So I was really happy to see all the puzzle sharing last night, with good contributions from MellowMelon, willwc, and thedan that were not all expected. I solved all of them, spent a long time actually finishing my PentaHouses puzzle correctly, and also had my computers spending a long time searching all possible no given solutions to the math puzzles. If the puzzle was AB=CD+E or A=B-C/D*E or variations I was ready with some solutions. But I also half expected at least one given in each. And that is what we got.
I did these while the test was printing, the *4 was an easy or lucky hook for me on the second, as I thought "small in normal order and big in other order" and tried 6 next to it first.
Then onto the whole test from the front: Battleships - pretty standard fare, with two long 6 rows making columns 1 and 2 rare real estate and the key break-in point. Got this in about a minute.
Complementary Domains was next and even as a 5 point puzzle I would really like to see this again and with more value. It was a very interesting twist on Four Winds (which is now a little stale).
I thought I was prepared for Shadow Boxing, and with the first puzzle I definitely was. I expected the only "rotation" option to appear which is an I or an H changing. So I stored that away. The lower-right corner seemed the hardest to fill, but once the BC piece got there the puzzle answer came ok.
The second Shadow Boxing though, not so much fun. I should know better than to just do complete guessing without some method but I'd scored too many points too fast to have logic ruling my brain at the time. I eventually drew out all the shapes and figured out how the 7 piece could possibly go where that was always what was breaking for me. Still, I didn't get anywhere towards the answer after 10 minutes but had a good piece diagram on my clipboard. Onto the next for some motivation.
Corral was straightforward after so much practice over the years. And this one was easy enough to count. Back to the Shadow Boxing, and still like actually shadow boxing I didn't land any blows on this puzzle.
A Crossword was A good bit of fun. Reminded me of a similar WPC Polish puzzle I think, and was, for the limited number of word puzzles, one where I gained a bit of time with a speedy solve. Maybe slightly disappointed in myself for crossing off PARA before I'd actually entered it/him in the grid having a little issue in the lower-left.
Skipped the Spot the Differences for now, since starting there was a big hit last year, I was going to do this last. I noticed the "thin" grid was back, which somehow has not worked as well for me to track the positions. I ink over it now.
Masyu was big and fun. Not as breathtaking as last years, but there were various isolated bits of don't close the loop that I've seen before and enjoyed, like the upper-left corner. I'm glad Nikoli selects memorable puzzles here, and I'll revisit this comment later.
I wrote a Multiplicative Corral with a 20/18/16/14/12/10/8/6/4/2 theme and needed to add a few more givens than I wanted for it to all work out but I got a good feel for how to push walls and X's on the grid and re-search for possibilities by products and not additions. Biggest worry on this one was a small error in the lower-left where I first thought the 8 was a big vertical 1x8 but that couldn't work with the second 12 down there. It also made my guess about the cute upper-right connection come true. Very nice puzzle - thanks Grant!
In the 5 minutes before the test I resolved Packing for Bulgaria. And it went super smoothly with just a be greedy approach. 3' or so. I obviously then started this puzzle with the same approach. Now knowing the answer, I got a fair amount right, but put KUTINA where IMOTSKI needs to be, and also had a DUBROVNIK wrapped along the bottom instead of the left column. With these two tweaks compounded on a broken paper, this suitcase was left unpacked after about 6-7 minutes.
The sudoku I figured to be easy points. Somehow I missed a bit of the logical path in the middle but did some painting in the 9's (a particular use of 9's in the top/bottom kept row 4 from getting one. This is the first puzzle I want to go back and reanalyze properly afterwards. Particularly given Nick's comments on his highly variable testing of it.
Tren was a worry - not because of lack of familiarity but during some practice I had gotten very broken on a puzzle and found it eventually untweakable and I'd always thought Tren tweakable. Fortunately, fearing the worst I got a pretty smooth solve here. It was key to mark unreachable cells and then decide how to block some of the 0's. Solver from left to right basically.
I sometimes forget to have my pen right next to me and Pentahouses was a case I'd regret it after I went into the "stuff the puzzle approach" and had an erasure mess without my sure givens there. I pushed a V and T into the lower-right, as optimal packing, but fell into a potential trap the first time by placing an L and I in the bottom left. When I got into big problems with the W only possible in the UL, I pushed off. Well, I started a print queue on this page for a second go, just as I did on the Packing puzzle, but left it after that.
Space Probes was sort of a similar fail because of a lack of ink versus pencil and I ran out of shades of "light" in pencil and made an error on the right path. I disproved R9C8 pretty early as a valuable piece of knowledge. But didn't get the solution from that forcing R9C10 on this go. Printed another copy as well and moved on.
Tapa was pretty quick. I'm sure for Palmer it was negative time, as he has had so much classic practice now and I'm still 50 puzzles behind, having not done the CTC yet. This was good but not a complete stand-out from some others I have done.
Magic Order was cute and I appreciate the early practice. Keeping a log on the side when a low starts high or high starts low is key. Here the 35 in the lower-left for the 9 really constrains all the other 3 starting numbers (what would be 10,11,and 12 on the list). This was the first point of progress. Midway through when rows 3 and 4 were mostly empty, it was sorting out how to get the #2 to be small enough. This is a pretty cool original style. Not sure if it will ever get more than the 3 puzzles I've seen though.
Frozen Pentominoes had a lot of moments of "how is this ever going to be locked down" with small but concrete realizations each time of what was needed. After 1 minute without success, I did a clue log to make sure all pieces were touching a black square. Figuring out how to interlock the V and P was one big point of progress. The other was figuring out where way was the W and T from the top. Fun puzzle, probably because it had so many "AHA" moments.
Snail's Nest was a big question mark for me before the test because I saw the answer entry which had "10th row" in it. I've seen only 8x8. I figured there might be a grouping with an empty middle, but didn't have an 11x11 shape like this in mind as I didn't know how to pack it. Having 3 ends in the middle fixes that. This goes as these puzzles go - trying to find what word is very hard to fit, fitting it somehow (with flexible notes on boundaries of cells) and then repeating. I had a little sticking point by writing too much of HELLHOUSE for sure which screwed up the SUPERNATURAL which made the CAGEDHEAT impossible. But Snails are very tweakable so I just unbroke the HEAT, to unbreak the SUPERNATURAL, to realize what I'd done wrong on HELLHOUSE. I was hoping to eventually force that D in the middle straight down and once I got the 1st column worked out it was done. Quite a weird nest of films.
Now only my scraps (and there were a lot) and the 30 pointers were there. I hit the floor on the accelerator. I placed 3-4 digits on the gapped kakuro but having taken it off the pile decided Slitherlink - Sudoku - Kakuro was the right order to try.
I expected a non-square form when seeing the instruction, but what was most interesting was realizing how the 6/7 side shapes affected different clues in entirely different ways. But this was a light shade on feel kind of puzzle. I got most of it right, but critically broke in the middle at the 5-1. Finally saw the first logical deduction of blacking things out around there. Then returned to light shade to get the rest. Careful addition and I was on. Maybe 5 minutes?
Musketeer Sudoku was an interesting idea but I was expecting for 30 points a lot more challenging bookkeeping. Here the first sets of digits were fast, including one letter pair. Sudoku marking of pairs eventually got a 24 on a D, which looked a lot like it had to be all of one type. Eventually spotting the last of the D's showed which digit it needed to be. The ending steps, to avoid repeats in the last couple sets, were smooth. But given you can set these cells anywhere as blockers, it wasn't jaw dropping. It was simply an efficient and smooth solve. Would love to see more of these. It is a great counterpart to Pat Sajak's Sudoku with "Codenumbers" where the groups always have the same number, like buying a vowel in wheel of fortune. This all the same, all different, is an interesting rule.
Ok, so just the Gapped Kakuro to close it out. These tend to have particular long rows that must be fully gappy but I never spot the break-ins fast enough. I got most of the right by logic, but got a little greedy in the center columns, and knowing no 2 was in one of them, pushed a 3 and 3+1 entry for the 3 and 4. I used uniqueness on the 6 clue, and eventually got the column sorted out very well when I put a single 9 on the two cell 9. Sorting out the left side was about pushing knowledge along the top, and expecting certain knowledge along the bottom. I still double checked all my sums.
And in about 20 minutes I showed how different USPCs can go for me from last year. When the big Sudoku and the big mathy Hungarian Tapa took me maybe 30-40 minutes, I got more points in much less time and had just higher variance puzzles to go. Maybe 45 minutes on the clock? I'll know for sure with timing data later.
I can't remember the exact clean-up order, but I think I started with the fresh pentahouses printout, with ink this time for sure steps, and then the big thought "That W is tough". The first W I put into the grid in a non-UL place got me the answer I wanted.
Onto the Space Probes. I knew the key break-in in the bottom. Just hadn't pursued it well. So started in ink, then went to pencil, and got this done in 3-4 minutes too. Clean-up was going well. Clock was still counting down too fast for my comfort, but finishing seemed possible.
Packing for Croatia took two restarts, because I saw how to fix one of my two compounded error, but did not realize DUBROVNIK had a second choice. when SUPETAR really needed room for that R, I erased the left of the grid and finally caught what I needed. Not my greatest word solving experience but not enough time to worry.
STD and Cihan's math to go. One was worth more points while other had good fractions. Cihan's math it was. It was only here I realized I could lift my page and look through the paper at the window to my left to confirm I had the mirroring all right. My piece inventory was good. So now what was my faulty assumption. And it turned out being 69 needing to be far left or far right where two middle options existed. Hadn't explored those much, so tried them. My first answer had two 5's, but looking through the paper at the window I saw I had just incorrectly drawn the 23 option that could fit. Done.
~24 minutes and the STD to go. As I said, I inked the whole page. Again, lots of sneaky differences this time. But slowly they came. It feels fitting that the last difference was in about the same spot my missing chick move was last year. That big/thin tail had gone unnoticed several times.
So with about 12+ minutes left I had finished the test, and made my way through all the scraps of paper on the floor to check each answer entry. On a couple puzzles I double checked some assumptions I had not checked, but I think everything is good (or good enough). I guess, from various stumbles in the middle, Palmer may have had leads at a couple points. But my last 30 minutes from 1:45 to 2:15 were high quality recovery of puzzles. Remembering the right problems I'd had on the first time, like that W pentomino, made me solve puzzles fast where typically I might forget the thing I needed to know.
I normally heavily edit these entries, as doing a live type I will have a slew of typos. I will certainly do this before going to my blog. But for now, that is my USPC. I've been getting interested people into this closed forum and will continue moderating for awhile, but it feels like time to see what everyone else has said in the last twenty minutes, and get some lunch as I am starving.
Thanks to all the test authors and organizers again. I wouldn't make a big deal out of this test if it wasn't such a fun one each and every year.
A few immediate comments on some things in this post.
"AB=CD+E or A=B-C/D*E": Indeed, the computer cranked out these for me as well, along with a few reorderings of those operations. The only additional one I had found was "AB*C/D+E=FG" (fun challenge for you all). I ended up getting the first of these with a rather slow points-per-minute ratio and figured the second one needed to be saved for last... which meant I never did it during time.
Packing broke multiple times for me too. Except I never ended up getting it. Seems to be a lot of people who couldn't avoid messing up on this one.
Tapa was indeed fast for me. Probably around the middle of the difficulty/quality of the CTC pack (not saying much because the CTC puzzles were very good).
Your Frozen Pentomino experience was quite different from mine, as I was pretty sure of what the V and P had to be. Still, I was staring at a mostly completed puzzle for maybe 5 minutes before I finally realized swapping the W and T could make the W lock the P. Arg...
My Musketeer Sudoku solve seems to have been similar, except for me having all the Ds equal was a bifurcation, which I made very soon after finding that 2,4 pair. I think you were the one to bifurcate on last year's Zotmeister Sudoku, so we seemed have flipped roles.
"~24 minutes and the STD to go" That sounds like a familiar situation, although you had more time.
I hadn't written my code efficiently to just search equation space for singletons. Instead I was literally going through all possible equations fixing first an = sign, then allowing 13 combinatorial-ish options. So my "perl uspc 11 >uspc11.txt" has yet to deliver AB*C/D+E=FG. I stopped it before the test but I can go back to it now that computing is free.
Snail's Nest names were actually episodes of Supernatural, the pilot and one from each season 1-7. I removed the informative flavor text because it would have been too distracting given the limited space. I think we now know Serkan's favorite US TV show!
:) Absolutely, I'm looking forward to the next season. When we came to US for the WSC, I got some Supernatural comics from NY, cool stuff. I know I'm talking about irrelevant things, but I should say that my favorite season is 4. Before Eric Kripke left, there were very very cool soundtracks in almost every episode, mostly Rock... One more thing, you should listen to this, I probably listened a hundred times :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1EzU9sLQ6I