Larry Hosken: New

Jotting Notes on Rich Bragg's 2014 GC Summit Cluekeeper Update

Cluekeeper is a puzzlehunt answer-checker app. Game Control tells the app about the hunt's answers and hints. Players run the app. They can use it to check answers. The app does time-release hints. If you're running a hunt, you can learn more.

At GC Summit, Rich got hauled up to give an update on ClueKeeper. He mostly announced things that have, in the months between the talk and this write-up, already come to pass:

Still, there are some things you can learn by watching the video

Permalink
& Comments

2014-07-20T16:42:01

Jotting Notes on Erin Rhode's 2014 GC Summit Talk "MIT Mystery Hunt Q+A"

It's "MIT Mystery Hunt Q&A", an unplanned Q&A session with Erin Rhode, captain of the team that ran the Alice Shrugged MIT Mystery Hunt This here is my notes. [My rambling asides are in italics] and I take some pretty egregious summarize|rephrase|totally-change-meaning liberties with other folks' words, too. Original video at this here link.

Permalink
& Comments

2014-07-20T13:30:19

Book Report: China 3.0

I picked up this anthology of essays because it showed up in an author search for Michael Anti. Thus, I expected to have my pro-free-speech views reinforced. It turns out that Anti wrote just one essay in the collection; and there's a variety. Thus I learned some things. Including…

Permalink
& Comments

2014-07-20T02:23:08

Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even Marin County

Behold, it is my write-up of Shinteki Decathlon 9! Read them to gain great insight into puzzlehunting a la "Oh man I wish the Army Corps of Engineers would install air conditioning in the Bay Model." Uhm, and there are some bits that don't sound quite so whiny as that.

Permalink
& Comments

2014-07-13T21:19:57

Book Report: Undiluted Hocus-Pocus

It's Martin Gardner's autobiography. It's about his life. It's not about logic puzzles, tricks with matchsticks, or computer simulations. Those are things he wrote about. His autobiography is about the life that happened in between writing articles. There's academic politics, writing some not-so-interesting articles before stumbling into recreational mathematics, meeting magicians and others which would eventually lead to material. Through it all, Gardner's curiosity shines through, along with his ability to find a diamond of interesting-ness in a rough of noise.

Permalink
& Comments

2014-07-05T23:06:53

Nautical Flags, Richmond

Posting this just in case it shows up later as a Shinteki puzzle site, you know?

Permalink
& Comments

2014-06-30T02:16:16

Book Report: Random House Puzzle Maker's Handbook

It's a book about how to make crossword puzzles (and other word puzzles) from 1995, a revision of a book first written in 1981. It's about how to make (and edit and market…) crossword puzzles by hand. Back in 1995, that's how you made crossword puzzles. There were just barely some computer programs coming along that would help you figure out which words you could use to fill in that □□Z□□E□□K□□ in your grid.

Why read this book now? Nowadays, when I want to make a crossword puzzle, I load up Crossword Compiler, click a button, and let the computer fill in my grid with answers that, y'know, cross. (OK, I'm exaggerating the ease. Since I work on puzzlehunts, I make puzzlehunt-ish crosswords, by which I mean "gimmick crosswords". To make the gimmick work, I probably need to do some prep. Like if the gimmick is something numeric such that LONDONENGLAND should be written in the grid as LOND1NGLAD and FORTWORTH as FOR2RTH, I have to start by constructing a word list so that Crossword Compiler understands that, for this puzzle, LOND1NGLAD is a valid answer.) This book has plenty of advice that I won't use. E.g., when fitting answers into a crossword puzzle by hand, favor answers that alternate vowel/consonant, since these tend to fit into crosswords better. That's a good rule of thumb when you're working by hand and using your brain; but when a computer can try all the possible "crossings" in a minute, it's less useful. And yet, this book's still useful today.

Crossword puzzle fans will point out a flaw in my reasoning above, and in so doing point out the first useful thing I learned from this book. Crossword puzzle fans will point out: The best crossword puzzles are hand-constructed. So the whole premise of saying that the book might not be useful since it concentrates on by-hand puzzle construction must be wrong. Well… yes and no. I make crosswords that will be used in puzzlehunts. People don't complete these crosswords. They fill in a third of the answers, someone sees F□□R■N□M□D■S□□P in the diagonal, figures out that's FOUR-NAMED SOAP, and folks set aside the grid, figure out DAYS O4 LIVES and… Darned few folks will go back, look at that grid, fill the rest in, and tut-tut over mediocre word choices. I can get away with some things that I couldn't if I were a professional puzzle constructor trying to sell stand-on-their-own-merits crosswords to Will Shortz. And this book told me something I didn't know about making crosswords by hand: even if I were to get good at it, it would still take a really long time to make one puzzle. The book doesn't really point this out explicitly, but you can't help but notice the word "hours" popping up. Hours for this stage of construction; hours for that stage.

With practice, crossword construction gets easier, but it doesn't get easy. Good to know. If you don't plan to make enough crosswords in the future to justify training up, need a high-quality grid, and you value your time, maybe you should hire a pro.

But even if you're just jockeying a computer, this book will help. It has advice on what to do if you get partway through constructing a puzzle and it's just not coming together. This happens on the computer, too; it's just faster. Sometimes you choose a grid, lay in your theme answers, press the "fill" button and… the computer gives up. Or it generates something that's bad even by my low standards. Maybe you can salvage your idea by tweaking the grid: when you laid your theme answers into that arbitrarily-chosen grid, did that mean the computer was going to have to choose a word ending in J? Maybe you should figure out a grid layout that puts that J at the start of a word instead. (Crossword Compiler does a great job of "trying all the words" to find those that will fit into a grid; it doesn't have a notion of "trying all the grid layouts" to find one that will work best with a set of theme answers.)

This book talks about the core of puzzle construction; even though I skimp on the details of exquisite puzzling, there was stuff in here I could use. And if you're a by-hand puzzle constructor (or if this book inspires you to become one), there's even more good advice.

Permalink
& Comments

2014-06-22T22:04:32

"I'll keep this simple. One of you is a real human cop—and one of you is a robot. Only we don't know which is which!"

Permalink
& Comments

2014-06-13T03:39:24

Link

THIS every-state-in-continental-USA driving route is even MORE optimal (if you're optimizing for Scrabble).

Permalink
& Comments

2014-06-12T03:43:45

Puzzlehunts are Everywhere, Even Boston

Just started reading this GC Writeup from Wartron Boston

Permalink
& Comments

2014-06-11T14:06:24

Updates:

Tags

Archives:
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014

Feed