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26 April 2009 @ 11:27 am
So I thought I wouldn’t post again – I was well into the anger stage of Kubler-Ross – but somehow the actual conclusion became high comedy and I couldn’t resist.

So first the evening ceremonies began with some dancing, then two announced but never rules-provided team rounds. These were done at dinner place settings, so not a good solving table, teams sitting together, etc. Also, the announcements constantly tried to remind us (with at least 20 decibels too high volume) that we should put our name on the paper. Apparently, USA on the back side was not enough if it wasn’t on the front solving side after flipping. Also, when the first team finished (a close check of scores shows this, again, was not actually a team finishing as no one got points at all!), a loud Jan yell of “First” through the amp deafened me permanently on the left side, or at least made all of us jump out of our chairs. Anyway, the noise and the name reminders led to an eventually “battle” with the graders on the second puzzle as we wrote our name on both sides of the paper with the message “THIS IS BACK OF TEAM USA” with “THIS IS USA DO NOT BOTHER!!!” on the front/printed side.

First was a “3d” 16 digit puzzle, basically a set of 6 faces with wrapping lines to get digits into. A very hard design, before you even set the puzzles difficulty. It was a bit too hard for us – again another five minutes might have been enough – but a lot of puzzles here in Zilina were poorly timed. Then was a second team round, with the first unveiling of the “4D-sudoku”. Now, my opinion of this is that it is not a sudoku, 4D is a stretch, but it is a compelling to play with magnetic puzzle. The marketers of the puzzle couldn’t actually pronounce sudoku, but then again we had 5-10 latin squares here that aren’t sudoku either so I don’t think the lines are clear to some of what sudoku is, how to spell it, how to say it. The “4D” – “Sudoku” as a team round though was compromised when instead of trying to solve it (which until today had only taken 2.5 days by its creator), we had to make set faces with 4’s in the middle. We got 4 faces but 5 or 6 seemed the limit. Anyway, that was another fifteen minutes of my life.

So after more dancing, the 8 finalists were announced (again no one had finished the semi-final puzzle set and when you quit, not when you got three puzzles done, was who advanced. Many in the audience thought people had finished - they all said finished - but what they meant was more they finished as in "I surrender"). Anyway, I’m glad I did not have to partake in what followed because there truly were no winners on this day of accident after accident.

First, as the competitors watched, 7 (later fixed to 8) large sudoku were revealed by removing curtains. The competitors were across the room, but could clearly see the puzzle and start solving in their head. At least 4 of them seemed to be doing this. I had the whole center chute in about 30 seconds and was ready to just write a lot of digits. Anyway, after two minutes they approached the puzzle, still able to see it, and then were told to go. Um, is this how any puzzle competition has ever been?

After that puzzle, it was announced a second puzzle would start. We had a hint of this when one of the grids fell in the first round to reveal a corner of what was a Latin Square with ZILINA as extra colored regions in the grid as well as (why not) two diagonals. Still, no 3x3 boxes (or some "region constraint") = Not Sudoku. The puzzle itself was fine, if not a sudoku, but the announcing of the start of this puzzle was indeed, as I’ve titled, 6…4…5…3…2…1…go. You could not write this comedy better if you tried. In fact, this might be the sudoku championship to turn into a best-selling comedic book/movie with a fitting Borat-like host and disaster after disaster. That may be the only positive thing I ever say about it in the future.

As the puzzle eventually solved, no winner could be announced. First, the timing had not been clearly done in the first round. Second, even the graders could not mark the grid right. One incomplete grid had this written as its score. 81-8=72. I have the photograph (with others) to prove this later. Anyway, Turkey protested, that went to the board, no one had an announcement. All this time, after we’d solved the puzzle ourselves, and I’d let out a lot of steam by venting to the Times reporter and the British team, Wei-Hwa was trying to actually solve the “4D”-“sudoku”. Again, a manipulative puzzle, so not a sudoku (I might be harsh here, but I mean the solving experience is not sudoku-like, not that your average person wouldn't see numbers 1-9 and not say sudoku as they probably would). It was eventually announced that the 8 finalists on stage would finally try the 4D-Sudoku for real, with a 15 minute time limit, to determine something? We didn’t know. Anyway, Wei-Hwa completed the project eventually after an hour, a new “unofficial” record for the puzzle, which came to great applause from the audience.

So the chaos was continuing, although the winners of Boy Sudoku and Miss Sudoku 2009 were announced (there was a joking contest the night before I did not feel was blogworthy then but it somehow makes sense now to point out they had women draw pictures on the men with lipstick, tested the potato peeling skills of the men, dancing with the girls, etc.). Anyway, everyone seemed frustrated by the whole championship. Others were coming to me to see what I, as the representative of sudoku (and the champion in many people’s eyes again, just as in Lucca) thought of what was transpiring.

The stress was eventually relieved by a pantomime artist who did a hilarious skit for “Windows Vista” and another skit for sudoku/4d-sudoku/…. Great entertainment. Still no dinner, still no “champion”, and I’ve advanced to the unheard of Kubler-Ross stage of “laughter”. We got back our test paper and “THIS IS BACK OF TEAM USA” was corrected by the organizers to “THIS IS DARK SIDE OF TEAM USA”. As a double entendre, maybe, but I don't give the organizers such credit for English at this stage. At best “blank side” was right there.

So, we will not speak of this event again, but I’ve at least given a fair picture of what has happened throughout. Its been a bit of everything, and far from any of my expectations. Who knows how it will get reported in the press and how the “Champion’s” life will change. Mine certainly changed when I finally won a title in Prague and became “almost famous”. Needless to say, I’m somewhat relieved now to not be manipulated as the 8 finalists were in this way. I would likely have stepped out before the competition even began. I’m glad I didn’t have to make that choice. I will close by stating what should always be the primary goal of these competitions – to let the solvers have fun and to choose a fitting winner. In all cases, the solvers’ experience did not seem to be in the mindset of the organizers. Whether this meant not testing the puzzles correctly, not making fair classic “sudoku”, not having clear rules for playoffs (or ranking), having team rounds that deemphasized team solving for individual solving, no scrap paper (our instruction booklet was taken away as we worked on the domino puzzle as we were using the margins for work - three people on one page being silly but the Slovaks were super stingy with paper in general), not rewarding solvers of the first 45 or so puzzles on the first 15!!! hour day of puzzling.... This was a complete and unmitigated disaster. And I can’t stop somehow laughing at it now. WSC4 = Plan 1-9 from Outer Space!
Mike Selinkerselinker on April 26th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)
I think the lesson is clear: Do not taunt Dr. Sudoku.
devjoedevjoe on April 26th, 2009 10:24 pm (UTC)
First was a “3d” 16 digit puzzle, basically a set of 6 faces with wrapping lines to get digits into.

If I understand what you're saying here, I wrote one of these once. A cube with faces forming the 4x4 regions of the sudoku, and the lines wrapping all the way around the cube forming the rows and columns. At least, unlike some of the puzzles you had to deal with, this is Sudoku with rows, columns, and regions. Unlike yours, mine was to be presented on an actual cube of some variety (which makes it more 3D, but also harder since you cannot see all of one row at one time).

My puzzle was written for BANG or one of those events like that in California a few years ago, so you might have seen it. It was Alexandra's idea to do something like this, but I helped her actually turn it into a puzzle. There were going to be some givens on the cube and some additional givens to be solved by locating clues in the vicinity of the puzzle; I figured out a minimum number of givens to make it solvable and advised her to give a few less than this on the cube and lots more than this in the ones to be located, because it was hard. But I don't think I ever saw what was actually used.
motrismotris on April 26th, 2009 10:26 pm (UTC)
That's correct. We basically got a planar representation of what a 4x4x4 cube with digits 1-16 would look like. At a WSC I would have expected them to hand out the puzzle on a cube, but we dealt with what we got.
Adam R. Woodzotmeister on April 29th, 2009 10:54 pm (UTC)
You two talk about Cube Sudoku as if you'd never encountered it by name before. My bookmark for the site is two years old; I don't know when he actually started making them, but as best as my research can tell, Steve Schaefer invented them. His Sudoku of the Day is never a standard puzzle, and showcases a slew of geometrically twisted variants that all still have every cell in exactly one row, one column, and one region. It's not like I actually go there every day, but I do think it's one of the more beautiful Sudoku-variant sites out there, and I would have thought it to be well-known by now. - ZM

P.S.: You'd also think the LiveJournal spellchecker would know the word 'Sudoku' by now... but then again, it still doesn't recognize 'LiveJournal'.
motrismotris on April 29th, 2009 10:59 pm (UTC)
Cube Sudoku is unfortunately also the canonical name for the puzzle with just 3 faces and digits 1-8 that wrap around them. I was trying to be specific of which kind of 3D cube puzzle it was since I didn't have a picture.
Adam R. Woodzotmeister on April 30th, 2009 12:01 am (UTC)
Yeah, 'unfortunately' is right, since that's only half a cube. And half the puzzle, in my opinion. - ZM
(Anonymous) on April 30th, 2009 06:21 am (UTC)
Variant Sudoku of the Day

Hey, zotmeister, thanks for noticing! (I'm the webmaster at MathRec, so feel free to take anything I say as tooting my own horn.) I started putting out Cube Sudoku puzzles two or three years ago, but the Sudoku of the Day page just came out last month. I'd been making some of the geometrically twisted variants for a while, and I just love the way these puzzles solve. I kept generating them for myself and I'd shared with a few friends, but I'd never made them public. Earlier this year I decided that I was just being selfish. Now a new puzzle is posted every day.

I've made only minor attempts to publicize the new puzzles, and I do genuinely appreciate the plug. In all seriousness, I have a problem: I really don't know what to call them. Any suggestions?

Adam R. Wood: butasanzotmeister on April 30th, 2009 02:38 pm (UTC)
Re: Variant Sudoku of the Day
It's a pleasure to make your acquaintance! It wasn't so much my intent to "plug" your site as it was to simply make the variant known - I've frequently found puzzle sites I would have thought common knowledge but that apparently only I know about - but you're quite welcome anyhow.

I was wondering when you started the daily puzzles - I noticed the archive went back a month, so I wasn't sure if you simply limited the archive to a month or if you actually started a month ago. Now I know.

I do like to think I'm as good at naming puzzles as I am at making them: how about Sudokurve? I think that covers their most distinctive feature quite nicely, and as it generates zero Google hits the name is as yet untaken. I think that's a good name for ten seconds' work. - ZM
motrismotris on April 30th, 2009 02:55 pm (UTC)
Re: Variant Sudoku of the Day
Zotmeister's "sudokurve" name is actually pretty good. These are very nice looking puzzles and indeed have good solving properties. I've been playing around with alternate geometries a lot recently and been experimenting with things like this, but its clear you should get some acknowledgment for exploring this area first. I definitely recommend people check out your site.
(Anonymous) on April 28th, 2009 11:37 am (UTC)
Hi Thomas, and all followers,

We (Turkey) totally agree with you on each word you've written about this event. There has been more drama that not everybody knows, I'm going to tell those below, but before that I must say that after experiencing this “championship” , I’m really looking forward to WSC 2010 to get back my interest in Sudoku. I’m sure it will be a fair and fun-to-solve competition. What makes sense in a championship if you cannot actually “solve” the puzzles?

Recipe of the WSC 2009 for the ones who weren’t there: Organize a Sudoku Championship, make people solve puzzles until midnight and announce some ranking. Then take the best 36 to a semifinal but somehow manage to eliminate the top 3 of the first day. What an elimination! Then make people solve puzzles on the dinner table, between napkins and wine glasses... It should have been “who eats more?”, which would make more sense because a lot were starving, sick of n-D sudokus and after that sick of neverending dancing. I am feeling sorry for the competitors who came from the other end of the world, for this event. It is just a 2-hour flight for us, but does it worth to be jet-lag for this? And then you are out of the finals just for not giving up early. Anyway, that doesn’t mean anything, as everyone knows about you.

And here is the drama. I won't write about our protest since it was an appeal about disinformation, concerning Murat's strategy in finals, and unaccepted. The drama is for our other friend (Salih Alan) who couldn't proceed to the final, because he had a mistaken puzzle in the semifinal according to the paper on the wall. If all of his answers were correct he should have been in the finals because of his left time. When we wanted to look at his paper to see if he's really mistaken, Farkas said "I gave it to one of the Turks in the breakfast" !!! Which Turk? None of us had any idea about any paper being distributed. He kept on telling that he gave the paper himself to one of us, but he doesn't know who. As he says, this has happened in Hotel Slovakia in the morning. When we saw the results we were in Holiday Inn in the afternoon. Until that time none of us knew that the semifinal papers were given back, another lack of information in the whole "Championship". No one gives no information about nothing but they put 11 fat stupid arrows around a grid only to show where the rows and columns and diagonals are…

Anyway, after some tension betweeen us & organizers while others were busy watching dancers, Farkas half-heartedly made an announcement, asked the people if they have seen the paper or accidentally got it. Nothing, of course. So this was covered-up, life went on and the final round started. Salih was consoling himself that he must have made an error, but he was so disappointed not being sure about it. And the real drama showed up the next morning, just before our check-out from Hotel Slovakia. Farkas had found and brought him the paper, and guess what? No errors. He has written the possibilities of 2 on the grid line and filled the square with 3 without erasing the possibility on the line. There is a 3 in the square but they count it wrong, for having a small 2 on the line. Farkas said “This is the decision of jury, I cannot do anything.” What kind of jury is this, are we on a trial waiting for a good decision? It is just 1-9. It is just written or not. For God’s sake, if you count that puzzle wrong, you also have to count wrong at least a thousand puzzles solved there. And that is the dark side for us. One of our friends could not get into the finals, not because of a nonsense tiebreaker, but because of some irresponsibility of organizers. Who knows how much more there are that we do not know.

When you organize the next WSC in Philadelphia, you should name it “The 4th World Sudoku Championship”, because this one surely does not count.

Gulce Ozkutuk from Turkish Team
motrismotris on April 28th, 2009 06:26 pm (UTC)
Thanks for your lengthy account too. I was not aware of Salih's situation but this is a very sad note indeed. I have a photo of a paper marked "correct" for another competitor that wasn't, so it is obvious the grading was not done well, checking of the marking not done well, and it is unacceptable to not let the competitors have their papers.

I can't rename the Philly championship to the 4th Sudoku Championship, but I believe most of us in the community will have a big asterisk by this one, not believing any of the results.
Adam R. Wood: butasanzotmeister on April 29th, 2009 11:04 pm (UTC)
How any of you are getting through these posts without using vulgarities is beyond me; you are better people than I. I would be cursing left and right. - ZM
(Anonymous) on April 28th, 2009 05:20 pm (UTC)
Haha, your venting seems to have been fairly successful. The times article seems to have been slightly changed in the online version but still you get a good juicy quote which made me laugh too. The overall impression is that the event seems to have been a bit of a farce.

Now, a point of interest came from the social side of things on Sunday evening. The Slovaks were celebrating their team victory with plenty of dodgy spirits, and at one point it got mentioned that Jan whatshisname (the one that looked like Borat) had taken upon the entire organisation of the championship by himself. He was urged from all angles of the Slovakian setup to accept some help but he had too many of his own ideas apparently.

As far as that goes, what he did do was kind of impressive but on the other hand it was always going to fall short. The other Slovaks new this - although suggestions of foul play in their win I think are ungrounded.

All that said, it seems fairly obvious that many of the puzzles couldn't possibly have been test solved properly. It is my feeling that 10 months down the line you'll still want to compete because the organisation will be in very safe hands. Whilst talking to Nick Baxter and Will Shortz after the ceremonies it seemed they had plenty of tongue in cheek sugggetions that still hinted at big rounds of creativity. They seem as well to have the team competition as a big priority - I for one am very much looking forward to it should I manage to be sent over!

(Anonymous) on April 29th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC)
We got another funny score, regarding the multisudoku of the team part.
We solved it correctly, but chose different squares than expected to be identical between part b and c, so we've been awarded 14 points. After our complain, the jury decided that the solution was correct, so we've been awarded 14+7=22 points.
motrismotris on April 29th, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
Re: 81-8=72
You might have just identified something "special" in the puzzle for that bonus point! Like the fact it had many answers.