It was nice to see the whole spectrum of competitiveness represented: from the Green Team who came with custom t-shirts, to the Red Team who was extraordinarily casual about the whole day and approached the puzzles with a friendly nonchalance.
Everyone was actually assembled at my house at about 12:30PM, so after a brief introduction, I handed out the Puzzle Booklets (PDF version here), dictionaries, and prop-boxes (containing these items). Each team moved to their tables and quickly attacked the puzzles.
The most noticable change to this year's puzzles was the addition of a Meta-Puzzle. It basically involved trying to find the "weight" of the words in the pangram, "The quick fox jumps over lazy brown dog," by only being allowed to learn the weights of strategically chosen 4 letter words. The reward for this Meta-Puzzle was potentially great: the scores of earlier solved puzzles would be increased by up to a factor of 2.
I had a wide variety of puzzles again, and the teams (5-6 people each this time) each found their strengths and weaknesses.
Robert Ford Tim Hardwick Blane Hollingsworth Bill Sherling Dorothy Sherling
Tracy Cobbs Michael Hollingsworth Kelly Hollingsworth John Middleton* Emily Norman* Kimberly Nunes-Bufford*
Bob Gillis Linda Harshbarger* Scott Ingram* Marshall Jansen Christy Jansen Sarah Kraynak*
Abby Creel John Creel Harry Newburn* Courtney Tytler* Lee Warshaw*
Zac Aldewereld* Michael Francis Adam Hajari* Eric Larsen* Kishan Yerubandi* Jimmy Yeung
The were a couple of missteps on my part as referee and designer of the puzzles. First, puzzle #12, BOGGLED BY MATH, was a bit ambiguous as far as what type of answers I would allow. I had suspected beforehand that this puzzle might cause me problems, but I liked the concept of it so much, that I kept it in. Once some questions about it were raised, however, I knew that I should have been more careful in its explanation.
A much more significant "glitch" was found in problem #4, TEN DIGIT ARITHMETIC. Due to how it was scored, and the open-ended nature of the puzzle, the points awarded for it sky-rocketed. This allowed Yellow Team to take a commanding leading by scoring over 26,000 points for that single puzzle.
I do not mean to diminish their score or victory in any way, though. Yes, I would have rather noticed this imbalance during my puzzle designing (though, to be honest, I never dreamt a team would progress as far as they did with that problem), but the same problem was available to every team, so it was available for exploit by any of them. Not only did Yellow Team find an "Achilles Heel" to the whole contest, they also discovered an efficient way of solving the problem itself, for which they were rewarded generously.
Beyond the basic puzzles themselves, I am glad to see that there are further challenges of analyzing the contest as a whole and learning how to work efficiently as a team.
Yellow Team (consisting of 2/3rds Puzzle Party rookies) performed fantastically on all of the problems, and each of the six team members went home with a spiffy LEGO trophy.
Below is a chart showing the team scores. Boldfaced puzzle scores are then multiplied by a team's Meta-Puzzle multiple (if present).
|1. ICOSEHEDRAL POKER||3720||4030||3250||2220||1795||4.33 (6)||2.30 (19)|
|2. TOWER ACHIEVEMENT||600||700||900||1000||800||3.33 (17)||3.33 (9)|
|3. STATES OF CONFUSION||2167||1098||1920||1496||1316||3.75 (16)||3.38 (8)|
|4. TEN DIGIT ARITHMETIC||2100||200||11900||60||26520||3.86 (10)||2.57 (17)|
|5. SCRABBLED WORDS||3375||3375||3375||2197||2744||4.00 (8)||4.20 (3)|
|6. EASY AS "A-B-C"||1800||1800||1700||1200||1700||4.50 (4)||3.00 (11)|
|7. EASY AS "1-2-3"||3500||4100||4100||1800||4000||3.83 (11)||3.00 (11)|
|8. WILD CARDS||4900||6300||4000||4800||3600||3.80 (12)||3.40 (6)|
|9. TEAM BUILDING||3800||4000||0||0||0||4.20 (7)||3.00 (11)|
|10. DIAL "P" FOR PUZZLE||4384||1528||2096||2338||4714||4.50 (4)||2.75 (16)|
|11. PENTOMINOES, REDUX (for Kelly)||1000||0||0||0||0||2.20 (19)||4.60 (2)|
|12. BOGGLED BY MATH||2810||1310||630||0||7750||3.80 (12)||3.60 (5)|
||3600||3500||3700||0||3600||5.00 (1)||1.00 (20)|
|14. UNTITLED||1000||800||0||0||0||3.80 (12)||2.90 (14)|
|15. DIE-O-RAMA||4500||4500||3750||4250||4650||4.60 (3)||2.40 (18)|
|16. STACK THE DECK II||750||600||0||0||1000||2.17 (20)||4.83 (1)|
|17. (ESCHER)3||1500||1200||900||500||1400||3.89 (9)||2.94 (14)|
|18. WORD BUILDING||1470||1920||1920||1470||1470||3.80 (12)||3.40 (6)|
|19. (LATIN)2 PLUS SOME||1900||1700||2000||0||1400||4.67 (2)||3.33 (9)|
|20. HISTORY OF PRIMES||-601||-1152||-834||-5020||-620||2.80 (18)||3.80 (4)|
|Subtotal (before Meta-multiple)||48725||41509||45307||18311||67839|
|META-PUZZLE (multiplies bold entries)||x2.0||----||x1.8||----||x1.6|
|Highlighted boxes indicate high scores for a particular puzzle.|
While Yellow Team seemed to have won by quite a wide margin, one should note a couple of things. Without a doubt, the Meta-Puzzle was a valuable tool. Had Yellow Team NOT been able to complete it, they would have fallen to 3rd place (regardless of their monstrous score for problem #4).
Also, notice the scores of Blue and Purple Teams only differ by about 1100 points. That's quite a tight margin. It just goes to show that even with all of the high scoring puzzles, a few tweaks here, a few more words solved there, or a slightly different approach somewhere else, the ranks could be different.
I need to thank my mother for bringing additional food for the party-goers (and for participating herself!), and Bill Sherling for lending me 12 chairs (hosting nearly 30 people requires a lot of seats).
And thanks again to all of the teams and players for showing up and having a fun time.
There will be more parties, and everyone's always invited to return.
-- Eric Harshbarger
The winners will be presented with a plaque; a white trophy image in the upper part, a dark, red, rectangular part below. The rectangle is actually filled with the 12 pentomino pieces. Hidden underneath the pieces is wording describing the trophy: "WINNER, PUZZLE PARTY, SPRING MMV." Of course, if the recipient removes the pieces, he or she shouldn't just leave them lying around.
Aha! But those same 12 pieces may be used to fill in the white trophy area above. How that is done exactly, I'll let the winners figure out (or they can study the image below if they want).