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26 October 2010 @ 02:47 pm
WPC Day One  
Turns out the hotel also has wireless and wireless doesn't have a problem with the Mac here the way the wired network does so I suppose I can liveblog the WPC again. My biggest mistake of the day was not predicting that a powerpoint presentation made on a Mac would fail to display some images on a PC here but I should have known better. Poland and Steve Jobs must not get along. So the Puzzle Academy talk did not run as smoothly as I had hoped, but I think people still enjoyed the talk and maybe learned a few things about how I approach a tough sudoku (not that it will help tomorrow, since this is a world puzzle championship).

Day started slowly with Round 1 - a set of 6 linked puzzles in which I made a careless counting error at the start to waste ~6 minutes on unraveling a web with an almost solution that I felt was forced except I was missing an order 4 vertex (the most critical of the types). Probably should have worked from the more arithmetic puzzles first but I know these are never my specialty and when it advertises "multiple solutions" except with the linked numbers, I felt getting sure digits into the math was a better approach. Still I recovered in the last 10 minutes but got enough to tread water at about 50% of points. Palmer, our US rookie, finished the round but made a couple mistakes to start the day off in 4th.

Round 2 was certainly my expectation for the best of my rounds - just classic puzzles, including types I practice a lot on Nikoli.com. I expected several would be Conceptis puzzles not that there is a specific way to approach a non-handset Hashi. Still, my typical solving tune of the Katamari Damacy theme played out well on those puzzles. The hardest in the set was a difficult star battle but I've had enough WPC experience to know how to experiment with some stars to figure out a solution and this managed fine. I took 2 minutes to check and turned in 3 minutes early for 312 points of 300. No one else finished, so when the results of this round were out I was in 1st.

Round 3 was a set of classic mutants, all written by Jan Mrozowski and rather fun, except for being too short a round and me taking too long on the Tapa Islands without seeing the solution. I also broke (but eventually) fixed the Sudokuro. Never had time to look at the Fenced Estate or the Skykuro with at least the first a good chance for me to solve. Getting the Easy as Battleships in a minute and a half with two minutes in the round was the good news though. Lost some ground, but fell into 3rd in what was shaping up to be the (expected) horse-race between Hideaki, Ulrich, and myself.

Round 4 was a 19 snake variation written by Vlad Portugalov. We'd though a possible grid was a 3/4/5/4/3 offset hex of 10x10 squares, but a 4x5 with a single corner out was likely too and that's what it was. I started on the stripy and others started in other reasonable corners. I got down to the pentomino and over to the tapa effectively but maybe slower than I wanted. My big late-stage success was pulling off the Snake-By which I've slowly come to appreciate after spending so much time failing to solve them. I try to always think at least one of the ends is revisited to be greedier with my first trials and this snake ended up reusing both ends. We had time run out with a broken snake in the bottom and a nearly correct 1-2 Snake, but likely 17 of 19 puzzles for the round. In talking with Vlad, he had apparently wanted the round to last 60 minutes so some team could solve. I think we could resolve in that time and maybe the Germans or Japanese too, but no one finished in 50.

Lunch was a welcome break, and then back to Round 5 which certainly felt like my worst. I went into the round not expecting to do the Araf but seeing the 8/9/10 theme in the upper-left was worth exploring and I got the same feeling of being close to right that you get on a Numberlink. I was surprised to find out it was a Serkan type but I greatly enjoyed the puzzle (if not the example). The rest of the round though felt like grabbing the easy puzzle points but not getting the hard ones. One latin square type was what I attempted in the last 10 minutes to only not finish it, so a lost opportunity.

Odd/Even was maybe my favorite individual round of the day. I ran out of time to really try to do the larger Minesweeper (Sapper) puzzle, but from the larger even/odd battleships to the skyscrapers and the surprisingly pleasant 5 number square style the puzzles were fun to solve. I started on the Even/Odd Crisscross which had a theme I grasped quickly and solved well as a half sudoku-style (no repeat numbers in any word) and half word puzzle style. I was behind entering the round but after my 151 here (I was expecting 175 but apparently have an error), I'm officially in the lead after day 1 for the first time since Brazil (although then I wasn't aware of the lead until the scoring protest of the classics round was approved to restore bonus). So tonight I feel I should sleep well and let's hope the second day collapse is not as severe. The rounds seem well timed, so I expect to lose points on the level of one puzzle, not on the level of tons of time bonus, which is most often my doom.

Last round was a team challenge (from Conceptis); basically a spiral galaxy on a large sheet of paper where teams also had to color the grid with post-its. This sticker task was not as fun as the Number Place we made for Philly (which I really want to actually get to solve sometime - with stickers), but the US team did well throughout.

Overall, the US team has had pretty good results so far, with us in 1st, 6th (Wei-Hwa), 9th (Roger), and 18th (Palmer) but there is a lot of potential for some shake-up, although I think we can expect one of me, Hideaki, or Ulrich to take the overall lead after the day. Off to bed (since I've now let Nick play Tichu for me for long enough that I doubt I can request control again).
(Anonymous) on October 27th, 2010 04:09 am (UTC)
Thanks Thomas, for the updates (almost live), even after a heavy/tiring competition. Wish you all the best for tomorrow and day-after!

Hats off to your commitment to puzzles!
fcoughlin on October 27th, 2010 11:59 am (UTC)
I just want to say good luck. We're all counting on you.