Quite a few things to post about today from several areas of the puzzle world.
First off, an item from Sunday that I'd forgotten about. I made a guest appearance on Thomas Snyder's excellent Grandmaster Puzzles blog, contributing an odd logic puzzle I came up with. It's small, but might pose a decent challenge until you have the important breakthrough, so give it a try.
Another novel logic puzzle type is debuting on Nikoli's website; I've certainly never heard of it before. Meet Satogaeri. I blew through the sample puzzles and I'm interested to see what can be done with it at a harder difficulty. We were overdue for a new type on the site and I'm glad we're getting it.
On the crossword side of things, Fireball Crosswords mastermind Peter Gordon has turned to Kickstarter to continue the crosswords he contributed to The Week magazine until recently. If you like the Fireballs' style, but think you might like something a little easier and newsier, give this a look; you can get the puzzles for as little as a quarter apiece. Gordon has set an ambitious goal; I'll be keeping tabs to see if he gets there.
Hey, look, DASH 5 is on Saturday! Puzzlers in fourteen cities across America will solve the same puzzle hunt, tailored slightly to make a good walking game for each locale. A week from Saturday, it goes international, as even London gets in on the action. I'll join up with a slightly shorthanded League of Extraordinary Puzzlemen team; Dr. Sudoku's move to Seattle has trimmed our ranks. Nonetheless, I feel good about our upcoming experience in Half Moon Bay and I trust it'll be fun everywhere else too.
Lastly, on Monday, I got news that I immediately knew was going to be the best of my week. A sizable part of my childhood, The Incredible Machine, is coming back in the form of Contraption Maker, from the same team that did the original games! I'd always wondered what could happen in that game with modern technology and without some of the limitations of the versions I played. I have a large game backlog as it is, but I'll have to make room for this one!
It's been a while; you'd be correct in thinking that I've been busy. Two quick things to share with you on this Friday.
Two more episodes of CROSSWORD RACE have gone online; here's the third and the fourth. Here, you'll see a preponderance of turtles as well as the much-clamored-for Translation Party episode. Will either gimmick allow Alex his first win? Find out, and tell your friends to watch too!
Also, I joined up with Mike Selinker and Gaby Weidling from the awesome Lone Shark Games to make a puzzle hunt celebrating Wired's 20th anniversary. Search through the archives to find the answers to our clues and eventually reach the final answer! You can find the clues on Wired's Twitter feed, or catch up by looking at Mike's running list. If you like, use the #wired20 hashtag to collaborate with the hivemind; these clues are tough!
Well, this snuck up on me: Registration is open for DASH 5! Predictably, the Bay Area spaces filled up fast, but there should be room left in many other locations across this great land of ours, and in London as well! I highly recommend the experience.
Meanwhile, more puzzle hunts are springing up on campuses on both coasts. Starting in the east, the University of South Carolina has staged their second annual hunt, and I must admit that this is the first I'm hearing of it. I haven't had much of a look at either year's puzzles, but I heard that last year's were pretty rough in many places, while strides have been taken to improve the quality of 2013's challenges. How are people liking it?
Also returning is the Berkeley Mystery Hunt, marking its third year. This year's hunt will be staged for the Berkeley community on May 5th; those of us unaffiliated with the school will wait for this summer's rerun.
Not to be outdone by their Big Game rivals, Stanford is launching their puzzle hunt on April 20th. Like Berkeley's event, it will be modestly sized at one day. I'm looking forward to seeing what the Cardinal have cooked up...
...or at least I would if I were able to participate. Instead, I've agreed to officiate at the 5th Annual Marbles Crossword Tournament at the Stonestown Galleria in San Francisco. Come by any one of those five Marbles locations to solve future New York Times crosswords and try to win a gift card for the brain-tingling goodies at the store. You'll benefit charity on top of it all!
The post-ACPT haze cleared up a while ago, but I've been very busy all the same. Let's run down a few items I probably should have blogged about in a more timely fashion.
I contributed last week's NPR puzzle. Unfortunately, a wording change introduced the possibility of a second answer, so here's my original version that should only permit my intended answer: Take an eight-letter word for something used in water. Phonetically remove another word for something else used in water. The result, again phonetically, will be a verb describing what the first word can do to water. What words are these?
The indie crossword blogosphere continues to grow; check out Andy Kravis's site. Andy's work has been featured in, among other places, 20 Under 30, so I'm looking forward to more good puzzles in that vein.
Prolific Sporcle quiz creator (and National Puzzlers' League member) sproutcm created a puzzle hunt, in which all the quizzes resolve to a final answer. Can you crack the metapuzzle? Find all the challenges here.
The Shinteki Decathlon is back! I always look forward to this day of great puzzles that take participants all over the Bay Area. This time around, I'm getting back together with my team from last year's Disneyland event. The sign-ups for June 1st and 8th filled up quickly, but there's a possibility that a third run will be added on the 15th.
Meanwhile, the puzzle hunt season is really heating up on the east coast. BAPHL 7 is coming next month; I'm looking forward to helping the test-solving effort next week. Late June will see the Boston edition of WarTron, and The Famine Game, still shrouded in mystery, will take place near the end of September. Get to work on my teleportation device, scientists.
This weekend is the third event in the Sudoku Grand Prix, and it's Germany's turn to play host. There are some intriguing variants in the mix; hopefully I can at least keep up my current pace and perhaps do a bit better.
Also, this afternoon/evening, I'll take part in the Chinese New Year Treasure Hunt for the first time in a few years. My teammates and I will solve tricky clues and run around Chinatown and its environs to get answers. I'm playing with a strong team with a lot of experience; hopefully I can keep up with them.
In more distressing news, I'm about to be imprisoned. The Maze of Games, previously mentioned on this site, has really gained steam on Kickstarter, and the Gatekeeper is in need of new puzzlemakers for his cage. In the Wednesday update, the new wave of captives was announced, and my name is on the list. I don't know when exactly I'll be captured, but when I am, I hope people will continue to come on board with this great project to free me! Today, a cool puzzle poster was added to the pile of goodies, so if you've already contributed, consider putting in an extra ten bucks for that!
A few pieces of miscellany today.
Are you sick of funding great puzzle projects on Kickstarter? I don't see why you would be, but even if you are, lose that attitude pronto, because now you can fund cryptics by Patrick Berry. I rest my case.
If you're in the mood for a light puzzle extravaganza and want to donate to charity too, look at Andrew Feist's second annual contest. You have a little over a week to solve it and enter the drawing, but it certainly doesn't require that much time.
In more mysterious news, The Famine Game is coming to DC in late September. This looks to be an overnight game like Doctor When or WarTron. (Speaking of which, that game is headed to Boston in late June.) Following that exhausting experience (see my recap here and here, unless you're playing in Boston, in which case don't), I'm not sure I love the idea of traveling so far for another one. But we'll see.
Time to start getting geared up for woeful underachievement in the second Sudoku Grand Prix event. Good luck to all participants, though I need it more than you do.
At long last, my traditionally late MIT Mystery Hunt wrap-up is here. Continue after the jump for triumphs, failures, and frustrations. Sadly, there were far more of the latter this year, and I wasn't alone.
Looks like I'm going to continue my noble tradition of posting my Mystery Hunt recap long after everyone else has done so. Hey, punctuality has never been the watchword here on That Puzzle Guy's Blog. For now, you should go read Thomas Snyder's write-up and dive into the 450+ comments. You'll quickly get a sense of the furor over this year's Hunt; I'll have my own measured take on the proceedings soon.
For now, there's a few items I'd like to hit quickly. First of all, some gloating: On Friday, my team successfully escaped from the haunted ship in the latest edition of San Francisco's Real Escape Game! Not only that, but for the first time, we solved all of the puzzles. (It's usually possible to progress and win without a few answers, so that's usually what ends up happening.) We were definitely thirsty for victory after the Great Evangelion Screwjob and our Real Escape Room failure, so it felt great. As for the game itself, the atmosphere was excellent and, with an exception or two, I thought the puzzles were clean, clever, and fun. A scant few tickets may still be available; I'd recommend picking one up if you haven't played.
Later that weekend, I participated in the first event of the Sudoku Grand Prix, a World Puzzle Federation event featuring eight online tests, each designed by a different country's puzzlers. The Czech Republic kicked things off, and I had my usual shrug-worthy performance, finishing 161st out of 581 participants with 136 out of the possible 300 points. Pushing me to the wrong side of the point total's halfway mark was an error on the first puzzle of the test, a standard 12x12 sudoku. Somehow, I got through the entire puzzle without noticing that two 8s occupied one of the answer rows. No idea where I went wrong; I didn't see an easy fix looking at it after the test. On the plus side, I didn't cost myself points with entry errors on correct solutions. So I've got that going for me, which is nice. The next competition is India's and takes place in a little under two weeks. I have to do better, but I'm not holding my breath.
I close with a new development from Monday, and it's another Kickstarter campaign. Mike Selinker, head of Lone Shark Games, is bringing a long-time puzzle project to life with the help of a talented team. It's The Maze of Games, and if you like puzzles and Choose Your Own Adventure books, this is perfect for you. As is the norm on Kickstarter, there are plenty of reward tiers to choose from. I eagerly jumped on board and can't wait for the results.
A quick post with late-breaking news, which you'll read as I'm on my way to Boston.
Once again, it's my turn to supply the American Values Club crossword. "Wait," you cry, "that doesn't link to your puzzle!" Sorry, my friends, but it's now only for subscribers. No reason you can't sign up!
In still more frustrating news, Trip Payne's extravaganza was unfortunately ousted from Kickstarter because it has a contest element. (They sure took their sweet time letting him know, didn't they?) Trip has revived the campaign on his own website. Please note that if you contributed on Kickstarter, it's been canceled and you will not be charged, so you have to make your pledge again. Let's waste no time getting Trip back to his previous total!
It's that time of year again! On Thursday, I'm flying to Boston for this year's MIT Mystery Hunt. On Friday at noon, teams will crowd into Rockwell Cage (yes, we've outgrown the traditional Lobby 7), watch an opening skit to give us an idea of what's coming, and then dash to HQ to solve about 48 hours' worth of tough, twisted puzzles. Along the way, we'll fill grids, make lists, manipulate spreadsheets, wear out Google, reorder data, get frustrated, eat takeout, break through metapuzzles, dash around Cambridge, stay up too late, interact with other teams in strange ways, and, hopefully, be the first to find the coin at the end of it all.
Teams have already received a little taste of what to expect through the mail. Who or what is APH? What does he/she/it have planned? How can Enigma Valley divide the coin? What's their angle? Acronyms notwithstanding, which is the good side? Finances! Malfeasance! Sabotage! Intrigue! Only by solving can we shed light on these captivating mysteries.
Until then, I'll just have to prepare myself as best I can. Here's how I hope to attack this year's event; this plan is, of course, subject to change and outright abandonment as the situation warrants.
- Pace myself. When the Hunt starts, it's easy to be filled with adrenaline as the introduction is made and the first meaty batch of puzzles opens up. I'm hoping to be a little calmer at the start and have a little more energy to stay up later.
- Get some sleep. Some people stay up for the entire nonstop event. Doing this just doesn't make for an optimal experience for me, so I need to get some rest. On the other hand, getting a full night's sleep deprives me of too much of the action. I'm hoping to split the difference and get, say, six hours of sleep on Saturday morning and allow the excitement of the Hunt to carry me through.
- Shower. You're welcome, teammates. I hope you will extend the same courtesy to me.
- Contribute to puzzles I didn't start. This has always been a weak point of mine, and a big reason I don't perform nearly as well in the latter half of the Hunt as I do in the first. I find it difficult to put in the effort to comprehend a puzzle's progress when I didn't make it myself, and I'm pessimistic about my ability because I'm not as familiar with what's going on as my teammates are. I hope to focus better here.
- Do at least one runaround and at least one event. They're fun and often much-needed breaks from being at headquarters all the time.
- Be more successful with answer extraction and metas. This has historically been my weak point, but I think I've been better lately. I have a nice streak going in Matt Gaffney's contest and, while I struggled with the January Puzzle of the Month from Shinteki, I did eventually break through by sticking with it and trying different ideas.
Oh, and if you're interested in some off-the-wall metapuzzle action, head to Eric Berlin's blog for Spaghetti, in which Eric randomly chooses five words and commenters somehow find a coherent meta in them.
Looking forward to a great weekend. Go Team Luck!