November 2005 Archives

Ballot Time

Washington state voters approved initiative 901, imposing the nation's strictest anti-smoking regulations on Washington citizens. For years I've wished I could enjoy an evening of bowling or pub trivia without smelling like I'd wallowed in an ashtray, but lawmakers didn't seem willing to follow California's lead. Who knew all you had to do was bypass the lawmakers entirely and go directly to the people with an extreme ballot measure demanding even more draconian restrictions than the legislature would ever have passed on their own? Brilliant! I'm so inspired by this success, I've decided to draft resolutions for next November to shift life in Washington state closer to my own personal vision of utopia.

1. The Sound Sleep Initiative. Vehicle windows are prohibited from being rolled down if the stereo system in the vehicle is loud enough to be heard 25 feet away. Fines double after 11 PM. Directed EM pulses at key residential intersections fire automatically after 1 AM.

2. The I'm Standing Right Here Initiative. Retail employees are required to give higher priority to in-store customers than to people placing inquiries over the phone. The legally-mandated response shall become "I'm sorry sir/madam, but I'm currently with a customer who took the time to get off his ass and come into the store. He's running multiple errands and has places to be, so please continue to lounge in your bathrobe sucking down pork rinds and I'll get to you as soon as I'm done with this customer and the others who are waiting in line behind him."

3. The Condiment Initiative. All restaurants and food service establishments offering mustard as a condiment must offer spicy brown "deli" mustard instead of the florescent yellow variety. Honey mustard is also encouraged, but not required. All pizzas delivered to homes must come with red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese on the side.

4. All professional sporting events scheduled on weekdays shall begin prior to 5 PM to relieve rush hour traffic congestion.

Comments (4) | last by Steve Dupree, Nov 15, 4:46 PM

Puzzle Hunt 9

This weekend I participated in Puzzle Hunt 9: Doomsday on the MS campus. Captain Micropolis, in the midst of announcing his retirement, was seemingly dispatched by a new threat named The Puzzler and it was up to us to get to the bottom of things and foil The Puzzler's plot.

Rather than using the traditional "wave" structure for distributing puzzles, this hunt used a self-paced structure in which solving a puzzle unlocked access to one or more new puzzles in six different parallel storylines. For us and the other top teams, this structure worked very well. A steady flow of new puzzles to look at kept interest high. I've heard that less successful teams had quite a different experience. To get new puzzles you had to solve the ones you had. Teams unable to do that had to bang their heads against the same puzzles for hours, and didn't get the kind of help they wanted from the organizers to unblock them. That's a shame, and I'm surprised the organizers didn't implement a time-delay back-up system, where if a puzzle hadn't been unlocked by a certain time it would get unlocked automatically regardless of whether or not the team had "earned" it.

Aside from the unlocking system, the structure of this hunt bore a frightening similarity to Puzzle Hunt 8:

Puzzle Hunt 8Puzzle Hunt 9
Started with a travel brochure containing multiple puzzles, including one requiring the brochure to be folded so an answer could be readStarted with a newspaper containing multiple puzzles, including one required the newspaper to be folded so an answer could be read
Created a false map of the MS campus, turning it into a fictional Las VegasCreated a fake map of the MS campus, turning it into a fictional city called Micropolis
Contained multiple metas, each utilizing puzzle answers that shared something in commonContained multiple metas, each utilizing puzzle answers that shared something in common
Solving a meta led to a site puzzle somewhere on campusSolving a meta led to a site puzzle somewhere on campus
When you solved the seemingly final meta, you discovered there was an additional endgame that required you to search through previous puzzlesWhen you solved the seemingly final meta, you discovered there was an additional endgame that required you to solve four additional puzzles scattered around the campus

The puzzles were, by and large, solid efforts. I didn't think any were particularly innovative or surprising, but with perhaps one exception (a Googlefest involving many, many dates) none were real stinkers, either. I did especially enjoy a Scrabble puzzle in which each play was a bingo. Finding the bingos was usually trivial (thanks to anagram software), but searching for the right spots to place them was fun and provided the most satisfying moments of the hunt for me.

I arrived at the hunt after staying up all night at an event in Dallas. My flight left Dallas at 7 AM and arrived in Seattle at 9:30, just barely in time for me to get to the 10 AM kickoff. So with no sleep except for a few sporadic winks on the plane-- and anticipating no sleep on Saturday night either-- I expected to fall unconscious during the Hunt or else be so hopped up on caffeine that Robin Williams would look somnambulant. Somehow, however, I remained coherent and functional throughout. I suspect this is at least partially thanks to the unlocking Hunt structure, which provided a steady stream of new puzzles to look at and avoided the ennui that can set in when all that's left are the inscrutable, intractable beasts. We spent much of the hunt flip-flopping with Scrubbers for first place before defeating the Puzzler around 11 AM and claiming victory, marking the first time a team has won two hunts in a row. Of course, usually the team that wins a hunt runs the next one, so that's perhaps a dubious achievement at best.

Most importantly, our team had a lot of fun during this hunt. We made continual progress, experienced very few moments of homicidal rage at the organizers, and kept in good spirits throughout. Perhaps easy to do when you're in the lead, but significant nonetheless. Many thanks to Everyday Heroes for putting the event together. I know how much work it is, and how thankless it can seem-- especially when everything doesn't go perfectly. Good job, friends.

Comments (4) | last by Dave, Nov 10, 2:48 PM

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