All entries for November 2011

November 28, 2011

WPC '11 – update #7

Right, so we’re up to Saturday. I woke up feeling a little rough – perhaps the late nights at the bar were catching up with me, but I think at this stage I was also coming down with something. All I could manage for breakfast was a couple of bowls of tea. Yes bowls, not mugs. The mugs were definitely smaller and had only one handle!

The main attraction of the day was going to be the WPC play-offs, but before this was to begin there was one remaining team round to get through. The “wrong” puzzles! Basically, a set of 8 different puzzles, with a set of 8 4×4 repair patches to fix the broken puzzles. I was quite pleased to quickly get the fillomino sorted out, and then proceeded to struggle for a long time with the nurikabe, reasoning that as a constructor I could feel out which area of the puzzle was broken. I think Neil, David and Gareth each got another puzzle out – which obviously reduces the complexity of the round massively, but we couldn’t really make any further progress. We thought we had nailed down which patch should be used for each of the remaining puzzles, but as it turned out the piece I was trying to get the nurikabe to work with was the wrong one. I briefly had a go at the battleships and lighthouses, but to no avail. Gareth then whizzed through it towards the end, thinking he had it done, but having left something minor out. So not a particularly great end to the WPC for GBR-A – I think it turned out that GBR-B had managed to beat us for this one.

Afterwards, there was a bit of a scrum around the scores. From a British perspective, it was awesome to see that Neil had held onto 10th place, and would therefore be taking a place in the play-offs. A bit further down the list (past countless Germans!) was David, who had faded a little but was still solidly top 50 which is something that he maintained was a good finish. I was next on the list, unofficially 69th, but officially 59th, which I guess I am happy about despite flirting with a top 50 finish myself for a little while. Gareth, the next Brit down the list (not too far behind me), had also flirted with the possibility of finishing ahead of me.

So yeah, having spent lots of previous posts moaning about how mediocre my performance was, this should be tempered by a couple of things. Firstly, I was the 3rd best Brit, which was something that I had put some pressure on myself to make sure I achieved, and secondly, I was not too far off that benchmark of the top 50. It wasn’t a brilliant performance, but not bad either, and with any luck (if I manage to qualify for the team!!) something I can look to beat and build upon in future years. GBR-A had finished in 11th place, a record high, which I guess was mainly by virtue of Neil’s individual score. I don’t think we particularly distinguished ourselves during the team rounds, so hopefully this augers well for a top 10 finish in future years.

Byron felt a little down about his performances – I think he was looking to make the play-offs again – but his personal theory was he hadn’t had enough practice. Equally as inconsolable was Aga, who after what had turned out to be a difficult second afternoon, had just missed out on not finishing on the last page of the print-off. Nevertheless, it was hard to be inconsolable for too long at any of these events, so we dusted ourselves off, and headed into the competition hall for one last time.

Our choice of seating was hardly ideal, right below the big projector screen which had a list of the play-off contenders together with their time penalties based on score differences from the main rounds. A priori, this seemed like a three horse race between Ulrich Voigt – who’d finished top of the pile – together with the Americans Palmer Mebane (2nd) and Thomas Snyder (3rd). Hideaki Jo, Bram de Laat and Peter Hudak, whilst all being incredibly strong solvers, seemed to have too much to do to catch up with the big 3, and the line up was completed by Nikola Živanović, Ulrich’s brother Roland Voigt, Wei-Hwa Huang and of course darling of this blog, Neil Zussman. Michael Ley of Germany could count himself very unfortunate not to be taking part, having finished 7th overall but nevertheless ineligible for the play-offs, seeing as he was only the 5th best German qualifier and therefore not a part of their officially recognised A team.

I’m a little hazy on the details, but essentially the play-offs started off according to the form book, with Ulrich leading from the front, Palmer seemingly catching him and Thomas not far behind. Further down the field, Wei-Hwa was beginning to make up ground from his starting position of 9th (what was it with being in 9th?), but Neil seemed to have tripped up on the first puzzle. By the time the first cut was reached, again after the first puzzle, Neil had unfortunately fallen along with (I think – I’m sketchy on the details here) Roland and Nikola.

At various points during the proceedings, handouts of the puzzles were given out. The first was a quirky no 4 in a row, and the second a battleships puzzles. Against the trend of my puzzling form, I had both these puzzles out in 2 or 3 minutes and the rather misleading feeling that these play-offs couldn’t be so bad! Anyhow, by this middle stage Thomas had seemingly lost a little ground on Palmer and Ulrich. On puzzle 5, I think a borderless something or other, Hideaki pulled off a solve which seemed in the order of about 30 seconds, which left him best of the rest by the time of the second cut. Remarkably it was Wei-Hwa who took the 5th spot – continuing the trend of the 9th starter surging forward. This meant that it was good-bye for Peter and Bram.

With 3 puzzles to go Ulrich still had the lead, with Palmer hot on his heels. Thomas hadn’t managed to recover and with puzzles running it out it was becoming apparent that the three horse race was now a direct competition between Ulrich – still the favourite – and Palmer. Heading into the 8th puzzle, which was apparently a divide and conquer, Ulrich seemed to hit a mental block. They were now close enough to see exactly when they were applying rigorous use an eraser. Or so I thought! I saw Palmer erasing out of the corner of my eye, and whispered to Aga and Byron that he was struggling too – except that what I must have seen was in fact a quick checking gesture. As the rest of the room was gasping at the sight of Palmer handing in first, they were laughing and informing me that I was stripped of any commentating duties I had bestowed upon myself. More importantly, Palmer had now taken the lead with one puzzle to go!

There was to be no further twist in the tail – as Palmer says you simply can’t not solve a password path – and as he handed in the last puzzle and waited an agonising minute for everything to be okayed, he put his head in his hands. Ulrich retained his composure after his stall on the 8th puzzle to take 2nd, just in front of Thomas who had belated caught up a little ground. Wei-Hwa had managed to overhaul Hideaki to ensure there were three Americans in the top four, capping off a dominant US performance which had also see them claim the team title. It seems Will is left in the shade here, but there’s no doubting what a great solver he is too, and completes an American team every bit as stellar as the Germans.

It was interesting talking to Thomas afterwards – I rather got the impression that he didn’t feel he had much hope of winning beforehand given the 5 minutes he was conceding to Ulrich, but he didn’t seem too upset with 3rd. Given his general dominance in the online LMI tests, not to mention that clinical WSC performance, it seems a little crazy that he’s still waiting on a first WPC title – but I suppose he’s really going to need to earn it with Palmer and Ulrich in this kind of form. Palmer remained calm and emotionally level during the aftermath – it struck me that if I were in his shoes with a maiden world title to my name that I’d be a little excited, but Palmer was barely even cracking a smile. On the other hand perhaps it is this level-headedness that is exactly what makes him a great solver – not phased when he hits a sticking point in a puzzle, and not carried away as he blasts his way through another set. Anyhow, I tried to inject some jollity into affairs and stole a picture with the 1st place trophy. All this achieved was a near miss with the 3rd place trophy!

At lunch I wasn’t feeling particularly great, and I don’t think I made it much further than a bowl of soup. Affairs seemed so bad that I thought I was going to have to pass up on some cake, but eventually I was brought to my senses and managed to squeeze down one piece. By this time I was beginning to get excited about the afternoon programme, an organised game of football in a nearby sports hall. David had earlier mentioned that various people at previous championships take this very seriously, and especially the Eastern Europeans. I wasn’t so phased by this, reasoning that I’m a pretty handy player myself and not nicknamed “twinkletoes” for nothing. This definitely amused Jason when I mentioned it to him.

As a big crowd gathered by the hotel lobby at 3pm, I was beginning to eye up who might be the danger men but not really coming to any conclusions. I was perhaps a little more apprehensive about the team I might end up, but no matter. We walked on over to the hall, and then various organisational chaos broke out in trying to form everyone into teams. This seemed easier for contingents like the Turks or the Poles, but it seemed that an Anglophone team was beginning to break out. And by anglophone, I mean me (GBR), Byron (CAN), Dave (CAN), Julian (CAN – although admittedly living in GBR) and Jason (USA) – which was I’m afraid to say a little disheartening as I get the impression soccerball isn’t such a huge deal on the other side of the Atlantic. Our team was completed by a Romanian guy whose name I didn’t catch, and Tatsuya, a member of the Japanese puzzle A team. I was especially pleased to have him on board because he was kitted out as goalkeeper and therefore resolved the tricky issue of deciding who amongst the rest of us was best qualified to go in goal (or as is usually the case with these things, the least qualified to be out on pitch). Our remaining team members included Martin (CAN), equipped with a camera in the stands, and I think I’ll claim Vasso (GRE) for moral support as well. Yes, I did say stands by the way – there was a fairly sizeable pitch, and on the sides there were maybe 10 rows of tiered seats for spectators. What a great idea!

A total of 6 teams roughly emerged, including a team made up of the Hungarian organisers, who got the fun and games going against a mixed team. The standard wasn’t particularly impressive, and I suppose this is where I started breaking out into a commentary in the stands, which swiftly became a lesson in tactics from Sports Coach Collyer to Team Anglophone as I pointed out where (in my humble opinion) the simple mistakes were to be avoided. The first of my utterly invaluable nuggets came as I noticed that various efforts on goal were very comfortable for the keeper, and therefore that the thing to do was to always keep your shots on goal low and on the ground. This definitely impressed Dave, who mentioned that similar wisdom also applied in hockey.

The second match involved the Poles and someone else – and the Poles were quite impressive. Jan M looked very composed in goal, and both Tomasz’s looked very composed on the ball. They strolled to an easy win in their 15 minutes, by which time I was positively itching to get out of the stands and on to the pitch. Our game would be versus a rather young and energetic looking Turkish team, and I vaguely set out a 3-3 formation, with Jason and Byron staying further back alongside our rather cultured – not to mention impressively moustached – Romanian sweeper, and myself, Julian and Dave pushing further forward. I am naturally a bit of a goal poacher by trade, but I also recognised that I was probably going to have the edge on fitness on the team so I thought it’d be best for me to perform a sort of manic role in the middle whereby I’d also try to make myself an option for a pass when our team were in possession.

Miraculously this seemed to hold to a plan as our defence held up reasonably solidly as the more assured Turkish team had the best of the initial play. When we had the ball as well, I was pleasantly surprised to see that rather than hold onto the ball too long and get caught in possession – another common mistake that Sports Coach Collyer had warned against – we were actually passing it quite nicely, albeit without too much quality in the final pass. And then!? On one such foray forward, the ball broke loose but I had managed to anticipate where it was heading. After cutting inside one defender I found myself with an opportunity to have a low snapshot with my left foot, and to my immense satisfaction I made a clean contact, putting the ball beyond the keepers left hand. Against all the odds team anglophone had the lead!

Naturally the Turks began to press forward more, but our defence was still looking quite comfortable and there was more space up the field to exploit. Twice we hit the frame of the goal as firstly I was sent through, and slid the ball past the keeper agonisingly onto the post, and secondly as Dave hit a ball that bounced up onto the crossbar (keep it low!! Although this one in fairness was nigh on impossible to do so). As we gained in confidence we over-stretched and let the Turks in, and via a couple of unfortunate deflections they had an equaliser.

At about 10 minutes, whatever it was that was keeping me under the weather was beginning to take its toll, and breathing became markedly difficult, and my mad running around the pitch stopped as instead I tried to recover by resuming my role as a goal poacher. The Turks perhaps looked the more likely winners as the 15 minutes drew out, but in the end we held on for a rather creditable draw. I was definitely pleased with how everyone had played, and rather than be exceptionally tense and competitive I was feeling remarkably chilled out. Or at least struggling for breath.

I should perhaps say at this point that I normally get immensely wound up for one reason or another whilst playing football (at least this is usually the case playing with the rather inept Maths mailing list – I can safely say puzzlers make for far better footballers than mathematicians) but the closest I came to spilling over was the rather short sighted decision to permute the first two games of the next round of matches between the four teams who had played the first two games in the first round of matches – leaving us to presumably play the Turks for a second time.

Anyhow, we eventually got on for a second time (after letting the Turks play someone else first), playing a team featuring some of the Croatians. We seemed to be holding up quite well, but conceded a few unfortunate goals continuously. Unfortunate, as in our team stopping play as a door opened at the side of the pitch whilst the opposition played on. It was all a little bit disappointing after our heroic efforts in the first game, but I got a consolation goal right at the end where I picked the ball in a fairly advanced position, shuffled about a little with my feet making room for an opportunistic pot-shot that caught the keeper off guard. I think the match ended 3-1 or 4-1 or something.

People were beginning to filter out by this stage – as I imagine some of my less committed but certainly no less dear readers have begun to at this stage of this monster post – and those who were left standing essentially kept going. By this stage legs were getting tired, but I had caught my breath back and was now able to exploit the state of affairs. Jason was to comment that he now saw why they call me twinkletoes!

We headed back to the hotel, bruised and grazed as you morally should be after playing a decent game, and it was by now completely dark. I headed up for a quick shower, before agreeing to meet Dave in the bar for a restorative beer or two before the closing dinner and the evening entertainment. We were joined at a table on the first floor (yes via more shocks from the hand rail) by some of the British team. Shortly after the second Restorative Beer we were called in to the competition hall for the dinner.

I think I shall cut short description of the evening entertainment, as I’m beginning to lose a little steam now with this point. Suffice to say there was plenty of wine, lots of applause for the winners of all the various competitions, and a few posing for photos – a lot of which you can see in my relevant facebook album. After the dinner there was a sort of Hungarian country and western band playing, one of Gyorgi’s favourites apparently. More importantly I had reunited with the Poles, who were wondering if I could really drink like they apparently could.

Part of this challenge involved Michael L’s prize for being the top unofficial scorer – he was given one of those 5 litre kegs of Bitburger that he wasn’t going to get on the plane back to Germany. I think it’s safe to say that he got the biggest cheer of all as he went up to receive the prize, and it was really nice to see his “unofficial” achievements (I think I might have created an extra space in the play-offs for him anyway if I were running things) recognised and to have the beer shared out amongst so many puzzling friends. After all, the wine was beginning to run out! The night was concluded firstly by a trip to the bar again, where we were treated to another rendition of Byron’s sudoku song, along with the wonderful experience of having been bought a beer by the legendary Tetsuya Nishio. I was perhaps more than a little merry at this stage, but had one last set of photos with the Poles before they headed off on their 3am shuttle to the airport. Will and Nick were also on this shuttle so it was nice to also see them off.

The last memories of the WPC involved karaoke to the not so small hours of the morning. I’m sure bleary eyed spectators must have been slightly entertained to see me go through a rendition of Karma Police – a surprise thrust upon me by Jason – but there I was in front of a screen with the words “detuned radio” forming my backdrop. Bram tried to get this with a photo, but was a little late, which is probably understandable. As the karaoke also wound down, I was left with Bram discussing the finer points of writing puzzles. I didn’t have my pad with me, but he did and it was fascinating to see some of his ideas and thought processes. If you haven’t seen his blog – it’s linked there I guess somewhere way up to the top left by now – then you should definitely check out his puzzles, they are great! And that was it, the last lingering memories of a really wonderful set of championships. It seemed fitting to see things out by talking puzzles until the cleaners came to chuck us out for their morning shift, all the while ignoring silly little urges like wanting to sleep!

If you’ve made it this far, dearest reader, then I can only say I am most impressed by your stamina, and I’ll begin the round of thanks by saying I appreciate your interest. Since being in Eger, I’ve noticed a massive upturn in traffic to this blog and I can only hope that you’ll stick around for a puzzle or two on future Fridays. I’d like to offer my personal thanks to the organisers for being responsible for certainly one of the best weeks that I’ve had in the last few years. It’s also very sad to have had to have said goodbye to so many good friends from literally all over the world. I guess we will all keep in touch via the magic of blogs and facebook and so on, but seeing everyone once a year is something that I’ve grown to love more and more as I’ve done these championships. Here’s hoping my streak at these things continues, and I get to see everyone for many years to come!


November 26, 2011

WPC '11 – update 6

Right dearest reader, I have a nice and empty Saturday morning to fill and we are going to get through this together!

I think I’ve managed to get this far without describing some of the quirks of the hotel. The first is that the hotel was internally connected to another adjacent hotel, which in particular had the restaurant where we had our buffet dinners and in particular, the large selections of cake. Let me tell you, the three cakes for dinner on the Friday evening (I guess bringing me to a count of circa 250 were an immense struggle and I made Jason take a photo of the finished plate once I was (eventually!) done. I suppose the walk to and from the restaurant helps justify all this cake as I can’t exactly describe it as short!

Another quirk of the hotel was the staircase leading up from the lobby and reception, to the space on the first floor outside the competition hall. In particular, this staircase is directly responsible for a massive phobia of hand rails. Maybe it’s fair to describe me as a highly charged individual, but these blasted hand rails would give me a small static shock every time I even thought about reaching my hands out to them! You’d have thought I’d have learned, but each time I did it I realised my mistake too late to pull my hand away from the inevitable ZAP. Perhaps what sums up my feelings on the matter best is expressed by what happened when I tried explaining this to whoever I was (I think Dave B), who calmly remarked he had no such problem and demonstrated that he could put hi hand on the rail with no such problem. I look on with incredulity, and then try the other hand rail. You don’t need to be a Monty Python writer to know what happened next.

I think in the evening Julian and Jason had planned on going to a nearby karaoke bar, and had maybe even convinced some local girls to come with them – but I remained a little whacked out from competition and instead focussed on finishing my slitherlink. There were no apparent seats or sofas going, so instead I followed Will B’s lead and sat myself on the floor propped up against a wall. This was actually quite fun because lots of people came over at various points to see what I was doing. Luckily for me it wasn’t immediately obvious that the puzzle I had made was verrry broken.

As I was beginning to format everything up on my laptop, I was dragged in to the competition hall for the evening programme. (Are you sure you can use a laptop for this?) This, turned out to be another round of puzzles, this time some out-takes from both the WSC and the WPC. I was still sat at my desk, struggling to turn my 10×10 slitherlink template into a 17×17 template, and assumed that I’d be assimilated into a team nearby, presumably with Aga B and the Poles; but in the end it turned out to be Byron, Jason and Vasso. Which actually forms a pretty strong team now that I think about it. I was handed a page full of sudoku, and struggled my way through these slowly but solidly. I had more fun with the sick kropki, and then even more fun with the borderless skyscrapers. I suddenly understood the fits of laughter that were emerging every now and again when what I thought was a broken puzzle could in fact by solved rather trivially as a 1×1 “grid!” Apparently there was also another trick like this with the borderless islands puzzle. Towards the end, I guess when my puzzle solving abilities were re awakening I was quite pleased to solve what I thought was quite a beastly non-consecutive sudoku by finding a finned x-wing to eliminate a 5 from a set of 589 which then brought some consecutive constraints into play which then solved the puzzle. Will B afterwards assured me that this wasn’t strictly necessary! In the last 3 and a half minutes I thought I’d give the odd/even view sudoku a go, not expecting to get it out. But I did, with barely seconds to spare, which was quite a high point to personally end on.

Much amusement was had later when Jason, who has gone to hand in the papers, swiftly returned to inform me that I had not written my “name” on the paper. I swiftly rectified this sorry state of affair by writing my “name” in the two empty squares I’d left in the non-consecutive puzzle. I’m glad to say that’s the first time all week that I’d actually made that particular dickhead error.

The rest of Team Vasso has also done very well, because we ended up finishing in 7th place, behind the likes of two Japanese team, an American team, a combined Czech and Slovak team and so on. We were also one team up from a certain GBR-A, who informed me that they’d clearly have done a lot better if they had another sudoku solver on board. Whoops!

There was much debate about what to do next – apparently the karaoke bar looked not only dead, but wanted an entry fee as well – however as always with these debates the single line of “let’s go to the pub.” Cue a few more beers, some games of pool, some bowling and much merry-making with by now what was becoming the usual crowd.

And whilst I’m on the subject of pool, and with a doubles pairing with Byron I feel I need to introduce my unofficial role of WSC & WPC Sports coach (and yes sports over sport is definitely a nod towards my North American brethren). Early in the week whilst we’d been bowling, I felt I played an integral part in turning around Jason’s so-so start into his one man show. The secret? A quiet word in Jason’s ear, calmly telling him that what he needed to do was “to bowl it down the middle.” We now move onto the pool, where I again wheeled out my calm-yet-authoritative tones and gently mentioned that if Byron wanted to start potting balls, he needed to “hit the object ball with the cue ball just there.” Again, this seemed to work a charm, as we doubtlessly romped to victory. Or something haha. More from Sports Coach Collyer tomorrow!

I can’t remember how long we were there for, but I guess we were there til the small hours of the morning again. I think that as I was leaving the Poles + others were gathered round a table playing poker. This was probably just as well because I find poker to be quite a dull game and this would certainly have sent me over the edge into some much needed sleep. Incidentally, Przemek has the same opinion, especially with regards to online poker. His approach is to play lots of games at once to keep him on his toes, whilst earning enough money from doing so to, say, not bother with anything quite as tiresome as a job.

Ok this entry is getting quite tangential now, so I am going to break off before I cover the last day in Eger!


November 25, 2011

Friday Puzzles #132

So in a previous WPC report entry, I mentioned I’d share what I thought was the pick of the puzzles. Well this is a sort of a pre-emptive strike on that front, because the puzzle I have in mind as the inspiration for this week’s puzzle is an absolute beast of a yajilin. However, rather than being a puzzle during one of the rounds, this was featured on a Japanese newsletter that was being handed round, courtesy of PuzzleTokyo, a society ran by students at the University of Tokyo (こんにちは – here’s hoping google translate isn’t screwing me over!).

What you need to know about this newsletter is that it was entitled “Habanero,” and what you need to know about this puzzle is that in the hotel in Eger I saw puzzlers as good as Byron C and Palmer M sitting and staring at it for quite a long while. And also that I feel happy enough about eventually (no doubt to the amusement of Aga B!) solving it to post a picture of my solution:

It should also be easy enough to recreate the grid if you want to have a go at it yourself. In case I haven’t been clear, be warned. This solves with some absolutely beautiful logic from start to finish, but, easy it certainly ain’t.

On a slightly parallel thread, a couple of days I commented on Para’s blog that he’d hit the jackpot with yajilin presentation. Trust me to go and find an example which then exploits a potential ambiguity in what I thought was so great. As such I’ve made some slight modifications which I don;t think look so bad given the visual theme of the puzzle. Notice that without the arrows in the blank cells, it is ambiguous as to whether R1C1 is a blank clue or simply part of the grid! In a slightly similar vein, the blank clues at R1C7 and R7C1 might just as easily be interpreted – for solving purposes anyway – as cells in the grid to be trivially shaded in. What will we do with yajilin presentations, dearest reader?

Enjoy!

#162 Yajilin – rated medium

[blockquote mark-up still apparently not working]

All puzzles © Tom Collyer 2009-11


November 23, 2011

WPC '11 – update 5

And so, dearest reader, we move ever onwards and towards a finished championship report, of sorts. The second day of the WPC, the Friday started rather late coming down for breakfast, although I was glad of the appearance of some tea bags – even if if they were Lipton yellow labels. The problem with these is although they provide a tasty tea, which is crisp and refreshing, you can’t really make them with milk without the resulting beverage tasting like cardboard. I need a properly robust English Breakfast Tea in the mornings!

The first round of the day, round 8, was a “screen test.” Which means puzzles that appear on a screen for a short while, before disappearing. This was all well and good having read the instructions, but what my bleary head did not particularly need at this stage was lots of moving elements to these puzzles bouncing all around the screen. Ugggh. Mind you, I actually scored relatively well on this round, gaining more points here (130/200) than I did on some of the other rounds.

Round 9 was a “sprint.” Five puzzle types: Ariadne’s thread, numberlink, simple loop, shikaku and yajilin; four of each varieties to do, all in half an hour. Most of these are loop types, and when you consider Palmer’s description of Ariadne’s threads as “basically consecutive numberlink,” they were all things I am pretty strong at. (Although I can’t really recall having solved an Ariadne’s thread before this round.) Indeed this seemed to play out, as I had all but one numberlink and the 4 Ariadne’s threads out with 15 minutes to go. These remaining 5 took another 10 minutes, but I was feeling pretty smug about myself when I was able to declare that I had “finished!” a round of a world puzzle championships with time to spare. As I was finishing off these last few puzzles, I realised my heart was begin to race in much the way it has done in the past when I have closed in on various sudoku victories – particularly in the nikoli.com sudoku time trials. I wonder if the top solvers get something similar at certain times – I guess it must for example in the final play-offs.

Anyhow, as I’m sure you have previously read, increased satisfaction and smugness came when I heard Ulrich’s voice behind me also declare, some 30 seconds later. In what turned out to be an otherwise mediocre performance, I think this round made my WPC (at least the competitive puzzle solving aspect to it!).

OK, whilst I’d love to linger on that beautiful moment a little more, it’s probably time to move on to the next round – which was “divide and conquer.” This was a novelty to me at least, and the puzzle can best be described as fillomino, with the touching region constraints removed, and with a list of given pieces to fit into the puzzle by the side. The examples I had solved had all a bit of a numberlink flavour to them, what with the solver having to pack in the regions in the optimal fashion. I ended up struggling with this round, with some counting errors creeping in, and generally making unwise puzzle choices which were very far from maximising the potential points I might have hoped to get from the round. Oh well.

There was one final round for the morning, round 11, due to start at 11 seconds and 11 minutes past 11. Can you guess what the date was on that Friday? Why it was the 11th day of the 11th month of the twelfth year of the millennium…wait a second 2011! For a brief, errmm, second? there were lots of 1’s appearing on a digital display being projected to us, but unfortunately the papers were still being handed out so we started about half a minute late. The round itself was another one to forget for me, scoring a fairly pathetic 110 of the available 550 points – again probably due to a fairly poor choice of puzzles to solve. I kidded myself that this round might have been rescued had I got the 66 point nurikabe out, but again another round to forget.

I can’t remember how apparent the scores were at this stage – now that I think about I can at least recall seeing some before turning in late on Thursday night (or technically Friday morning). Anyhow, I think there was enough information floating around that Neil Zussman was in and around the top 10, and in with a seriously good shout of being the first Briton ever to make a WPC play-off. On debut, no less. If I’m not getting across just how seriously impressive this all is, Palmer managed 19th on debut in Poland last year!

I think during the lunch break I’d given up on blogging on my laptop, but was hard at work on the 17×17 slitherlink puzzle I’d started on the way to the caves on Wednesday, with the expressed wish of having a Friday puzzle to put out on a Friday (am I meta-blogging again?) but as always, the start of the afternoon rounds seemed to interrupt everything.

Rounds 12, 13 and 14 formed something of a marathon, lasting respectively 80, 60 and 60 minutes each. I think it’s probably fair to say that by this stage of the week I didn’t quite have the mental stamina required to keep going with this, and bearing in mind the points on offer for these rounds were probably the main reason that I ended up with my mediocre final result. Anyhow, I think I’m really beginning to whine a little bit too much about this so how about I talk about the rounds instead.

The “hungaricum” – I guess this means something like Hungarian collection, because I saw various purveyors of tat at the airport trade under this same name – had some fun moments, most notably the windows puzzle. I’m trying to work out exactly what I spent my 80 minutes on here, because I recall solving fairly well throughout (modulo puzzle choice, haha) but my total of 245/1115 seems more than underwhelming.

I also managed to tot up 245 points for the set of “innovatives,” this time out of “only” 940. Again I’m left with the feeling of wanting to know exactly what I did with my hour – although I guess I spent a fair chunk of time on the sudoku snails. Looking back at the score-sheets, I suppose this was actually a more competitive score relatively speaking, but again a little underwhelming.

Finally, the “best of” round. There was a vote earlier in the day where we were supposed to list our favourite puzzles of the championship, with the implication that these would appear again in this round for us to solve. Under that assumption, I didn’t do anything like vote for which I thought were the most beautiful puzzles, and instead voted for the types I thought I’d be good at solving (so the sprint round again!). This strikes me as a little bit of a shame, because this is not how things worked out, and I missed an opportunity to acknowledge fellow puzzle writers. Maybe when I get a chance to solve all the puzzles I left (there were many) I’ll come back and publicly announce my votes for the best WPC puzzles, for whatever shred of importance that may bear to anyone!

Anyhow, the twist with the round was essentially it was a 60 minute sprint of puzzles featured from all the rounds, generally of quite a small size and of a fairly easy standard, but not always. A flat rate of 10 points per puzzle applied, which is kind of a fun idea as it rewards different people for being good at different things all at the same time. At the end of play I thought I’d counted 33 puzzles solved, but my official score of 30 begs to differ. This was a solid if not spectacular effort, I think on better form I might have managed closer to 40 puzzles in the hours, if not even more.

Anyhow, if you’ve gotten through the end of this post, I think you are some of the way to understanding quite how draining that afternoon was! On the other hand it represented the end of the individual round, which was definitely something of a relief, with only one team round and the play-offs to look forward to the following day. I think I’ll postpone descriptions of the evening’s celebrations til the next post!


November 19, 2011

WPC '11 – update 4

So I’m a little delayed, by approximately a week, but I’ll try and get things wrapped up.

So I guess we’re now past the rest day, ready to start competition on Thursday, the 1st day of the WPC. I’ve started writing this with only the instructions at hand, and without the results or my marked papers, so things will certainly be of a more impressionist nature. That’s the way it goes I’m afraid!

The first round was “in memorium,” dedicated to puzzle writers who recently passed away. Before things actually got going, some relatives were invited to the front to say a few words, and it was all a little poignant and sobering – I definitely felt moved as words were spoken about the puzzle community being a family, and how much it would have meant to the departed to see their puzzles being used at a world championship. Anyhow, the round got under way, and I recall solving a few puzzles which was something of a relief. My WPC campaign was up and running!

Round 2 was an hour’s worth of “assorted puzzles.” Whilst I felt I was solving reasonably well throughout this round I think my mistake here, as with many previous online puzzle contests as well as subsequent rounds in Eger, was my choice of puzzles. Generally I’m not amassing enough points to be making significant dents in the general classification.

The last round of the morning was “cows.” I’m not entirely sure where cows come into things, but essentially it was a round of star battle variations. This is a puzzle type that every time I think I have cracked, I always come across something new to throw me a little bit, and this was the case with this round. After getting the first two classic puzzles out reasonably quickly, I couldn’t get out the third for love nor money, and then proceeded to struggle away with some of the variations. With not much success – I only managed to complete one other during the time. Something of a disaster for me.

During the lunch break I think I finally got a chance to meet long time friend of this blog, Palmer “MellowMelon” Mebane. Palmer has the same sort of puzzling intensity about him as Thomas, and never seemed to be too far away from a puzzle. This probably seems a little vacuous given this much hindsight, but given Palmer’s results in LMI tests, as well as his spectacular victory in the USPC, but I always had Palmer down as a dark horse for the WPC title alongside the more experienced campaigners of Thomas and Ulrich. I also managed a little time to update the blog (wow – I’m blogging about blogging), but as I’m sure, dearest reader, you’ve already seen I had to quickly make tracks for the start of the afternoon session.

Round 4, “borderless,” was one I was more than a little apprehensive about, the idea of the round being you are given some classic puzzle types with outside clues, only the grids are much bigger than necessary, and there are some surplus rows and columns. In the half hour, I managed to get out the skyscrapers (much tweaking), and an easy as ABC which it turned out did use the whole grid after all. After the round it soon became apparent that the other easy as ABC was also trivial, in that it was a tiny 4×4 grid. Oh well. The round certainly could have gone worse.

Round 5 was one that I was more looking forward to, being a round of “evergreens.” Haha, what an evil round it was. I’ve not really had the chance to go over the numerous puzzles I didn’t do this round, but without the time pressure, and with my constructors hat on, I’m fairly sure I will fall in love with this round. Anyhow, basically there were all sorts of lovely twists to the puzzles in this round, to the point where rules to one puzzle were being used to define an almost entirely different puzzle idea. I basically remember struggling a whole lot with this round, maybe solving a meagre 3 or 4 puzzles during the hour – and pretty much on the spot resigning myself to a no more than mediocre debut WPC performance.

Speaking of debut performances, after the round was finished and I was necking several bottles of caffeinated sugar water, I got the chance to ask Ulrich how the round had gone. Speaking with fellow GBR-A debutant Neil Zussman I was astonished to hear that he was in the same ballpark for the round (circa 500 points), and I guess I was beginning to realise that we were going to see something completely spectacular. Certainly any pretensions of keeping up were disappearing rather rapidly!

The remaining rounds in the day were the team rounds. The first one was presumably courtesy of the sponsors, but was nevertheless a lot of fun. The idea is that you had various classic puzzle ideas presented in the form of board games. We were fairly confident we’d got 5 puzzles out, but were subsequently told only 4 were correct. Anyhow, I was fairly sure that the two puzzles I solved during the time were all good – the first was a set of cards with various arrangements of 5 matchsticks to be placed on a grid so that two cards in adjacent positions.

The second team round was also a lovely idea – a massive grid which combined four types: islands, snakes, anglers and lighthouses. Whilst 3 people were working on the main puzzle, the 4th team member was off solving an individual puzzle in return for a set of hints for the big puzzle. A priori, the implication was that these individual puzzles would be pretty easy, but in practice they were still at beast 3-4 minute puzzles. Perhaps what didn’t help was the fact that the first islands and lighthouse puzzles that I’ve ever solved were as part of this individual leg. The team as whole seemed to be making slow but solid progress, but unfortunately something seemed to break and we hadn’t quite done as well as we’d have liked to.

The puzzling done for the day, I was definitely in need of a beer, and was especially glad to grab one with Dave Baines of Canada. Dave has been angling for a mention in the blog, and I really like his idea of numberlink, except you are given that X cells in the grid aren’t going to be used so definitely keep your eye out for something like that in coming weeks. We were then informed that the evening entertainment was going to be a crossword tournament, which was good fun whilst I entering answers into firstly the American style square grid and then a more European style crisscross grid – but eventually both answers and beer dried up, and we left. I still have no idea just how well I did with this, although again with hindsight I can tell you that the Croatians were very good at this, taking 1st, 2nd and 3rd!

Time for some sleep? Not a a bit of it! We headed downstairs to the bar, which was also equipped with larger than normal pool tables and smaller than normal 10 pin bowling lanes. I flattered to deceive with my first bowl, hitting a clean strike whilst kissing the air but it went downhill from there. Jason again proved to be the dark horse, easily winning. Meanwhile, in the lane next to us, Alan O’D was once more winding up his international standard hammer arm, flinging bouncing bombs down the lane. I get the feeling Alan regards the speed gun at a bowling alley as more legitimate challenge than that of knocking mere pins down!

At about 1 or 2 or something we decided to leave the bar. To sleep? Don’t be stupid! To use the hotel table tennis and foosball facilities. Being a little tired and a few beers down I don’t think I impressed Jan M very much, but with a little warm-up I was playing some reasonable stuff with Sebastian M of Germany and Vasso of Greece. Finally I decided to call it a night, but not before chatting a little with Przemek of Poland. He is remarkable for any number of reasons, but two which came to mind were the fact he’s massively short-sighted without actually resorting to any sort of correction, and secondly that he enjoyed the evergreens round a lot.

Right, time for a break in blog posts. If nothing else, I need a pee.


November 18, 2011

Friday Puzzles #131

Some more book-keeping dearest reader, before we begin. Last week’s broken slitherlink will soon be fixed; indeed last week’s unfinished WPC reports will soon be completed. Oh – and there are a few more pages that I’ll be adding to the links section on the right, which I haven’t updated in quite some time.

I’m feeling a little bit drained and tired and ill this week, a combination of factors ranging from Eger withdrawal to bluffing my way through the proof of the wonderfully titled “tube penetration lemma.” Perhaps not one to google, that.

Anyway, this week a Nurikabe. I’ll be honest and say whilst I tested on paper, I didn’t do it on the png (which I never used to do, but actually catches more errors than you’d think it would). On the other hand there’s plenty of bite to the puzzle, and there’s even something of a theme going on. As well as my word that this isn’t in fact broken, touch wood. Enjoy!

#161 Nurikabe – rated hard

[blockquote mark-up still apparently not working]

All puzzles © Tom Collyer 2009-11


November 11, 2011

Friday Puzzles #130

And so, dearest reader, it matters not that that I’ve been away all week at both a world sudoku championship and a world puzzle championship performing quite well in the former and somewhat forgettably in the latter. Here is a Friday puzzle which is (just about) on time!

Yup, no puzzling updates, because frankly at this stage I’m not sure I want to write about how pear-shaped things have turned and I am sure that you probably don’t want to hear about my moanings just quite yet, so here is a slitherlink, plain and simple. Conceived on a long and boring coach trip, no less. Enjoy!

EDITED EDIT: this one works!

#160 Slitherlink – rated hard

[blockquote mark-up still apparently not working]

All puzzles © Tom Collyer 2009-11


WPC '11 – update 3

So I’ll just make a brief update for now, without getting onto day 1 of the WPC, just to say that after staying up until 2.30am drinking, bowling and table tennis-ing I not only managed to finish a WPC round, I managed to finish a WPC round faster than 7-time world champion Ulrich Voigt. It seems I’ll have to be taken my victories as they come – like I say more detailed reports later, but I can’t go without mentioning that Neil Z is currently 9th (after the first day)

I’ve also realised that I’ve not posted the full UK results from the WSC. They were about to be typed, but apparently we have a round to start.


November 10, 2011

WPC '11 – update 2

The first WPC day is over and it’s been a little bit all over the place for me, but more on that later. By the by, the latest cake count is up to 22, although the bombshell this evening was that a set of 3 cakes appeared towards the latter part of the dinner period, replacing an earlier set of 2. !!!.

With the WSC over and done with it was probably just as well there was a rest day the day after. With the play-offs over and done with, there was then a Q&A session for the WPC. In practice this turned out to be the start of an evening of puzzle racing, with the first set being determined by a Japanese newsletter packed with what turned out to be devilishly fiendish takes on some classic puzzle types. The first round was a fairly tricky kakuro, with Thomas and Byron joining in too. As questions were being fielded, we were manically scribbling away with Jason eventually confirming his inevitable victory. We tried further examples from the newsletter but these turned out to be a little tricky for the purposes of racing.

We thus retired to the bar for a beer, before finding some sofas and some copies of a Turkish puzzle magazine and we set to work. We were fairly evenly matched on the numberlink in that one of us had managed to have the relatively small puzzle out before the other had blinked, but the treat came with the slitherlink where I put in a pretty rapid solve. By this point we were being observed by Ondrej S and Lenka V of the Czech republic, who were most impressed that I was filling in bits of the loop with no hesitation where there was no apparent logic. It would later turn out hat Ondrej – aka Cert – was also most impressed with my apparent 51 second diagonal sudoku solve on fed; alas I had to inform him the timer was broken and there was no chance I could even do a classic in that time.

Will B then joined the show, and he and Jason then began to start beating me into the ground with some of my less favoured types, such as easy as ABC and skyscrapers, before I started to pull things back on things like Nurikabe and Fillomino.

Anyhow, what had started as a series of sprints was swiftly turning into a marathon, and by the time we made it to 2am I had to tap out, and swiftly dodge the Indians who were playing some Indian poker (one of the highlights of the Beijing trip). Creeping back into the room, I thought that David must have been asleep…in reality I should have known better as he wasn’t back in til 3, having been puzzling with the Dutch.

A great start to the rest day then, but we had agreed to met over breakfast at 8. Perhaps this is a good point to introduce the other British protagonists to this tale. The rest of the A team includes David M, Gareth M and Neil Z, whilst we also have numbers for a B team, which includes Alan O’D, Nick G, Emma M and Liane R. I managed to get up for this, but was feeling the lack of sleep and hot water and missed out on the walking tour of Eger, instead choosing to make a couple of updates for the blog, as well as showering and generally attempting to wake up.

In the afternoon, the whole touring party was loaded up onto 5 coaches and taken on a bit of a mystery tour. The journey started becoming a bit of drag after the first three quarters of an hour or so, although it’s always entertaining to be sat alongside Byron as he hums away. After a bit of a nap I thought it’d be a good idea to start on a Friday Puzzle, using the back of the fiendish Japanese newsletter for a grid given that I’d manage to leave my notebook in the hotel room.

It turned out that the place we arrived to eventually was the entrance to some caves, which we were led through for a while to the great amusement of the on-looking bats, before we arrived at the ceremonial erm cave. There were lots of chairs laid out, and we were treated to a light show and some music before we were treated to a prize giving ceremony. Cue some flag waving from Tiit, broad smiling from Kota and a rather forced grin from Thomas. Of the teams, the Americans seemed a bit meh (Nick Baxter aside), the Czechs downright depressed and all smiles from the victorious German team.

I’m not entirely convinced this ceremony was worth the round trip although it was nice to take a nap after catching up with Aga and Przem…Psyho from the Polish team, and meeting Julian W from Canada.

The night was wrapped up with a visit to some wine cellar place in Eger where we had dinner and wine and fizzy water from dispenser-cum-fire extinguishers. Byron managed to get extraordinarily drunk (whilst still solving quickly), and I extraordinarily managed to find my way back to the hotel. And that was the rest day. Perhaps you can draw some conclusions from the fact this entry is by far the longest so far, and has nothing to do with puzzles. Haha…


WSC '11 update 7 / WPC '11 update 1

Ok So I’m running a little behind with the blog posts so I’ll try and be a little more concise recapping the WSC play-off. The qualifiers were in first, Thomas Snyder, then Jan Mrozowski, Tiit Vunk, Florian Kirch, Jan Novotny, Nikola Zivanovic, Michael Ley, Hideaki Jo and finally Jakub Ondrousek.

The play-off format was really good: 9 puzzles to solve, with competitors moving forward as they completed puzzles (which also included a 1 minute checking time). After three puzzles 10 desks became 7, after six 7 desks became 5 and from there a race to the line. Competitors were also given time advantages based on their total scores from the rounds. This translated into Thomas starting 3 minutes before Jan, and so on until Jakub started with a 10 minute penalty.

In the event Thomas started out front and stayed out front, right to the end. I believe the affectionate nickname “The Machine” has been used on this blog in the past, and that’s exactly what this performance was. Cool, calm and clinical – although I dare say the chairs were feeling a bit of punishment as he moved between desks. In contrast for example, Kota languidly strolled between desks, and was (very briefly) level with Thomas. It was as close as anyone got.

The main shock came with the elimination of Jan M after the first cut (maybe this was part of Thomas’ 2 year plan too?) – although perhaps almost as surprising was the fact that Hideaki, together with nearly a 9 minute penalty, did manage to make it. Perhaps it wasn’t surprising to see Jakub go out either, especially given his body language before finally being allowed to start – slumped out across his desk.

The first cut also claimed Michael Ley, who promptly called over an organiser and ordered a beer. Fair play.

The second cut saw a few see-saws between people who weren’t Thomas, but eventually claimed Jan N and Nikola.

Hideaki’s remarkable run continued, but in the end it was Kota who managed to hang on to 2nd, with Tiit claiming 3rd. Hideaki claimed 4th and Florian finished the list in 5th. Congratulations to all!

The WPC has started today and I have actually solved some puzzles. I have no idea what I should reasonably expect to acheive, but David has said top 50 would be good. I certainly want to be top 100, and preferably at least top 4 on the British team. As the afternoon rounds are about to begin, I should probably leave the shenanigans of the WSC aftermath and the rest day until next time….


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Welcome to the blog of current UKPA sudoku champion, two-time Times national sudoku champion and general logic puzzle fan Tom Collyer.



Home of the original Friday Puzzles, each Friday I publish a 100% original and handmade logic puzzle, inspired by the world-famous Nikoli company.


How to play:
AkariFillominoHashiHeyawakeHitoriKakuroLITSMasyuNumberlinkNurikabeRipple EffectShikakuSlitherlinkSudokuSuraromuYajilin.

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Latest comments

  • I like the appearance of the solution. :P Nice one. by Prasanna Seshadri on this entry
  • I think I've seen something vaguely similar in some of Palmer's puzzles as well. To be honest I've a… by on this entry
  • That's two puzzles in a row where I find something I had used before. I know, not plagiarism; just g… by Bram on this entry
  • Kota, that's not really true. I had made my puzzle before going to the WPC already. Also I don't hav… by Bram on this entry
  • About 20 minutes, after restarting from a mistaken conclusion. by Bryce Herdt on this entry

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