EPP3: Puzzles From Wonderland


I will host this Party on 15 October, 2005. This is not a home football game day for Auburn University (Auburn plays Arkansas that weekend in AR). I will ask everyone to show up at noon, as usual. Between 12 and 1PM the costumes will be judged and scored (see below). The puzzle contest will start as close to 1PM as possible. This Party's team contest will be longer than past ones. Expect the duration to be five hours. I will order pizza to arrive at 6PM for everyone, but I will also take a poll during the later afternoon to see if teams want to extend the puzzle solving past 6PM (five hours, since it will start at 1PM). If so, then the pizza will simply serve to energize the players as they continue to work away.


Unlike past Parties, I will not be trying to organize the teams (or help organize them). There are only a couple parameters that need to be followed:
  1. Teams may have no more than 6 people on them (you may have fewer, though I recommend at least 4 people on your team).
  2. Teams may have no more than 5 veterans on them ("veteran" is anyone who has been to either of my previous Parties).
I will host up to 30 people total at my place, so however the teams work out... that's fine with me. Teams will have to organize themselves; and if Party-Day comes around and some of your team members don't show up, that's the team's problem, not mine [grin]. For those people who may not know a lot of other potential players, I suggest two things: 1) join the Yahoo!Group about my Parties if you have not already (ask me how) -- you can post messages and coordinate with other Partygoers there, and 2) find friends who you think would be interested in being on your team. I am always eager to have new faces at these Puzzle Parties.

While I'm eager to see past teams work together again, it would be nice to see people shuffle around to new teams (and have rookies join). But, again, I'm trying to stay as far removed from Team Formation as I can. In the past I found that to be the most stressful part of organizing the Parties, so I am leaving it up to the players now.

I will associate each team with a particular color (as in the past) to help me keep things organized. You may confirm your participation without having yet picked a team, color, or costume.


Having a party themed around Alice in Wonderland, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to have some sort of costume aspect. Players are by no means required to come in costume, but doing so will earn them points which they then take to their team before the puzzle solving even begins.

Costumes may be as involved or as simple as one wishes. The only real restriction is that a character from the book may not be represented by more than one Partygoer (e.g. there may NOT be two people dressed up as the Mad Hatter). Who gets to dress up as whom is decided by who responds first in the affirmative that they will be showing up to the Party (when you confirm that you will be at the Party, just tell me who you will dress up as, if anyone). A current list of who has claimed which characters is available on the introduction page. Please do not reserve a character unless you are sure that you will be able to make it (because we wouldn't want to prevent someone else from being that character if you later have to cancel).

My current thoughts on scoring of costumes are these: I hope to have three (non-playing) judges (myself being one of them). Each judge will rate each costume on a score from 0-100 (score will be based on the costumes overall originality and quality as well as the wearer's enthusiasm and "performance"). For each person, those three scores will be totaled; resulting in a costume score between 0 and 300 Points. A team's total score will be the sum of its members' costume scores (thus, for a 6 member team a total between 0 and 1800).

Costumes will be judged before the actual Puzzle Contest begins (though Points awarded for costumes may not be revealed until day's end). Puzzlers will be allow to remove some or all of their costumes once the puzzle solving begins (solving cryptograms dressed as a Caterpillar may be too much to ask).

Players are allowed to come dressed as any character from the book, major or minor (you could even come as a particular Playing Card even though that specific one might not be explicitly mentioned in the story). Players may also choose from characters in Carroll's sequel: Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (Tweedle-Dee and -Dum, The Walrus and The Carpenter, Humpty Dumpty, and so forth) even though all of my puzzles will stay within the bounds of the first story.

Suggestions for costumes (but feel free to propose more):

  • March Hare
  • Caterpillar
  • Dormouse
  • Duchess
  • The Cook
  • Flamingo
  • Hedgehog
  • Mouse
  • Dodo
  • Eaglet
  • Lory
  • Fish-Footman
  • Frog-Footman
  • Knave/Jack of Hearts
  • King of Hearts
  • any other Playing Card (2, 5, and 7 of Spades have specific roles)
  • Cheshire Cat
  • Bill or Pat (though no one really knows what "Pat" is -- Bill's a lizard)
  • Gryphon
  • Mock Turtle
  • Lobster
  • Father Time
  • Old Father William
  • Tweedle-Dee*
  • Tweedle-Dum*
  • Humpty-Dumpty*
  • Walrus*
  • Carpenter*
  • White/Red Queen/King*
  • White/Red Knight*
  • any other chess piece*
  • Jabberwock*
  • Jub Jub Bird*
  • Bandersnatch*
  • Lion*
  • Unicorn*
* From the second book: Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.


If anyone has come to previous Parties or even just reviewed past Party pages, he or she should pretty much be aware of the kinds of puzzles I like: word games, number puzzles, geometric toys, mazes, and so forth. One can probably expect more of the same.

And there will be a few new twists.

I'm going to remain tight-lipped about the puzzles this time (for example, I won't be releasing the puzzle names beforehand). My best advice (as I think teams learned from EPP2): READ ALL OF THE PUZZLES CAREFULLY. BE AWARE OF EVERYTHING.

On Party-Day each team will receive an identical copy of the book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (in addition to the usual Puzzle Booklet and prop-box). You are also encouraged to read your own copy beforehand (here are a couple of links to online versions: Aoi Sakana and Project Gutenberg). You need not memorize it to have success and fun at the Party. Think of this text as a reference akin to a dictionary: the more familiar you are with it, the better, but you could even come to the Party without ever having read the book and still get by.

Update (14 May): Here are a few more details about the puzzles. First, it looks like there will be about 15-16 problems total. This is fewer than last time, and I hope that smaller number coupled with at least a 5 hour duration will encourage everyone TO READ EVERYTHING MORE CAREFULLY.

Second, this time MOST of the puzzles will be scored based on the speed with which they are successfully completed. My current thoughts are this:

1st: 800
2nd: 500
3rd: 300
4th: 200
5th: 100 (if more than 5 teams, 5th onward get 100 Points)

0 Points for puzzles left undone.
This scheme will be used for each of the timed puzzles REGARDLESS OF THE PUZZLE'S INHERENT DIFFICULTY.

I expect about 75% of the puzzles will be so scored. The remainder of the puzzles will have variable scoring possibilities, but none of them will be "open-ended" (a la TEN DIGIT ARITHMETIC from EPP2). Non-timed ones will generally be worth a maximum of around 1000 points or so (putting them on par with the best scores for the timed ones).