Jotting notes about another Game Control Summit 2010 talk: Dan Egnor on Computer Tools for Puzzle Creation and Solving. When I saw the talk live, I didn't follow it all, and got distracted from the most useful stuff by the stuff that I understood. So here's a chance to slow down and pay more attention.
- Screen Grab from Midnight Madness: the team who cheated by using a computer that could figure out all the answers.
- There's not gonna be any brilliant concepts; we're gonna read a laundry list
- Text Search Tools
- Tea: only runs on Windows
- OneLook: Not just a dictionary; you can also search its
words whose definitions
mention "patio". (Egnor says we probably already knew about OneLook
but I didn't.)
- (Doesn&apos't mention wordnet a handy thesaurus/related-word-finder. Available as a command-line tool. Now that I see OneLook, I bet OneLook is better for puzzling. But wordnet might be a fallback when teh internets is not available.)
- Didn't talk about anagrammers in talk, but they're on a slide: Internet Anagram Server is good for Anagram and there's Anagram Genius, some Windows software. But Nutrimatic does anagrams just fine...
[the thing I should have got out of this talk when I saw it live, but didn't]
Nutrimatic searches for useful words and phrases. But instead of some silly
dictionary, it searches Wikipedia, and it ranks its answers by how much
they appear in Wikipedia, so you'll see gummi bears before
garibaldi biscuits; roughly a good ordering for finding
- Example is Triple Sec, a complicated puzzle.
- Nutrimatic can help you solve it, but you need to mention some weird characters to tell it to restrict to 18 characters. [Well, they're not that weird, but when I heard "ampersand underscore curly brace 18 close curly brace", I assumed that nutrimatic was going to have a steep learning curve, and I set it aside to learn later.]
- [But I shouldn't have set it aside! You can get good info out of nutrimatic without learning all that weird punctuation. And once you know that, you can learn to narrow things down with weird punctuation later.]
- [Also, goes well with writing your own tools.]
- Metatron: a meta-solver written by some MIT hunt nerds. No longer available at the address mentioned in the talk, so I didn't get a chance to try it out just now.
- grep, python, rolling your own programs.
Very versatile, yay! Assuming you know how to program. Also, you
need a good wordlist.
- collection of wordlists
- wikipedia dumps [unavailable due to zorched hardware as I write this, but usually works OK] The list of article titles is useful. [He doesn't mention it here, but nutrimatic lets you search wikipedia and gives you answers ranked by popularity, kinda. Which is darned useful, because a lot of wikipedia article titles are typos and/or stupid. The more you get into these big wordlists, the more you want a way to sort them by relevance.]
- http://subtlexus.lexique.org/ Word frequencies as measured from film subtitles.
- Google's Lists of N-Grams from the Web Big list of N-grams (e.g., 3 words that appear together are a trigram), with text read from all over teh internets. Have you ever wondered which phrase is more common "ceramics collection is" or "ceramics collection of"? Wonder no longer:
ceramics collection is 68 ceramics collection of 76 ceramics collection | 59This data comes on 6 DVDs. I.e., you're probably going to have to massage it a bit just to get it into a form that you want to scan.
- Cipher Solving Tools
- Rumkin.com Cipher Tools
- DialABC specializes in phone stuff making words w/keypad letters, DTMF, ...
- SCBSolvr, the Secret Code Breaker Monoalphabetic Cipher Solver Program. Windows only, unfortunately. Not much UI. [So even if you independently figure out that Z is X, you can't use that knowledge to help it] OTOH, it solved this impossible-looking cryptogram from the Paparazzi game—which theoretically, teams should have needed more info for.
- Crossword Puzzle Tools
- Logic/Constraint Puzzles
- Sudoku solvers abound!
- And for some other puzzles... uhm, there's some not-great stuff.
- Burninators' library of handy solver code
- Learn about dancing links to solve constraint puzzles
- Logic/Constraint Puzzles
- TinEye searches teh internets for images. So if you upload an image of some strange critter that GC used in a puzzle, Tineye will tell you that GC snagged that photo from the Wikipedia article for "meerkat", and maybe you thus just found out what that critter is.
- Burr Tools tools for making 3-D puzzles. Might also help for manipulating some 2-D griddish puzzles a la assemble these tetrominos into a rectangle.
- The world ain't perfect yet: still could use a polyalphabetic/non-unique cipher solver. Solvers for non-Sudoku constraint puzzles. Better ways to deal with images in puzzles, e.g., an "alphabet" of images.
- Question Time!
- Brent Holman asks: Will you join my team?
- Nice try
- Ian Tullis says he's been thinking of writing a cryptogram that solves to
"GOOD JOB COMPUTER USER, THE ANSWER IS..." (I can't tell what he says
here) Anyhow, GC has to be aware of these tools. That solve in the
Paparazzi game was an eye-opener: the cipher had no spaces; that's supposed
to be really hard.
- [From Egnor's answer, I guess that Ian suggested a cryptogram that automatically solves to something—but if you the team does it the "right" way they get another message.]