MetaTerminal

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MetaTerminal last won the day on June 14 2019

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  1. This post contains lots of spoilers for puzzles from the RED DOT 2020 Hunt. Specifically: full spoilers for Networking Mixer, answers for Employees and Presentation, partial but extremely significant spoilers for Arrowing Work and The Architect, and and some spoilers for The Illuminator, Memos, The Archivist, and Escape from the Office. Thematic spoilers for two (unnamed) puzzles. There’s also a screencap and description of the CMU Puzzle Stroke of Genius but nothing significant. Observe my latent blogging skills. (Which is to say, I should probably put something on here, given that I haven’t said anything in two three weeks.) We did RED DOT! We came 74th. We had fun. We made some things. There was a printing-jigsaw puzzle and I have photos. And other cool stuff occurred. The Setup I realise that while the operations of the team is transparent to us, how everything fits together is probably rather a mystery to most. ‘How do you coordinate large amounts of information in order to solve dozen(s) of puzzles at a relatively rapid speed?’ We have a process, and it allows us to handle stuff. Ish. (But we’re getting better.) In RED DOT, you get thrown all dozen puzzles in the first round at once, all of them accepting answers immediately. The question then becomes how to keep coordinated solving for 12 different puzzles, some of them containing large amounts of information to keep track of. And this is our method! We create Discord channels for each of the puzzles for discussion. This will contain anyone’s thoughts that needs to be communicated, and allows us to do back-and-forth talks on what we think things might be or what needs to be done. It’s fast, convenient, and unlike human speech, you have a record of what people have said. This means you can read through the backlogs when you’re trying to work out, at 4am, what on earth this puzzle that’s been half-finished is all about. We picked Discord over Slack mainly because we were more used to it and it allowed me (at least Old Me, not Theoretical Knows-How-Slack-Works Me) to control roles more effectively. Some people use Slack and swear by it. Your mileage may vary. However, a Discord channel isn’t a great way of sorting information, so we also have a spreadsheet to contain all of the actual puzzle solving. This also contains communication, but it’s usually small things like ‘I think this piece of data is wrong’ or ‘can someone check my logic on this bit?’ This is the tapestry where all the epic tales of victory and woe are sewn in place. Some of you might be wondering why I enjoy what could be described as ‘competitive spreadsheeting’. And, I do, but the spreadsheets aren’t really why. Firstly, some puzzles are terrible at being spreadsheeted. Usually, those are the most interesting. Take Stroke of Genius, a drawing tool that actively fights your attempts to use it: Or this hunt’s Illuminator, an interactive in-browser Lights Out logic puzzle with an extremely complicated grid: In both cases, the spreadsheets were almost or absolutely entirely unused. Solving happened through the Discord or through people’s attempts to wrestle with the interface. But also: some of the coolest puzzles used a lot of spreadsheet-ification. The fun stuff often happens in the spreadsheet, but it could happen on paper, or in person, or in the Discord channel, or through Google Docs, or on a whiteboard. This is just the most efficient way. And really, the spreadsheet is an aesthetic thing. If you’re solving a crossword, there’s no difference in your enjoyment if it’s on a newspaper, on an app, or in a hastily-put-together Google Sheet. It’s still a crossword. You’re still striving to get a difficult clue, and puzzling over what could fit in the grid that you’ve only half-worked out. The sudden leap that every down clue is supposed to go through a substitution cipher, or that some answers are missing letters, or some of the clues are spelled wrong, isn’t taken away. In fact, the new format allows you to make those leaps more easily, and make more of them, and enjoy them all the same. You could, I suppose, solve a hunt entirely on paper. To which I say: good luck! Send photos. Donate to a local tree-planting organisation. (Donate to them anyway. You should be donating to a lot of things.) Okay, that’s all the boring stuff. Now to the cool stuff. The Hunt! Moonrise had been working on a bot for a while that allows us to do searches in Nutrimatic in the Discord channel. It’s pretty cool, saves a tab, and lets other people see the results: It can also do searches in other places, but we use Nutrimatic by far the most. Recently, Moon added a new feature: it makes sheets and channels for us! This might seem like a small thing, but when we used to unlock a puzzle, we’d have to 1) make a Discord channel 2) make a spreadsheet 3) update our central sheet with all the new information. This might all take up a minute or two, but it’s a minute or two everyone is waiting around to work on the new puzzle. And if they release a dozen puzzles all at once... well, it’s a lot of overhead, I can tell you. Now, we can call a single command to tell it the name of the puzzle, and it does everything for us. We can also see all the puzzles and answers from a round… And even tell it the answer when we solve so we don’t have to update anything at all. Neat, huh? Actually The Hunt, For Real This Time This one was pretty cool! It was based in Singapore (though of course no runaround this year), so there were a lot of puzzles based on Asian (particularly East Asian) culture. A Pokemon puzzle is usually a given, but as someone who admittedly knows very little about say, shounen manga, haikus, or Simplified Chinese radicals, it was fascinating to have to learn about them in order to progress. As for the puzzles themselves: they were mostly great! You generally learn within the first few hours (or sometimes hour) what kind of hunt you’re in for. Aside from ‘daily release’ hunts, which are structured in order to have a little bit of solving each day, you’re usually uncertain whether you’ll either blaze through the puzzles quickly, finishing the whole thing in a morning or evening (like our experience in the most recent CMU Hunt) or whether you’re in for the long haul. Like, say, unlocking 12 puzzles at the very start, failing to solve anything for three hours, promptly solving three puzzles in the space of about 40 minutes, and then looking at the leaderboard and realising despite solving three puzzles in four hours you’re still 58th. (At this point in CMU, we’d solved twice as many.) So when we’d only solved four… Liars. The Chair Is A Lie We got stuck a few times. Sometimes it was just us making mistakes, like a single haiku being out of place in Memos for longer than I’d like to admit, or not recognising the answer phrase being written out plainly on our sheet in Architect. (I still maintain that that’s too many vowels. Mainly to cover for me feeling stupid afterwards.) However, I have a gripe, and the gripe is this. In the Escape From The Office meta, you need to beat a short text adventure game in order to reach the next stage and get all the information you need. This text adventure has some… interesting implementation. It doesn’t include any of the typical abbreviations, and when you open a secret door into the closet, the room description (or indeed, any of the descriptions) resolutely refuses to state that anything has changed. Secret door opened? Unimportant detail. None of these are issues, really, it’s not that much typing and you only need to go into the closet once (to fetch the batteries). There is, however, a chair. Now, here’s how it handles error messages. When you ask the text interpreter to do something that it straight up doesn’t understand, it spits one of a few general ‘you can’t do that, now focus on solving the puzzle, you twat’. You need to sit in the chair in order to finish the puzzle. This seems like a normal thing to do to a chair, so both of us working on the puzzle tried it. (>sit in chair) Nope, doesn’t work. We both independently verified that this didn’t work. Observe with thee own eyes that this doesn’t work. Eventually, we got stuck. So, when we read the solution after the hunt ended to see what clever connection we had missed… You’re kidding. Turns out: it doesn’t let you sit in the chair. Only a crazy person would try to do that, right? Hrrrrrng. I Should Probably Mention Positives Again There were cool puzzles. Let’s talk about them! Memos This was cool! 15 haikus, except instead of just being poetry in the form of ‘5 7 5’ syllables, they were actually haikus, following most of the rules and conventions. (Bet you didn’t know haikus had rules and conventions.) Fun fact: if you’re solving a puzzle that involves information that changes based on which hemisphere you’re in (say, the dates of different solstices), and you have two people working in the spreadsheet at once, and they both live in hemispheres, that can potentially end poorly. Once we worked that out, though, this went swimmingly. The Archivist This one was just cool. Some of these descriptions are funny, too. (We knew it was a Hitchhiker’s book, too, we just didn’t get the right one.) Is it bad the only one I recognised immediately was Watership Down? The Architect Cuuuuuuuuubes. The Illuminator Okay, another fun ‘solution story’. This is, just to remind you, an interactive in-browser Lights Out logic puzzle with an extremely complicated grid. The solution states that “There is a unique solution to the puzzle, which is probably difficult to obtain by hand.” It goes on to state that the intended solving path was to solve a system of 50 linear equations in a Galois field of two elements. (I think. ‘Z2’ notates a lot of things in maths, you know.) Apparently, the person who wrote this puzzle thought that was the easier solution. We (and by we I mean ‘the one person brave enough to work on the puzzle, who wasn’t me’) did it by hand. You mad genius, you. Conclusion This was fun! Let’s do it next year. On that note, there’s another hunt (Puzzle Potluck 3) soon! And when I say soon, I mean in five hours, because I didn’t finish writing this for a whole week so now it’s the day of. If on this very short notice (or after the hunt kicks off, even) you’d like to play, just hit me up here or on Discord. No experience required; only curiosity. I will maybe try to update this blog more in the future. Maybe. We’ll see. I’ll definitely give a Puzzle Potluck update so I think that’s next on the cards. (Last year’s was super cool so I’m looking forward to this one.) Meta out.
  2. While I haven’t written about this since nearly a year ago, save two or so months, I’ve continually been part of the 17th Shard Puzzlehunt Team. I probably won’t go into detail about each of them (it has been a while - a long while, for some of them); but, if you have questions about some of them, I can definitely elaborate. Some of them, the onsite ones, I even have photos for. Woohoo. For completion’s sake, here are the ones I’ve already posted about in the past: Galactic Puzzle Hunt 2019 (93rd) Puzzle Potluck 2019 (placement lost to history?) And here are the ones I haven’t mentioned: MUMS 2019 (94th) MITMH 2020 (59th, though ‘placement’ is largely arbitrary) Puzzles Are Magic (70th) Cryptex Hunt 2020 (72nd) CMU Getaway Hunt (84th) TTT Hunt (24th, under ‘Middle of the Pack’) You can vaguely see us getting better, I think; PAM was the first one we really hit our stride, and I’m excited to see where we’ll get to next. Obligatory advertisement: there is another competition coming up too! The RED DOT Hunt (REDDOT Hunt?) is on June 5, starting at 10pm EDT (that’s 10pm in New York, 7pm in LA, 6 June at 10am in Singapore; if you’re in Europe, I feel your pain). If you’d like to join us - see ‘what is this puzzle thing about?’ - drop me a line! We are super open to new members regardless of skill level. I’ll be blogging about that too after it wraps up. Probably no photos. Unless the printing-jigsaw ones get really out of hand.
  3. To whom it may concern:

    I am, a) not dead, 2) currently trapped in a strange idyllic prison on a moon of Jupiter, and iii) starting a blog for those of you wanting your Meta Content Fix. One of those statements was a lie.

    Don't expect me to be active in the forums. This is just the most relevant place I could put this.

    That said: see y'all soon!

    1. AonEne

      AonEne

      How are you starting a blog if you’re dead and imprisoned on a moon of Jupiter? 

  4. I struggled for a while to think how to start this off. This is a blog, see, so theoretically the first sentence or paragraph should be capital M meaningful. But let’s just do introductions instead, how does that sound? Hello, all! I’m Meta. You might recognize me from a few places; my writing, my work in certain RPs, my puzzles, my puzzle-solving, my continuous activism for greater road safety, and my impeccable dress sense. (Maybe not those last two.) And this is a blog. If you knew that, I’m sure you didn’t mind my redundancy. If you didn’t know that… well, I’m glad I told you that. What does one do on a blog? Well, they blog. I do a lot of projects for a lot of disparate things and in the past haven’t really had anywhere to put them. Some of them died in the making. Some of them were relatively successful. Regardless, I will put them here. I’ll talk about my processes, why some of them worked and some of them didn’t, what went through my head as I was putting them together. In addition to this irregularly scheduled programming (which may or may not take up the bulk of my posting) I will occasionally throw random thoughts on here. Some of these thoughts may turn into theses in the scribing process. If I want to talk about something, anything, to do with culture, art, science, literature, systems, recent puzzle competitions, patterns on my carpet, or weird things I saw while walking in my neighborhood, this is the place. I promise no schedule, no theme, no particular subjects which I will stick to; I cannot even promise quality. I promise only to (try to) be interesting. I might shamelessly flog other people’s thoughts and observations onto here. Whenever I do that, I’ll try to cite it. If I don’t, yell at me. I might take requests, if I find what you want me to talk about interesting. If you feel strongly about it, definitely drop me a line, and I’ll think about it. That’s everything for now. More posts coming in the next unit of time.
  5. Detritus Round - Wave 1 This is the first wave of puzzles. More will be unlocked when they're ready to go. This round contains no spoilers for Starsight. (Since I haven't read it yet. If there are spoilers I would be very very surprised.) Signups are also still open, since there are a few people I haven't heard back from and due to short notice. (@Calderis @Jaywalk @Rushu42 @Sorana @xinoehp512 etc) Puzzles are in random order. Detritus Meta Puzzle 1: Pilot Test Puzzle 2: The Song of My People Puzzle 3: A Very Long List of Instructions Puzzle 4: Three Laws Puzzle 5: Discussion Board Puzzle 6: An Entirely Different Kind of Flying, Altogether Scheduled releases: 2 more puzzles tomorrow. Good luck!
  6. Great! I’ll PM you the Discord details. The puzzles will now go up one hour earlier, at 5pm EST. This is just due to a commitment on my end.
  7. Hi, everyone, I’m back! Part 1 - The Big News A lot of you have known for a while, but I will be putting together a team of Sharders to compete in the MIT Mystery Hunt this month. If you like puzzles, logic, math, or having fun solving things with other people, then we are accepting people at any skill level/age. If you’ve never solved a puzzle before, we’d be happy to have you. 17 people have signed up already and most of them will be around for the whole competition, so you’ll be in good company. The Mystery Hunt is a competition that takes place from the 17th to the 19th of January. Teams compete to solve puzzles of any kind (logic, typical formats like crosswords or dropquotes, or other formats like lists of clues, photographs, gifs, patterns, Bob Dylan lyrics formatted as scientific papers, license plate numbers, etc) across the two days. We’re not expecting to be competitive or win (any team under 20 people is considered ‘small’) but if you want to have a good time and this seems interesting then we’d be happy to take you onboard. It’s completely fine if you need to miss any of the individual days because you’re busy or because of religious observance. Just as long as you can make some of the event and want to be a part of it. For some idea of what these puzzles are like, I’ve run Sanderson-themed hunts in the past here, here and here, and talked about our past competitions in this thread. The MIT Hunt is the grand-daddy of puzzlehunts, though, so expect much more (and many more) ambitious puzzles. We’ll also have an on-site team in Boston (at MIT), so if you’re in the area you’re free to meet up! If you’re planning to do this it will be convenient for me to know early. Part 2 - Smaller (But More Relevant) News As practice for the Hunt, I have put together a Sanderson Puzzlehunt! Since this is intended as a practice run for the Hunt, you will complete it as one team using the Discord server we used for official competitions in the past. If you want to sign up this is a good way to see how the team operates and what kind of stuff happens in a (smaller) Hunt, or to see if this kind of thing interests you. Because we need to start and finish it fairly soon, signups are now open in this thread and we will start tomorrow (7th of January) at 6pm EST. I may push it back a little if things aren’t ready to go, but not by much. Signups will remain open after the round begins. The theme of the round will be revealed when the first wave of puzzles go live. You can sign up to either competition below. @Calderis @Jaywalk @Rushu42 @Sorana @xinoehp512
  8. I agree that it should be the second option. First or third runs the risk of knocking big holes in continuity - ones larger than what the mimes would be able to handle. In terms of when we should set it, I’d say at least a few generations behind. Enough to put significant distance between then and now, but close enough so ancestors of Era 1 characters could be included. Plot-wise: I’d be really interested in seeing a guild conflict that wasn’t against the DA, like the one that almost happened between the Keepers and the Diagramists. The plot starts with an uneasy tension - conflict breaks out when one guild tries to eliminate another due to an age-old rivalry. The plot ends when all rival guilds are eliminated, the conflict is resolved, or a truce is reached. If the DA is involved, then it’s obvious who is going to win, but if it’s a conflict between a whole bunch of defunct guilds, then we can make the story up on the fly. Since the guilds are all defunct in a few generations, then anyone could come out on top. Brief spitballing. The Newcago Court is ruled by Queen Elsa Steelheart, but she also runs a Court composed of representatives from the various guilds. People with more power or leverage (holding a frostblade (?), or an important trade route like the Turnpike or Highway) make up more of the Court. When those pieces of power change hands, the Queen makes them more powerful in the Court to appease them and make sure that nobody too powerful turns against her. A sort of slim-majority is formed between a bunch of allied guilds in the Court, but that is disrupted when the leading member of the majority-leading guild is killed and their frostblade (or whatever it’s called) is taken by an opposing (but unknown guild). The ruling guild needs to take more power, and fast, which they have to do by assassinating and stealing someone else’s frostblade, which in turn starts the power struggle. And soon whoever holds the Turnpike and Highway goes up in the air, as well. That would probably be far too complicated (and maybe not that interesting?), but the mind boggles at the possibilities. I’d envision three alliances, and a majority is formed out of being the largest alliance. Maybe a minor guild provides the slim-majority, but they jump ship to another alliance, putting them in power. And then both of the minority alliances have to fight to get it back... Insofar as it’s relevant: Taking out the DA and the Court, that makes 7 guilds, all of relatively equal strength (assuming NHRD is autonomous of the DA). Say that holding the Turnpike gives you x number of seats in the Court, the Highway gives you y, a frostblade gives you z seats per blade - one of the alliances barely holds enough to have the most seats. When they lose the frostblade, they’re in danger of losing everything, so they act desperately to keep control. Unfortunately, this is both really complicated, really game-like (we’d probably need someone running it like with the Spooktacular Extravaganza) and would either play out significantly through PMs or require a lot of threads to keep all of the Guild meetings separate. (I’d probably settle with one Court thread, and an instruction to keep everything that didn’t have to absolutely be kept secret out of PMs.) So I’d understand if nobody wanted to do this.
  9. Windows to the soul. That was it. People often said that the eyes were the windows to the soul. But Jale often found eyes deceptive - you could look at something that wasn’t your focus, and despite what people often said you could fake a smile with your eyes. Everyone knew that they gave away what you were thinking, so they tried to mask it. An arms race of deception. And it was as Jale was looking at the floor, and the woman started to walk, that he worked it out. Feet. The other windows. People pointed their feet in the same direction as their attention, if it was strong enough. He was worried about their feet. Two pairs of eyes, and two pairs of feet; but the two pairs had been different. You looked at a noise if you could hear it, compulsively. So the Guild member was probably deaf, or hard of hearing. But she was paying attention to him, so her feet were pointed towards him. Same with the man, the volunteer. And this white-robed man didn’t have his feet going any particular way. But the other woman, she wasn’t interested in him. Or her partner, or the Guild member. Her feet had been pointed towards... “It is fascinating,” he said to the new individual. Probably a member; he took a seat comfortably, came from the back. “Low literacy requires human work. I’m surprised no one’s thought of it before.” Pointed towards the machinery against the wall. He hadn’t a clue what it did, and cared little; but this woman was very, very interested in it. And for the life of him, he couldn’t work out why. And that had thrown an alert in Jale’s subconscious. The little discrepancy. It wasn’t simple curiosity or boredom, it was a focused attention. As if... machinery was a hobby of hers. A machinist, then. A scholar in the Scholar’s Guild. What a novel concept, Jale. What a brilliant deduction. This knock was really throwing him off. Maybe it was worse than he had thought. “Are either of you members of the Guild?” Simple enough to confirm, really. And, if she was, the bag that she obviously carried around everywhere (the straps were worn and moulded to her shape) would be full of machine parts.
  10. Jale nodded. He seemed truthful, at least about this, but he couldn’t shake the feeling... Welfare, then. Probably volunteers. And thus the clothes made sense - not particularly extravagant, but workable. Maybe a little rough. He might have been born poorer and that motivated him to help those in need. Tired, too. A hint of rings around the eyes. For some strange reason, the word windows drifted to the front of his mind. Jale shook it away. If that’s true, you’re doing good work. Don’t say that first part, Jale. “You’re doing good work. Kelek knows this city needs it.” And it was good work, but something else wasn’t adding up here. He looked at the floor and thought a moment. Six... windows? But then, Jale supposed idly, that if he couldn’t work it out then it didn’t really matter. “Literacy, then? Or something else?”
  11. “Pass on that, thanks.” He had to stop his hand from going for the doorknob again. “I’ll be fine. I’ve survived worse. But I’d like to help - if there’s anything I can do for that then let me know.” Jale’s eyes slid back to the other two, and he couldn’t help but ask again. “Are they here about the paper?” (@Sorana @I think I am here.)
  12. “Jale,” he said, and clicked his fingers near his waist. Interesting. He double-checked the doorknob with his hand. With his other hand, Jale took the paper, read it, and signed it. Gave it back. His eyes settled on a lot of things, but he didn’t register many of them. Except this: one two three four five six. Four of them made sense, but two of them didn’t. As if... As if what? Damnation to this pain. Jale rubbed his forehead, and smiled thinly at the others. “I came about the paper, actually. I’d like to help write for it. Or at least investigate for it.” And then, for a reason he couldn’t entirely explain, he asked the visitors (since they were clearly visitors): “Are you here about the paper, too?”
  13. It was a bright Witrosa day when Jale came to the front door of the Guild and knocked, four times. The headache still throbbed behind everything else, and his forehead felt flatter, somehow, as if the flesh had been squeezed away and the skull was nearer to the surface. A concussion. And a bit of scrambled egg. Jale opened the door without waiting for a response. Three people stood there - two of them were looking at him - but he took the rest of the information in rather sub-consciously, with the information not piercing the smoke of dull pain. He said his piece. “Morning,” Jale said. “Or afternoon. I’ve come to join the Scholar’s Guild.” @Rushu42
  14. I’d like Jale to be moved to Era 4 as well, with two new changes: a strength, outlining the extent of his intellectual abilities; and a new weakness: recently he suffered a concussion, which impedes his conscious mind to a certain extent. His unconscious mind is unaffected, which means he may act on instinct based on his observations without understanding why he’s doing it. That should balance him more when I RP him. Everything else is otherwise unchanged.
  15. Happy... 

    1. Archer

      Archer

      ...birthday. 

      (had to reserve a spot earlier ;)

    2. MetaTerminal

      MetaTerminal

      Means you get two upvotes :P

      Thank you!