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: -- (Real1)
On Sunday, I was wiped out and still a little off balance because of my gut. Still, [personal profile] ojouchan and I got up and out in time to meet Artistry, [ profile] hahathor, [ profile] tmcay, and QED at Olives at the Bellagio. Last week was Restaurant Week in Las Vegas, and a number of good restaurants were offering discounted prix fixe menus, with the proceeds going to charity. The lunch we had was three courses for only twenty dollars.

Twenty dollars and nine cents!!!!!!!

Yeah, nobody knew what was up with that.

Anyway, the food was good, and Ojou took pictures of it, so maybe we'll see it eventually.

After that, we took in parts of the strip. I got to see the inside of Planet Hollywood, which made me miss the Aladdin. We went to Coca-Cola World and M&M World. At M&M world, I got 3-D glasses that didn't work and had to run around the theater to watch the silly movie. I was starting to feel tired already, so we decided to split up at the MGM Grand. Ojou and I would head back to the hotel, while they continued Strip-searching.

We took the monorail, which was fun but expensive, walked back to the car, and drove back to the hotel, where I passed out for a little while.

When I woke up, we went to meet Artistry and Hathor at Carnevino at the Palazzo for more fancy food. By the time we got there, they'd already ordered two dishes of raw beef and a salad, which we helped them finish. We each ordered a dish ourselves, which arrived with their almost-raw filet mignon. QED and T McCay joined us as Artistry enjoyed a grappa.

Afterward, we walked across the street to the Wynn, where we went to Parasol Down to see the Lake of Dreams. A show was beginning as we took the curved escalator down, so we were "treated" to a giant frog lip-syncing to War's "Low Rider". Note scarequotes. It scar[r]ed me deeply. To take the pain away, I ordered una "flor de Jalisco," which was a very nice tequila-and-pomegranate cocktail.

Monday, Labor Day, I was still feeling tired, so I slept through the complementary breakfast. Ojou woke me up in time to pack up our luggage, check out, and head to the other hotel. We spent some time trying to solve [ profile] zebraboy3's Labor Day puzzles (not making very significant progress) while Ojou and Artistry looked around the hotel, and compared the two Embassy Suiteses for a possibly mini-convention next year.

Eventually, we decided to hit a traditional Vegas buffet, so we headed out to the new casino/hotel/resort M for their magnificent buffet spread. We stuffed our faces for a while, and spent a long time just talking at the table before we left.

Ojou and I picked up a Hathor for our car and headed home. Unsurprisingly, there was some traffic going back down the 15, we passed two major accidents that caused major traffic. To pass the time, the three of us switched out our iPods with the car stereo, playing a song each in rotation the entire way.

Having stuffed our faces earlier that afternoon, and faced with a time deficit getting back to LA, we didn't bother stopping for food (though we did occasionally snack on the M&Ms we'd gotten at M&M World) until we got to [ profile] cramerica's apartment, where Hathor would be spending the next two nights. I don't remember what we did; I think we just watched TV; I was kind of zoned. Ojou and I went home and got ready for work the next morning.

Tuesday, work was slow, which was good because there was practically nobody there. At home, Ojou cooked fish, and we watched TV that we'd been letting pile up.
tablesaw: My apperance on Merv Griffin's Crosswords (Let's Do Crosswords!)
If you want to see me puzzling on the plane, go to The Lounge and scroll down to "June 24 1:45 PM."

Oh yeah, [ profile] ojouchan is in it too. Only a bit. It's not like she has a long involved conversation with the cameraman while I stare at my computer trying to get the answer to the next question.
tablesaw: My apperance on Merv Griffin's Crosswords (Let's Do Crosswords!)
I'm writing now on WiFi on a Virgin America flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles.

"But [personal profile] tablesaw," you protest, "however did you get to San Francisco in the first place?"


Last week I got a cryptic e-mail asking what I was going to be doing today. The answer was "working," but I asked if I should change this answer.

The e-mail had come from a friend who works at Google and who was looking to pack a flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco with puzzler/gamers to help promote A Day in the Cloud. The game was meant to be played anywhere on the internet (you can still play right now, if you've got a free hour), but to promote Virgin America's connectedness, they were also having special contests where different Virgin flights would compete against each other for a prize in addition to a chance at the grand prize. Also, this particular flight would have some press coverage.

After some back-and-forth, [ profile] ojouchan and I got the day off of work and were confirmed for the free flight.

So we got up early and drove to LAX, where there was a nice little breakfast spread before boarding. The plane looked fantastic, and everything went really well.

Right up until everyone started competing.

Apparently, there's a big difference in demand between WiFi that you pay for ($9.95 for one flight, apparently) and WiFi that you don't pay for, especially when there are prizes on the line. The moment everyone opened up their laptops, the sign-on screen that stood between us and the Internet became slower than frozen molasses.

Ojou and I had special problems in addition. Ojou's computer had some weird application (possibly from its previous life as an employer-provided laptop at my firm) that prevented her from signing on. I was making progress (slowly) when my laptop (actually [ profile] cramerica's laptop; it's complicated) died when the battery ran out. Of course, the battery was not supposed to run out, as I'd plugged the laptop directly into one of Virgin America's much-vaunted regular power outlets. Mine was dead, though. An attendant ran the cord back to a different row that had a free outlet, and I restarted the computer, but at the end of the queue again.

Eventually, Ojou and I got on at about the same time, some of the last people on the flight. It was painful listening to people shout out requests for answers and hints when we couldn't even see the game. (Later, we solved those puzzles pretty quickly, so we could've been some help.)

After we'd been playing for about ten minutes, the Google employees started coming through the cabin letting us know that we were going to have to turn off our WiFi early. Why? Because one of the reporters was going to be doing a live broadcast, and they needed the bandwidth. We ultimately got to see less than half of the contest.

We were sad. Not only did we not get to solve the puzzles (which ranged from cheesy "let's learn about Google" questions to impressive little gems), but we didn't get to contribute very much. We're not sure exactly how the scoring worked, but we were pretty sure our meager 13,000 feet combined wouldn't make much of a difference.

But for all the problems, we did have an ace in the hole, or rather, an ace in first class. The real ringer for the northbound flight was [ profile] onigame, and while most of us were asked to disconnect for the news broadcast, he was allowed to keep going.

The Google person sitting next to us had access to the two planes' scores and let us know that it was close, possible a thousand feet difference. And all our hopes rested on Onigame. The press crowded around the front of the plane, and we started chanting his name from the back.

Finally, we had the results. LAX to SFO beat the opposite flight. Everyone who participated would be receiving the prize of an HP Netbook. As the two people on the flight with probably the oldest laptops (and mine wasn't even mine!), we were very pleased.

(Not so pleased was the woman who had booked a flight not realizing that she wasn't on an airplane so much as a press event. When she found out that we'd been circling so that we could finish the press broadcast and that she might miss the connecting flight to take her to the hospital bedside of a family member, she was a bit upset.)

We got off the plane and grabbed a bite to eat in the airport, then hopped on the flight back south (the one that we're on now). I suppose we could've paid for a later flight and spent some time in San Francisco, but hey, we're cheap. Besides, we already had a plan.

It may be a cliche, but after winning, we're going to Disneyland.
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.
tablesaw: A tablesaw in action. The blade disappears when it comes in contact with a hot dog. (Virtually Unscathed!)
(No, I didn't forget. I just didn't feel like finishing. Now I do, again.)

The green eggs held clues reading compass points, rag, every 24 hours, latest information, Personals,
Top Secret, commercial, and PICTURESQUE announcement. These clues led to the classified section of the April 11 Daily News. There, after a bit of searching, one could find the following ad under "Announcements":
PICTURESQUE landing site found! Cmdr. Grad flipped his space helmet!
The words "picturesque", "grad", and "space helmet" clued my graduation portrait from the University of California, Santa Barbara, which I attended wearing a toy space helmet under my mortarboard. By flipping the photograph around, the agents found a memo from the aforementioned Cmdr. Grad, accompanied by four photographs taken from the landing site. The memo mentioned that an alternate landing site was needed, as well as a means of directing aliens to it.

At the landing site, there was no egg, but taped to a pole was another photograph. This photograph was also from a nearby location, directed to the landing site. When the agents tracked down the source of this new photo, there was another photo taped to another pole. Repeating the process twice more led to a final photograph, apparently taken from among some trees. By taking the position of that last picture, the agents were situated to find the gold egg, which had previously been concealed from view.

Background and Construction
This was one of the first puzzles I came up with, and it went through a few changes. I'd been thinking about using a classified ad for a while. They have been used to great effect for things such as magic tricks, and I thought it would be fun to find something in plain site. Then, as I was walking around the neighborhood one day, I saw a sign for a lost dog. I thought it might be fun to use signs saying "Lost Egg" to lead solvers on a path through the streets by my house.

I decided to use photographs to direct solvers to the first "Lost Egg" sign. But as I got a clearer idea of the theme of the hunt, I decided that it would be better to do something with a landing site. Seeing my graduation photo made me think that the alien name "Grad" and the clue "space helmet" would be a good combination that would fit well in a short ad.

At this point, I was planning on using basic "Detour" signs to lead the runaround. It wasn't until I went out with my borrowed digital camera that I thought of using more pictures to direct the solvers. It clicked as a good idea, and it helped me finalize the route they'd need to follow.

Agents in Action
This was the first clue tackled by the agents, and so there was some prompting involved. When it was clear that they were thinking about a newspaper, I said, "You know I picked up the Sunday newspaper, if you think that would help." I had culled the classified section to get rid of unnecessary employment and used-car ads, but there was still a whole lot of space to look through. There were several agonizing minutes where the page was open to the right area, and I was staring right at the ad, but nobody else could see it. I probably should have dedicated more clue space to focusing on "Announcements", but eventually it was found.

I'm sure that many of you, reading above, thought that it would be a stretch for solvers to think of my graduation picture from that ad. It certainly wasn't for my parents, who immediately began quizzing me on where I had put that helmet. After convincing them that they didn't need the actual helmet, they began looking for he picture.

My cousin, who lives next door, definitely took the lead on this step, since she new the area the best. She very quickly identified the landing site from the given photos, and she, my other younger cousin, and K. ventured off to find it. More than any other puzzle, I was worried that the components of this one might have been taken or blown away, so I made sure to give them my cell phone in case they encountered problems.

After a little while, they called, confused as to what to do next. I talked them through the idea of using the picture as a detour method, which they generally had figured out, but they were still unable to find the next step. After taking care of some business, I ran off to meet them.

As I approached the second location, I got very worried. The girls weren't by it, and I couldn't see the photo. Thankfully, it was because, on my way there, they had found the photo, taken it down, and were already looking for the next location. I waved them on, and went back to headquarters. The agents did need some more cell-phone prodding to finally find the golden egg. I was told by K. that it had more than a bit to do with the three girls, still in pretty, pastel Easter dresses, not wanting to go too close to the bushes where the egg was hidden.

(This puzzle can't be solved by you at all anymore, so I didn't try. I am trying to find a good scan of my graduation picture, and if I find one, I'll add it to the entry.)
tablesaw: "The Accurate Tablesaw" (Accurate)
Step 2: Red CluesThe red eggs held clues reading assassinate, murder, physician, surgeon, sport on a plank, fortunate, beneficial, and inexpensive butt. Which suggested my copy of the game Kill Doctor Lucky [link changed 6/22/11; original link to ""]. Inside, instead of the low-overhead, high-concept game we've all come to know and love, there were several pieces of paper.

First, there was an alien communication regarding Step 2: Drawing Crop Circles. Corporal Flerg has returned his notes to Ensign Dronn, making special mention of the section of the design that crosses itself like an X and explaining the concept earth crops to the young ensign. It's clear to see why this was needed, because also included in the box was a diagram of the prospective site of the circle. Finally, there were twenty-five pieces. (The agents' tetragrams were already cut, but that's difficult to do over the Internet. If you'd like to solve on your own, you can download an image in which the pieces have been randomly arranged and rotated.)

After correctly reconstructing the original crop-circle design, the agents used the clues in the alien communication to dig in an area in my backyard that corresponded to the place on the diagram where the X ended up. After going down a short way, they found the next gold egg.

Background and Construction
This puzzle was changed in probably every possible way before it was finished. Originally, I wanted the location of the golden egg to be located around the church down the street from me. But as Easter grew closer, I became worried about two things. One: The church would attract a lot of families. A lot of families means a lot of nosy kids. A lot of nosy kids means a higher likelihood that the egg might be located and messed with before the agents reached it. Two: I wasn't sure what parts of the church and its grounds would be accessible at what times. The spot I wanted to use (adjacent to a rosary of stepping stones around a garden of roses dedicated to Mary) might or might not be locked by the time the party got started.

At about this time, I decided to try to use the movie Signs as an inspiration for the aliens. It didn't completely pan out, especially since I couldn't locate a Signs-inspired font for the messages, but it did leave me with the idea of a crop-circle puzzle. While eating dinner at the local Chinese restaurant, I mused about the piles of mostly loose dirt in my backyard not being conducive to crops. From there, I thought that the idea of digging up my yard might be pretty fun, or at least surprising.

More on Puzzle Design )

I drew a 10x10 grid on graph paper, selected a good area for a 2x2 square to hold an X, then divided the rest of the grid into non-square tetragrams. Then I drew a loop. Then I cut out the pieces. Then I tried to figure out how to give information to make the placement of the pieces easy.

The grid I'd drawn just didn't want to be easy. I tried so many things, but nothing gave enough information without providing a shortcut to placing the square piece. I also had trouble fighting against the urge to turn the loop into a logic puzzle. There are lots of pencil-and-paper logic puzzles based on figuring out how a loop fills out a grid. I had to keep reminding myself what it would look like. In my mind, I saw Bartok quickly filling it out while Mel and Maria looked dazes/bemused/bored. I quickly shook it off.

Finally, I accepted that the answer would be to give the outlines of all of the pieces. To do this, though, I had to scrap the hours I'd already put into the grid and draw a new one so that, instead of only one square piece, there would be several. Karmically, once I had recut the tetragrams and drawn a new loop, the puzzle was satisfyingly difficult. Clarifying which pieces were "end pieces" by adding the dark borders made it easy enough for me to consider it complete.

I went into my backyard and took pictures of four patches of dirt, after digging them up a little bit and smoothing them with a rake. Then, I arranged them into a square, and lined up my prospective burying spot with the area that would hold the X piece. I overlaid the outlines of the pieces, and the puzzle was finally complete.

Agents in Action
This was the last communication found by the agents. In retrospect, I wasn't incredibly happy with the cluing, but things worked out satisfactorily in the end. My biggest regret was that "sport on a plank" was way, way too ambiguous for "board game", especially since one of my cousins is on a diving team. Regardless, they figured out that "killing" and "doctors" were important, so when my mother stumbled upon the box of Kill Doctor Lucky (conveniently laid on the top of a stack of boardgames), she immediately knew it was right.

I left the house to help the agents working on Step 3, and soon, I saw some agents wandering around my backyard with the diagram. When I found out they hadn't solved the puzzle, but were hoping to shortcut by finding loose earth, I sent them back inside.

Later, I found them digging. In the wrong place. They had solved the puzzle, but couldn't locate it in my backyard. I realized I'd made a foolish mistake. Although the diagram I have online is nice and colorful, clearly showing four different locations, the printed version, in black and white, isn't so clear. In my enthusiasm, in printing, I didn't realize how hard it would be to distinguish the sections. So the agents were using the main resource they had (two flower pots in one shot) and using them to orient the X. I clarified their locations, and soon they were digging in the right place. I had to do the ultimate excavation, though, since they were still a bit hesitant about digging in my yard.

So, though it had troubles, I liked this puzzle a lot, probably because I went through so much grief putting it together. But all of the wrinkles ironed rather well, and the hunt went on.

Too Late.

Apr. 17th, 2004 01:30 pm
tablesaw: -- (Default)
It's too late now to write any more, and I'm not completely done making Step Two remote-solvable. Instead, I present a link to another hunt run by my friend [ profile] duchez for her newlywed husband [ profile] katre50. This was a trail of clues leading to the location of a birthday gift. Duchez reports that she was inspired to put it together by my tales of The Eggs Files. Follow along, from the perspective of the birthday boy.

Also, play Kingdom of Loathing.

SatNYTX: 13:30. Wow, a Saturday BEQ where I didn't get horribly stuck on a crossing.
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Step 1: Yellow CluesThe yellow eggs held clues reading: etching, hanging, holy men, up, down, staircase, illusion, and frame. These clues suggested the print of M.C. Escher's "Ascending Descending" hanging in my living room. When the framed picture was removed from the wall, a sheet of paper was found taped to the side. It was a communication from the aliens researching Earth: "Step 1: Gather Information". (Remember, for best results install Catharsis Cargo.) The instructions from Lieutenant Skit-Tee ask Cadet Grumk to find the information listed below, compress the findings using a set of formulae, then call back for further instructions.

To make sure that people didn't try to solve this by jumping onto my computer, I expressly told solvers not to use the "In-tor-net" in their research. The trick here, was that all of the information was findable within my living room, most of it on my coffee table. In fact, solving at home may be impossible because at least one item is definitely not on the Web, and another answer was taken from a cute, but outdated resource.

The formulae have been removed from the online version of the puzzle because they manipulated the numbers to create a phone number. Specifically, the phone number of a very appreciated journal reader, [ profile] skitty. At my request, she had modified the outgoing message on her voice mail, giving the solvers a final equation. That equation led solvers to my next-door neighbor's house and to the golden egg underneath the decorative numbers of her address.

Background and Construction
The idea of coffee-table trivia came pretty early, and festered for a while. While looking at one of the books which would become a reference, I thought that a Calculatrivia-style quiz would be good, because it would help me narrow down the answers I was looking for around my house, and it would allow me to easily manipulate the answers into an answer-ish form. I collected answers as I cleaned my house. Anytime I found something that was interesting, likely to contain numbers, or that seemed appropriate for my coffee table, I would flip through it looking for some good digits. I collected a small list, and they managed work into the parts of the phone number very well.

Agents in Action
This was the third puzzle found, and it was found pretty easily. My mother and a young cousin picked up on what it meant pretty easily, and they directed my father to take down the picture. I was helping some people get Step Three started, and when I turned around, my father was swinging the print around, showing everyone (except himself, of course) the hidden sheet. Bartok looked at it and said, "Oh great, we're going to have to use the Internet for this one." Alarmed, I pointed out that actually, they probably didn't.

I lost track of this puzzle for a while, and so I can't tell exactly what happened. Most people were focusing on the other puzzles, but after a while, agents returned to it. A few tentative answers had been put in, but most were mysteries. As more people started working on the puzzle, people started to realize that they'd seen related objects before. You see, when DeB and Bartok got arrived earlier than everyone else, they amused themselves by looking at the strange and interesting items on my coffee table. So many of the questions seemed very familiar.

This was the last puzzle completed, and it ended with my mother reading off questions and having everyone else scour my coffee table for books likely to have the answer. When it came time to do the formulas, however, there were some problems. First, I had forgotten to bring a calculator. I thought I had one, but it turned out to be a remote control to a stereo system I never used. So there multiplication bits took a little while. Second, there were two typos in the formulas, causing two of the numbers to be slightly off.

A Digression on Puzzlers and Nonpuzzlers )

So, finally armed with the correct phone number, the agents called Commander Skit-Tee. It took them two calls to get the message correctly, but the directions and the number led them clearly down the street. It didn't take long for them to swarm onto my neighbor's yard and grab the egg.

(The puzzle can be solved without being in my living room, but I would say it's decidedly less fun. Anyway, the answers are available, regardless.)
tablesaw: -- (Default)
Most of the briefing was just atmosphere patter, nothing that wasn't included in the documents I mentioned in the last entry. I did field some questions though to straighten out how things would work.

Something I had neglected to put in the documents was that everyone was on a single team, working together. This was one of the most important changes, I felt, from last year and from other hunts I've seen run like this. One of my goals was to make the hunt more accessible to people who would just be dipping their toes into the water, as it were. I think that a competitive atmosphere hinders that, since dabblers feel they need to get out of the way of the true competitors or get confused about who they are supposed to be helping. Definitely no complaints, and everyone worked well together.

For the first step, everyone was to collect thirty-two eggs hidden in and around my house. They were divided into four colors: red, yellow, blue, and green. Inside each of the eggs was a clue. Taking the eight clues of each color would suggest an object in or around my house that would contain an intercepted communique between the alien invaders. That communique could be solved to lead to a location that was within a five-minute-walking radius of my house.

The first four communiques related to the first four steps of the aliens' plan. Step 1: Gather Information. Step 2: Draw Crop Circles. Step 3: Land Spacecraft. Step 4: Kill All Humans. By foiling each of these steps, the agents learned more about the final step of the plan. Step Five, the Alien Genetiforming Dance, was a complicated process the aliens were using to adapt their DNA so that they could safely live on their conquered planet. If the agents could follow the instructions of the Alien Genetiforming Dance, they could find the birthplace of the aliens (and the berthplace of their ship) and save the earth.

I'm going to tackle each step/puzzle separately, talking about how it was supposed to run, how it did run, how it was designed, problems that arose, and what I learned. But first, I'll talk about the first eggs. They were pretty simple, and they were all found fairly quickly. Last year, I was singularly devious with my egg hiding, but this year I decided to ease up. One reason was that I had used up lots of the good spots last year, and I didn't want it to be a game of Husker Du for the returning players. Also, last year was very egg-finding based. This year, I had more to go on, so I thought that easier eggs would speed things along. I avoided putting eggs in unlikely containers, and instead I opted to place them in locations that were hidden unless you were standing in a particular spot.

Sadly, the egg that I hid the best did not survive. With great care, I had managed to wedge a yellow egg in between the citrus fruits on the tree in my back yard. The colors blended perfectly. But, just as the guests were arriving, I noticed that the cool canyon breeze had interceded, and my favorite egg was now lying exposed on the patio cement. Briefly, I considered tape, but thought better of it. Maybe next year.

Also, two eggs went unfound. They weren't noticed, so much, because not all eight of the clues were necessary for each color. One was in my hot pot (as I discovered when I went to make tea the next morning), the other was on the window sill behind my sink.

The easy eggs, and the accessible first step were a big help too, since even my parents, whom I thought would be hanging back, found it easy to get involved merely by wandering around the premises peeking around corners. Of course, as usual, the star egg sniffers were the youngest players, my cousins Maria and Maggie, who went at things with full force.

When about 80% of the eggs had been found, people began to trickle into my living room to start opening them. Pretty soon, the agents were on their way to finding the puzzling alien messages.
tablesaw: A tablesaw in action. The blade disappears when it comes in contact with a hot dog. (Virtually Unscathed!)
As you may know if you listened to the AudBlog, I was still frantically cleaning as the beginning of the party came around. Bartok was the first to arrive, punctual as ever at 2:30. He was pleasant and accommodating as I continued to run around the house, cleaning things. We chatted, etc. Things were pretty much in order by three, when DeB showed up, and I started set out the chips and dips and jelly beans.

(I'd like to mention that Ken's Peppercorn Ranch) is a very fine dressing for crudites. However, I was disappointed that the baby broccoli that I procured from Trader Joe's didn't get eaten as much as the celery or carrots.)

Eventually, everyone arrived, [ profile] cramerica, [ profile] wjukknibs, K., Mel, two of my cousins, and my parents, in addition to DeB and Bartok. Artistry called and said he'd be late, so I held the opening till about 3:45, when I started to explain the investigation/game to the assembled agents.

I don't think I'll have time to go through all of it, so I'm just going to link to copies of the files, for now. You, like my guests, can read over them and ponder their meaning while I drive home from work to continue writing. I will tell you that your experience of these documents will be greatly enhanced by installing the X-Files and Catharsis Cargo fonts.

The first document was a brief introduction from Special Agent Fox-in-the-Henhouse Mulder. Attached were two procedural documents. One explained the course of the investigation to come, and was titled HOW TO STOP THEM. The other document was the beginning of the final puzzle, the Alien Genome Dance. The other steps of this complicated mating ritual would be revealed later.

Because it wasn't clear whether everyone there was going to be working very actively, I devised a system of Field Agents and Supervising Agents, which, I hoped, would allow people to feel free to participate only as much as they wanted. There was an extra document for each. The Field Agents received general instructions on how to attack the puzzles. Supervising Agents got tips on how to stay involved without feeling obliged to run around too much.

I handed these out early because I'm the type of person who likes to read through the program before the show starts. So were most of my guests, so there was much reading of the documents before things even got started. Then, the briefing began . . .


Jan. 24th, 2004 07:05 am
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April 11:

I'll be hosting an Easter Sunday party. It will feature a follow-up to last years Eggs Files Easter Egg and Puzzle Hunt. I'm going to plan ahead and maybe actually get some people to show up this year. The hunt will be a bit wider in scope, although the difficulty is going to be about the same, if not easier. I already know how most of it is going to work. There will be no teams this year, everyone works together, and he difficulty will still be geared to make it fun for my high-school-freshman cousin.

If I start planning this early, maybe more than five people will be hunting this time . . .
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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: 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.

Egg me on.

Mar. 25th, 2003 10:27 am
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I'm considering throwing an Easter/Egg Hunting/Game Playing party on Easter. Nothing particularly Catholic, I just feel like having a party, and that's as nice a Sunday as any. However, there are some problems. First, I don't know if I really have any sort of clue what I would be doing, other than something with hidden eggs and maybe clues to where they are. Second, Wendy has informed my that, being galaphobic (avoiding parties), would avoid any sort of party with lots of people. So there's an incentive to make that day a party of two.

But are other people out there interested in such a party? If I could throw together something nice, I may just do and try really hard to get Wendy up.
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For no really good reason.

I do have a lot to write about. I have things about the Hunt, about yesterday's puzzle party, a whole lot about puzzling and my life, really.

After a twenty-six-hour day, twelve of which were spent with NPL people, I spent the next twelve hours having a dream of next year's Mystery Hunt. It was/will be close, but ACRONYM wins. Sorry if I spoiled the ending for anyone.

So, I'll try to get that down tonight.

Now, normal sleep.

P.S. I almost forgot, Museum Piece is going to be presented at a San Francisco NPL meeting. Woohoo! I hope it goes well.
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I've been writing this slowly, so I thought I'd post the beginning:

In recounting the tale of my vacation, I begin with the last day, which took about sixty hours.

On Friday morning, I awoke in Providence and packed my bag with toiletries, extra clothes and some warm-up puzzles to work on as I rode into Boston. [ profile] veek drove me to the Providence Commuter Rail Station and I boarded the train into the city. It was a calm ride. Once there, I switched to the T and exited at Kendall Square, near MIT. [ profile] davidglasser had provided me with some rather convoluted directions ("Turn right onto the street whose name I can never remember . . ."), but I was running out of time and followed them to the best of my ability. Although I went off track about half-way through, I still managed to end up in Building 4, my destination, and I quickly found ACRONYM headquarters.

It was about 11:50 a.m. and the entire team was heading off to Lobby 7 for the opening of the Hunt. I barely had time to drop off my things before I ran outside to follow Codex out the door. It wasn't until we were all gathered in the large main entrance of MIT that I got to stop and introduce myself to some of the team members who had assembled. This was the beginning of what was to be, for me, a weekend of many NPL introductions. It began with finally coming face to face with [ profile] bookishfellow, [ profile] thedan and [ profile] saxikath, our team leader. I also got to finally meet [ profile] davidglasser, whom I'd known from [ profile] ifmud, and NPL member [ profile] jangler, who happened to wander over to our camp (for values of "camp" equal to "pillar we were huddled around"). This was only a small corner of the huge room, packed full with people, all waiting for the puzzling to start. I distinctly remember on person holding up a large turnip. (I later learned that this was Team Turnips. Should've guessed, eh?)

This, by the way, at noon on Friday, is when the sixty hours began. All chronology henceforth is subject to being slightly muddled.

Introduction )

Round One )

Round Two )

By now, I was very tired. I went into the sleeping room and took a nap. By the time I woke up, the Hunt had exploded.

To be continued . . .
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You'd think that spending a weekend getting to know a new computer would mean I'd be spending tons of time on LJ.

But it doesn't.

See, I could read/write LJ from my Old Computer. This weekend was for New Computer things. Things like Escape from Monkey Island. Things like Myst. Things like TimeHunt. Things like sleep, which I don't think I got enough of, actually.

Oh well. It's time for work again.


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