Larry Hosken: New

To celebrate California's Juror Appreciation Week, the Judicial Council of California created, uh, a word search puzzle(‽)
it's a word search puzzle, a grid of letters with a word list



I transcribed a 1924 article by photographer Olivia Wyndham reflecting on running puzzly treasure hunt games in London: Society Treasure Hunts: The Trail and the Chase.

h/t to Bruce Lin who tracked this article down after I gave up.



I transcribed a 1924 article about puzzle-y treasure hunts in London: London Society's Thrilling All-Night Treasure Hunts. It's kind of an annoying article for a puzzle fiend to read; I guess it was written by some society reporter who was really impressed that the Prince of Wales participated but glossed over clue details. But I got to look back through history and see that Olivia Wyndham had learned the hard lessons of Game Control before Stephen Sondheim was born:
"I do not know which is the greater fun," says Miss Wyndham, "laying a trail or following one. When laying one it is very hard to judge how difficult or easy your clues are going to appear to others who do not know your processes of thought."

It sounds like Wyndham wrote some articles about her Hunt experiences. Dunno how find-able they are. I bet she had more to say than landed in this here article, tho.



Game Report: Choice of Games, Heart's Choice Games

Special note to my parents: Though this blog post is about video games, you might be interested. Specifically, Choice of Games has a couple of games ("Tally Ho", "Jolly Good") that are kinda like reading P.G. Wodehouse novels.

Playing a Choice of Games game is something like reading a choose-your-own-adventure book. Each screen of the game shows you some text to read. At the bottom of the screen there's a Next button to go to the next page screen; and maybe above the Next button there's a set of choices. Depending on what you pick, different things might happen on the next screen and further on in the book game. E.g., here's a screen from the game "The Bread Must Rise," in which you direct the actions and attitude of a contestant in a necromantic baking competition. Towards the bottom of the page, the game prompts you to choose a character motivation. This motivation can affect future wording, perhaps even plot direction:

screen shot of game. It's spare for a video game: it's mostly text on a soothing background. There's a row of buttons at the top: Show Stats, Achievements, Menu. There's three paragraphs of text (which I'll transcribe below). There is a menu of four choices (which I'll also transcribe below). And there's a next button. The three paragraphs of text: “This time, instead of a fine and a stern warning, you've received a certificate: ¶ YOU'VE BEEN CHOSEN AS ONE OF SIX CONTESTANTS IN THE GREAT GODSTONE BAKE-OFF. ¶ The certificate says more, but those are the big words, the important words. Those are the words your friends would see, if you had any. Damn, you never thought about that, but here and now, alone in your bakery while you wait until it's time to open, you can't escape the question. Why don't you have any friends?” The four choices: ◎ The thing about friendship is that it doesn't keep the lights on in the bakery. ◎ Friends? More like customers who think they're entitled to freebies and discounts. Please! ◎  I was so focused on the Great Godstone Bake-Off that I didn't have time for unnecessary distractions. ◎ Don't be silly, suddenly nosy voice in my head…Customers are friends!

There's a lot of text in these games; some have a few illustrations, but most get along with just text. When I play these games, I tend to compare them to other choose-y games I found via the book 50 Years of Text Games; those other games have plenty of art: they suggest some of the book's action by superimposing portraits of the characters on an art background showing the setting. In those games, you read a little text, but infer a lot of the story from the art. You might think oh, I bet these text-only games seem drab compared to those with art. But as you play more of these choose-y games, the text games have more variety. I have a theory about this:

In a game with lots of art if an author tells the publisher "This scene is set in something like a bakery, but with necromantic magic, like with skeletons and stuff" the publisher doesn't already have appropriate art on hand. The publisher might say…

The art-heavy games tend to have a lot of same-ol' same-old. You think to yourself, There's that generic restaurant kitchen again. Or you might think Ho-hum, yet another epic struggle of brave rebels against overwhelming odds; but I understand why the publishers wouldn't risk the art budget to try some niche-ier ideas.

There's a lot less constraint on these text-heavy games. You want superheroes? It's a lot easier to type the word "cape" than it is to draw folds in fabric. In Choice of Games and Heart's Choice (Choice of Games' romance imprint), I've played in Pulp-era science fiction, swashbuckling pirate action, 1001 Nights-ish fantasy, Edwardian-era farce, spooky vampire crypts, two undersea mermaid cities (not much alike), two modern-fantasy magical bureacracies (not much alike), the moon, Mars,…

I guess that's why, out of the various choose-y game systems out there, Choice of Games has my favorites. It's got a lot of variety! I'm not into ⅔ of it, too weird, not my kind of weird. But it has some games that are right up my alley.

I'll point out some of the specific games that I liked. There are over 100 games within Choice of Games, figuring out what you want to try might seem daunting at first. I hesitate to go overboard with my recommendations, though. A skilled critic can discern between underlying craftsmanship and the critic's own taste; I am not such a skilled critic. When I say "I wasn't into that Battlemage game; it had too many battles for my taste," you know just where to stick that review. That said, some recommendations:

Choice of Games:

Cliffhanger: Challenger of Tomorrow
Pulp-style science fiction.
Elite Status: Platinum Concierge
Rich-people problems require rich-people solutions, and you do your best to provide them. Attempting to save your soul is optional. Tragedy (unusual; most of these games are adventures, romances, and/or comedies)
Tally Ho,
Jolly Good: Cakes and Ale
Edwardian upper-class comedies in the spirit of P.G. Wodehouse
The Daring Mermaid Expedition
Undersea mermaids, pirates,… I'm not sure how much I liked this because it was good and how much I liked this because it was my kind of weird. But I'm sure I liked it plenty.
Creatures Such as We
Moody piece about getting/not getting what you want, set on the moon
The Dragon and the Djinn
Swashbuckling magical adventure in a fantasy world not quite like the 1001 Nights
Choice of Kung Fu
Swashbuckling magical adventure in a fantasy world not quite like imperial China in those movies from my youth
Social Services of the Doomed
You are a government bureaucrat in a modern fantasy world investigating mysterious phenomena

Heart's Choice (Choice of Games' romance imprint):

Swashbuckling nonmagical adventure on the streets of old-timey Paris, where you are a duellist for a brothel
Forbidden Magic
You are a government bureaucrat in a modern fantasy world investigating mysterious phenomena

Along with Choice of Games and the romance-ier Heart's Choice, they have another category of games: Hosted Games. As near as I can tell, just about anyone can post a game here. Like, I think when the publishers are deciding whether to publish a story, if they like the story, it goes on Choice of Games or Heart's Choice; if they don't much like the story but it's not illegal/hateful/grounds for a lawsuit, then it goes on Hosted Games. I tried reading two games there, got a few pages into each, and gave up. Those two games were pretty bad. There might be some fun games in there, but I'm not sure how to find those diamonds in the rough; that "rough" is rough.



photo of flowers. In foreground, out of focus, some cherry blossoms. In background, in focus, a garage door mural depicting flowers, maybe poppies? I dunno, I'm not a big flower guy



Leet Numbers

I just watched the Numberphile video about Apocalyptic Numbers. An apocalyptic number is a power of two whose decimal representation contains the digits "666". I nodded along: of course, Christian folks would get interested about numbers that contain "666". But then I thought about it some more and wondered: Why would those Christian people care about powers of two so much? If you're going to look for "666" in some numbers, why not Fibonacci numbers or powers of three or what-have-you?

Who should care about powers of two? Computer programmers, that's who. But not all computer programmers are Christian; not all care about 666.

I think we should instead focus on Leet numbers, powers of two that contain "1337". Yes, I just made up the term "Leet numbers," but I'm sticking to it.

The first Leet number is 2394 = 40347654345107946713373737062547060536401653012956617387979052445947619094013143666088208645002153616185987062074179584.

The first Eleet number (containing "31337") is 2454 = 46517678354918840995156723704832290198633047083988355858015372747560914439257467092876227245680868195888801382801035387746214504231337984.

Now that that's settled, I guess I should come up with 15 minutes' worth of things to say about that and then get in touch with the Computerphile people to make a video.



I heard the city wasn't doing anything for 4/20 this year, so I was surprised to see folks setting up some tables at Robin Williams meadow (a.k.a. the meadow at the base of "Hippie Hill") this morning. Looks like Volo Sports is putting on a kickball tournament. I guess the park folks counterprogrammed an event to deflect the weed-o-philes.

chained-off section of meadow; beyond the chain, folks are setting up a table; beyond that, other folks are setting up a food truck

[updated to add:]

I went back to the meadow around noon and noted:

The meadow was mostly empty; nobody playing kickball, some folks playing volleyball. Hippie Hill had about as many people as you'd expect on a sunny day. The helicopters [which had been hovering overhead ~an hour earlier] are gone. It might seem chill until you wonder: Why does that knot of park rangers look so tense? Why is a pair of motorcycle cops riding around the path?

I got a burrito from that food truck (the line was really short!) and came back home.



Don't give pees a chance! Edgy, makes you think
Pee nevermore Much more threatening than intended (I hope)
planted area on sidewalk with a sign to discourage dogs. The sign depicts an X-ed out peeing dog with caption: Don't give pees a chance planted area on sidewalk with a sign to discourage dogs. The sign depicts a 🚫-ed out peeing dog and a raven silhouette with caption: Pee nevermore



Munzee Daily Stroll

The Munzee play-while-walking-around-with-your-phone game has a cool new RandoNautica-like feature. I want to blog about it, but before I dive in I want to start with:

When you use the Find Nearby Wishing Well button, it might plunk a wishing well onto the map right where you are. E.g. I, sitting in my apartment and wondering "What does this button do?" pressed the button and now there's a wishing well at my apartment building. I wish I'd been somewhere else when I pressed that button. My apartment is next to a steep hillside with poison oak; that's not a great place for a wishing well, as it turns out. The wishing well is visible to other Munzee players; now anyone looking at the Munzee map in my neighborhood can see that icon and say "I bet you a dollar that a Munzee player lives in that building."

map zoomed in on 330 Parnassus Ave with a wishing well icon

To me, this public visibility is a little disconcerting. If I had a stalker and if that stalker knew I played Munzee, it would be quite alarming. Either way, if I'd understood I could summon a wishing well by trying to "find" one, I would have walked a couple of blocks downhill before I pressed that button.

Munzee is a play-while-walking-around-with-your-phone game. Sorta like you do in Pokémon Go, you play the game while walking around and looking at a map on your phone. To "move" in the game, you gotta move in real life. Players can tag interesting spots on the map; go to those spots and "check in" to get points and advance in the game. Unlike Pokémon Go, players can also tag interesting spots in real life by sticking QR code stickers to them; you can see those on the map, go there, find the sticker, and scan it to "check in", get points, and advance.

Also unlike Pokémon Go, you can't just keep checking into the same place once every five minutes. Depending on what type of place it is, maybe you can just check in once per day. This might mean that you're asking the Munzee app "Where else shall I walk today?" and Munzee says "I dunno, man; you already went everywhere in the neighborhood." But now it has a Randonautica-like function: you press a button, the app chooses a random nearby spot on the map and dares you to go there and check in. If you succeed, it chooses another nearby point on the map and challenges you to go there.

This is a nice workaround for the I-already-went-everywhere-in-my-neighborhood-today problem. I bet it's also a good fix for the I-am-the-only-person-in-my-neighborhood-with-this-app problem. When I started playing this game, there was plenty for me to do: I live in San Francisco, surrounded by many many tech nerds who already downloaded the game and started tagging interesting spots on the map. Thus, there were already places for me to check in. I bet a potential-player who lives in a sparse sprawling suburb has a different experience: maybe the nearest player is a fifteen-minute drive away. Maybe they open up the map and there's nothing to do. Maybe they get discouraged and never even start playing. Thus when their next-door neighboor tries the app a week later, there's still nothing interesting on the map in that neighborhood… It's nice that the first Munzee player in a neighborhood now has something to do.



I enjoyed the gimmick of today's Puzzmo crossword (which ?might? be the same as today's AVCX crossword?).




1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024