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26 January 2008 @ 10:28 pm
On My Wonderful Friends ...  
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.
zundevilzundevil on January 27th, 2008 10:07 am (UTC)
City Hunts
This does sound like a terrific way to celebrate your birthday. Happy birthday, btw.

Is there any way I could see the work behind any of these hunts? I could see some sort of puzzle hunt being part of my gaming academy pipe dream, and wonder how truly incapable I am of making one of these happen.

I know not if there's any sort of market for this sort of thing here in the Burque, but when have I ever let that get in the way of my daydreaming?
knightwizard on January 27th, 2008 10:40 am (UTC)
Spoken like a true math nerd...

Happy Birthday!
Georgi Benevbenevg on January 27th, 2008 12:46 pm (UTC)
We really should form a company that puts these kinds of events together for people more regularly,...

remember Ronald from the English team of the WPC in Bulgaria? he actually founded such a company ;) puzzle hunts as team-building exercises in London. i think this can really become a good business in the states, too.

oh, and happy belated birthday! it showed in upcoming birthdays on my home page, but for some reason i completely phased out about it.
thedan on January 27th, 2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
It was my pleasure to be tangentially involved. Glad to hear you had fun!
onigameonigame on January 28th, 2008 10:17 am (UTC)
Happy Birthday! I apologize for not being able to join you for dinner (I had already promised the night to another) but hopefully the "present" I gave you can make up for it.

The puzzle I contributed, though, seems spectacularly unsuitable for anything except this specific hunt. It pretty much requires specific knowledge that I suspected Thomas would know yet not know closely enough so that the puzzle would be somewhat challenging ... and of course the final message had so many darned cheats to get all the constraints to work. Perhaps if I had more than one day to have written the puzzle.
thedan on January 28th, 2008 04:30 pm (UTC)
> Perhaps if I had more than one day to have written the puzzle.

Hey, that sounds familiar. :)
motrismotris on January 28th, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
The leap that was required sort of needed me to have found the "present" and expect to use it; I appreciate the gift by the way as I had not yet gotten around to ordering myself a copy.

I did my best to specifically use the coding and not the enumerations to solve the ids as I wanted to think of how the coding applies to the cards. I ran into one point of confusion when I consider the encoding of MW11NWTT1 and MW42E10PG; both cards seem to have the same first power so I'd expect MW11E10TT1 or something like that.
onigameonigame on January 28th, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC)
Any errors in the coding are probably just mistakes on my part. ;)
onigameonigame on January 28th, 2008 09:57 pm (UTC)
Ah, yes, it should MW11E10NWTT1. I always forget about that power.
ivoryvampire on January 28th, 2008 01:24 pm (UTC)
>We really should form a company that puts these kinds of events together for people more regularly

That's such a good idea! ;)

nickbaxternickbaxter on January 31st, 2008 12:46 am (UTC)
Selecting the final location was a no-brainer: there is actually a restaurant named Zushi Puzzle! Too bad they only make good on half their name.

I don't think I'm spoiling anything by mentioning that we led Thomas to various Jamba Juice locations around SF to order fictitious drinks. Besides the routine renaming of existing drinks, we included Peanut Soup (the clue was buried in a tub of peanut butter) and Wheatgrass Turf (a mug filled with lovely sod). The JJ staff enjoyed the fun too.

Thanks again to Wei-Hwa and Dan for whipping up some last-minute puzzles.