Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Off-Season PCS Training

Those of you who are jonesing for some PCS action this winter may have an outlet, so long as we get enough people to join the crusade.

There is an online puzzle magazine called P&A Magazine. In each issue, in addition to a smattering of regular warmup puzzles, there is a special "puzzle extravaganza" (a series of interconnected puzzles leading to a single solution). Puzzles usually require word, logic, or number play. Like the PCS puzzles, solving these individual puzzles usually results in a codeword or words; connecting all of the codewords in a "meta" puzzle gets you the extravaganza's final solution.

Looking at the list of top 10 solvers for prior issues, it doesn't appear that there are any rules against competing as a team. And I think this would actually be quite helpful; usually the 12 to 20 puzzles in the extravaganza all have "aha" moments, such that one can usually solve a subset of puzzles, but still end up staring blankly at the remainder needing a breakthrough. Working collaboratively, we might be able to crank through it and potentially even place.

My question is, are there enough of you SoSG readers who might want to collaboratively work toward the next issue, which releases Saturday October 31 at 10am ET (the clock would start then)?

Each issue costs $4.95 and requires registration on the website (payment can be remitted via paypal). I've already emailed PCS Season II champion ubragg, who is up for it; any of you guys want to join? If you're interested, "sign up" for the SoSG team in the comment thread.

(If you want to see what you're in for, I highly recommend traipsing through The Puzzle Boat, a go-at-your-own-pace puzzle hunt which is conducted online. "The Hustle", one of the puzzles on here, even has a baseball-related theme and is really well-designed.)

24 comments:

Josh S. said...

Answer se...

I mean, I'm in!

rbnlaw said...

I would only be the anchor around the neck of the team, although the magazine sounds like good fun for the brain.

drewdez said...

Just took a quick look at the Puzzle Boat page, and got a little scared at the mention of the MIT Mystery Hunt, which I attempted one year and got pretty much nowhere.

Sounds like fun, although I hope it's got some good puzzles for $5 an issue.

P.S. Mental Floss's How Did You Know games are also fun (although I can never seem to remember to check them all five days). Coincidentally, there's one starting today.

Steve Sax said...

@drewdez, it does. $5 is a worthwhile investment.

Don't worry, it's not as bad as the Mystery Hunt. It's a lot of word puzzles, googling information, music and sports references. The author does a really good job.

drewdez said...

Sounds good. I'm definitely in.

fanerman said...

How does this work? Are we just gonna try to go through the puzzles as fast as possible? I'm not officially signing up yet... I may be busy.

Steve Sax said...

It sounds like there are enough people to be in. So I'm thinking we work like this:

-As of October 31, I'll set up a thread dedicated to the new P&A issue.
-Everyone can use that thread to comment on either puzzles on which they're working, breakthroughs into the puzzle which they've made (i.e., "answers to this puzzle are all videogame names"), or codewords that they've found.
-As codewords are found for the puzzles, I'll update the main thread up top.
-We can use this to figure out the meta (methodology and answer).

Usually if you solve half of the individual puzzles, you'll have a good idea on how the meta is structured / how best to solve it. You don't need to solve all the individual puzzles to solve the metapuzzle (i.e., get the final answer).

Does this work?

Steve Sax said...

@fanerman: yeah, the idea is to solve the meta as fast as possible.

fanerman said...

I'd be happy to help.

Mr. Customer said...

Sax et al,

I'll definitely be in if you guys go in for another round, but I'll still be on the road during that time. Let me know if you're going to continue, and I'll be like white on rice.

Mr. Customer said...

Also, thanks for the tip on the site, it's pretty damn cool in there.

Steve Sax said...

@MrC, it usually takes me a week to get through it when I've worked on it alone. With a group of us, we might be able to get it done by early next week.

BWrightson said...

Sounds awesome - I'm in.

Rich said...

I've got some other things going on that Saturday, but I'll contribute while I have time. Sounds like great fun!

In the past I've collaborated on puzzle events like this using a shared Google Doc with one sheet for each puzzle, which helps a lot for for organizing thoughts by puzzle. If Sax wanted to create the doc, I would imagine anyone that wanted to participate could email the regular sons email address and he could add you to the doc.

That would also address the possibility that the P&A folks may frown upon public discussion of the puzzles while the competition is ongoing - especially if we plan to do this more than just the once, it might not take long for this to be a known place for live spoilers.

Ubragg said...

dang, I keep messing up my logins... that last post was me. :)

Ubragg said...

Posting again to click the "email follow up comments" box. Is there a way to do that without posting?

Steve Sax said...

@ Rich / Ubragg: Glad to hear you're in, too.

Could you email me an example of the type of doc you've used? I don't know what I need to create.

Steve Sax said...

So far, I've got the following SoSG readers as "in":

Josh S
rbnlaw
drewdez
fanerman
Mr Customer
BWrightson
Ubragg

Please email us at the address on the sidebar if we haven't emailed you lately, just to make sure I've got all of your addresses. If we decide to go a non-public route on this P&A issue, I'll need to email you a password or something, I assume.

J. Steve said...

It sounds like fun, but I'm still undecided... I don't know if I'll have the time to commit over the weekend.

Golem said...

Sure, I'll join! Bay Area puzzle hunts are in a winter lull...

Steve Sax said...

J Steve: It will likely last into the week, so don't worry...

Ubragg said...

Sax, I just sent you an example. If you want to go this route (which I highly recommend :) ), I am happy to create the template this evening, and then turn the ownership over to you so you can start inviting people.

Steve Sax said...

ubragg, thanks.

Upside: I like it, it's easy to use, and it's private.

Downside: I can't access it from work (personal storage and email sites are blocked). So if we don't get it done by Sunday night, I'm screwed and can't maintain it.

Let me think about this.

Ubragg said...

Man, that is unfortunate. I wouldn't classify that as a personal storage site any more than blogger is, and it certainly has little to do with email. :( I get extremely frustrated with companies that have overaggressive IT policies like that. I mean, they let you access blogger, it just doesn't make sense where you draw that line.

That said, as far as timing, I've solved PANDA in a group before, and have always been able to solve it in a single day that way. We would have a larger group than I've ever worked in, so I'd be honestly surprised if we were still working on Monday.

Just say the word, and I'll set up a template for Saturday.