tablesaw: "This sounds like Waiting for Spy Godot" (Hunt)
I still am not quite prepared to talk in detail about the Mystery Hunt, because a lot has to do with my team experience, which was awesome, but also more personal. So instead, here's a list of recommended puzzles from this year's Hunt.

This post contains minor spoilers. Most Mystery Hunt puzzles have little or no instructions. Under the cut tags, I'm going to give more explicit instructions and some comments to make the puzzles accessible, both to more casual solvers and to seasoned veterans who want to skip ahead to the good stuff. (If you don't see any cut text and you would prefer not to see some or all of these spoilers, read this page from my Jaunary 19 page.) Complete answers to each puzzle can be found using the "Call in answer" link at the top of each page.

Keyboard Cat. How it works )

Toad's List. How it works )

Everybody's Got to Be Somewhere. How it Works )

Meta Testing. What It Is, How It Works )

Timbales. What it is )

Stuff Nerd People Like. What It Is, How It Works )

Expletive Deleted. Figuring out how to fill in the blanks shouldn't be that hard, and I'd feel bad spelling it out. I will spell out how to get from there to the final answer: How to Get from There to the Final Answer )

The Cats Meow. How It Works, Why It's Fun Even if You Don't Want to Solve It )

Part of Speech. How It Works )

Painted Potsherds. How It Works )

Inventory Quest. How It Works )

Laureate. No need for spoiler tags, this one is straight up with its instructions. This is a cryptic crossword, so if you're not familiar with those conventions, it's going to be very difficult. Specifically, this is a cryptic in the style of the Listener Cryptic, so if you're an American cryptic solver unfamiliar with British conventions, this will still be very hard. But if you do happen to be familiar with solving very difficult cryptics in the British vein, this puzzle is lots of fun.

Hints, with a bit of love!. How )

A Representative Sampling. How It Works )

Plotlines. I think this is the puzzle that maximizes accessibility and awesomeness. Definitely look even if you click through immediately to the answers. How It Works )

Toto, I Have a Feeling We're Not in Kansas Anymore. I can't really spoil this one, but I feel like the aha is fairly accesible to the right sorts of geek. If you don't see what's going on fairly quickly, click through to the answer. If you do, here's how to get a final answer ).

Unnatural Law. How It Works )

E Pluribus Unum. Okay, this one looks unfair, but it's actually fairly tractable, and can be a good way to start thinking laterally about puzzles like this. How It Works )

Unlikely Situations. Just look at the puzzle. If this puzzle is for you, you'll recognize it instantly and figure out what to do. If you don't it's probably not the puzzle for you. How It Works ) Even if you don't want to solve the puzzle, you may want to click through to the answer to see a little bit more about the subject.

So those are my recommendations. There's a lot more stuff that I enjoyed, but it's all less accessible, and I'll probably need to talk about them more spoilerily to do them justice. These are just ones I think more people would get a kick out of.

If you think I've listed too many, then here are my top three fun, accessible puzzles: Toad's List, Inventory Quest, and Plotlines. Go do those.

Also, here are some puzzles that I didn't work on but are on my list to try. No descriptions because I haven't spent any time working on them.

No Con Do

Jul. 8th, 2009 05:14 pm
tablesaw: -- (Real1)
The NPL Convention is this weekend in Baltimore, and I'm not going. Instead, [ profile] ojouchan and I will be taking part in my sister's wedding on Saturday, which is a midge more important.

Between now and then I have to get myself a haircut, and Ojou's got all manner of things she plans to do. We've also got to get started on planning our own wedding, which we will do by taking notes the entire weekend.

But it's always weird not going to Con. I was reminded the other day that the NPL Con is a defining fact of my life for many people, since it features so prominently in the story of how I met Ojou. Some friends had heard Will Shortz talk about it on NPR last week and were wondering when I was leaving. And there are still plenty of folks at the Con who probably expect me to show up.

Luckily, the internet has come a long way, and a number of the puzzles that are going to be in circulation will become available on the internet. I've already solved my first handout, a quick cryptic by [personal profile] canadianpuzzler.

And speaking of quick cryptics, National Puzzler's League Cryptic Crosswords is a brilliant collection of 45 crosswords from the NPL's magazine The Enigma. As the book has gone out of print, a PDF of the book has been made available for free download.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I drank more beer while I was in Boston than I ever had in my life. Now, this isn't saying much. I'm not a big fan of beer, so I don't drink it. I much prefer the taste of a well-mixed cocktail. A Rum and Coke is usually pleasant, and there's nothing that can beat a Margarita mixed with good tequila and a whole lot of machismo. I know there's good beer out there, but since I don't drink often, there's really no point in going out and finding the few kinds that I like amid the amber waves of unappealing brew.

It's kind of like Country Music, in that way.

Anyway, the advantage of going to Boston was that there were lots of people who drank beer a lot and knew what was good. Chief among them was Beer Goddess Hathor who, in addition to giving tips on what to drink where, also brewed some fine beer herself. (She has a website [link removed 8/13/11; originally ""], though I have no idea where in there I'm supposed to look for a homepage.) And when all of the bars are closed, having personalized beer in a hotel room . . . but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The story behind the Pub Puzzle Crawl )

So, Monday evening. It was the first chance I got to see people NPLers, mostly locals. Since there were too many people to easily manage, some of them split off into a Ice Cream Puzzle Crawl through Boston. The puzzles, in this case, were provided on the fly by [ profile] tahnan and [ profile] thedan. Sadly, the Ice Cream Crawl had far fewer stops, since the participants got brainfreeze or something. The cool kids ([ profile] wesleyjenn, QED, Sprout, Sue++, Sir+, [ profile] joecab, [ profile] cazique, [ profile] heaneyland, Otherwise, D. Ness, ln sin t, Niff, Ucaoimhu, Artistry, [ profile] foggyb, Hathor, and I) went off and drank for seven hours.

I wish I could tell you more about the bars and the beers, but I can't, really. I know they were good, but since I don't have much experience with beer (for reasons detailed above), I couldn't really tell you why. I can't even recommend things because I was mostly echoing what other, more knowledgeable people were ordering. I can give you the itinerary [link removed; originally ""] of the crawl, since [ profile] foggyb has been kind enough to upload it. The itinerary also has most of the puzzles.

The puzzles were really well designed considering what they needed to do. They were simple and fun and rarely required too much thought. The KISS mentality showed up many places in this Con, to the benefit of all. Certainly, the NPL is not a group that will shy away from the obscure, the complex, the byzantine, or the difficult. But there's a lot more going on at a convention. There are things to see, people to talk to, games to play. You have to make sure that nothing gets to frustrating, or else solvers will start to wonder why you're wasting their time when they could be doing something else with someone else. (Also, of course, everything has to be solved without references.) In this case, the puzzles couldn't overstay their welcome, because people wanted to be able to drink and chat. Also, puzzles had to be specially coordinated so that they could be easily solved after drinking beer for several hours.

One of my favorite puzzles was one of the more complex ones: Boston Beer Works [link removed 8/13/11; originally ""]. It was an early puzzle, and one of the only ones where everyone dug in and did some pencil solving. What I enjoyed the most was that, although solvers were warned that the beer list incorporated into the puzzle was out of date, it still represented the menu very well. Pretty much everyone ordered their drinks off of the puzzle without really looking at the menus. I also sat near Cazique, QED, and the right shoulder of Sprout, triviaites all, who offered and solved variuos sports trivia questions.

At Bukowski's [link changed 8/13/11; originally ""], we settled in for the inevitable Pub Trivia [link removed 8/13/11; originally ""] game. The theme was "Dead Authors," since Bukowski's is the home of the Dead Authors' Club. (Although it wasn't explained then, I now know that some patrons of this bar undertake to sample every beer on the menu, though mercifully not on the same night. Those who succeed get mugs engraved with their names placed on the wall. And by "their names," I mean "the names of dead authors they choose.") I did predictably poorly, especially compared to some of the general knowledge hotshots. But still, I don't think the questions [link removed 8/13/11; originally ""] were balanced all that well. (I'll try to explain more about the balancing trivia, but it's a tough subject and I'll need a separate entry.) Anyway, the balance of the knowledge is definitely a nitpick in this situation. Everyone had fun, even when losing, which is much more important, and difficult to accomplish.

Also, while I was at Bukowski's, I recorded an Audblog. I'd say more about that, but I can't listen to it while I'm work.

The last puzzle I'll talk about is the one from Redbones. This is a fantastic puzzle, though you can't see it or solve it online. Go visit the redbones site, and you'll see lots of wonderful artwork. That original artwork is all over the downstairs barroom. It was the artwork that we were looking at back in January when we thought about a Pub Puzzle Crawl. And it was the artwork that made our last stop an Eyeball Benders-style extravaganza.

We got a huge pile of letters. Each letter seemed to have been cut out of the pictures along the walls. We had to locate, then put them in order according to their position around the room. It was great fun. This might seem a complex puzzle to deal with after seven hours of drinking, but I think that the lowering of the inhibitions helped us to take over the more-or-less empty room staring at pictures. Also, they had great dessert. And great meat. And good margaritas. (Wow, I didn't realize how out of it until I tried to remember it just now. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if someone there told me that I said, "I love you man! You're like my brother! My puzzle brother! Mi hermano de crucigramas!")

At some point at Redbones, I got a picture of QED, Sprout, Toonhead! and somebody's hair. You can see the wacky Redbones artwork, along with the cute and very helpful bartender who decided to be a semi-waitress even though she didn't have to be. Also, at some point earlier, I got a picture of [ profile] wesleyjenn and [ profile] heaneyland, probably in a T station somewhere.

After all of this, those of us who remained were directed by Foggy Blotto to the best beer in Boston. By this time, many of our crew had ducked out to return to their homes or the hotel. Thus, when I snapped a picture, en route to our final destination, only [ profile] foggyb, QED, Ucaoimhu, Hathor, Artistry, and [ profile] joecab. Sprout was also there, though he cannot be seen in this picture. As we staggered toward the terminus, Hathor tried to scare us by saying that once we were there, we were going to have to solve a cryptic crossword by Ucaoimhu, known for his labyrinthine crosswords that involving learning Sanskrit [link changed 8/13/11;"] or decoding Cuneiform [link changed 8/13/11; originally ""].

Well, the best beer in Boston turned out to be at Hathor's house. But the crossword turned out to be no empty threat. We were provided with two beers that were brewed specifically for this convention. (There was a third prepared beer, but it had been part of an auction, and thus, we were not allowed to drink it.) The labels were designed by [ profile] joecab, and as you can see, Hathor's threat turned out not to be empty.

And, with no more puzzles, we just kept drinking without puzzles.

And really, who needs the puzzles? )

I recorded an Audblog after one of these beer sessions. As I mentioned above, I can't relisten to it right now. But I'm pretty sure I talked about Toonhead!, aka [ profile] joecab. I may even have mentioned a picture.

See, I was "cosolving" [ profile] thedan's cryptic with [ profile] joecab very late one evening / very early one morning. I don't know why I thought attempting this was a good idea at all. [ profile] foggyb was there, and I he may have had a hand in convincing me, since it would have been very amusing for him. We actually managed to do rather well, though all together, we found a completely and utterly wrong answer to the end game of the cryptic.

At a certain point, after the grid had been filled and [ profile] foggyb and I had started puzzling through the final steps, [ profile] joecab crawled around us on the bed, then fell down. He didn't get up again. After a while, we noticed.

We took this as a sign of two things: (1) we should probably get out of his room, (2) we should probably take a picture and post it on the Internet.

And here it is:
Man, this Toonhead! guy should learn to hold his liquor better )


Mar. 29th, 2004 08:14 am
tablesaw: "The Accurate Tablesaw" (Accurate)
So, I'd like to be the first to say that, at a meeting on Saturday, the final decision was made to hold the 2005 NPL Convention at the Downtown Omni Hotel on July 7–10. Haha! Take that Engima! This information is, of course, subject to change for any or all reasons, but it's pretty set.

I left the party early, since I needed to cross the city to attend my cousin's couples' shower for her upcoming wedding. Between shopping for my cousin and her fiance and other things and feeling generally noncreative, I didn't have any puzzle to bring. But, at the last minute, while at work on Saturday morning, I saw a link to copies of the Microsoft Puzzle Hunt, so I brought some of those. Many people picked up the two puzzles that were obviously cryptics, one by Kray and one by roy and Dart. So, those were fun, though not by me.

I'll write up the other events that I saw when I find my copies of the puzzles.

Back up.

Sep. 29th, 2003 11:38 am
tablesaw: Sketch of an antique tablesaw (Antigua)
Two weeks ago, there was an [ profile] npl puzzle party at the house of Music Man, over in Woodland Hills. To cut down on driving, Artistry crashed in my bed, which was less trouble than one might think, since I was at work at the time. When he got up, we went out for our now traditional meal at Jerry's Deli. (I'm not sure how we'll manage that at the next party, since the location is between the two of us. Perhaps we'll all meet at Cramerica's place beforehand and go to the one in Marina Del Rey. Or Nichol's.)

They day was pretty standard. Bartok made magic. ) Music Man asked the musical question: Where? ) I got a job. ) Elfman played hide and 11-Seek ) Bluff made us cross-eyed. ) Panache banked on it. ) And Artistry made all of his answers porn stars. )

After all that, Art and Cram came over to my place, where we played Trivial Pursuit. Then [ profile] wjukknibs stopped by (he's been spending a disturbing amount of time at my landlords' house), and we played mini-Cluesome and Chain Reaction (the latter doesn't have rules online, and I don't feel like typing them up). Eventually, I managed to kick everyone out because I was really tired. So tired, indeed, that it took me until now to tell thee of it.

The End.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
  • I believe that the Bar exam should require that a prospective attorney understand the difference between tortious and tortuous. I mean, come on! Twice in two days?
  • I did finish the cryptic I was working on, now I need to figure out how to format it before the contest tomorrow.
  • Speaking of the contest, I should probably get in a little bit more training, just in case.
  • I'm having a barbecue on Monday. If I didn't send you an email it's because you're not in my city or I didn't have your email address in my book when I looked. If you want to come, let me know.
  • This space intentionally left blank

FriNYTX: 100 minutes. I think I forgot to turn off the timer when I finished.
tablesaw: "Tablesaw Techniques" (Techniques)
Yesterday, I didn't get to bed early like I'd planned because I got obsessed with writing a cryptic crossword for [ profile] ifmud. A few days ago, there was some group-solving of the current Atlantic Puzzler. Only one clue, actually. I logged on after the group had solved it, and they challenged me to solve it on my own. I did, eventually, then discovered that they were so ashamed of their prolonged inability to solve that they'd wiped the memory of the conversation from the @recap commands. Silly.

The next day, I enlisted their aid in finishing up some cryptics from the NPL convention by [ profile] saxikath and Mr. E, with much more time dedicated to the latter. Mr. E's Jumble cryptic, with clues that may or may not have wordplay missing or adding a letter, was hard on its own, and explaining it was killer. I still have a few left on that one, which I may need to foist upon the Mud again.

Later, unable to sleep, I foolishly decided to whip up a simple puzzle specific to the Mud audience. The grid was completed rather quickly, which I later found out was a problem. See, I filled the cryptic grid the way I fill a standard grid, trying to add words which were unusual or which looked pretty. I forgot, of course, that later I would have to come up with clever wordplay involving each of them. This led to some headaches later on.

Eventually I unleashed the puzzle, and gleefully watched as a group of four had at the clues. There were many tweaks to be made, as things went on, but I was sad that my faulty memory of one IF game forced me to tank one clue completely. That's what I get for not rechecking the source.

Anyway, if you'd like, you can try the final version of the puzzle. Be forewarned, though, that several clues require knowledge of Interactive Fiction, or the denizens of the ifMUD. Also, you should probably know how to solve cryptic crosswords.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I'm finally home from Indiana. There's a lot to write about. A lot of it will be put into an article for [ profile] saxikath and The Enigma, but I'll find some stuff to put on here, as well. Short version: On Wednesday, I flew into Indianapolis. There was a party. On the way home, there was a lightning-and-thunderstorm. That night, played [ profile] thedan's Jeopardy, Telephone Pictionary, and freeform Catch Phrase [dead link changed, 10/26/10]. Next day, slept in, played Puerto Rico [dead link changed, 10/26/10], went to the first night of program, applauded the Sagamore of the Wabash, almost got knocked out by chlorine, played living Scrabble, finished Puerto Rico, did some more games. Friday, had a fantastic tour of The Brickyard, had cocktails in a rotating skybar, ate, listened to an excited Merriam-Webster publisher, guessed (badly) at new dictionary definitions, helped find the hidden contest, listened to some Will Shortz puzzles, answered some (definitely not all) trivia, solved (most of) a vaganza, solved a brilliant Bartok cryptic crossword with [ profile] cramerica, played more games of various sorts, went to bed around 7:30 a.m. On Saturday, had lunch, solved a fun Slik cryptic crossword with [ profile] bookishfellow, did some paper puzzles, put solutions to various flats missing a particular symbol with Cram, took a group photo, bought chocolate, ate, solved a hurried Harth cryptic crossword with T McAy, worked through an extra-extravagant extravaganza with [ profile] tahnan, En, DandR, and Artistry, played lots more games, didn't sleep. Next day, still didn't sleep, ate breakfast, snagged a British dictionary as a prize, said goodbyes to those leaving, slept, woke up for dinner at a famous steakhouse, did some group cryptic crossword solving, slept. Today, woke up, checked out, ate, went to airport, realized I'd lost my driver's license and photo ID, was subsequently subjected to an extremely thorough security check, flew anyway, met reality game show contestants, arrived home, called parents, connected to ISP, logged on to NPL chat.

Tomorrow, mundanity begins anew. Woo.
tablesaw: A young Shawn Spencer learns proper saw technique from his dad. (Cartoon)
The puzzle has been formatted to the New York Times' specifications and is sealed into an envelope ready to be flown across the country. Wish it luck on its way.

What I've learned thus far:
  • There's an informal limit on the number of black squares allowed into a grid.
  • Many people don't know what emo is.
  • This is fun.
TueNYTX: 6:30. WedNYTX: 7:30. TueLATX: 5:15. WedLATX: 5:30. Oooh . . . pangram.


May. 23rd, 2003 12:39 pm
tablesaw: A young Shawn Spencer learns proper saw technique from his dad. (Cartoon)
Between not sleeping and/or catching up on lost sleep, I've been writing down my thoughts on The Matrices, which is taking a lot longer than I would have expected.

My sleeping problems seem to be linked to the very hot weather we've been having in The Valley. I've never thought I needed my AC unit while I slept, but it turns out I do. I turn it down pretty low, and turn it off once I get up, but I still feel bad. Of course, then I remember the insomniac sweat into which I awoke on Wednesday, then I don't feel so bad.

I'm getting out of town on Monday, though, and hopefully I'll find some nice weather for the beginning of Commercial Summer.

Also, I'm going to pimp some things:
FriNYTX: 18ish. Hooray for 65A!

Onna stick?

Jan. 6th, 2003 12:52 pm
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I went over to my mother's school this morning to pick up my heavy winter coat (which had been hanging dormant in the closet of my parents' house since I can home from Washington, D.C. for good almost five years ago) for my upcoming Providence trip. While I was out, I stopped by the old Borders to use the gift certificate my grandparents gave me for Christmas. I forgot to bring my ATM card, which saved me from buying much more than my certificate was worth, and in the end I picked up a copy of Games World of Puzzles, which has a highly recommended set of cryptic crosswords by Patrick Berry, the constructor of the cryptics in Harper's Magazine; a copy of The Nation, whose lefter-than-me stance is enjoyable and interesting to me (I'm thinking about subscribing); Los Angeles Times Sunday Crossword Omnibus, Volume 1, all clues of which are written by Barry Tunick, whom I know from NPL parties; and what seems to be a rather standard fantasy story called The Glasswright's Apprentice, which just gave me good vibes.

I also stopped by the Topanga Plaza Shopping Center, thinking I might be able to also use my Sam Goody gift certificate, but there wasn't a SG shop in the mall. (Why did I think there was?) Visiting the food court, I had a hankering for a Hot Dog On A Stick, but there didn't seem to be anyone manning the front, so I left. Instead, I finally visited Ruby's Red Hots, a hot dog place right around the corner from my house. It doesn't open until eleven, so I usually miss it, but today I made it my business to go there. As an old Cherub friend would say, "That is a hot FUCKING dog!" This thing was not only a quality hot dog, it was covered with everything one would want on a hot dog: tomatos, jalapeños, a long pickle wedge, several slices of nonpickled cucumber, onions, a mountain of relish and, of course, mustard on an onion bun. I also ordered cheddar fries, which made for a fine, but extremely messy dinner. Yum.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Sat NYT: 24.
Fri LAT: 11:45.
Fri WSJ: 23:30.
Sat LAT: 5:45.

That last one is a wow. The LAT is an easier puzzle, but I usually take longer than that on a Saturday. I just seemed to know every answer handily. The lack of names and places in the puzzle helped a great deal. The Wall Street Journal Friday puzzle was a lot of fun, too, with an unusual design.

Making more finishing touches on the Cryptic. [ profile] davidglasser has been kind enough to point out to me that I cannot count. It won't be updated on the web for a while, though, since I will be going from work to bed to party to Mass with little time in between. Now to finish off my Enigma answers, as much as I can get done tonight.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
The Cryptic Puzzle is available again, with the facelift. Going to bed now. Tonight begins a long day: work, puzzle party, Easter Vigil. Need to get the restage when I can.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
My feet have been cleansed, following the mandate of Christ. The cryptic is now pretty much finished and is waiting for its solvers. (I'll update the puzzle when I get home to the same link as listed yesterday. Thanks again, [ profile] davidglasser, for pointing out some simple errors.) And there's actually been work today, a Court pleading that needed a grammatical tune up.

But returning to the Triduum, Holy Thursday has a very unusual Mass for Catholics. Holy Thursday is the feast celebrating the Last Supper, when Jesus created the sacrament of the Eucharist, around which the entire Mass is structured. So Holy Thursday is a big important feast day. But it's also leading up to Christ's death, which is generally regarded by theologians as a major bummer. So the Mass goes a bit weird. In the middle, the priest shows his humility by washing the feet of the congregation (or, more usually a representative dozen). Then later, the consecrated Host, in the Catholic tradition the true Presence of Jesus Christ is taken in adoration, accompanied by several beautiful Latin hymns, around the church and into the rear of the church by the tabernacle. Then it's over and they turn off the lights. Literally. Depending on one's point of view, it is either the most anticlimactic moment in the Liturgical year, or the best cliffhanger, preparing the attendee for the Passion to come in the rest of the Triduum.
some personal, non-religion-related musings )
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Thank you to everyone who worked on the cryptic and responded (and by that I mean, of course, thanks [ profile] davidglasser). I don't know if anyone else worked on it, but his were the only responses I got. I'm going to start fine tuning now, a new version may be available later.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Okay, so the first draft of my cryptic crossword puzzle is completed and available here. If you've never done a cryptic crossword before, well, this may not be the best time to start, unless you've got someone to help you. Some basic solving guides are available from the Atlantic Monthly and the National Puzzlers' League, if you are truly brave.

I think I have some very good clues, although many others still need some more work. But since I have to go to sleep right now (Maundy Thursday mass isn't till eight, but I need to make sure I get a good shower in that removes major foot odor), I'll leave that until tonight. If you do take a stab at this puzzle, please give me any feedback you have whatsoever.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Grid is filled, and many clues are completed. I struggled with a standard American crossword puzzle before deciding that I didn't have enough time to get a nice grid before Saturday. I also came up with a fun idea for a mini-variety cryptic, but again realised I had too little time. So I went with a standard cryptic grid, which allowed me to get some long words without having to cross every letter. I'm finishing it up now and will post it when I'm done.


tablesaw: -- (Default)
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