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19 June 2009 @ 10:28 am
USPC Preview - Instruction Impressions  
So, I'll just "live blog" my thoughts as I read through the instructions for the first time. With the usual password fun9ss appearing even for the instructions, I expect another great password on the lines of the key lime pie one for tomorrow's test.

1. 23 puzzles (last year 20), total of 400 points (last year 365). I've never been over 400 so this will be the year to get to there with my highest score to date. The addition of low-valued puzzles seems to account for the change. The old standard of adding bonus points to puzzles to encourage their solution seems to have really fallen out of favor.

2. The Nikoli addition does mean nikoli versions of many of the common types (so US designer versions of "variations" on those, since Nikoli prefers the pure form of their puzzles with as few instructions as possible). So, Sudoku, Corral, Masyu, and somehow a 25-point Yajilin will all be on the test from our Japanese friends.

3. I am much less excited, as any reader of this blog knows, by having an "official" Calcudoku (#3). The "non-associativity of subtraction/division" rules are in play so, yeah, don't get confused by my missing operation puzzles where I recognized non-commutativity is the actual problem and this two-cell constraint is silly.

4. No word search (my favorite type is gone!) but several word fill-ins including the now ever popular Magic R version of a word fill-in that's been on Turkish and German tests too (although with no touching constraint and a single diagonal direction allowed as well).

5. A counting "puzzle" (screams NO!!!!!!!!). The author doesn't even want to be known - for shame! Until a name is given, I'm assuming Baxter.

6. A Craig Kasper puzzle that involves diagonal information, like his past Atomic Fusion that "spoiled" my 2006 (screams DI-AGONY!!!!!!). His other contributions (word fill-ins/criss-crosses) should be fine.

7. The Friedman puzzles seem approachable (I say this at my own risk of foot in mouth disease). Coordinate pairs looks like dot triangles but only has line segments so I bet I can do it. C Notes is exactly like the 100 puzzles that have occured on WPC Bulgaria and Belarus. The 2-3 Maze is probably the unknown variable, but I deal rather well with logic mazes.

8. Eminent D'OHmain looks like fun (and it looks like Adam, if I didn't already know authorship, enjoys capitalizing parts of his puzzles titles given last year's SuDON'Tku and this year's SuDUOku). SuDUOku seems another tough twist on last year's version. I have a lot of surplus/deficit sudoku experience from working with Wei-Hwa on these kinds of puzzles, so I think I'll do alright. I won't advise how to solve this puzzle yet though until I make one as I know last year I threw people off with SuDON'Tku.

9. Triangular Skyscrapers amazingly uses a tiling constraint I put into my "Mosaic Sudoku" in the upcoming Sudoku Masterpieces where each triangle orientation has only one of a digit. I also put in two colors with a labeled set of pieces so you'd know which ones of a particular triangle shape may be a particular digit but I doubt that additional use of color will go on here. Since I got that to my publisher before Aziz's puzzle here and since he would have no way of seeing my puzzles, I think we tie for the concept of a triangulated square grid that works this way. The Four Square variation looks like fun too (although here is The Typo(TM) in the instructions, as Skyscrapers is #8, not #11, since I definitely remember what #11 is). While I realize the dark squares indicate the turning snake, did anyone else initially wonder if primes would be important for this snake before reading the instructions?

10. Tuller follows up his fabulous Sheep in Fences last year with the addition of wolves (next year, obviously wolves dressed as false sheep!). Now the inside/outside shading rules of slitherlink that tend to be underused will be very important. His inside-outside corral will also be a good challenge, and I really look forward to it.

So, overall strategy/goal is still obviously to finish the test, but I'll be banking the big pointers early. Last year I did Spot The Differences back to the front and then did the hardest puzzles going forward. I imagine the same here. I'm sure I'll skip over the -5 pointer #11 until the end. Best of luck to everyone.
thedan on June 19th, 2009 06:33 pm (UTC)
I find the SuDUOku instructions a bit confusing, since it says each of the six numbers appears twice in exactly one row/column/region, but there are eight of each of those. I'm thinking that either:

a) The puzzle is 8x8 and there are two double-7 rows, two double-7 columns, and two double-7 regions, or
b) The puzzle is 8x8 with two squares missing so that two rows, two columns, and two regions have size 7 and no repeats.

I feel a bit better about the Di-Agony after having solved the example; I'd like to construct one, but I have yet to figure out a work-in point other than the one in the example.

Overall, the test feels very bland to me. Lots of traditional types and then slight variations on the same traditional types. We'll see how it goes though.
motrismotris on June 19th, 2009 06:38 pm (UTC)
[I totally need to upgrade lj status so I can edit comments! Sorry for crowding the inbox Dan]
I initally thought that it is certainly a 62-square fill, the question is where are the 2 missing squares and what are the region shapes. My design starting point is to just knock off the 2 corners of last year's, and have those be 1-7 regions with no repeats and go from there. The repeat 7 idea is certainly possible (and would maybe be even cleaner as it doesn't compromise a square grid) but the instructions seem to just slightly allow it.
motrismotris on June 19th, 2009 06:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Bland

If you look back at older tests, most of those just had classic types (not even variations). Admittedly, I always look forward to some entirely new puzzle types and those most often come from Craig so that might affect the reception of this year's puzzles. I do wish there were a good kakuro variant instead of just sum puzzles that use grids of linked circles.
thedan on June 19th, 2009 06:59 pm (UTC)
Fair enough, but my basis for comparison is that for the past few years, when I've read the instructions I've gotten excited about a few puzzle types, and that didn't really happen here. Although at least one of those excitement puzzles is usually a kakuro variant, so I'm also bummed about the lack of those.
zundevilzundevil on June 19th, 2009 07:40 pm (UTC)
*weeps uncontrollably*

I'm no historian, but I don't recall ever seeing the final four puzzles being entirely...non-wordy? A sudoku variant, a loop-ish thing, skyscrapers, battleships, tents, snake, and a corral variant -- excellent. Even Yajilin and Wolves/Sheep/Fences are worth more than the largest word-based one.

I realize word-based puzzles are still logical, don't get me wrong, but I've always faceplanted on the harder crisscross ones. In that regard, these play to whatever strengths I have. That don't involve kakuro, I guess.

I initially felt blase (cf. thedan), but I think it was just due to me thinking the latter few pages are just gonna whup me. After doing the examples, I'm really looking forward to the challenge.
standupphilosopherstandupcanada on June 19th, 2009 08:17 pm (UTC)
What Zundevil said - except the exact opposite. Preview had me thinking/hoping the big pointer would be a Kasper wordie. Fortunately the 400 available mean I can avoid a couple of the scary ones and still post a nice number (see: Weir, Mike)
motrismotris on June 19th, 2009 08:18 pm (UTC)
And for me, I just hope that nice round avoids a late double bogey on something like the counting puzzle, so that its another record number.
nickbaxternickbaxter on June 19th, 2009 08:54 pm (UTC)
Since the test is almost always US Open/Father's Day weekend, I used to thrown in a few golf references. Now that I know there is a good gallery, I should start that up again.

FYI, the original concept for the counting puzzle was a Scott Kim 2010 calendar puzzle. I will at least lay claim to the name.
garethmoore on June 20th, 2009 01:05 am (UTC)
Eminent Domain
I always thought that in Eminent Domain type puzzles you couldn't place two lines that ended pointing at each other in adjacent squares, such as two different horizontal lines next to one another. Anyone know if I made that rule up, since it's not stated? :)
motrismotris on June 20th, 2009 01:21 am (UTC)
Re: Eminent Domain
I've never seen that rule. Because of construction constraints typical to these puzzles, it doesn't tend to happen a lot, but I checked a recent set I did in Brein Brekers and two verticals from different numbers certainly touched.