Post-test USPC comments

So I got around to finishing most of the puzzles I didn't try, so I can comment.

I was aiming for top 25. Last year I was only foiled by a typo in my entry. This year I'm pretty sure my 133 isn't going to cut it, and it is doubly disappointing in that I can't really blame any particular conditions. I managed to keep my solving endurance up over the entire 2 and a half hours and I didn't have any technical problems; I was just slow. The only puzzle I started and didn't finish was the Fences, and I hadn't even wasted that much time there.

Favorite puzzle: even though it kicked my butt, SuDON'Tku did it in a good way. Normally sudoku variations aren't my favorite but I really felt like I was having to think in new ways.

Distances was also quite elegant.

Comments on other random puzzles:

Nebijok: had a real hard time here. The hardest word search I remember trying was a Korean one from 1999 WPC or so, but I always have an odd mental dissonance when hitting unknown languages. I should practice with word searches using randomly generated letters or something so I can learn to ignore that aspect.

Kuromasu: skipped when I didn't see an immediate break-in, but when I found the break-in later I thought this was the easiest of the 15 point puzzles.

Masyu: this one was also much easier than last year. I actually thought the worth-5-less-points Black Pearl was harder.

Murder No. 6: wrong assumption, had to reboot. *sigh*

Dot Triangles: I found these on Erich's page before the test. Trying a couple led me to know to skip this one.

Crisscross pairs: one I maybe should've tried in the test because it went very smooth, I just never had time to even start it.

Ampers& Crossword: this one on the other hand (post-test) was struggling by painful inches.

Double Feature: it is a Patrick Merrell standard to have one item changed by being slightly longer than the other, but I still couldn't spot it under tournament conditions. Saved finishing this one for last so I could mop up a few last points in the remaining 120 seconds.

A quirk of my brain

I was just looking at Yoon Ha Lee's most commented post of 2007 and I've decided to share something which might be unique to my strange little brain.

Specifically, there are times when a character in a TV show or movie is some non-white race, and I *don't even notice* until halfway through or a couple episodes in.

This doesn't happen terribly often, but it's been enough times I can't call it a freak accident.

I also have the kind of brain that might remember the cinematographer and composer of a movie but none of the actors. I recall a media class where I was trying to make a point about a character in The Searchers: that guy ... uh... er... uh... oh, John Wayne.

USPC final results are out ...

... and if I hadn't missed a square in entering my Corral results, I would have made top 25.

I'm feeling much better about myself now, anyway.

Warm congrats to Thomas for retaining his USPC Champion title.

And Zack, what was this nonsense about being past your prime? Best of luck at Rio!

My 2007 USPC results

My target goal was 250.

My actual score (presuming no typos) was... 180.

I'm feeling really discouraged about now. Doubly so in that I felt confident going in (in the instructions the puzzles seemed reasonable, and I prepared hard).

I got about 2/3 through the Kakuro but the combinatorial explosion at the end was just too much for me to finish it off.

The Masyu didn't seem to succumb to logic at all. I had to use uniqueness to get anywhere, and I still didn't finish.

Normally Fridge Magnets would be my thing but I just sat there staring.

Same for the Double Murder.

Favorite puzzle: The Fences variant. It really felt like an entirely new puzzle that I'd never tried before, yet I got it smoothly.

Best performance: No Parking. At least there was *something* to help retain my ego.

A Puzzler Sudoku gripe

I shall quote from the preface of Vol. 1 Issue 11, courtesy Ariane Blok:

With women making up thirty percent of the contestants, the only female to make it into the top 18 managed to fend off the American favourites to claim the title. Much to the delight of many onlookers Jana Tylova, an accountant from the Czech Republic, pipped Thomas Snyder, a Harvard University chemistry postgraduate student, and Wei-Hwa Huang, a software engineer for Google.

It was a great occasion and not without its share of controversy. There was a moment of
peaceful uproar at the end (puzzlers are a rather quiet bunch) when two of the three finalists claimed that the deciding puzzle was flawed, they said it couldn't be solved without guesswork. Most observers thought they were right, but there was a logical solution. They missed the vital clue and it cost them dearly.

This is what happened. In four cells across two columns and two rows, the only options were four pairs of digits. Each of these pairs shared a common digit. The American contestants failed to spot the significance. What it meant was, that the common digit could be ruled out of any other cells in those two columns and rows. Glad we sorted that one out.

*grumble* Thereby missing the point entirely, that of course there was a logical solution, but it was too hard to see in the time limit so *everyone* had to guess, not just the "Americans".

Also, will people ever stop caring about what nationality someone is?

Treasure Hunters mini-review

I like The Amazing Race, I like puzzles, so ... yeah. Tentative thumbs up.

Puzzles: Not bad at all, and there was even a difficulty curve of sorts. The final puzzle was particularly clever, and while the riddle hinting at the twist was a touch amibguous ("history has a way of changing itself") it wasn't over the foul line.

Editing: Not so good. There were some parts where they made it difficult for me to follow the action (like the spacial relationship between the divers in Hawaii). I chalk this up to inexperience, and hope this improves as things go on.

Having teams of 3: This wasn't as bad as The Amazing Race Family Edition, where every family seemed to blur together so nobody had individual members, but it was hard to distinguish individuals -- I certainly don't remember any names. But the producer's strategy seems to be to emphasize unit-vs-unit conflict rather than people fighting themselves within a group. This might be sensible -- since the challenges have more mental emphasis, infighting may be less strong than people trying to codge off each other's solves, or steal their physical clues (which happened twice in the first episode).

The "Virtual Phil": For the most part the cell phone worked for me, and is likely a better way to deliver clues than on paper (sometimes you never get to see what The Amazing Race clues actually *say*, since the teams don't have a top priority of reading them clearly to the camera). However, delivering the "you are out of the game" message that way seemed tacky, even if it would have been awkward to deliver in person (the host hides in the shadows while the artifacts are being collected?).

My USPC score (maybe)

My target goal was 200.

I scored (presuming no typos)... 201.

Most brilliant puzzle: Tetris Crisscross. Elegant, lovely logic.

Most frustrating puzzle: Closing the Loop. I must be misunderstanding the directions -- I get an impossibility. This really should've been a puzzle I solved, yet I wasted time simply proving to myself it couldn't be done.

Best performance: Fences Variation. I might have even beat Thomas's time on this one. I finished in something like 1:30 flat.

Biggest disappointment: Atomic Fusion. I *should* have got this one. Really I should have. The bit that kept sticking me was one of the 6-pointed stars in the lower left corner of the puzzle (the SE one of the NW-SE pair). The square just to the left seems to need to head NE and close off the ability to connect those two stars, and I couldn't find anywhere else on the grid to generate symmetry. *sigh*

(no subject)

US Puzzle Championship instructions posted. Two things of note:

1. No counting puzzles.
2. No division puzzles.


My officially designated "I'm not going to try this puzzle even if I have time left" puzzle is Distance.

I've made an honest effort to like Distance. I really have. Yet I would still rather solve a 25x25 Sudoku than Distance.