rhu: (xword)
As you know, yesterday's New York Times crossword puzzle was by me. This was my first solo byline, and only my second appearance in the Times crossword, so I'm very excited about it. I've gotten a lot of questions about it, which I thought I'd answer in a blog post which is long, and therefore behind a cut tag. )
rhu: (xword)
As you know, yesterday's New York Times crossword puzzle was by me. This was my first solo byline, and only my second appearance in the Times crossword, so I'm very excited about it. I've gotten a lot of questions about it, which I thought I'd answer in a blog post which is long, and therefore behind a cut tag. )
rhu: (xword)
Last December, I signed up for a puzzle experience called the Black Letter Game, run pseudonymously by "Roman Debellatio". It promised to be an artifact-based puzzle hunt, and sounded interesting, so I decided to take a chance and pay $52 for a subscription. Can I call this a write-up if I never finished? )
rhu: (xword)
Last December, I signed up for a puzzle experience called the Black Letter Game, run pseudonymously by "Roman Debellatio". It promised to be an artifact-based puzzle hunt, and sounded interesting, so I decided to take a chance and pay $52 for a subscription. Can I call this a write-up if I never finished? )
rhu: (xword)
My friend Eric Berlin's third YA novel in his series "The Puzzling World of Winston Breen," The Puzzler's Mansion, came out last week. As with the other books in the series, Eric has written a YA mystery whose plot revolves around Winston having to solve puzzles, with additional incidental puzzles dropped in for those who like that sort of thing.

The story was enjoyable, the writing crisp. And Winston is growing up; it's great to see that the Winston of this book has matured compared to when we first met him. He's still friends with Mal and Jake, but their friendship is evolving as well. This not only keeps the narrative fresh, but it help to make Winston believable as a human being.

The context this time is that Winston has been invited to a weekend of puzzle-solving, but someone starts stealing the prizes. It reminded me in a few spots of Dorothy Sayers's Peter Wimsey short story, "The Necklace of Pearls" (which is a good thing). More than that I won't say here.

The first couple of chapters felt a little slow, but once the main event got underway, the pages flew by, and I was sad to reach the end. The puzzles were fun, as one expects from Eric (not just in his books, but in the NYTimes and for the National Puzzlers' League conventions); as in the previous books, though, if solving puzzles isn't your thing, you can just read the book and let Winston solve them for you.

Congratulations to Eric on another fine story. As I said at the top of this review, Eric is a friend of mine, but even if he weren't, I'd highly recommend this book for anyone who is or ever has been a young adult.
rhu: (xword)
My friend Eric Berlin's third YA novel in his series "The Puzzling World of Winston Breen," The Puzzler's Mansion, came out last week. As with the other books in the series, Eric has written a YA mystery whose plot revolves around Winston having to solve puzzles, with additional incidental puzzles dropped in for those who like that sort of thing.

The story was enjoyable, the writing crisp. And Winston is growing up; it's great to see that the Winston of this book has matured compared to when we first met him. He's still friends with Mal and Jake, but their friendship is evolving as well. This not only keeps the narrative fresh, but it help to make Winston believable as a human being.

The context this time is that Winston has been invited to a weekend of puzzle-solving, but someone starts stealing the prizes. It reminded me in a few spots of Dorothy Sayers's Peter Wimsey short story, "The Necklace of Pearls" (which is a good thing). More than that I won't say here.

The first couple of chapters felt a little slow, but once the main event got underway, the pages flew by, and I was sad to reach the end. The puzzles were fun, as one expects from Eric (not just in his books, but in the NYTimes and for the National Puzzlers' League conventions); as in the previous books, though, if solving puzzles isn't your thing, you can just read the book and let Winston solve them for you.

Congratulations to Eric on another fine story. As I said at the top of this review, Eric is a friend of mine, but even if he weren't, I'd highly recommend this book for anyone who is or ever has been a young adult.
rhu: (xword)
My post yesterday was an experiment to see how subtle a puzzle can be while still being detectable as a puzzle. ("Step 1: Solvers notice that there's something odd and deduce that there may be a puzzle lurking here....")

Cut for length and spoilers )

The lessons I'm taking away from this are these: (1) Being maximally subtle means that the constructor will leave out many people who would enjoy solving the puzzle if they knew one was there. (2) The surface cannot be empty fluff; people who don't notice that it's a puzzle have no reason not to expect it to be of the same quality and interest level as regular content.

One last note: I'm not sure either of these apply in contexts where people are told that there is a "hidden puzzle" somewhere --- whether that's in an issue of P&A magazine, or at the NPL convention.
rhu: (xword)
My post yesterday was an experiment to see how subtle a puzzle can be while still being detectable as a puzzle. ("Step 1: Solvers notice that there's something odd and deduce that there may be a puzzle lurking here....")

Cut for length and spoilers )

The lessons I'm taking away from this are these: (1) Being maximally subtle means that the constructor will leave out many people who would enjoy solving the puzzle if they knew one was there. (2) The surface cannot be empty fluff; people who don't notice that it's a puzzle have no reason not to expect it to be of the same quality and interest level as regular content.

One last note: I'm not sure either of these apply in contexts where people are told that there is a "hidden puzzle" somewhere --- whether that's in an issue of P&A magazine, or at the NPL convention.
rhu: (xword)
My previous posting is a puzzle; what I was curious about was how noticeable that would be. The answer was apparently "not very," although a couple of people did notice that it was a puzzle (I will unscreen those comments now; and one person applied the "puzzles" tag to that post) no one indicated to me that they solved it.
rhu: (xword)
My previous posting is a puzzle; what I was curious about was how noticeable that would be. The answer was apparently "not very," although a couple of people did notice that it was a puzzle (I will unscreen those comments now; and one person applied the "puzzles" tag to that post) no one indicated to me that they solved it.
rhu: (Default)
A brief question: Does everyone understand, generally, how I organize these LiveJournal messages?

Not obvious?

Please, everyone reply, sharing the (undoubtedly valuable) perspective of your expectations.
rhu: (Default)
A brief question: Does everyone understand, generally, how I organize these LiveJournal messages?

Not obvious?

Please, everyone reply, sharing the (undoubtedly valuable) perspective of your expectations.
rhu: (xword)
A friend from shul called me a few weeks ago with a request. He was invited to give a presentation at the World Economic Forum, and he wanted to use a series of puzzles to engage his audience and demonstrate different forms of collaborative workflows. The way he presented his idea, it was clear to me that he actually had a good grasp on how puzzle solving works, both on the individual and team levels, and how metapuzzles could be used to illustrate his points. The idea was to have three rounds that could be solved between courses during dinner, and his talk would follow the dinner.

If you want to solve the puzzles before reading further, I'll direct you to this PDF which contains all three rounds of puzzles. (The page numbers will indicate which round you're in.)

Cut for length. )

I hope that you enjoy it.
rhu: (xword)
A friend from shul called me a few weeks ago with a request. He was invited to give a presentation at the World Economic Forum, and he wanted to use a series of puzzles to engage his audience and demonstrate different forms of collaborative workflows. The way he presented his idea, it was clear to me that he actually had a good grasp on how puzzle solving works, both on the individual and team levels, and how metapuzzles could be used to illustrate his points. The idea was to have three rounds that could be solved between courses during dinner, and his talk would follow the dinner.

If you want to solve the puzzles before reading further, I'll direct you to this PDF which contains all three rounds of puzzles. (The page numbers will indicate which round you're in.)

Cut for length. )

I hope that you enjoy it.
rhu: (xword)
I really overthought this week's Matt Gaffney metapuzzle. Cut for length )

Interestingly, for the last few weeks my task at work has involved trouble-shooting various web problems. I've been staring at large volumes of logs, and writing scripts to summarize and graph the data, to correlate different types of logs from different systems, to look for anomalies and research what could be causing them. This has a lot in common with solving metas --- there's a lot of information, much of which looks promising but turns out to be irrelevant, and some of which can't be properly interpreted until I double-check my assumptions and do some web-based research. And in both cases, I'm certain that there IS an answer. In the case of the meta, it's because Matt put it there; in the case of the work stuff, it's because we didn't intend for the system to work this way so there must be a cause for the discrepency between theory and practice. Solving metas is really good practice for how to think about this kind of problem-solving, and has applicability to the real world and my paying job.

The lessons I took away from Matt's meta are not just lessons for solving meta's. Neither is the list of "Have You Tried..." which my Mystery Hunt team uses. OK, interpreting web server response times as Morse Code isn't likely to be useful, but filtering to focus only on the top decile of values may be (hey, look, they all have the same value for the referrer field; I didn't expect THAT!)
rhu: (xword)
I really overthought this week's Matt Gaffney metapuzzle. Cut for length )

Interestingly, for the last few weeks my task at work has involved trouble-shooting various web problems. I've been staring at large volumes of logs, and writing scripts to summarize and graph the data, to correlate different types of logs from different systems, to look for anomalies and research what could be causing them. This has a lot in common with solving metas --- there's a lot of information, much of which looks promising but turns out to be irrelevant, and some of which can't be properly interpreted until I double-check my assumptions and do some web-based research. And in both cases, I'm certain that there IS an answer. In the case of the meta, it's because Matt put it there; in the case of the work stuff, it's because we didn't intend for the system to work this way so there must be a cause for the discrepency between theory and practice. Solving metas is really good practice for how to think about this kind of problem-solving, and has applicability to the real world and my paying job.

The lessons I took away from Matt's meta are not just lessons for solving meta's. Neither is the list of "Have You Tried..." which my Mystery Hunt team uses. OK, interpreting web server response times as Morse Code isn't likely to be useful, but filtering to focus only on the top decile of values may be (hey, look, they all have the same value for the referrer field; I didn't expect THAT!)
rhu: (xword)
Although I wasn't a Steve Jobs fan, I do respect what he accomplished. Here's a tribute: a "Think Different" puzzle.
rhu: (xword)
Although I wasn't a Steve Jobs fan, I do respect what he accomplished. Here's a tribute: a "Think Different" puzzle.

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Andrew M. Greene

January 2013

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