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Below are the 17 most recent journal entries recorded in jdyer's LiveJournal:

Sunday, June 15th, 2008
9:07 am
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.
Tuesday, January 1st, 2008
9:20 am
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.
Thursday, June 21st, 2007
2:27 pm
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!
Saturday, June 16th, 2007
12:31 pm
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.
Friday, June 30th, 2006
7:26 pm
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?
Thursday, June 22nd, 2006
1:20 pm
2006 USPC results (300+ points)
Results are up at the main page.

The number of upper-end scores here is stunning, making 350 points not enough to qualify (!). Does anyone know if Jonathan still gets to come along as an alternate?
Monday, June 19th, 2006
8:42 am
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?).
Saturday, June 17th, 2006
5:04 pm
USPC 2006 answers
Answers are posted.


No surprise on who the puzzle designers are.

Atomic Fusion answer is "holy cow". I'd really like to see more examples of this one.
12:32 pm
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*
Friday, June 16th, 2006
1:18 pm
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.
Monday, May 22nd, 2006
9:08 am
The 2006 US Puzzle Championship practice test has been posted. The first puzzle used to be called "Number Place" in the old test but has been renamed to "Sudoku Variation". Very cute.

This will be the first US Puzzle Championship since sudoku fever has hit the US. I do wonder if the number of entrants is going to be affected.
Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006
2:21 pm
Lost Bridges
puzzlinks.com had an interesting idea of a "Lost Bridges" puzzle, which can be found here.

Unfortunately, the example given does not have a unique solution, so I spent some time and came up with one of my own.

Rules can be found at the puzzlinks.com link. Note that I *do* allow loops (so it may be possible to travel from island to island and get back to where you started without retracing your path).

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us
Saturday, July 24th, 2004
11:59 pm
PQRST #10 puzzle competition
This is referring to the puzzle competition here:


The file for #10 is downloadable, so you can see what I'm talking about. Mild spoilers ahoy, so try solving them on your own first if you are intending. This may all appear a little obscure to people not used to these sort of puzzles; I'm happy to clarify any questions someone might have.

1: The curious thing here is how obvious the puzzle maker intentions are when the card for E looks like the card for W and M. I didn't really solve this puzzle in the logical sense, I just took for a premise that property would be used and everything fell out.

2: This puzzle isn't original, actually, although I'm sure the author didn't realize that. The person who did the rebuses for Concentration wrote an identical puzzle which appeared in Games Magazine a few years back. I imagine the mental process was this: hey, the Olympics are coming up, those Olympic rings look puzzly. Let's try tossing numbers around and see what happens. (Incidentally, the very first World Puzzle Championship also had an Olympic Ring puzzle, although it was structured differently.)

3: This one had me in a panic briefly with the 'I have no idea how to solve this' feeling. Then I just guessed if I started the 24th number with 6 and only decreased the number when I had to things might fall into place, and they did. I'm wondering if this is a necessary condition in a unique puzzle, or if it's possible to trip this method up somehow.

4: This puzzle was extremely nice in that many omino puzzles can't be solved through a sane method of deduction, but this one lent itself to a very methodical and pleasing technique.

5: Logically pleasing, although I'm not sure if this puzzle has repeatability -- that is, it would be interesting rendered multiple times. Also, rather than a perfect blend of Skyscraper and Easy As technique, I switched between them when one led me to a dead end; I wonder if there is some synthesized logic step that combines both to make the solving go faster.

6: Argh. Just bad. The puzzle had confusing directions (it needed a lot of errata to clarify) and even once understood it isn't that pleasing. Determining what can be seen and what cannot is the main (tedious part) and there were only a few (simple) steps of actual logic involved.

7: The hardest for me to solve, partly because a certain erratum hadn't been posted yet (no digits can overlap -- just affects the 0, but even that would've helped). I ended up using (more or less) brute force -- I guessed the 8 would be horizontal (via intuition of the structure -- or perhaps I just got lucky) and tried every possible position until it came through.

8: I'm not fond of all counting problems (how many squares in such and such a dull figure) but this one was very clever and had its main trickiness in visualization. Also, checking all the possibilities wasn't prohibitive, and it didn't leave one with the usual sense of 'do I have the right answer? I should check over 5 more times' that I often get from these sorts of things.

9: I *think* I'm optimal here, but we'll see. I was pleased with this puzzle in that rational thought played as much a part as random experimentation. (Edit: Nope. One square off. Clever, too.)

10: (Edit: Ok, I *completely* misread the problem. One of these days, I will accomplish something, and I will not screw up in the process. Grr. [Specifically, one is supposed to cover the grid with the minimum number of squares possible, but you want that number to be *high*, not *low*. I suppose it was relatively clear in the directions but even going back I had to read it three times over to see what I did wrong -- somehow there had to be a better way of phrasing things.])

Anyhow, I pretty much lost all the optimization points, dropping me to 725. At least I got all the normal problems.
Tuesday, July 20th, 2004
10:57 am
There's this fellow at Princeton, Joshua Greene, who collects 'moral paradoxes'. You know, the kind where you get to pick who to save from drowning, but with a more philisophical edge.

For example (from memory, so it may come out a little different than his version):

You are raiding on a railcar when you come to a switch in the track. Down the branch you are riding there are four workers standing on the track who are unaware they are in danger and will die if the railcar keeps going. On the right branch there is another worker who is in the same situation. You can flick a switch to change over from the left to the right track: do you?

On the other hand: You are standing next to some tracks when a railcar comes down the track and is about to hit four workers farther down. There is a heavyset person next to you who, if you push into the path of the car, will (obviously) die but slow the railcar down enough so as to not hit the workers. Do you push?

Now, the 'paradox' here is (as he claims) that many people are perfectly willing to switch the track, but not willing to push even though the results are the same. This supposedly reveals something interesting in terms of our philosophical outlook on ethics.

(Specifically, I think he was going after Mill [individual happiness matters, so don't push] vs. Kant [the overall good matters most, so push] but even that doesn't map out neatly so I won't dwell here.)

I have issue on two points: 1. the physics of the second situation. As phrased, I find it bizarre that one would *know* that pushing will work to save the workers, and it will be the only way. Even if one is told the statement as absolutely, the real-world creeps in somewhat to taint the situation. In addition, 2. the first action is clearly legal, while the second is clearly not.

Now, let's say we remove both these points -- it's firmly established that you know for absolute certain pushing will work, *and* it is the only way to save the workers. In addition, it will be considered legal to do so because all information about cause and effect is known and the legal system will somehow be aware of all that. In this case, the 'paradox' loses a lot of the power, and I find myself considering them equally -- but admittedly with all real-world context stripped out.

I'd almost consider the answers to the original version of this paradox to be more indicative of how much we trust authority rather than how we view life -- how much do you take the researcher abstractly at their word on the second situation, and how much is tinged by what things would be like in real life?
Monday, July 19th, 2004
3:11 pm
Long time since an update, so as yet another stop-gap I'll mention another obscure puzzle game: Vampiric Tower.

(Check the last entry here, it doesn't seem to have a dedicated page.)

The graphics and sound are crude, most of the ideas have been seen at least in some form before (think Sokoban and the 'don't step in front of the eyes' things from Adventures of Lolo), but it's still an enjoyable experience due to the solid puzzle design.

(Since inky asked what the game had to do with vampires, I am adding some stuff from the documentation of the game. Enjoy.)

Story: The evil humans have stolen all of the vials of blood from the vampires, and have hidden them within an ancient tower. With their race facing extinction, the elder vampires have chosen one of their own to enter the tower and reclaim the sacred vials. You are that vampire. (EXCITEMENT!) You must save your race by entering... the Vampiric Tower.

Object: The object of each room is to collect all the vials of blood in each room. Once all of the vials are collected, the door will open. Walk into the door to complete the level.

Your vampire's special power is transformation. Certain vials, when collected, will give your vampire the power to transform. Note that a "transform" is only needed to change from a vampire to a bat. Changing from the bat back to the vampire does not require (or use) a transform.
Thursday, January 15th, 2004
11:38 pm
Electronic puzzle game of the week
Well, I might not update weekly, but I do run across the occasional game I'd like to share. For now it is Mines-Perfect:


a Minesweeper clone which has options such as 'Lucky' and 'Murphy's Law' which allow you to play with no random chance involved in dying -- if you hit a mine it is your fault.

I ran into a crashing glitch trying to put the board in 3D, but other than that the game seems pretty solid.
10:49 pm
I used to run a puzzle site called puzzlebistro.com on which I posted a puzzle a day. My favorite from that time was this one:

You have a row of 8 coins. You can flip coins over with certain moves, by either:
A.) Flipping over three consecutive coins OR
B.) Flipping over two consecutive coins where one is heads and the other tails.

1.) With the first four coins starting on heads and the second four starting on tails, switch the layout to all heads in four moves.

2.) With all coins starting on heads, switch to all tails in five moves.
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