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.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I just got an Amazon gift certificate as a prize for being on the first team to solve Mark Halpin's Short Story. That's really exciting.

With lots of help from [ profile] selinker, my first Mystery Hunt puzzle for the year is looking good. Some formatting soon, then off to something new over there.

I also have two flats in the September Enigma I'm particularly proud of #45.

Possibly working overtime tonight. But maybe not.


Jul. 21st, 2008 05:36 am
tablesaw: "Tablesaw Techniques" (Techniques)
When I was looking at my budget last month, I made one seemingly insignificant cut that's had a huge effect. I ended my subscription to Nikoli.

It's not going to save a lot of money, 550 yen per month is not a whole lot. But it's given me backa lot of time. The kind of logic puzzle that Nikoli serves up so consistently and elegantly is like an anesthetic for my brain. And I have a tendency to fire up the nurikabe and let everything else fall away.

Without Nikoli, I've gone back to the NPL wordplay magazine, The Enigma. At the end of last month, I spent a few hours trying to solve May's issue, and turned out a respectable sixty-five out of seventy-five flats. For June's issue, I'm (mostly) one puzzle away from completing the entire issue.

If anyone wants to trade hints for June 29, I'm open to it. I'd also like to have some confirmations regarding #65 and F6. For the latter, I have an answer which is probably not intended, but which is perfectly defensible (the double edge of bad cluing), and for F6, I have no real way of confirming if my consonants for 5 Across are correct.

MonNYTX: 4:30.
tablesaw: "Tablesaw Techniques" (Techniques)
Thanks to [ profile] tinhorn2, a major portion of the Denver NPL convention is available online: Diorama Flats.

For readers not involved with the NPL, "flats" will need some explanation. Usually, they take the form of poetry, and you can get a nice introduction to that style of puzzle in the NPL's minisample. In short, every flat starts with a "base" which is a group of words united by a particular bit of wordplay. So hideout and hideous form a base known as a "last-letter change," for reasons that should be obvious. Others are mote complicated, but they're all listed in the NPL Guide

But for this convention, we threw out the whole "poetry" thing and decided to work in a more three-dimensional medium. For diorama flats, the words in the base had to be represented in the form of a diorama, made with the various arts-and-crafts materials provided.

Over fifty dioramas were made on Friday night, though only thirty-three were presented as part of the competitive solving the next day. I thought I'd take this opportunity to share some of my favorites.

First, here's the one that I made with [ profile] cazique (I was going to embed them, but Picasa isn't letting me, I guess:
(Link to Diorama)
=Z-Saw ([ profile] cazique/[ profile] tablesaw)
A Consonantcy is a flat type where the consonants for each word remains the same, though the vowels change (like acorn, crayon, and ocarina). The numbers following the title tell you how many letters each word has.

Other favorites:
DELETION (5, *4) (*4 = not MW)
(Link to Diorama)
=100 Down/D Ness
In a Deletion, one letter (but not the first or last letter) is removed from a word to create another word. The asterisk means that the four-letter word is capitalized. "Not MW" means that the word doesn't appear in a major Merriam-Webster dictionary.
(Link to Diorama)
=(Logic/Artist unknown)
A Transposal is a simple rearrangement, with the same letters in each word. Again, the asterisk means that one word is capitalized, but this time, it can be found in Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary.
LETTER BANK (11, 12 5)
(Link to Diorama)
In a Letter Bank, the first word (the bank) has no repeated letters. The second word uses each letter in the bank at least once but possibly many times (like lens and senselessness). The "12 5" means that the second "word" is actually a two-word phrase where the first word is twelve letters and the second word is five letters.
(Link to Diorama)
=[ profile] tmcay & Team Conorado
Should be self-explanatory. Change the first letter of the word to get a new word.

Fair Night.

Feb. 6th, 2004 11:09 am
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Recently, a member of the [ profile] npl passed away. Her hame was Mary Youngquist Hazard, but she was known to the Krewe as Nightowl.

A few weeks ago, she sent a note with a self-addressed postcard asking me about a recent puzzle I had authored. I thought it was a cool thing to do, but with the crazyness of the past two months, I forgot to respond. It's a bit late now.

This poem was written by her, and it appears in a few places on the web. It's a good poem with a remarkable restraint. Godspeed, Nightowl.

Winter Reigns

Shimmering, gleaming, glistening glow--
Winter reigns, splendiferous snow!
Won't this sight, this stainless scene,
Endlessly yield days supreme?

Eying ground, deep piled, delights
Skiers scaling garish heights.
Still like eagles soaring, glide
Eager racers; show-offs slide.

Ecstatic children, noses scarved--
Dancing gnomes, seem magic carved--
Doing graceful leaps. Snowballs,
Swishing globules, sail low walls.

Surely year-end's special lure
Eases sorrow we endure,
Every year renews shared dream,
Memories sweet, that timeless stream.

— Mary Youngquist

FriNYTX: 17:30.
tablesaw: Katsuhiko Jinnai, from El Hazard (Jinnai)
So far, there have only two people have entered the Christmas Trivia Bonanza. This means that they are going to get stuff, regardless of how well they did. Don't you think you can do better? Don't you think you have a chance at getting some cool swag from the puzzle-related gifts I purchased but ran out of people to give to? Check out the game and send me your answers and maybe you can win! Entries will be accepted by e-mail until tomorrow morning.

A while back, I said that I had a chance of getting a complete for the November issue of the Enigma. Whenever I said this (I can't find the entry), I believe it was true, although the chance hinged on me not abandoning the issue for several weeks and then trying to rush-solve it in the past three days. Oh well. I'll be lucky if I can knock off the new cryptic.

And I need to finish the last John Ratite entry of the year. Now.
tablesaw: Tablesaw (Thin Manual)
Life just isn't feeling all that great for me about now, for various reasons, some of which may get into a filtered post at some point this weekend. Other things that have to get done this weekend are other preparations for my trip to Washington and Atlanta in a few weeks.

I'm doing well on solving the September issue of The Enigma. In fact, I may be in range of a complete. I don't think I'll go for it, though, unless an inordinate amount of time appears at work. I've got plenty else to do this month, including scoring a bunch more Comp games.

Hey, remember that meme from a while back? Yeah, I suck. (But I always swallow eventually.)

So what exactly do you think of me? )

what do you fear? )

You talk about why the question format meme seems so widespread. Have you considered a poll meme in which other users submit answers and you provide them with the pertinent question?

I have now.

[Poll #190757]

Adult Swim is repeating its Sunday lineup at 2 a.m., which means that I can go off and see a movie after Alias and not miss anything. Sounds good. Now to figure out if I want to rush over there in five minutes to see Kill Bill or wait a bit longer to see Matchstick Men. I'll consider further after sleep.

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: Sketch of an antique tablesaw (Antigua)
I wrote an extensive song pastiche about the special election, but it's destined for The Enigma and, thus, cannot be reprinted here. Don't worry, I'm sure there will be more. For now, I leave you with this clerihew on the subject of one of the contestants on Who Wants to Be Governor of California? The Debating Game. ([ profile] wjukknibs, you know I'll be invading your digitally cabled house for that one.)

A uniformed patrolman
Once arrested Gary Coleman,
And he was convicted in a county court.
His defense came up short.
tablesaw: Sketch of an antique tablesaw (Antigua)
So, I'll be working on Independence Day. Well, technically, I'm already working on Independence Day, but I'll be working again tonight. And yet, this is a good thing; it means that I get to take Saturday off and fold it into my already-planned vacation, lengthening it to ten days, including weekends. I've been talking about my time off obliquely for some time, but it occurs to me that I haven't really explained what I'm going to be doing.

Well, tomorrow, I work. And then, for the next four days, I'm free around the house. One of those days is looking like it's going to entail a trip to Magic Mountain with [ profile] wjukknibs and some friends. I can't remember which day he's looking at, but when I know, I'll mention it here. I may try to head down to San Diego, but work conflicts may make that not as edifying an experience as I would hope. And there'll be some cleaning of carriage house. There is a surprising large number of spiders lurking in various places around my home, considering I don't have any other insects around (perhaps I would if there were no spiders?). Putting everything back into place will hopefully roust out many.

Then, at 7:45 on Wednesday Morning, I fly to Indianapolis! Yes, Indianapolis! Home of The Brickyard! Home of twenty-third president Benjamin Harrison! Home of . . . of . . . Action Duckpin Bowl?

Indianapolis isn't the most cosmopolitan polis, but then, I'm not going for the politics. The draw is the 164th annual convention of the National Puzzlers' League. The NPL was founded 120 years ago (today!) and has been holding conventions ever since. (For people who do math, the convention was originally semiannual.) It's provided for fans of words, wordplay, puzzles and games, and its member directory includes many creators of the same. Many of these people make it a habit to appear at one or more of various puzzle-related events across the country, such as the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, where several of the top finishers are NPL members, and the MIT Mystery Hunt, which I attended this January on a team with several people I knew from NPL. The best nutshell description of the attraction to this particular event comes from a report by local NPL member and friend Artistry:
I watch a group play "Killer Charades". Someone steps up. He mimes. "Album title." Got it. "Seven Words." Got it. "Second, fifth, and seventh words." Got it. He falls to the ground. "Falls!" Got it. Someone shouts out, "As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls!" Didn't get it. Total elapsed time: 8.7 seconds.
These are my people. Sure, there are other people that are my people, but those people still give me funny looks when I recite a flat or when I try to explain an "easy" cryptic-crossword clue. The people who don't aren't usually numerous enough to get a good group together for come-what-may.

So that's where I'm going on vacation, Puzzletopia, or some such place. Planned activities include: a set of wordplay puzzles based on identifying smells, a grouping of flats which [ profile] lipogram would find satisfactory, a puzzle extravaganza, original variety cryptic crosswords, a hidden contest, and anything else people happen to bring along. There's also going to be a trip to The Brickyard, though I don't know if it will be puzzle-related. I'll be there from Wednesday, July 9 to Monday, July 14. Also, I probably won't be sleeping.

That's my vacation. How about you?

FriNYTX: 13.


Jun. 26th, 2003 06:26 am
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I was ambuscaded by another hot day, which woke me up at five after about as many hours of sleep. I need to keep better track of the weather forecasts. The last few hours have been painful to get through. Thankfully, work is slow. Instead, I devoted some time to cluing NYT attempt II.

Seeing [ profile] aussie_nyc's travel update [journal deleted, link not preserved in transfer from LJ] reminds me that my own trip to Indianapolis, Indiana (the city so nice they named it twice and added "polis") for the NPL convention is only two weeks away. Um, wow. Time has been a bit distorted for me in the past week, but still, I haven't been paying attention to this. I'll have to get myself in gear. I don't even know if I'm going to bring anything.

Speaking of the NPL, the [ profile] npl community on LiveJournal is apparently going to get an appearance in Graffiti on the Sphinx, an informal NPL publication. Treesong asked for my permission to duplicate two flats by me from said community.

And speaking of Treesong, yesterday in the NPL chatroom, we were playing the NPL's own particular brand of $25,000 Pyramid. (Hey, someone rewrote the intro to that page. Great!) Anyway, I've found myself particularly haunted by a series of clues I gave yesterday, based on a category by Treesong:
  • Our heroes encounter a logic problem that does have enough information to solve it.
  • Harry is shocked to discover that he killed James and slept with Lily.
  • Hagrid fortuitously raises a strangely footed beast in the Forbidden Forest.
  • The challenge turns out to be Tom Marvolo himself.
Divining the category is left as an exercise to the reader.
tablesaw: "Tablesaw Techniques" (Techniques)
Recently, I've found myself in the position of advocating Interactive Fiction (IF) to friends and coworkers not familiar with it. However, recently, my own IF-playing rate has dropped to near nil. This year's IF Competition is approaching, and I still haven't played a single game from last year's. So, I've decided to force myself to play some more, get back into the habit, by dedicating myself to writing a few reviews. (This commitment was much more spur-of-the-moment than it seems. See below.) I don't really have any goals except to play some games that I'd really like to play and that I can finish quickly enough to write five before the month is out. Along those lines, my selections will probably be rather (ahem) "unadventurous," as I suspect I'll be reviewing games I played and liked but never got around to finishing.

This is the case for Review #1: Savoir Faire. I played it furiously when it was released last year, but got stuck on a puzzle, set it down, and never picked it up again. I didn't get horribly stuck, if I recall; stopping the game had more to do with having to sleep than being particularly frustrated by the block. If you don't believe it, read my journal entries from that time. Subsequent journal entries seem to indicate that I was distracted from finishing by a date to see Enigma and some time to complete The Enigma. So, today, I played through the game. All of this is background that I wanted to vent before I wrote the review, which I will now write, and which will be posted in a bit.

Update: The review is now available for review.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
That's what my house is when I get home from work. I have the space heater as close to me as possible without it giving me a lap dance and my fingers are still getting chilly while typing this. It is Not Good. Leaving the space heater on while I'm at work seems to be a wasteful (not to mention dangerous) option. What to do!

I worked on the E-Nigma at the office today. It was a nice way to stay in practice for the still-delayed November/December Enigma that should be here any day now. (Knock on crossed fingers).

Excuse me. I'm going to put on five more layers of clothing.

TueLATX 4. WedNYTX: 9:15. Is 50D really that common? I've never heard of it. WedLATX: 5:30.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Haven't gotten back to doing even these. Sigh.

Anyway, I've already posted two flats, a Deletion and a Padlock. The next example is a Letter Bank. First, a word or phrase is chosen in which each letter is used only once, like "kitchen". This is the "bank." Then, a longer word or phrase is made by using each letter in the bank as many times as necessary (although each letter must be used at least once). From "kitchen," one could form "thick neck" or "kick in the teeth", but "necktie" wouldn't work (since the "H" isn't used).

Here's an brief example from the February 2002 Enigma. The bank is the two-word phrase represented by "KITCHEN"; "KICK IN THE TEETH" is the longer fifteen-letter word:

LETTER BANK (6 3, 15)
The Pope should excommunicate all tyrants
And set them as examples to aspirants
Who think that absolute regimes are bitchin';
Then all will know KICK IN THE TEETH's a KITCHEN.
=TABLESAW, West Hills CA

Flat #2.

Dec. 6th, 2002 04:59 am
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Yesterday, I introduced flats in general, so if you're confused, read up on it. I'll add some more notes after this one.

This is a more complicated type of flat, but it's important to some people who may have been confused by one of the puzzles in Museum Piece. This is a Progressive Padlock, which means that the basewords will overlap in the order given. In the flat below, the cuewords aren't numbers, though, they embody the flat type as well, so I can use them to demonstrate how they will look. The cuewords, in order, are BEHAVE, HAVEN, NATO, ATOLLS, and BELLS. They line up like so:

The words they represent follow the same pattern.

This flat also has interesting tagging. Note the "*6". The asterisk means that this is a six-letter Capitalized word. It could be the name of a place, the name of a person, a brand name or something else. Finally, there are some notes about which dictionaries have the word represented by the cueword "BELLS". It's in the Merriam-Webster's 10th Collegiate Dictionary, but only in recent version (though it is in the online version at Moreover, the same word is used once in the verse capitalized ("*BELLS"). It's the same word but with a different meaning, and one can only find the capitalized version of the word in the NI3, that is, Merriam-Webster's Third New International Dictionary.

Finally, the verse itself is a pastiche of Edgar Allen Poe's poem, "The Bells." I do a lot of pastiches, since they're fun and give me a structure within which to work.

(BELLS = only in very recent 10Cs; *BELLS = NI3)

Here, the loud, obnoxious BELLS—
Brazen BELLS!
Hawking pornographic sites and sex materiels!
Based on non-exhaustive polls,
From some marketing ATOLLS,
Writ by men who can't BEHAVE,
And who write "Sav! Sav!"
In their tracts,
In a clamorous appealing to the hapless email reader,
In a maddened supplication to the harried note-deleter.
It is clear we need to plead our
Bold and presidential leader,
With a resolute endeavor,
"End—end this plague forever!"
And he answers to the country:
We will find the cruel cartels,
And the knaves,
Will be punished if they flee,
To the Alps, or to the sea,
Or to India's basaltic HAVEN caves."
Yet the reader fully knows,
Despite speeches,
And loud screeches,
How the number of it grows;
Yet the reader clearly tells,
Despite crowing,
And NATOing,
How the number of it swells,
Like the Monty Python skit in which the Vikings sing of *BELLS—
Of the BELLS—
The annoying mass-deploying of the BELLS.
=TABLESAW, West Hills CA
tablesaw: -- (Default)
With my new computer and many new things around my house, I've been disinclined to continually update, which saddens me a bit. To give myself something to post for a while, I've decided to put up dome of the word puzzles that I've written for the Enigma, the publication of the National Puzzlers' League.

The puzzles that grace the pages of the Enigma are unique. The majority are called flats and involve a set of words or phrases that interrelate somehow. For example, if you change the fifth letter in the word "irrigate" you get the word "irritate;" this is called a fifth-letter change. (Simple enough, then.) These words form the answer, also called the "base", to the flat.

The kind of base forms the title of the puzzle. The text of the puzzle is written in verse. (I don't know why, they just are.) Each time a word from the base would be used in the verse, the baseword is replaced with a "cueword." Cuewords are usually easy to spot because they are in ALL CAPS and often clash with the rest of the verse. Using the irrigate/irritate example, a sentence might go "Whenever I have to ONE my crops, I get mad and TWOed." (Note the way that "irritate" was conjugated. This applies to making plurals as well).

To make things easier, the flat comes with an enumeration that tells one how long a word is and whether it's capitalized or not. The enumeration also includes tagging that will tell you which dictionaries to find words in. As a default, the NPL uses Merriam-Webster's Tenth Collegiate Dictionary, which can be found online at

More information on all of these topics can be find in the NPL Guide, and I'll give more information as it becomes necessary. For now, here's an easy puzzle to get you started, from last year's December issue:

At TreeForever, fake perennials
Built to last through bicentennials
Leave small bits of plastic offal
On the plant floor by the troughful.
Pity, then, the lonely runt who's
ONEing up by sweeping ONE TWOs.
=TABLESAW, West Hills, CA

(This flat is a deletion, which means that "ONE" is a six-letter word, and "TWO" is a five-letter word that can be found by removing one letter from "ONE". Both words are in MW's Tenth Edition, and neither is capitalized. Good luck!)
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I'll continue where I left off yesterday. As you may recall, there had been many puzzles calling for trivia and ingenuity. The second part of the day called for appetite and playfulness.

Dinner )

One Two Many )

Cluesome, by Bluff )

Remains of the Day )

More Answers )

TueNYTX: 4:30.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
A browser crash has saved you from reading about the trouble I had getting to the house wherein was held the bimonthly meeting of the Los Angeles members of the National Puzzlers' League. Of the lost text I wrote, here's what it's important to know:
  • I don't remember things like teams and order exactly, so bear with me.
  • There was lots and lots of traffic getting to Conundrum's house near LAX.
  • NPL members use pseudonyms called Noms that we use in conversation and that I shall use in this report.
  • The first game was written by Music Man and was a "Stage II" game, named after the eighties board game of the same name.
Stage II, by Music Man )

Business Meeting and LaConic '05. )

The Case of the Heptaphobic Hooligan, by Bluff )

Make Your Own Treasure Hunt, by everyone )

Puzzle from NoCal whose name I forgot by Iolanthe, Wrybosh and someone else who I forgot )

The answers )

MonNYTX: 3:40. During the on-line NPL chat, there was much time comparison. I did adequately, considering that some solvers finished it in 2:15.

More News.

Sep. 2nd, 2002 11:12 am
tablesaw: -- (Default)
I'm jonesin' for the September issue of The Enigma.

My soon-to-be bedroom looks bigger than I thought it did.

My car hit 100,000 miles the other night.

The new Our Lady Queen of Angels Cathedral is being dedicated as I write, but the only live feed is in Spanish, featuring an annoying announcer translating absolutely everything and babbling for no good reason.

It's damn hot out.

[ profile] emshort sent me a message informing me that most of my order from is on its way. But not my spiffy Arrival poster, which will come later in its own nifty mailing tube. Sweet!
I really want to play card games with someone.

Cream soda is good.


tablesaw: -- (Default)
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