My Quest is Complete

Well it is about time that I write about this. This fall, like last fall Microsoft sponsored a puzzle competition at CMU. Last year my team came in 2nd to a non-CMU team. Disappointing for us (who really shouldn't have had outside competition anyway) and really for all of CMU. But this year we took first place. This was my 5th such competition. I guess I'm partly just lucky I got together with such good people. And yeah, winning is great, but really the best part is just getting to do it. I love solving puzzles. The best part about winning, actually, is just the fact that to do so you must have actually figured the puzzles out. I'm not sure what else to say about it. We got Creative Portable Media Centers. Not the greatest thing in the world. Even if I was going to buy a portable video/audio player I don't think I'd have picked that one, but I'm going to keep it anyway. It'll remind me of this experience and I'll find a way to use it. Portable portfolio/demo device I think. I like being always able to show people stuff that I'm proud of. A lot of very cool puzzles this year. And we solved all of them (well a couple we had to cheat).
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Poker, Poker, Poker

This summer I played a lot of poker with the people I was staying with. I was all excited to come back and play with my friends here now that I had improved. Much to my dismay they had all gone and switched to Euchre, which I have absolutely no interest in learning.

I took [info]harryh's advice and signed up for the wrgpt. It is an email based poker tournament, that is very slow. Just yesterday I was wondering if I had indeed remembered to sign up and then today I got my first email saying that the tournament had started.

And no sooner did that happen than I made another poker related discovery. Last Call Poker. This a free online poker site. You play with $10K in fake money which resets once a week. What's so great about fake poker where you don't win anything? Well, for me I don't care about winning so much as I want to enjoy playing, and so not losing anything makes it fun, even if it does take away some of the strategy since no bet is worth anything. However, that's not really why I found out about it. It is actually an alternate reality game. I love the concept of ARG's. This looks like one of the better ones. I've been interested in this since The Beast. However, I never seem to have enough time to really keep up with them. Just getting caught up can be a bit too difficult if you don't get in at the beginning.
Keywords:Poker | ARG | puzzles
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Simon and the Chipmunks

We won! Ok, well we came in second place over all, first from CMU. Most importantly we beat the other AEPi teams, and we beat Aaron Tarnow's team by 36 seconds.

Ok, if you don't already know what I'm talking about, I'm refering to Puzzle Royale. It was a 12 hour long (noon to midnight) competition of puzzle solving. Unlike last year or the year before, this year was between 3 schools: CMU, University of Michigan, and University of Toronto.

Our team was Simon and the Chipmunks for which I was the captain for the 3rd year in a row. This year the team consisted of me, Linda, Dave Mason, and Dan Cartoon. We solved 13 of the 15 puzzles plus we solved the metapuzzle 2nd of anyone. We were beat by one team from the University of Michigan.

One of my personal objectives was beating the 3 teams I mentioned above which we did. Also I had wanted to beat all the other schools, particularly the Canadians. We beat all the Canadians and all of the UMich teams except for one of course. Finally a goal was for CMU to beat the other school. Overall we dominated but unfortunately they were fast to solve the metapuzzle.

The grand prize team received personal media centers. Being in first place, we won $75 gift certificates to Best Buy. It is a real shame to lose by only 3 minutes. Mostly because we could have been the heros that beat the other schools for CMU. But the optamistic way of looking at it would be that we were only 36 seconds from $50 gift certificates to Gullifties, the 2nd place prize.

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Things have been good for friendship lately. Yes, Team Illegal did win the scavenger hunt. It was really awesome. And speaking of driving around crazy style, tonight was interesting. A Denny's run. I haven't done that in a while and it was pretty good. On the way home the other car claimed they would beat us home. Racing is a little scary and stupid. The fun part was driving around an intersection that the other car was stopped, even though they eventually caught us.

Puzzle Royale, like the previous Puzzlestorm, only this one is between three schools, us, University of Toronto, and University of Michigan. Team Simon is reformed. This year it is Linda, Dave, and Dan replaces Joe. We came so close last year, this year we're going to kick ass.

There's already a pretty good puzzle story related to it. We were told by someone at MS (sponsoring it) that if you put a space before your team name you'd sort first on the team list page, even though spaces don't show up in HTML. So I did. There was still one above us who must have realized it too. I added a few more. They edited their name and moved up, I countered, and then they added a lot more. I didn't think this brute force deadlock was fun, so I decided to be puzzly and find a tricky way to beat the. By copy and paste I was able to insert a newline (enter/return) which is a lower ascii character than space. Best part is that even if they go to our edit page, that symbol won't even show up in an input field like a space will. They'd have to view source and notice that there's a line break in the code at the beginning of our name. Even if they do, I know about a few lower characters that can be inserted. ;-)

I feel I should mention the spontaneous lunch date I had last weekend. It was pretty cool. Glad to finally meet her. It won't work out, because of my curse of course, but anyway.
Keywords:Friends | Puzzles
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This weekend I flew to Pittsburgh to compete in the second annual Puzzlestorm. For those of you who don't know, Puzzlestorm is a day long puzzle solving competition. Teams of four are given a stack of puzzles in the morning. They can solve them in any order they want and work however they want except that they can't ask for help from other people or use more than one computer. The solution to each puzzle is a single word or short phrase. One of the puzzles is a meta puzzle, that when applied to the solutions of the others, give clues to the location of a "treasure" that is the goal of the contest. There are points for solving puzzles depending on how soon you solve them, but the winners are the ones who find the treasure first. The idea is based on the Microsoft Intern Puzzle Day and is sponsored by Microsoft. Therefor the prize is four X-boxes.

A couple years ago I heard about this type of thing from a friend of mine who worked at Microsoft. I like solving puzzle and thought it would be fun. Last year when I first heard about it, I put together a team (and facilitated a second team since I found more than three people interested). My team consisted of two co-workers, Desney Tan and Jason Pratt, and my friend Linda Wu. Ironically, I was planning on starting a house team but house friends joined to form the "We're just here for the Halo Machines" team.

Last week Linda called me and told me that puzzlestorm was going to be this weekend and that she had formed a team with Dave Mason and Joe Liu and they had saved a place for me.

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Keywords:Carnegie Mellon | Puzzles
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