I was reading through many of my old blog entries last night, in part because I had recently marked another year in my life and in part because I was curious to read my first entry on Battleship Sudoku which has indeed held up for its age. Peanut butter and chocolate indeed!
I was struck a bit by how the flavor of my blog has changed. I used to write more about sports and game shows and observations on life, and I mean to get back to that and not just 14 page long summaries about puzzle competitions and links to sudoku stories featuring me. I missed my window I think to talk about all the problems I had with Duel, or about how some of the rules changes on 1 v 100 are welcome even if at the same time the question writing has fallen below the shows original standards. However, this entry will not deal with any of that.
I've recently found I don't have the time to blog on simple things like the horrible Final Jeopardy! wagering on Thursday because incredible things happen in my life all the time and my blogging energies have to document them. This entry is a special thank you to all of my close friends who contributed in various ways to the most amazing (if necessarily belated) birthday present!
As I was away last weekend, and Hunt subsumed my existence during my actual birthday, I was expecting some kind of week late celebration here in Palo Alto. My best friend from Caltech, Garrett, had left some bread crumbs in conversation suggesting that he might put together some kind of mini-Hunt as a gift to me. Having built a Civil War Ditch Day stack with him, in which I wrote the "dry" (Union) team's side - with lots of hard puzzles - and Garrett wrote the "wet" (South) team's side with simpler puzzles or more often just explicit directions, I knew Garrett would have the vision and enthusiasm to put something together, but maybe not all the puzzle construction know-how to take it all the way to eleven. Well, back at the end of last year I'd introduced Garrett to the Bay Area puzzle scene when I'd invited him to be on our winning National Treasure Clue Hunt team. This got him in touch with, among other people, Nick Baxter who would become the sanity-check puzzle resource for Garrett's Birthday Surprise Hunt and who would ask other friends of mine to contribute some puzzles.
The end result was an incredible event I got to experience all afternoon - amazingly between the heavy rains of Friday and of this evening - as I raced up to SF and then around SF solving a variety of different puzzles (driving around the city while also serving as navigator being the one type of "puzzle" I had the least experience with; I wisely did not try the triplet of driving+navigating+solving puzzles all at once).
While a theme quickly developed in the locations I had to go to, the interactions with salespeople was at times priceless and the puzzles were quite fun to tease apart. The puzzles built together nicely into a bit of a "meta" activity, and then ended up at my favorite birthday meal of sushi, so definitely one of my top five days.
While the puzzle ideas are for the most part too good to spoil here - maybe they can be wrapped together into a BANG or something this spring - I must say I am absolutely tickled to have gotten this kind of special treatment for my birthday this year. It marks a perfect start to this, a perfect year for me (before I return to a prime of my life).
I hope I can return this favor in due measure in the future. So to my friends who helped contribute - specifically Wei-Hwa, Dan, and definitely Nick and Garrett, thanks so much. We really should form a company that puts these kinds of events together for people more regularly, as there is nothing I can imagine that is a more fun way to spend a special day.