Category Archives: Puzzles

The Best Crossword Clue Ever?

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I don’t normally solve the Boston Globe crossword (and by “don’t normally,” I mean “haven’t since 2004”), but I did come across a blog post proclaiming that today’s puzzle contained the best crossword clue ever.

69 (across) – “The _____ mightier than the sword.”

Yep, that’s pretty good. (On the other hand, I own this book, so it’s not the worst/best I’ve ever seen. But it is the most suggestive clue I’ve seen in mainstream print.)

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New President and Mystery Hunt

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Longer MH2K9 post to follow later in the day, but for now, thanks to the Bombers for a fabulous hunt. We did surprisingly well — second place with the final runaround reverse engineered such that it probably would have taken us less than a half hour to finish had we only thought to play checkers with the last meta.
In other news, today we have a new president. I came into work only to find an e-mail from Friday (which I never saw because of the Mystery Hunt) telling me that no one had to come in until 1 pm today because of the inauguration. As I was already here, I went over to the hospital cafeteria to watch Obama’s speech. It seems that all the people attempting to stream the coverage over the Internet has slowed down the network dramatically today — IS even sent an e-mail to that effect, requesting that people please try to find a television instead.
I heard stories of doctors delaying their patients’ appointments while they joined them in lobbies to listen to the new president. It sounded like the patients didn’t really mind. I watched a black cafeteria work cry and then applaud wildly. Everything’s moving a little bit slower today — everyone seems aware of a massive attitude shift in our country. We’ve gone from an administration that hides behind lies and fear tactics to an administration which maintains its own blog in order to make We The People feel more involved with our government.
Perhaps the “change” that’s come won’t be the magical band-aid that some people expect it to be, but after years of failed policies and lies and incoherent speeches, I can’t help but think that we are a far better nation than we were yesterday.

MIT Alumni Puzzle Challenge: We won… sort of

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A couple of weeks ago, I and three other members of our hunt team (Liz D., Brandy, and Martini… wow, I just realized the alcohol connection there) took part in the MIT Alumni Puzzle Challenge where we took fourth place, just behind third (and the money prizes) by a whopping 13 minutes. However, we’ve just been informed that we won one of the $200 raffle prizes… which means I’m getting a $50 giftcard in the mail next week, along with a spanking new T-shirt. It’s like coming in third, only $12.50 short.
However, this also means that my new Engineer’s Drinking Song verse probably didn’t win the Rockband II bundle:
“An engineer was solving puzzles late into the night,
And started on a run-around that was an awesome sight.
When he found the coin he knew his year he’d have to punt,
Because he’ll be writing puzzles for the next year’s Mystery Hunt!”

Another reason for choosing Palin

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She has a more crosswordese name than McCain. I don’t care what that article says — she’s too new on the scene to look at past puzzles. It’s only a matter of time before we see the clue “2008 VP candidate who can see Russia from her home state.”
Nixon probably picked Spiro Agnew for similar reasons.
Also, I keep meaning to blog about the AL Central pennant race. I wish tonight’s Twins-Bad Sox game was on national TV! (I’ve got a post about the Red Sox coming too… but I’m not sure how popular it will be.)

MH2K8

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I finally have recovered from my annual return-to-MIT-for-the-Mystery-Hunt excursion. (Well, in a literal sense that’s not quite true… I still have laryngitis, but it’s more likely that I caught it pre-hunt from a fellow Glee Clubber. If members of my team find themselves losing their voices in the next few days, I apologize profusely.)
The hunt was a little strange for me this year as certain hunt regulars opted to hunt remotely for various reasons instead of being there in person. But it only took about five minutes to get over being the eldest putz alum (with the exception of Benoc, who by all accounts including his own, seems to live on 2W these days and is therefore more familiar to the undergrads than Harvey). After all I still had Amittai to mock me endlessly upon learning my AIM screenname. (It’s Dutch, okay?)
Quality-wise, this was probably the worst hunt since, well, the hunt we wrote. The theme was dull and unimaginative (a murder mystery) and the structure was needlessly complicated and somewhat broken. (It turns out that because of the way they released puzzles, solving one of the layers of metas (grouping the suspects) gave you absolutely nothing.) I was also shocked to hear that one of the puzzles (Underpants Gnomes) was missing an entire page of clues and Dr. Awkward didn’t feel the need to issue an errata to rectify this, even after they noticed it. I can say from experience that if your puzzles are broken, you need to own up to it as soon as you recognize that. Other puzzles weren’t broken per se but involved so many “A ha!” moments that they were essentially unsolvable — I still don’t know how Knots and Crosses works, even though I listened to the author explain it at the wrap up.
I also have a gripe about the webpage format of the puzzles — if I’m looking at puzzle and want to tell, say, a remote solver to look at it, I should be immediately able to determine what round the puzzle is in based on the header of the page. At the very least, I should be able to look at the round page and tell the name of the puzzles without having to mouse-over each link. This is a really easy thing to implement and it makes a huge difference.
But despite the fact that many were severely flawed, I did have a number of favorites. The puzzles themselves haven’t been archived, so I’ll have to go back and add links later.

  • Nationwide Hunt — This puzzle had six very straightforward clues which were ungoogleable (except for one) and required you to be in a different city, such as “The fourth word is located in SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA. Looking out from the front steps of the City Hall, there is a row of flagpoles on the right that extends forward. On the fourth flagpole, there is a plaque. Take the second word on the plaque.” I contributed to this puzzle by calling Breath and sending him to San Francisco’s City Hall to get that word. But the highlight on our team was one of our undergrads getting a hold of a directory listing for an apartment building in New York and cold calling strangers until one of them agreed to help us.
  • Cursed — This was a cross-sum (aka Kakuro) where you looked for factors instead of sums. As an added bonus, it was in Hexadecimal (as clued by the title). Galen refused to let me go work on the cryptic puzzle until I finished solving the grid.
  • The World’s Tallest Cryptic — The aforementioned cryptic, this puzzle is an absolute work of art. I am only disappointed that a) Anand and I goofed level 1 and didn’t notice right away and b) I was so exhausted that I had to pass out before said error was noticed and we could appropriately solve it. But seriously, this is the most amazing crossword-type puzzle I have ever almost-solved. I cannot imagine what went into constructing it.
  • Cross-Examination — Another cryptic. Not as nice as the infinitely repeating one, but still fun.
  • Propaganda — I have mixed feelings about including this as a “favorite” as it was nearly identical to Land That I Love from the 2006 Spies Hunt, but instead of getting the “facts” from America: The Book, they were taken from the Caltech hacked version of the MIT Tech. Still, I hadn’t been aware that it existed before, so it was fun to read through it as I searched for “answers.”

I also heard that Subservient Chicken Loves the 80s was fantastic, but I never got a chance to look at it as Benoc decompiled the Flash animation thereby making it ridiculously easy to solve.
I do give Palindrome credit for attempting to have a lot of MIT-type puzzles even though they have a lack of MIT-types on their team. However, I’d just like to note that having a bunch of puzzles that have pictures of MIT’s campus is not what defines “MIT-type puzzles” for me. I miss the ones that require knowledge of MIT culture (hence citing Propaganda as one of my favorites). I also miss the music puzzles — not the “Identify these songs” puzzles, but ones where you need some actual musical knowledge. My pitch pipe was woefully underused (except for the Scavenger hunt).

Crossword Coincidence

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The Michigan Daily carries the LA Times puzzle on the weekdays. Today there were two stacked clues which made me smile (and probably no one else).
20 Across: Celtic land
23 Across: Some entourage members
Unless I become really famous, this might be the closest I get to having my full name appear in a published crossword.

Puzzles

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No, I’m not dead, just highly distracted by actual grad school work, though not at the moment, obviously.
At the moment, while I should be working on a write-up to send in before I leave for the airport tonight, I am distracted by puzzles because Mystery Hunt is this weekend. (If you’re in Boston, I’ll be in town starting tonight at about 11 pm until next Wednesday.) For anyone interested, here’s a set of baseball themed puzzles from the New York Times. They’re Mystery Hunt-ish with one glaring exception — they have directions written on them, making them much easier. (Jeff and I breezed through them in under two hours, including a portion where I went to class.) But there’s a meta and everything.
And speaking of baseball, I neglected to say anything here about the AL MVP, Justin Morneau. But that gave the Twins the Cy Young (Santana), the batting champ (Mauer), and the MVP out of three different players. The last team to do that was the 1961 Dodgers (or maybe it was ’62? I should confirm these things before I spout them off). So, hurray for the Twins.