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….

November 09, 2011

WSC '11 – update 6

So the last remaining rounds before the WSC came to a close were in the afternoon, by which time it had become apparent that I was up to 23rd, and this without my round 2 being taken into account – which was putting me on course to a best ever finish.

Apparently my tiredness this morning is keeping me from maintaining a coherent narrative so maybe it’s best to just get on with the rounds.

Round 11, as previously advertised, was called “not easy classics”, and to be honest was one of my least favourite rounds. It was all 9×9 classic puzzles, but it wasn’t particularly clear from the relative weightings of the puzzles that “not easy” meant that the puzzles would 4-6 minute solves, or whether this meant that bifurcation was the order of the day. In the end it was a mixture of both – or at least I think it was because once you start putting yourself in the mode for bifurcation then you start missing out on perfectly legitimate – but non-trivial – deductions and you sort of ruin any fun in the solving experience. Yes I solved some of the puzzles, but it was a bit of slog and given the potential weighting of the round I’m not sure I’m happy that those more skilled in that darkest of sudokuing arts, bifurcation, were going to be rewarded this much. Talking to Jana B of the Czech Republic on my left, and Byron on my right seemed to suggest I wasn’t alone in being a bit miffed.

Round 12 was a bit of a novelty round, a 3d sudoku (I think Thomas and Wei-Hwa have called these isometric in their Mutants book) which instead of being projected onto a planar piece of paper, was actually a bit of cardboard folded up, together with two pull-out pieces that revealed a further two alternative grids. To start off with, I felt much like a small child as I pulled the pieces apart and put them back together again, but in the end I started making progress and as is always the case with this particular sudoku type, the puzzle was done without me even realising.

At the time of writing, final standings have been published, but I appear not to have been credited with my 8 minutes worth of bonus points for this round, which is a little annoying as this would propel me from 23rd to 21st.

The last round was a team round entitled “weakest link”. A nice idea where the four team members had to first solve some individual puzzles, before each was given one of four 8×8 grid which interlinked with each other so that even digits in one corresponded to odd digits in another, and then high digits in one corresponded to low digits in some other. Unfortunately these were all inequality sudoku, which are generally a slog for me to solve. 2 of the 10 alternatives on fed sudoku are “greater than” and “GTaK”, and those are the two I usually leave. Maybe I should practice them more. Anyway, as it turned out we had David M, myself and Michael all get our grids, but we weren’t joined by David C in the hour so I can only presume he shares my sentiments about inequality sudoku. In the end it didn’t seem to matter much as we managed to break the 3 interlinking grids that we did have, and only had time to complete two and a half of them before time was up.

A fairly disappointing end in terms of the team performance, but I guess compared to last year in Philadelphia, we didn’t really adapt to the 4 man format rather than the 3, and with individual scores counting towards the team score too it had certainly helped that myself, George D and David M had all finished in the top 50.

This seems like a suitable place to break off before I talk about the play-offs. I could also frankly do with trying to wake myself up with a wander round the hotel.

WSC '11 – update 5

So I’m now running a day behind, and I’m quite tired after staying up far too late with Jason and Will B racing on various puzzle types. Will was asking the other day whether I’d written nice things about him, and I now realise I’ve not had anything to say at all. Now that I’m here it seems crazy that he wasn’t on the US A team, but the 3 remaining Brits (who I’ve not yet introduced either – Mike Colloby, Gareth Moore and Nick Gardner) were very glad to have Will come and make up the numbers for an unofficial UN team.

Ah yes, enough excuses for delayed posts, and more actual content. The first round, which by my count was round 8, was full of decorated sudoku. This generally means that some cells in a puzzle had some sort of relation, and some decoration was made if and only if the relation held. There were two each of the five variants, typically one with lots of decoration, and then one with no decoration – i.e. you had to use the only if inference a lot. I’m reliably informed the Rossini was a monster; fortunately I skipped over this in the round. I ended up with 6 puzzles, again solid and unspectacular.

Round 9 was a sprint, containing six 6×6 classics, 6 9×9 classics, and 3 each of diagonal and irregular puzzles. Nothing too much to say about this round, except that I had a bit of a brain fart on the first irregular puzzle and then skipped the other 2; I still had a good round however, getting the other 15 puzzles out in the 30 minutes given.

Round 10 seemed a priori to be the one that was going to settle things, with a massive 940 points at stake, but in practice it was filled with so many puzzles that no-one was ever going to finish it and it was more a case of picking the right puzzles to do in the given 70 minutes. I can remember solving stuff in this round, but even immediately after at lunch I wasn’t entirely sure which puzzles I’d been solving – either 425 or 450 points worth. Anyway, this seemed like a fairly good effort.

The scores before lunch I think were roughly filtering through, and I was steadily rising from somewhere in the 60’s, and then the 40’s. I had the feeling that whilst perhaps not making up spectacular amounts of ground, I was certainly not conceding any.

November 08, 2011

WSC '11 – update 4

So there are only 10 minutes before the afternoon session begins, the joys of “not so easy” sudoku to look forward to, so I’ll keep things brief. The pop/rock quiz was a lot of fun, especially as I was chatting with the 3 finalists – Jason Z, Byron C and Dave B. Jason and Byron’s speeds on the buzzers were quite breathtaking at times, and I’ll look forward to editing the footage into something vaguely humorous. In the end, it was Jason who took the bragging rights!

Afterwards we went to one of the hotel bars, and stayed up late playing pool and drinking beer, in the good company of the Poles. Beers til 1am doesn’t sound like the best idea at a world championship, given that rounds start promptly at 9, but you have to enjoy yourself and besides, I find myself living on adrenaline for the duration of the competition anyway.

I’ll save updates of todays rounds til later, but scores are filtering through and at the time of writing I am lying in 23rd, steadily rising up the rankings. Let’s up this continues.

By-the-by, only 2 varieties of cake at lunch, although one was a rather intriguing lime and coconut cake. That’s 11 varieties and counting. Best so far has been the black forest gateau

November 07, 2011

WSC '11 – update 3

Ok I’m now well fed and have now had my 9th variety of cake, and feel much the better for it. First some book-keeping.

David McNeill has complained that my blog posts haven’t been Sarcy enough so far, and Thomas Snyder has claimed that of the 4 Coll’s (Collins, Collison, Colloby, Collyer) forming the UK contingent, I am not his favourite. In lieu of these two facts I shall now make a heart-felt plea to Thomas, proclaiming my love of American football in a hope to rectify all this.

The 1st team round was an absolute monster, a big circular job on a table with 8 puzzle interlinked by a devilish wheels system which the UK team couldn’t really make heard or tail of, and anything we thought was right turned out to be flawed information. We may have got 1 of the 8 interlinked puzzles out, but I am not even confident about this. Oh well. I realise this description probably doesn’t shed much light on this puzzle but I don’t care. It is over and never needs to be though about ever again!

The 2nd team round was much better. A collection of 4 puzzles together with 32 pieces to be placed as givens in the grids, 8 pieces per puzzle. The particular grid I was given was very hard to deduce anything from, but the others (in case I’ve not introduced them yet – David M, David Collison and Michael Collins) steadily deduced things, which simplified things nicely and we finished with 10 minutes to spare. This marked the end of the afternoon’s puzzling and we headed straight to the bar for a beer. Which was cold, and beer-like. Magic. There’s now a pop-rock quiz, a la Jeopardy, about to happen, so this is probably all you’re going to get for today. No scores available, as of yet.

WSC '11 – update 2

Wowza – quite an afternoon.

Round 3 was, as previously advertised, the “easy classic”, where by easy you have things which could easily pass as Times fiendish. I made a very quick start but unfortunately broke a couple of the puzzles, and ended up leaving 5 of the 16 9×9 puzzles unfinished (although thankfully I got the 6 6×6 puzzles in the last few minutes). Chatting to Jason Z and Byron C this seemed to be a fairly solid, if not spectacular result.

Round 4 was the halved squares round. I feel a little bit annoyed as this was very finishable but managed to break an 8×8 example in pen, and then ended up with 3 minutes in the round to have a go at the 80 point 9×9 puzzle, which was much much easier than the example posted on this blog. Conceding at least 130 points to this round doesn’t feel like an accurate reflection of affairs, but I guess I have my own bad time management to blame here.

Round 5 was the final individual round of the day, with various grey squares in the middle with various constraints – for example various lines which spelled out sums and products for you to work out. Solid but unspectacular progress for me on this one as well with 7 of the 11 puzzles completed, and hopefully error free.

At the time of writing no score are available so I’m unaware to the extent of the collection of errors that I’ve doubtlessly made.

Right, I’m fairly exhausted and we’re about to go to dinner, so team rounds will have to come later. Here’s to the 7th variety of cake and beyond!

WSC '11 – update 1

So I’m a little conscious of having never gotten round to writing up a report for the Beijing sudoku tournament last May, so I’ve decided to try and proive quick updates as to what is happening in Eger as and when I get a spare moment to myself.

Travel (yesterday) was fun, but ended up arriving at Manchester airport in time for the flight, and minus much fingernail length. There was a lengthy wait on arrival at the airport in Budapest waiting for others to arrive, together with an even lengthier transfer from Budapest to Eger (go look it up), but in the end we arrived at the hotel safe and sound, meeting up with friends old and new.

The hotel itself is quite nice, although the room that I am sharing with puzzling veteran David McNeill can best be described as cosy – we’re talking a double room rather than a twin room. I had the pleasure of watching David solve in person the puzzle I posted on Friday, and as he toiled his way to the solution it was time to get some sleep.

On to today. There have been two rounds so far, and not a manually scribed digit made in anger. The first round we were presented with a booklet of 60 “puzzles”, except the grids had been filled out and you had to indicate whether they had been filled out correctly or not. This is easy when you spot an obvious error – but I have to confess to marking a few right which I wasn’t 100% confident on – I have a hard enough job spotting when my own grids are right let alone this variety of scripts, fonts, tallies, marks and so on. I wouldn’t call it a spectacular round for me, but I’m at least confident in all the puzzles I marked wrong.

Round two was a funny manipulative puzzle where digits were replaced by tiles with Hungarian landmarks – clues were printed on a rather large piece of paper with the idea being that the clues were all definitely wrong, but indicated that an edge-adjacent cell contained that picture. It sounds a bit of a nightmare, but I managed to get on a roll and finished the round with 7 minutes to spare, which is hopefully quite good. But yet it might be completely wrong – the problem with this puzzle being that each digit you placed then obscured some other clue so you can’t really see if you’ve contradicted yourself along the way. Fingers crossed eh?

Anyway, whatever. It’s hard to judge how things are going so far, especially given these first two rounds aren’t weighted very heavily in the grand scheme of things. On the other hand, all being well I have made a very solid start. The next round will involve some actual number placement (gasp) – a round of 22 easy classic puzzles and 45 minutes in which to solve them in. I suspect the Jakub O’s of this round might have this done in closer to 30 minutes, but I reckon this round is finishable for us mere mortals too, all being well. More to follow!

November 04, 2011

Friday Puzzles #129

So this is my last entry before I jet off to Hungary to have a shot at firstly the World Sudoku Championship, and then the World Puzzle Championship next week. I’ll be travelling with laptop and notebook so there might even be a puzzle next week. I invite you, dearest of readers, to be on the lookout for updates here throughout the week.

For those that are interested, the instruction booklets for each competition are filled with some intriguing ideas.

This week’s puzzle has been taken from the WSC booklet. The only previous examples of these that I’ve seen have been no larger than 7×7 grids, but I’ve whacked this up to full size. The rules are as follows: 1-9 exactly once in each row, column and marked region. Some squares are split in half; exactly one half is to be filled, the other to be left empty. You have to determine which. I’m not totally convinced this is genuinely a hard, but I’ll give it that label anyway what with the novelty value. Enjoy!

#159 Halved Squares Sudoku – rated hard

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All puzzles © Tom Collyer 2009-11

October 28, 2011

Friday Puzzles #128

I’m running about as low on inspiration for a spiel this week as my laptop is its battery charge. Here’s a Nurikabe puzzle. It feels a little contrived but perhaps I’m just a little tired. Enjoy.

#158 Nurikabe – rated medium

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All puzzles © Tom Collyer 2009-11


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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