January 21, 2010

Mystery Hunt 2010

Now that the puzzles are online again (albeit no solutions yet), going to write my report on the 2010 Hunt. I felt it was just a great hunt in terms of puzzles, themes, lack of mistakes, and lack of hinting. My only problems of any sort were the interminably long film showing (REALLY should have only shown one version of each movie, determined randomly or by preference) and some arcane answer extractions/phrases but these were both minor issues. Great job Beginner's Luck; your coin is also just gorgeous! Probably best or second best run hunt since I started solving (this was my 10th year, 8th on Palindromes).

Every single puzzle I worked on for a significant amount of time (say 1hr+) got solved, which probably contributes to my good feelings about the hunt. Also, a note that again this year I didn't solo solve any puzzle, always working with teammates. I started the Hunt with Banner Headline. Perhaps because of a mistake in the PDF creation, we got the Marseillaise connection (and some extra odd letters "partresb") in the first few minutes due to trying to select the wordsearch grid so I could paste it into a text file and run my preexisting wordsearch Perl code on it. Getting the category groupings took longer than it should have and then we were being pretty completist about filling them in rather than focusing on the French flag colors/overlay so this took a good while to finish. Of course, if we had ever gotten to the training Meta, we would have needed most of the extra colors anyway so not useless. Anyway, very good puzzle but caused me to barely look at any of the other round 1 puzzles.

We then as a team went on the runaround where I ended up being pretty useful, being the first person to figure out the correction for a wrong turn we made and first to get to the Library endpoint. Also ended up answering the Holy Grail questions (including reading a paragraph of text from a teammate's tiny lcd camera screen) when Eric didn't realize what was going on right away.

In 2009, the only puzzle I worked on significantly was Computer Games but Debby was the only one on the team at that moment with an Athena account and had to leave so several of us tried for a while to do this without an account and gathered some data before deciding to wait for Debby or Kat to be available to finish it, which happened a couple hours later. This puzzle did have the only flat-out mistake (errata'd by email) of any puzzle I worked on but was pretty obviously a mistake anyway so wouldn't have affected us even if correction wasn't sent.

In 2000 I worked on Bits and Pieces and Wacky Poker. Bits and Pieces was fine - I identified about half the German board games right away and then it took us a good while to figure out the remaining half (3,3 was last to figure out). The binary method at the end was nice as well. Wacky Poker was straightforward and we (mostly Mike K.) pulled the answer right away once we did the data collection/analysis.

Only puzzle in 1983 I worked on was Almost Loaded with Foggy and others. Straightforward but I am definitely not the best crossword clue solver so my role was fairly small.

1952/Witch Round I basically completely missed, due to sleeping or whatever. Was also the first Meta we solved (Anderson having the idea and executing it; to order by date of Witch introduction) so pretty quickly wasn't that important. Right after that Meta and knowing what to expect for the others, we also solved two more Metas in about 30 minutes (one in like 5 minutes and the other in a guess of 25).

For 1926, Anderson and I co-solved Queasy Reaction with help from Erik in making the bitmap. Anderson almost immediately figured out the QR code idea and I ran the image through the Google QR solver to get the Minesweeper puzzle. We ended up taking a LONG time to solve the Minesweeper, almost certainly way longer than we should have, and Anderson had to make guesses at several points to push us forward but we eventually got it fine and quickly had the bitmap and answer.

In 1903, the only puzzle I did anything on (due to length of Minesweeper solve) was Safecracking where got a few answers looking over the main solvers' shoulders but didn't stick with it until the end.

In 1871, I was brought in by Jeremy to figure out the "board game" for A Journey to the Center of the Earth and spent some time on that looking at the 10 Days series (despite knowing they had no start space) and Around the World in 80 days games and others without success before googling the flavor text to instantly realize what we wanted was the Mapparium. Unfortunately, the online images weren't great and I decided to leave Jeremy and Gavin to working at solving the path (which I don't think ever happened by the end - we would have sent someone to the Mapparium on Sunday if things had kept going). I went over to help Anderson with the answer extraction step of Tower House. We came up with and worked through about five different methods for this before finally finding the right one. Kind of think several of our methods were better than the used one but it was fine.

For 1804, I looked a bit at Lighten Up with no insights before moving on to the Lost Cities puzzle, Expeditions. Jeremy, Gavin and I co-solved this with a bit of help on one particular thing from I forget who. We were only able to take straight deductions so far before just trying a bunch of things and seeing how it went and adjusting. We eventually got to the answer off one letter due to a misreading of rule 6, thinking that Betty could play any number of sixes. The letter string was good letters but didn't make a lot of sense. However, we did have the "tired" comment in the flavortext which I was sure meant something and when googled to find 'oscit' meant yawning knew we were on the right track. Eventually Gavin decided Oscitances was likely right and made a change to the tableau and hit the call button. I actually kind of tried to stop him as realized that the change he made both made the tableau clearly violate another rule and didn't even change the letter value (went from -1 to +1 which here are equivalent) but then I managed to realize the issue with rule 6 and correctly adjust things to get the -3 we needed. Kind of lame word - page I found listing all sorts of oscit- words doesn't even list this one, but the 'tired' clue helped enough to get it.

Barely saw the 1752 puzzles, and instead moved on to 1710's Bulls and Cows Mastermind variant. Worked on by hand for a few minutes but I am a totally mediocre Mastermind player and seemed that some of them were going to be quite tough to do by hand, given the noisy guess information. I thus decided to write a solver for it. Anderson did solve the first one but left the rest to my solver and was nice to know the answer for one as confirmation for the solver. Solver was pretty straightforward code (wrote from like 1-2:30AM Sunday morning) and worked fine right away for four of them and, with a minor tweak, got the fifth too. We were thinking we would then use these five zip codes with the set of extra letters for each one as guess answers as input to a second level of the game at which point we would use as the answer the town name at that zip code, and still think this would have been a much better scheme. However, when you want to clue "Aphthous Fever", I guess allowances need to be made. I was too tired to figure out the last tricks of this but Asher came over to help and figured out the town length-># guesses mapping and then the letter pulling. Went home to bed right after this so away for last 2.5 hours of the Hunt.

Was great solving with everyone on Palindromes as usual and a big congratulations to Anderson, who as a high school sophomore was almost certainly either our MVP or MVP runner-up this year. Just absolutely amazing solver and his maturity was wondeful as well, like the great job he did working with the young kid on the video game character selection screens puzzle.

Looking forward to the Metaphysical Plant hunt next year.

Posted by aarondf at 02:50 PM | Events | Comments (2)