Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Off-Day Puzzle #3: Solution

Ok, yesterday's Cosmic Conundrum puzzle generated a flurry of unanticipated thought patterns and subsequent solutions, which created a conundrum in scoring more than anything else.

But more on that later. First, the solution. Here's the poem:


                  AROUNDATHE SUN

                WHILST STARS ALIGN

                FOUR TWOMTHREE ONE


                WITHIN EACH VERSE

                  UNTILMTHE DARK

                ESREVERKNI SENIHS

And here is the intended solution, with the corresponding verses in the poem meant as clues for each step:

  1. "CONCEALED THEY'RE KEPT...UNTIL THE DARK SHINES IN REVERSE" --> Reverse black and white by highlighting the poem. Six invisible letters will start to twinkle: T,A,M and P,M,K.
  2. "STARS ALIGN" --> Most can get Matt Kemp from only step 1, but if you read vertically down each stanza in the column where the hidden letters appear - including both invisible and pre-existing letters - you'll get all eight letters in his name 'TATM PEMK'
  3. "FOUR TWO THREE ONE" --> For sure you can see the anagram after the above step, but technically this line in the poem tells you the sequence in which to arrange the letters to get MATT KEMP.

So as at least one reader mentioned, courier font was used to ensure the proper vertical alignment. And the last line was written backwards not in an attempt to be cute, but rather as a necessity - it kept the poem center-justified while getting a space in the appropriate slot for a hidden letter.

In anycase, that's how the puzzle solution was supposed to go. But it turned almost everybody initially submitted a solution based only on step 1. There were so many solution variations that got the right answer (Matt Kemp) but not quite the right methodology that I had trouble scoring it objectively. The most common semi-solutions:

  • Finding only the 6 hidden letters but not putting them together with the 2 pre-existing letters to get only T_AM P_MK, and from there guessing Matt Kemp but wondering why two letters were still missing.
  • Finding the 6 hidden letters and thinking 'SHINES IN REVERSE' meant reversing the letter sequence into MAT KMP, but still wondering about the two missing letters.
  • Some found the 6 hidden letters, the connection to the FOUR TWO THREE ONE line to get MA_T K_MP, but still wondered why 2 letters were missing.

So ironically it was the 2 letters that were not invisible that were the hardest to find. This chaos was ultimately due to my short-sighted puzzle construction. I fell in love with the hidden text concept but did a poor/rushed job of the execution. My apologies, I just hope I was able to score it equitably.

Anyways, congratulations to Karina for being the first to correctly answer! I'm not sure exactly why, but her winning this puzzle makes me think of Glen Davis in last Sunday's Celtics-Magic game. She was followed by UBragg, Lauro, Neeebs, Dusto Magnifico, Mr Customer, Quad, J Steve, Fanerman, Brandon, Jose, Natalie, MLASF, and stolenmonkey86. And I'm gonna pull the Supreme-Arbiter-of-Puzzle-Scoring card and give MSTI 30 points for a semi-solution that wasn't good enough for full credit but wasn't bad enough for participation credit only. If anyone feels they were scored unfairly I'll hear your case - please email us.

As always, thanks for playing. Updated PCS Rankings to be posted soon. Next puzzle, 7am, Thursday May 21!


berkowit28 said...

So. I want to object to the fact that there was absolutely nothing in the text or introduction to suggest that "highlighting" - by which you apparently mean "selecting" - the next was necessary as a first step.

As a general rule, I find that so many attempts, both those of trial and error and more inspired guesses that "appear", require a lot of playing around with the text, that I always use plain old pencil and paper to write things down on a piece of paper and take it with me to work on away from the computer. needless to say, I could not get a handle on this one. I tried all sorts of ways of rotating 4-2-3-1 through the words, through the individual letters, etc. but got nowhere. It was clear from the number of correct answers that this couldn't even be a particularly difficult puzzle this time, at least not the famous "step 1".

Instead of referring to "running loops" which really meant nothing here (OK, very, very minimally after you made it clearer that there were two verses, not 8, say), the text should have had some faint reference to selecting, highlighting, copying, or whatever. Misleading to leave that out - though all the people who did so as a matter of course or practice will probably disagree.

berkowit28 said...

'there was absolutely nothing in the text or introduction to suggest that "highlighting" - by which you apparently mean "selecting" - the next'

typo - 'text', not 'next'. Sorry.

Fred's Brim said...

i am clearly not smart enough to participate in these puzzles

QuadSevens said...

I solved the puzzle, and I still don't understand the Hint that was posted.

LLCoolL said...

I would object too, except for two reasons:

1) Several people figured it out
2) It's a really cool idea

Maybe next time...

karina said...

Eric, you made me research into Sunday's basketball games, to understand what you said. It's never easy with you, i always learn something!

Seriously, i'm way more surprised than you, that's how i solved it:

"four two three one", i thought it was a four-letter name or last name, so the name of Matt Kemp popped up in my head.

Then, i highlighted the words "ESREVER NI SENIHS" just because i didn't know what it meant, saw the K
and it was just a confirmation. Copied and pasted the text into the email, because of the line "concealed they're kept" and it was crystal clear, i saw it and i didn't realize of the anagram, i arranged every word visually.

So i guess i solved it for being a word geek and because i didn't use proper logic, stuck to the visuals.

MattyA said...

Not to sound too much like sour grapes, but I agree with Berk. Like Karina I was thinking Matt Kemp from the beginning, but no matter how I tried to break the 4-2-3-1 (or reverse) code I couldn't. Stupid me - next time I'll just "highlight" the text.

Eric Karros said...

Damn, you guys are a tough crowd.

Yes, I wish I had worked on this a little more before throwing it out there. But keep in mind writing it was not easy, as I was constrained by:
-->keeping vertical alignment of spaces to place the hidden text all the while keeping it center-justified as well
-->maintaining the iambic tetrameter rhythm
-->where necessary fit the correct non-hidden letter into the vertical alignment
-->making it rhyme while still throwing out decipherable but not obvious clues
-->keeping a somewhat cohesive planets theme
-->my limited writing skills. That is not a falsely modest comment, as those who know me in real life will confirm writing poetry-like things is definitely not my forte.

Clearly not a perfect puzzle, but in my opinion not too shabby either (pats self on back since nobody else will).

I guess what I'm surprised about is that the deficiencies I thought it contained were not the ones people have mentioned.

Ummm...Berko: I'm sorry I let a verse slip in there that wasn't nuanced in multiple levels of meaning. Or that methods used to solve earlier puzzles did not work here. But there was definitely a hint on highlighting the text that is explained in the solution and that numerous people got. Sorry you didn't.

And to complain I didn't spell out that you have to copy, highlight, or select the text? You have got to be kidding me.

I actually was purposely trying to mix up my puzzle style. Not to call you out Berko, but last puzzle you crowed about how easy it was for you (comment at 8:35am) and later implied you had me all figured out (9:14am). This time I mix it up style-wise and you complain that your previous puzzle solving methods didn't work. Not even Jose gets every one correct.

The fact that Karina was the first to solve, when she has has had limited success previously, was to me a good confirmation that I had some success in mixing up the puzzle style. Well done Karina.

Quad - the hint I posted was cryptic, I know. Basically the hidden text originally wasn't blinking, and as a hint I changed it to blinking. Although this didn't make the hidden text more visible, it did make it more noticeable for the people who selected the text it merely to cut and paste it, and who may not have been focused on looking at the text as they did so.

QuadSevens said...

Ahhh, now I understand how you made it easier. Good stuff. This puzzle sure had me scratching my noodle for a while. Once I figured it out, I thought it was a pretty cool idea for a puzzle. Good job EK.

Steve Sax said...

Nice work, EK!

I also loved stolenmonkey's comment on your puzzle construction: "I will say, that's the most clever use of Courier New that I've seen since my freshman year of college, when I turned a 7 page paper in Times New Roman 12 into a 10 page paper in Courier New 12."

Neeebs (The Original) said...

For what it's worth, I'm in your corner EK.

As for your poetry issues, you can complete the following poem for practice:

There once was a boy named Eric.

Who had a childhood crush on Bo Derek.

You fill in the rest.

Wicks said...

When I cutted and pasted the text I clearly saw what was the answer and thought nothing of it.....boy am I a rube!

Eric Karros said...


There once was a boy named Eric
Who had a childhood crush on Bo Derek;
     She was so fine,
     But he was a '9'
So next to her he was basically Joe Merrick.

That gives me an idea...

Eric Karros said...

Anyways Berko, I hope I didn't sound too harsh, as I didn't mean to call you out. I really do appreciate your (and everyone's) feedback and participation, and I know this puzzle was a bit rushed.

But realize it's not easy coming up with original, challenging, and interesting puzzle concepts over and over. And it's becoming a challenge to challenge some of the top puzzlers, so whenever a puzzle of mine can stump guys like you, Jose, Quad, Fanerman, Steve, if even temporarily, while not being unfairly difficult, I consider it a success.

Anyways now I feel pressure to come up with something flawless & brilliant next time. Thank god I'm both flawless and brilliant.

Neeebs (The Original) said...

See that EK, you do have poem writing skills.

But just who is Joe Merrick?

Nostradamus said...


I'll describe him for you if I can.
People just caught a glimpse and then ran.
A monster he's not,
But they teased him a lot,
When they called him "the elephant man."

Orel said...

I can't believe Natalie hasn't shown up in this thread yet.

Eric Karros said...

I like it Mr Customer! Stay tuned today, there is something coming up you and Neeebs may be interested in...

Orel, further confirms the rumor that Natalie is really Juan Pierre. So she's probably winding down from beast mode right now.