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24 March 2009 @ 09:44 pm
Bang XX Recap - or how to get lucky in SF  
This weekend I played in Bang XX: Get Lucky, hosted by XX-Rated. As my report is a bit lengthy, I'll hide all the spoilery details behind an lj-cut. At the very least, if you want to try out the puzzles from afar (which aren't too tough), you can find them at the above linked site and get through them on your own before reading my report.

For the first time, I played under my new team name/identity. Basically, I've been a free agent up to now in the SF scene and have played with four or five different groups of people which has been fun. However, with the construction of a BANG with my team from the Iron Puzzler BANG, and a great dissatifaction with our name then of White Ninjas, it was time to announce the formation of The League (of Extraordinary Puzzlemen). I am (obviously) Dr. Sudoku, and I was joined by Professor Tangram (alter-ego of Nick Baxter), Kid Crossword (alter-ego of Tyler Hinman), and Solverine (alter-ego of Derek Kisman). This team (except for Derek) was the core of White Ninjas. I think my team nicknames (all my creations except for Derek's which was of his own design) convinced our group that The League of Extraordinary Puzzlemen wasn't just a high hubris name but could be fun. Our uniforms were basically t-shirts from respective high-level puzzle events in our disciplines. Nick had an IPP shirt on; Tyler an ACPT t-shirt; I had on my USSC shirt with a large sudoku on the back. Of course it was a cold SF night, so we wisely concealed our identities under jackets and windbreakers until the end-party.

(Note: Anyone is welcome to join The League in the future, but you'll need a name worthy of joining and proof of puzzle credentials. The Rubik's Revenger should at the very least be able to solve a 4x4x4 cube, for example, and Ken KenKen must have proof of first name, as two obvious examples.)

Anyway, as the League was assembling at Levi's Plaza Park in SF for the start, and greeting our many friends/rivals in the puzzle-superhero universe, Kid Crossword was late. Apparently he can't orient himself unless he has a bunch of directions in across/down form. We eventually registered, but not in enough time to carefully study all of our packet items (including a doctored box of Lucky Charms that we did not realize was doctored until much later). Scratching off three lucky tickets revealed our low number for starting purposes, 18, just in front of Here (There, Everywhere) Be Dragons at 19. 61 teams in all participated, a surprisingly high number.

As we unrolled our first puzzle, we found a set of 20 limericks and a map of Ireland with ~29 cities labeled. I was skeptical that some of the names (Clones?) were real, but Google convinces me today as I write that they basically are. Identifying the city that went with a limerick (a South Park one would point us to Kilkenny for example) let us connect the dots of the cities. Using the given IKEA measuring device, we got integer path distances between the cities, which gave us numbers to use to extract letters from the limerick on the map itself. We quickly got our answer, but then debated how the hash function for finding the next location worked. Basically, each answer word got a vowel score (A=0, E=1, I=2, O=3, U=4) which you summed and then multiplied by the number of consonants to find the next envelope to open. Well, we had an answer with a Y. Was Y a vowel = 0 or a consonant? With two options, we lost time as we called GC to confirm Y was never sometimes a vowel. If we hadn't, we might have opened up envelope 21 and not 24 and gone to the end-location immediately. A more spread hash function might be better for future events, but we were off to puzzle 2 on the Embarcadero.

Here, we found a bag of 11 foil-wrapped chocolates. Believing the puzzle was on the wrappers, Kid Crossword quickly ate a whole chocolate unbeknownst to the rest of the League, who were laying out the pieces and trying to break them open. As we began to discover each chocolate had a different colored filling, Kid Crossword came clean with his crime and we managed to solve the puzzle with an unknown +1 constraint on our data. With 5 colors of chocolate, and 1-3 of each color, we could index into the color names and put them into the made-up rainbow order on the bag to get the answer BREAD assuming Kid Crossword had swallowed an orange one. Off we were to Coit Tower.

Climbing up to Coit Tower has to be made worth it; thus the League was convinced the next puzzle, which described objects a leprechaun was spotting in the sky, involved the famous mural that rings the base of the tower. After maybe ten minutes searching for described objects on the mural, which got us nowhere, I decided to just draw out all the shapes I was meaning to see in the clouds and saw we were just looking at Lucky Charms shapes and there was no environmental aspect at all. After cataloging those shapes, we took more time figuring out what to do with them until I carefully examined the box of my favorite cereal that we had been given to see the front/back box image was doctored. The marshmallow locations were set to allow us to trace letter shapes if we went through the descriptions in order. So, the bridge suits that were being seen in order (Clubs, Diamonds, Hearts) could be an L. The science descriptions could have a rainbow for an electric ark, a balloon for the chemist's flasks, and so on. This got us our answer. We had lost time gazing at the mural with all the other teams, but were at least now going downhill to Washington Square Park.

Here, we had a game of horseshoes to "play" and The League split into two groups of two. The other group had to write out a description of where horseshoes had landed on a set of images they had to be passed to us across the park where Solverine and Dr. Sudoku were reconstructing the arrangements and then looking at a particular angle to figure out what was being seen. The first description we got was unfortunately the most erroneous. It described two horseshoes ringing the center stake which led us to make an O with a pole sticking out of it that does not look at all like a letter when viewed from the specified distance and height (particularly when all the other letters use the stake and this one exclusively did not). But we got two stakes only descriptions that were clearly just I's and then two that seemed like P's although we had the concept of how a horseshoe pointed wrong for one of them. Finally, we had a complicated one that made no sense. Well, we struggled for awhile, until I carefully redrew the hardest one, found the correct horseshoe placements could make a lower-case G, and then drawing out the shapes I saw the answer GALLOP even without a good A, without the O because of the stake, and with me realizing the two I's were actually lowercase L's. Again, we were fairly slow here, certainly behind a couple teams still, but The League was whole again and we were off to Maggy McGarry's.

Here, our puzzle was to order a special beverage from the bar which turned out to be first a coaster with clues around the border and eventually a drink. We were looking at the clues before the Professor returned with the drink. Some, like subfamily, cleanly clued only the word genus and others like wrongdoing clued sin so before we even got the drink we were letter-banking Guinness as the beverage. Solverine, I believe, quickly realized our eight answers could be paired in four ways to exactly have the 8 letters in Guinness. Orienting the coaster and using semaphore, we got the answer DOWN. Kid Crossword engaged one of his other superpowers tied to this answer word and beverages, and then we were off to Tosca Cafe.

On the way, I'd suggested we were about to get an Irish Coffee (as up to this point everything was tremendously themed to Ireland) and I was almost right but a bit early. Instead we got to pick out a clover (hopefully a lucky one) from a clover patch. Inside our clover was a folded up three-leaf clover on thin tissue paper that had a bunch of numbers on its leaves, never more than two of a given number on any leaf. As we were histogramming the data, Solverine pulled out his adamantium pencils and realized that we could look at each leaf of the clover as a 0,1,2 in a trinary sense with the number indicating message position of the letter. We skipped several of the numbers when we thought we had words. By the time we had THE KEY INGREDIENT IN after checking 10 of those letters, with 11 letters to go, we reconsidered IRISH COFFEE and checked the final 2 F's at the end before confirming our answer and moving onto the next spot. We certainly were gaining momentum and time on these last two puzzles and were behind two teams when we got to the seventh location at O'Reilly's Pub and Restaurant.

Here GC (who at each site they were (wo)manning had green hats on) was standing near a roulette table they'd set up. We got a long piece of green felt with 12 "betting" games on it and a set of 36 red or black felt tiles and told to come back when we were ready to play. Each tile had words/phrases like Stand (blackjack), Tiles (Mah Jongg), Cherries (Slot Machines) that would allow us to put 3 felt squares on each row of the master green felt as if we were making our own roulette board. Realizing the numbers were letters, we could reorganize the tiles in each row to get a message telling us to "GET LUCKY AND PLAY ROULETTE BET TWO DOLLARS". Now, we'd had these four fake dollar bills from GC in the start packet all day. Prof. Tangram had even tried to use them as currency to get to the top of Coit Tower (which costs 4 real dollars normally) but had otherwise not spent them yet. Well, they tried to play two dollars but then realized they needed to know what to bet on so they came back to the table where I was guarding the board and we found how to read the colors as Morse to get ONE RED which, once bet, got us our final answer word.

As we made it to the "metapuzzle" location, GC told us we could start walking to the final location. Two other teams were in the area solving the puzzle but we decided to start walking. I looked at the materials we had received - basically 7 "factor lottery" cards which I spread partially amongst Solverine and Kid Crossword as Prof. Tangram oriented us and made sure we wouldn't be hit by cars/people as we crossed the street. We quickly realized the times on the lottery tickets could order to the puzzle order and the GCFs of the selected numbers could serve as indexes into the answers. By the time we arrived at Kennedy's Irish Pub and Curry House, I had our answer and was telling our team to quickly find GC as we could hand in our items and didn't need to sit to solve anything. GC was nowhere to be found, but the Burninators arrived basically as we completed our first quick scan of the establishment. The League and The Burninators decided we had tied for arrival time, and Corin served as GC for a little bit of time as teams arrived (the first few mistakenly after an incorrect answer had gotten them a 21 for the final location). As the Burninators had a luckier number (6) at the start, a start time correction would put us ~1 minute in front for the "win". We (and the Burninators) are independently writing our own BANGs right now anyway, so we'll share the winner's privilege of bringing the community BANG 21 (Burninators) and BANG 2? (The League).

My other highlight from the after-party (at a restaurant that somehow combines Irish Pub with Indian Food) was running into another puzzler (Rich Bragg) who found "Rewriting the Record Books" to be a favorite puzzle. Not many puzzlers are sports fans, but for those that are, it is certainly the best puzzle I've ever written. Everyone else can admire the US Jigsaw Sudoku. Since Rewriting the Record Books is a puzzle that doesn't scream "Thomas" in the way all my other good puzzles do, I love getting the chance to reveal that I wrote it to my fans.

Overall, a fun night of puzzling. None of the puzzles was too hard, and several are well described as "encoding scheme puzzles" which I tend to disfavor, but the theming and location selection was generally strong. It will serve as a good example as The League organizes our summertime caper. Thanks to the members of XX-Rated for writing and running this fine BANG.
Mike Selinkerselinker on March 25th, 2009 06:54 am (UTC)
Yup, darn delightful.

The Coit Tower climb was a mistake, though. I don't mean the requirement to walk up the hill to get to the tower. I mean my team's side trek to the top of the tower to find what would undoubtedly be the solution to the puzzle.
owens888owens888 on March 25th, 2009 04:17 pm (UTC)
So, apparently, Coit Tower is not supposed to be open at that hour, and XX-rated said that during scouting trips the tower was always closed.