in the competitions, and congratulations to the winners! In particular, Jordan Chodorow and Eric Maddy continued their fierce rivalry in west coast puzzle contests, as they were two of the three finalists in both the sudoku and crossword tournaments. This time, it was a draw, as Jordan pulled away for the sudoku title while Eric squeaked out the crossword trophy.
Another recent development on the western puzzle scene is the announcement of the next installment of Iron Puzzler, in which teams have twenty-four hours to make two puzzles with the secret ingredients, then present their creations to everyone else. This year, our friends in Seattle will join the Bay Area fun; this will nicely expand the selection of paper puzzles to be shared. Get your teams together!
And lastly... LET'S GO GIANTS!!!
This is my hundredth post since the relaunch of tylerhinman.com! Only took me a friggin' year and a half.
But never mind that arbitrary milestone. You need to know about this weekend's Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest! Our annual gathering in Morgan Hill will feature the usual one-two punch of talks on Saturday and competitions on Sunday, featuring both crosswords and logic puzzles. I'll be wrapping up the Saturday session with a talk on current trends in the world of puzzling, and there's lots of other interesting stuff to see. Sunday's contests will have future New York Times crosswords and hand-crafted logic puzzles from Thomas Snyder, so the quality will be high. What's more, my company is sponsoring the event, and it's all for the good of the Morgan Hill Library Foundation. Hope to see you there!
I'm back from my trip to Mexico, where I had an incredible time with the Shinteki gang at the Lobby Conference. Lots of great memories were made; I've got a list of inside jokes and quotes that serve as reminders of the good times. On Saturday, we were the ChaiseLand Enchiladas, the fourth-place team in Intercoastal Altercations 5. It was a terrific set of puzzles and I'll go into them in depth when solutions are posted.
As I was in the air for all of Sunday morning, I wasn't reminded until the afternoon that that day's CrosSynergy Sunday Challenge was my creation; have a look at the JPZ or PDF file. I'm pretty pleased with how this one turned out; hope you like it too.
I also want to alert you to another puzzle event over on the east coast. Doug Gardner, creator of the Octo sudoku variant, is heading up a puzzle festival in Arlington, Virginia on November 5th. (That's my birthday; I'm almost certain the alignment is unintentional.) The model resembles that of the Silicon Valley Puzzle Fest. Will Shortz and Thomas Snyder are providing crosswords and sudoku, respectively, and Matt Gaffney will be a guest speaker. Plus, worthy causes will benefit. Check it out if you're in the area!
First of all, if the link in my previous entry to my 2010 Bay Area Crossword Tournament puzzle was broken when you looked at it, try it again. I put up the wrong version at first.
The 53rd Equinox Party was last night, and we saluted the 53rd card in the deck, the joker. Lots of laughs were had. The games:
- A mixer in which we formed a chain of "parent" and "child" words, with each child having all the letters of both its parents minus the same letter from each. These extra letters spelled a final joke.
- Solving clues to answers that each contained multiple J's, with circled letters giving a punchline.
- Finding words in a Boggle board (with one wild card in the center), then using those words, along with a library of short words, to form a fortune cookie, a commandment, a headline, etc. Some surprisingly elegant and hilarious quips were generated.
- A neat puzzle that used a grid of words for a variety of joker-themed wordplay, with a nice payoff.
- Trying to come up with words that contained all the letters in an ever-growing list of randomly drawn Scrabble tiles. (I won one round with REALPHABETIZING.)
- Cluing well-known jokes to the rest of the group with a punchline for a joke that rhymed with the original. For example, "Because the warty creature's gum disease was interfering with her pagan rituals" would clue the game's title, "Why Did the Wiccan Floss the Toad?"
Good fun. Unfortunately, it appears the next one will conflict with the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Them's the breaks.
Logic competition season is really ramping up! You remember the US Puzzle Championship... well, Saturday will bring us the US Sudoku Championship, which will be in much the same format. If you think there will be less variety because we're only dealing with sudoku, think again. There is a sea of variety in the types of sudoku clues that have been invented, so you'll see a bunch of different ways of thinking called into play. The constructors are the renowned Thomas Snyder and Wei-Hwa Huang, and they're sure to bring us a great test. I'm really looking forward to seeing how I do. If you're looking for training material for the test, there are several good links on the USSC page, and Logic Masters India recently gave us an Arrow Sudoku test that looks like a lot of fun. (See? Plenty of twists on even this one sudoku type!) Good luck, all!
I'm back from the National Puzzlers' League convention in Providence! As usual, I had an absolutely fantastic time and was very sorry to see it end. Recap after the jump.