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Oh Hey, Here I Am Below are 10 entries, after skipping 10 most recent ones in the "projectyl" journal:

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January 29th, 2011
11:10 pm


P&A Issue 29 Log
And here's the other one...

And all that jazz.Collapse )

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10:52 pm


P&A Issue 28 Log
Catching up on posting these.

Cut for those spooked by spoilers and length.Collapse )

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January 25th, 2011
12:47 am


The Keyring Problem
This isn't my recap of the 2011 Hunt. I don't know that I'll have the energy to do a really good full-length one like I did for 2009. For what it's worth, it was definitely an A++ Would Do This Team's Hunts Again sort of Hunt, even more so than S.P.I.E.S. was.

My one major gripe with this Hunt was with two of Zelda's three metas. I may write a post elaborating at some point, but this isn't that post either. In case that post doesn't get written, my main point would be this: if a meta's constrained enough that the only final answers you can come up with deviate from the format solvers have been taught to expect, don't write that meta. Find a way to un-constrain your idea, or write a different meta entirely.

This isn't either of the ridiculously overdue P&A logs I've meant to post for a while now, either, but those are forthcoming, I swear.

What this is is a post about a thing.

It's a thing in puzzle hunts, though thankfully it was mostly absent from the most recent MIT Mystery Hunt. I've heard it called the Taipei Problem, after a memorable example from the 1999 Hunt. I like to call it the Keyring Problem, because of how I visualize it. It occurs to me that maybe the analogy could possibly be of use; it seems like a useful addition to the vocabulary of Hunt-style puzzle criticism.

Imagine you're playing an adventure game. You've collected the seven talismans and put them in their appropriate pedestals, you've dodged the swinging blades, you've narrowly survived the battle against the horde of marmosets and their twenty-foot-tall boss with heat vision, and you're standing at the final locked door.

Now one of these happens:

A: You've picked up a single key during your journey. You put it in the keyhole and turn. It fits! Hooray! This game was awesome.

B: You've picked up a keyring during your journey. It contains dozens of unlabeled keys. You cringe at the prospect of trying each one in turn until one works, but you don't really have any other choice. If you're lucky, the right one will be among the first ones you try, and you'll get through. If you're unlucky, you'll start to second-guess yourself after the third or fourth key. Maybe the right key isn't on this keyring, but on another keyring that was hidden in some secret passage you missed? Maybe one of the keys you already tried was the right one, but the lock's just finicky? And one or two key attempts after that, you realize you're officially No Longer Having Fun, you turn off the game and switch to another one, and the satisfaction you derived from that marmoset battle retroactively becomes indignation at having fought all of those marmosets for nothing.

In other words, a puzzle constructor needs to be very careful that, if there's a step where a solver has a bunch of data that needs to be manipulated in a specific way to proceed, it's the only reasonable way that data could be manipulated.*

There's actually a third scenario, A.5: You've picked up a keyring during your journey. It contains dozens of keys. But someone's thoughtfully painted the door lime green with orange spots to match one of your keys, so you try that one. It fits! Hooray!

That is, if there's a step that could possibly be a keyring for solvers, the constructor should try to present the puzzle in such a way that one method of data manipulation is clearly the best method to use. Careful use of helpful blanks and/or enumerations, suggestive layout, clueful puzzle titles, and even the dreaded flavortext can make solvers not resent the marmosets.

It may be apparent at this point that I just really like saying the word "marmoset".

In writing this, I've just realized that this is probably the reason unmotivated anagrams, especially as intermediate instructions, were quietly taken out back and shot a few years ago - they're essentially keyrings with N! keys on them.

I said the keyring problem was mostly absent in the 2011 Hunt, and in my experience that's true. There were exceptions, though. I've heard people saying that Mario Clash had this sort of problem, and a lot of my teammates were reduced to clawing at Rocky Horror's endgame and howling.

Does anyone else have any stories of Keyring Problems from Hunts past, MIT or otherwise?

*Unless, of course, the keyring is a feature, not a bug. Ginormous from 2005 is a fine example of a good puzzle where the keyring is the whole point.

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January 12th, 2011
08:07 pm


Shortly after our team won the 2009 MIT Mystery Hunt, as we were deciding what our theme should be, I proposed a structure whose explanation required a kinda-sorta taxonomy of metapuzzles. (The theme we eventually chose wound up being one that didn't really fit that sort of structure, but it had its own structural niftinesses.) jedusor recently asked me to send it to her again because someone she knew was interested, and then a couple of other people also asked to see it, and to make a long story short (too late!), jedusor has suggested I post it publicly. So here it is (as unedited as it was when it first went out to the team):
                                             Read more...Collapse )

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October 27th, 2010
12:05 am


P&A Issue 27 Log
This one was my first attempt at logging; been sitting on it until the answers were published.
Spoilery, spoilery stuff.Collapse )

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September 21st, 2010
01:22 am


Swiping Really Fun Formats: Wishful Thinking Log
Inspired by Veep's Solving Really Hard Puzzles, I've recently started logging my solves on multipuzzle extravaganzas. Now that the answers for zebraboy3 's outstanding Labor Day set Wishful Thinking are online, here's my log.

Very, very spoilery.Collapse )

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March 23rd, 2010
04:22 pm


Hey, all.

So. Um. Been a while since I've posted.

I've meant to, certainly, but I haven't, and I'm not 100% sure why. I've particularly meant to post about the 2010 MIT Mystery Hunt and my role in it, but I suspect it's well past the point where I can post any sort of recap without raising eyebrows. Others (devjoe in particular) have done a great job of recapping anyway.

Long story short: I was one of the editors, I came up with some significant parts of the Hunt's structure, I wrote some puzzles and metas that seemed to be generally well-liked, and I should probably be barred, physically if need be, from designing any sort of event or runaround in future Hunts. (If it's any consolation to the people who did the final "runaround" or attended Film Screening, I was yawning right alongside you.)

It's been about nine months since I've last had a job - I was planning to tutor with TPR once I moved to Massachusetts, but I developed some serious stage fright once it came time to actually consider teaching. I've been searching for work, either grocery, food service, or basic office, with little success since then. I've only managed to get four interviews so far - one for a data entry job (seemed really promising but didn't pan out), one for holiday work assisting UPS drivers (never called back), one for another data entry job (interviewer was openly hostile to me and told me not to bother finish filling out the application), and one for a sandwich artist job (first told me they'd call me back "at the end of next week", and then when approached at the end of the following week told me they'd call "in a couple of weeks" - not holding my breath). Gah.

I'm considering starting to post about my job hunt to LJ under a filter - maybe an audience will spur me to better hunting. I'll add if interested.

jedusor's been amazingly supportive through everything - more so than I really deserve, I sometimes think. Love you, Julia. <3

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November 20th, 2009
01:26 pm


Ask Dr. LJ: Uh-oh.
Posting this from Julia's computer.

So yesterday afternoon the screen of my laptop (Inspiron 1721) suddenly went black. No odd noises, no minor glitches leading up to it. It just suddenly blinked out. I powered off and back on, and it won't start. I've turned it on and off several times, waiting for various intervals in between. The power light's on, and there's... the usual sounds it makes when it starts, for the most part, but the hard drive light stays off and the screen stays black - except for one random time when the Dell startup screen came and went as usual before the screen went back to black.

It's been randomly BSoDing maybe once or twice a week for as long as I can remember (at least as far back as January), but I'd been writing that off as just a thing PCs did.

Things Google has led me to believe I should try: Battery's relatively healthy and fully charged, if the gauge lights are any indication. AC adapter looks good. Reseating the memory hasn't had an effect. Pressing Fn as I turn it on is supposed to launch diagnostics - it causes Caps and Num Lock lights to blink and Scroll Lock to shine steadily, but I can't find anywhere that lists what, if anything, that might mean.

Does anyone have any advice?

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August 31st, 2009
02:43 am


Had a wonderful time at the @Cavewarming on Saturday night. We were expecting La Do La Li/Ti, ucaoimhu , and maybe Aleph and dalryaug ; we wound up with not only all four of them, but Sue++, devjoe , and a classmate of Julia's. Uc brought an excellent cryptic, Dal brought some excellent vegetables, and the others brought a variety of other excellent foodstuffs. Games happened, swimming happened, and people seemed to have a good time with "Road Trip", a set of puzzles I wrote for the occasion. (While several of the puzzles had at least some "you had to be there" aspect, I've put up enough information at http://sites.google.com/site/projpuzzles/roadtrip to make everything solvable online.)

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August 7th, 2009
07:06 pm


This is where, if I had the energy, I'd write an LJ post about my move tomorrow morning. Likely topics would include: the packing process, the various hoops I've had to jump through (and still am jumping through) to get my money somewhere where I can actually use it, the goodbyes I've made to various people and places, all the things I'm going to miss about Florida and my family, all the things I won't miss for a second, and how I feel about my future in Massachusetts and beyond.

But instead I've spent most of the past few weeks killing time and busying myself with Hunt stuff and the previously mentioned packing and red tape to keep myself from getting overwhelmed with Big Scary Thoughts instead of organizing them into something coherent and postable.

So instead, here's a sentence: I'm leaving tomorrow for Massachusetts.

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