"reverse of evil"-themed multiplicity
An admittedly too easy fridge magnets
Two puzzles by thedan
"DK Fencepost" - [Edit: The first version of this I had posted had a missing digit in the fourth row, the 1 which you now see in this file. The error was mine in type-setting, not Dan's, and I apologize to those who stumbled with a non-unique puzzle. This goes to show that you should not try to do anything productive in the afternoon after the USPC when your brain is not yet recovered.]
"DK Multiplicity" - I greatly prefer his LED method, apparently from MS paint, to mine above
So when I saw the make-up of the test yesterday, I figured that finishing it would be fairly likely, maybe even in 2 hours. There were only 20 puzzles overall (last few years have been 22 and 23) but amazingly no bonuses except on the spot the differences. All the high point ones, except perhaps the magnets which is always a slog, were of types I tended to be able to complete without too much trouble. The double murder seemed very similar to some twin killers (minus box constraints) I've done before. I presumed the tiling would be the hidden hexagonal grid puzzle.
thedan and I shared some puzzles to test the newer types and I put my examples up above for those not too puzzled out to try in the future. I definitely felt I got comfortable with both the multiplicity and fence post from this exercise. The only puzzle I really worried about, as I've never gotten one right at any USPC or WPC, was Count Me In. Somehow I always overlook one or two of the rotations shapes, or forget I have 5, and not 4 or 6 fingers on each hand, or who knows. I can't count.
So, the test arrived and as I often do I solved the first page while my 2x copies of the test printed out. The battleships wasn't so bad and the diagonal sudoku took a little play with the diagonal (for so many givens in the corners, it was moderately hard - a 3 to 4 minute one certainly). Sum Figure was too easy to not do immediately and fell in a minute at most.
I then got back to my desk with both tests in hand and proceeded from the back to the front.
While the ORu Kakuro was a stretch of a title to get the palindrome, the puzzle itself was quite nice. After some searching for the break-in, it fell nicely outwards from that one spot.
The No Parking went smoothly with me trying to use On One's Honor as a break-in word even though it had several places it could go. One thing I like about these criss-crosses is that once you approach the answer, your grid starts to look more convincing. There is one particular set of crossings in the middle that give this feeling and once I found it, I knew I'd finish without problems.
The double murder was about what I expected it to be, although with only row and column cages, there weren't the innies or outies I was hoping for. It was a challenging 35 pointer - probably took about 10 minutes - but a good solve. Twice I wrote wrong numbers while copying the grid. One of those times I repeated a one in a column and thought I was at a broken point as I couldn't complete a sum. I was maybe a little frazzled by the effort it took to fall but it finally came.
Multiplicity was another fun puzzle then which, from our pregaming, I had a good intuition for. There is an early assignment you can make based on the 6/5 shapes and the 0 products, which led to an assignment of one of the products fast (from my puzzle written yesterday I further knew 6 had to multiply with 4 or 9 to give a 4 in one of them which helped a lot), and the other a bit slower, but still probably within ten minutes.
The Corral, while a type I've seen often, was a neat little surprise this time around. Not because it was a hexagonal grid, although that also was a neat surprise in '04. No, what was neat was a solving pattern that arose along the outside edge. Many people probably noticed this at some point in their solving, but it was a really neat embedded theme. Of all the puzzles, this is the one I'd recommend removing some points from, going to a 25.
Gull from Ipanema was a slightly less painful version of this regular type. I've done lots of the Nikoli Giants of these (well, 3 to 4) and so I have a good note-taking style to make thematic tiles, check them all, then move on. So it was an efficient 3 minute search I think to find the three tiles.
Magnets was my one worry, so I looked at it some, made a little headway, and skipped to the fun fence posts on the same page. As expected, that was a nice fresh type which followed the kind of solving strategy I'd looked into the day before. canadianpuzzler always provides fantastic puzzles for the USPC (my failures with Atomic Fusion last year not withstanding) and his new fence posts type and multiplicity were some gems.
Went back to Magnets, decided I still needed some comfort puzzles before solving the last biggie. So turned the page to my favorite easy Nikoli type Masyu. Only this wasn't an easy masyu with defined work-ins. The hardest work-in I've tended to need on a Nikoli is actually a black circle two squares from two touching white circles, negating a direction. One up from that in difficulty is what was here, namely white circles diagonal to black circles communicating the directions things can go. In one place, two diagonal white circles specifically gave a direction and in another both directions. Needless to say, I didn't see either of these at this point, so I made some guesses to get simple contradictions. Then I proceeded to blank when it come to the upper-right. The top was forced, and I had a loop right under it. I saw I needed to turn, but I only thought I could turn up and that was going to close the loop. After 2 minutes of erasing and thinking it was broken, I realized it can also turn down. Not sure why I wasn't seeing that, but its a typical hiccup after a stretch of hard puzzles so I can accept it.
Skipped over the tiling for the moment, did the very easy (except for answer submission) arrow ring. Carefully checking my internal, external, and loop square counts, I found the extra hidden "outside" square which didn't touch the outside edge. Round Trip was even easier
All About Rio, a type I like consistently reappearing if just for the couple minutes of relaxation, was next. Somehow this similar size word-search has varied from ~35 to 15 points in the last couple years. 15 feels about right. Double checking my letter-writing, I got that submission in fine.
Onto headache indu... I mean circuit maze. I'd gameplanned before that because of the black/white color problems, I'd just use a pink pencil and make the thin walls decidedly colored. Black and Pink don't cross streams in my brain, so I could see everything fine. I started in a likely point, worked along a path. When I found the dead-end problems, erased backwards, then continued this process. It felt like it could have been worth five more points, but I eventually got a loop. Took awhile to make sure I wrote all the letters in the circuit right. Turned out I initially had them counterclockwise instead of clockwise but I caught this on checking [although apparently it wouldn't matter]
Spot the differences went uberfast. My one worry was the two or so differences that had a dedicated home cell of difference, but another cell in which the difference honestly continued. The feather is a good example, as is the backwards paw, but I found 10 legit different differences and moved on.
Comic Strips was the fun puzzle I hoped it would be. I found me my scissors and tape and went to work. I initially made a false grid by trying to place TENUTA horizontally. Got the correct grid when I worked off another name and then saw how the TENUTA was meant to arise. A clean, enjoyable 15 pointer.
Looked up at the timer and I was at 40 minutes to go with the magnets to finish and the tiling the count me in. Went back to the magnets and used some forced guesses to get some contradictions and make progress. This is not to say that zotmeister's puzzle isn't doable. It definitely is. Just that my sharpness was not there at that moment.
Tiling could have been faster, as the wrong one stood out as very wrong pretty easily, but I checked all the other ones. Having several copies of this page was helpful which is why I preprint more than 1 copy of the test.
Finally, my nemesis, the counting puzzle. I figured a good way to not err was to meticulously count triangles that used a particular vertex, and work from the left to the right, or right to the left, or top to bottom, from each of the main vertices of the triangle. I got the nice count of 36 coming from the right. I got the same count, 36 coming from the left. Working from the top, I initially got just 34. I checked each of the vertices and didn't see missing ones. I checked again and found one of the problems to get to 35. I checked again and found another missing one to get to 36. Considering how hard it was to find those 36, I figured the triple count was good enough. I'd actually failed in three different ways to count one additional triangle. As I've said before, I really really cannot do counting puzzles. Dissections are the other kryptonite, if you really want to cut into my USPC score Nick, but counting puzzles I'm 0 for 6 in competition now.
So I submitted answers at 2:06 and change. I started checking everything (not rechecking the counting as I had three independently wrong verifications on that). Found I had the circuit maze entered counterclockwise, not clockwise, and from the "topmost" letter, not the "topmost" elevator. After two separate resubmissions to correct those problems, I was done in a little over 2 hours and 11 minutes. I finished checking everything else, saw no errors, saw the clock had run out, and my USPC was over. Until I saw the answer key and photoshopped the triangles, I thought I was perfect. The 36 for 37 will haunt for a little while, but I did as well as I could and again proved my belief that the last 30 minutes of a USPC are the worst for me. Year 1, I lost 5 points during that time, year 2 I gained 0 points, year 3 I gained just 10 points, this year, I lost 5 points again. So net result, 0 in each of the last thirty minutes. Maybe I'll petition for the 2 hour version of the USPC next year...
So many fun puzzles, at least 19 but my count might be off by one. Thanks to all the puzzle authors and especially Nick Baxter and Will Shortz for assembling another excellent test.