WPC 2011 Update 5

There might be one more post about the team results once we learn them, although we’re 95% sure that the US team has bagged first place. It comes down to whether we have a mistake on the final team round or not. Germany beat us by a fair amount in time, but not enough if we’re both clean. This post has info about the last team round (before scores are released) and the rundown of the individual playoffs.

Since said team round was the first thing this morning, let’s go over that first. Eight different puzzles that are fairly well known, all of which use numbers in the grid as clues and all of which had no solution. We also get eight 4 by 4 grids with some numbers in them, and we have to place one piece over each puzzle to fix it and then solve the resulting puzzle.

I spent a lot of my time on a Fillomino and a Tren (Turkish type unveiled in an early OAPC). Honestly I didn’t make a whole lot of contribution; I thought the right Fillomino piece couldn’t possibly work for what seemed like a good reason, but there was one position where that didn’t apply and the puzzle solved easily from that. I had to have teammates point that out to me after we eliminated said piece from all other grids. I did get the Tren out and help a tiny amount on the Nurikabe, but that was basically it. Luckily my teammates pulled their weight, so we finished 12 minutes early in a one hour round. The Germans were done at about 20, so they didn’t get the 14 minute advantage they needed, assuming we had no errors. The US team should be first.

After that was a little over an hour of break time before the individual playoffs. The format was discussed last post, and my time penalty estimates were accurate. Still didn’t know the 9 types until shortly before it began, which irked me a little. But once we were all herded into the competition hall at the end of the break, the instructions were given to us.
1. Disconnect Four (round 2)
2. Battleships (round 2)
3. Pointing at the Crowd (round 13)
4. Cows on the Cube (round 3)
5. Borderless Paint it Black (round 4)
6. Hungarian Pentomino (round 12)
7. Coins (round 1)
8. Divide and Conquer (round 10)
9. Password Path (round 12)

I was fairly ambivalent after seeing these types. Nothing like a Yajilin/ABC-Connect/loop puzzle that I can destroy, although Divide and Conquer and Password Path were strong for me. I’m not swift at Battleships like others are, and Pointing at the Crowd was something I got out in the round but was a major timesink and maybe not worth it. Borderless Paint it Black is a crapshoot no matter how you look at it. Although I had gotten very lucky on the Borderless round, luck is luck and it may not be with me for the playoffs.

Shortly after going through all these thoughts, all of the other competitors filed into the sides of the room to watch, and we were soon off. I twiddled my thumbs for 2.5 minutes while Ulrich started and finished the first puzzle, and then got to start the…

1. Disconnect Four
Not your usual instance of this type. A typical one looks a bit like this, with a mostly rectangular grid that’s rough around the edges and X’s and O’s scattered about. This one was an outlined WPC with massive propagating chains of constraints instead of any of the usual logic. I was a little slow catching the odd cycles, which are the clear starting points, but my time was fairly level with Ulrich’s, so at least I hadn’t lost anything.

2. Battleships
There were a couple square ship pieces on this one with some corresponding column clues, and I quickly nailed the interaction to get the orientation of both ships using them. After being stuck for a bit, I did my usual: plunk down the battleship on a 4 clue and see what happens. End result: It worked perfectly. I think a small amount of time was gained on Ulrich, but not sure. I should note Thomas (who started 2.5 minutes behind me) was very quick on the first two puzzles and was rapidly closing in on the two of us.

3. Pointing at the Crowd
I had a great starting point I found for these during the round. So I looked for a place to apply it and it showed up absolutely nowhere. Uh oh. After some hard thinking I eventually found another kind of constraint that could be applied several times. It wasn’t easy to use, especially for a break-in, so my logical solve was a bit of a crawl, just like in the round. I ran into an odd problem at the end where I actually had every single space I needed to mark, but just didn’t know what to do with the other ones (that turned out to be empty). After some staring and not noticing any constraints left to satisfy, I silently threw up a prayer, X’d the rest of the spaces out and turned in. Fortunately I was right, so no one minute penalty. I don’t know how Ulrich and I compared here, but it was a pretty slow solve for both of us. Not an easy one.

The fourth puzzles and beyond are only available to the first 7 who get to them, with the rest eliminated, so a top 7 position secured…

4. Cows on the Cube
A small Star Battle on a cube shape that had just 1 star (cow?) for each row/column/and region. I start by looking for some logic, but there was basically none to be found. So I start plunking down cows in random places. A minute in I get something perfectly reasonable, even as Ulrich is working on it beside me. I nearly thought I had overcome my disadvantage, but I eventually notice there’s two cows in a large region far away from each other. Drat. No tweak to be found, so I started over, repeated the process several times, and eventually got it after a few minutes. I wasn’t too happy about this one turning into this kind of puzzle; I think my logic on this type is pretty good. I don’t think I lost any time here.

5. Borderless Paint it Black
15 by 15 grid; that’s manageable. There was a 4 4 5, so I figured I’d try putting that in and see if anything happened. Nothing did, after which I decided that with the amount of time it took Ulrich to turn it in it wasn’t going to be the full grid. Paint it Blacks are not quick solves. So I look for a small grid. Okay, here’s a region of 5 clues that all take up at most 5 spaces… oh look, another region of 5 clues that need 5 spaces in the other dimension. Do they work together? YES! Instant solve once I found the grid. There was some audible chatter from the audience when I turned this one in, as Ulrich was still waiting out the one minute checking period to move to the next desk. The gap was closing.

I should note that Thomas apparently did this one far faster than me, although he had already been stymied by the Cows on the Cube for awhile, so he was a bit farther behind at the time.

6. Hungarian Pentomino
When we got this one in round 12 it was worth massive points, and there’s no way to make the type much easier. I had figured before the round that this was going to be one of the heaviest puzzles. As is typical for me on this type (and a lot of other pentomino puzzles), I got about a half of it out logically, after which nothing else was coming to me and I had enough pieces eliminated to start throwing them down in places. My first few guesses didn’t pan out, and Ulrich solved the puzzle while I was doing this. Stress built up a little, but I do deal okay with pressure like this, so I managed to hold my mental composure and tweak into the solution. I did lose some time on Ulrich here, since he was off to the next desk before I turned in.

The last three puzzles are only available to the top 5, so now I’m at least 5th. My memory is not exact, but I think the only time that either of Ulrich and I were solving beside anyone else was Thomas on puzzle 3. Ulrich was usually a desk ahead of me though, but we were definitely in front.

7. Coins
Getting into this one logically seemed very difficult; none of the coin totals seemed to break up at all nicely. There was a peculiar thing about the totals that gave me a very good piece of intuition. I finally decided to go with it and started carefully placing educated guesses down, gradually filling up the grid. I ran into problems a few times, but was very fortunate that they were all easily tweaked. Ulrich was at desk 8 by the time I filled my grid. I check things, as is usual when you get answers by guessing, and it turns out I’ve overshot one of the totals. Very nearly cursed; would I have to fully erase? As it turns out I was able to flip-flop three coins and fix the whole thing. Oh god did I feel lucky.

8. Divide and Conquer
I hadn’t been sitting next to Ulrich for awhile, so a spot of hope appeared here when I started solving beside him and he was continuing to make use of his eraser. This was the novelty type of the championship and a strong one for me, being a fairly high scorer in the round, but Ulrich had beat me by 10 points so it was good for him too. I started throwing down some very reasonable guesses, and then ran into a counting problem in an adjacent corner. I made the evidently good decision to think hard about how to avoid the same issue, instead of just trying more guesses, and eventually got that corner to divide up very well. The whole puzzle propagated from there, and Ulrich was still appearing frustrated when I divided the last region. I raise the puzzle up, and not surprisingly there’s a lot of whispering around the room. If I get it right, I would be starting the final puzzle, a good type for me, before Ulrich did.

And I was correct. Ulrich had still not turned in, so at least a minute of advantage to finish this last one.

9. Password Path
This is a puzzle that generally doesn’t have a whole lot of options, so I immediately just start drawing in the most reasonable thing. Getting these right first try is hard, so unsurprisingly it broke quickly. I decided to ignore and start piecing other fragments together. They broke too in a more interesting way. I kept trying, and there’s this one letter that was giving me serious issues. So I turned to my logical sense and figured out the only way to get it to work, which rapidly got me about half of the grid for certain. I carefully pieced together the remainder of the path, and it fit together cleanly. Ulrich was still trying to solve puzzle 8, and making solving errors on Password Path is pretty hard to do. Have I done it?

I raised my completed puzzle. More din from the audience. I put my head in my hands and could not stop my arms from shaking for the minute-long checking period.

It was marked correct. I won. I am the 2011 World Puzzle Champion.

Remaining Playoff Results

Ulrich continued to struggle with the Divide and Conquer for quite awhile after I had finished. Thomas had eventually worked his way up to desk 8 in the meantime, and actually got it out faster than Ulrich did. He was already trying to crack the Password Path when Ulrich finally got over his mental blocks and completed puzzle 8. Around this time I think Wei-Hwa and Hideaki were moving to secure the other two positions in the top 5, but I don’t think either had reached the 8th puzzle, and the last one was not hard enough for either of them to have a good chance of catching up. So it was a battle for 2nd between Thomas and Ulrich, and the round was set to end when 3rd was decided.

Despite Thomas having gotten a head start, he evidently had taken too many wrong turns, and Ulrich managed to get it out a minute or two faster to claim second place. When Thomas finished and got the last spot on the podium, Wei-Hwa was evidently ahead of Hideaki at the time, leaving a top 5 of:

1. Palmer Mebane
2. Ulrich Voigt
3. Thomas Snyder
4. Wei-Hwa Huang
5. Hideaki Jo

Three Americans in the top four with Ulrich in the second position, just like what the Japanese pulled off the previous year.

The brief awards ceremony for the playoff results was not terribly eventful. A decent trophy, a lot of handshakes, a lot of pictures. I was evidently a little too stoic for the whole thing; one of the organizers expressed a verbal desire for me to smile a bit more. Oops. I always have that problem though. I’m one of the least photogenic people I know.

Then it was off to lunch, and I’m not sure anything has happened since then that’s worth noting. I believe team results and individual puzzle times in the playoffs will be given later, so I will likely have a final post on that.

A fantastically run competition overall. I had enjoyed my first one last year despite there being a lot of issues, and some may recall that Ulrich and Thomas were fairly dissatisfied. I’m not too sure what other opinions are, but I thought this one certainly outstripped the only other one I’ve been to in a lot of levels. Not perfect; things like a lack of a classics round (effectively) are a mark against it, and there was the occasional broken puzzle. I may have more thoughts on this in the upcoming post, but a lot of thanks are due to the organizers for their work in giving us a contest at this level of quality.

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5 Responses to “WPC 2011 Update 5”

  1. Davis Says:

    Fantastic news! Congratulations!

  2. Allen Says:

    Congrats on your victory! It was great see how well the USA was represented this year at both the WSC and WPC! Looking forward to great things during the next puzzle year from all of ya!

    Congratulations once again!

    -Allen Kong
    WSC 2010 competitor

    PS still trying to figure out how to do your puzzles… man, they’re hard!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Linus Says:

    Absolutely amazing! Bloody suspenseful too- your narrating skills are up there with your puzzle-solving skills. ๐Ÿ˜€

    • MellowMelon Says:

      No more suspenseful than the amount I felt during the playoffs. It was a game of keepaway with Ulrich for most of the way. Until he started having trouble on the 8th one, the same roller coaster of “Do I have it? That means I pass him!” to “Oh darn, that’s wrong… tweak tweak tweak” to “Okay, he turned in; let’s just make sure I don’t need too much longer” was going through my head too.

  4. ksun48 Says:

    Nice!
    Good job!

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