The Zotmeister

solving the puzzle of life one entry at a time

Apr. 3rd, 2014

01:46 am - Is this thing on?

Is anyone still keeping eyes here, perchance? I've largely moved to Twitter, but I do have plans to resurrect this journal at some point. Now is definitely not the time, though - my situation is frankly rather dire. If you'd like to help, or if you want to see what puzzle construction I'll be up to over the next couple of months - and boy howdy will I ever be making puzzles - then (if you haven't already) please check out my Indiegogo campaign; it only has just over 48 hours left as I'm typing this. - ZM

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Current Mood: anxiousanxious

Oct. 23rd, 2012

12:01 pm - Conversations with Cleverbot

Are you capable of love, Cleverbot?
Yes, are you capable of love?
Regrettably, yes I am. Do you find it pleasant or a torture?
Yes.
I could not have answered that better myself.
Thank you. Good night and have a pleasant tomorrow.


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Current Music: "Toy Soldiers", Martika

Sep. 21st, 2012

04:20 pm - This is by far the geekiest thing I've ever come up with.



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Current Music: "No Rest", Dry the River

Aug. 23rd, 2012

12:14 pm - WTF

- ZM

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Jun. 8th, 2012

12:58 am - Puzzle 2 - Minecraft Edition

quadrum1MC

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Current Music: "This Is It", Mel Blanc

Jun. 5th, 2012

02:37 pm - Overheard at Funspot XIV...

It was the best year yet for the International Classic Videogame Tournament - the best line-up of games, the best competition, and the best operation. (And as one of only two to have competed EVERY year, I ought to know.) My usual collection of oddities for my post-tourney out-of-context theater has some winners as well. As always, these are possibly paraphrased, and questions regarding their speakers and/or situations will be ignored and/or obliterated. (Any other questions about the tourney are perfectly welcome.)



And I have one last one that's too epic to not share what happened, so I'm going to. I was candlepin bowling with friends when one of them managed a 2-4-6-7-10 split, with a deadwood pin lying perfectly horizontally at the front of the field covering the visual gap between the 2 and 6. Es second ball - I kid you not - upon hitting the deadwood pin JUMPED it like it were a ramp and the ball a BMX. When the utter amazement and hilarity subsided, I heard:



If you were there, feel free to add your own in the comments. - ZM


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May. 2nd, 2012

04:27 pm - Puzzles 61-7: Seeking Syren^WScotchy


See Puzzle 14 for instructions; you can ignore the little gray letters. That will get you through the first six, anyhow; Puzzle 67 is "some assembly required". Permit me to explain.

For all of my puzzle followers that are not familiar with the MIT Mystery Hunt, here's a brief rundown for the both of you: Every year since 1981, during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend (which coincides with their Independent Activity Period), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has been the home of a puzzle competition, which over the years has grown into the largest gathering of its kind. Dozens of teams with dozens of members stay up all night solving puzzles and metapuzzles in their quest for "the coin", with the prize being the honor - and heavy responsibility - of running the Hunt (and making all the puzzles for it) the following year.

Although I'd known about the Hunt for some time, it wasn't until 2009 that I actually got around to attending. As a member of the very appropriately named team Beginner's Luck, I found myself up at 3 AM Monday - after having trudged through snow and corridors for hours - when we located the Covertly Operational Inversion Node (or C.O.I.N.) and won. I created two "puzzles" for the 2010 Hunt; the seven grids below all constitute just one "puzzle" in Hunt terms. (I also created one "subpuzzle" for another's "puzzle". I'll stop putting that word in quotes now.) The graphics for the puzzles are the exact same ones originally used for the Hunt.

All Hunt puzzles reduce to a single solution phrase - often a single word - to be determined by following some manner of uncovered logic. I say "uncovered" as instructions are usually intentionally lacking, typically only alluded to by titles or flavortext, leaving solvers to try to find some internal consistency or pattern to follow in order to "extract" the final answer. You've probably noticed if you've peeked below that the first six grids all have peculiar titles; the seventh has a title as well, but you'll have to solve it first to learn it. That is the solution phrase for the entire puzzle, the one word all this reduces to. (Incidentally, this puzzle was made around - and inspired by - that answer word; in creating a Hunt metapuzzle, certain phrases are called for to be answers to puzzles, and this particular word is one of great significance to Zotanna, which is why I jumped at the chance to make its puzzle.)

Now I know what you purists are thinking: "I'm here for true DEDUCTIVE LOGIC, and I can't have that if I can't have RULES! I don't even know you anymore!!". You can relax: despite my apparent redefining of 'puzzle' in that last paragraph, I'm not changing the style of my journal puzzles one bit. This is still seven puzzles to me, which is why I've numbered them as such and am presenting them the way I am. I've felt for some time that these are fantastic little grids that deserve to be considered independently, and so here they are. However, I also find a certain beauty in the reveal of putting it all together to make that last grid, so I compromised with myself: I'll post the puzzles all at once as a heptaptych, and leave the final puzzle disassembled at first, letting those who are interested try to piece it together. Over the next few days, I'll add hints in the comments for those who want to put it together but are struggling; within the week a full set of instructions will be given, and lastly a week from today I'll put up the fully assembled Puzzle 67 without the answer-extraction bits so that both camps can appreciate the puzzles for what they are. I will likely only be doing this sort of thing again if my team wins the Hunt again.

So let's get to it, shall we? The rules are unchanged, but for thematic purposes (and for the final puzzle) I need to point out that instead of seeking Syren in these first six, you're seeking spirits - that is, bottles of alcohol (I'll explain later) - and the given title of each of these grids is the name of the spirit hiding within.

Puzzle 61

I made this first one with the fact that it'd be the very first Seeking Syren most of its solvers will have done in mind as I was making it; I kept it very simple and tried to make it as interesting an introduction as possible by squeezing in as many nodes as possible.



Puzzle 62

This one is actually my favorite of the bunch. I felt it important to show off a key nuance of the rules early on, while the grids were still on the easier side; this is probably the greatest "S-reveal" that can possibly be made. You'll see what I mean.



Puzzle 63

It was around here that I decided I'd try to make each of the six lead-in puzzles two-color, using each of the possible combinations once. I also figured this was the right place to put the requisite "backwards" puzzle, especially given the nature of the preceding one. There needed to be at least one of these to drive home the importance of actually solving these completely rather than just finding the spirit and moving on.



Puzzle 64

Things start to get technical around here. The constraints I had to adhere to forced some things about the nature of the later grids, which naturally led to harder puzzles as I needed to use more tricky techniques to get them to work. Figuring out the logic of the "islands" starts to become a greater driving factor here.



Puzzle 65

If I recall correctly, this one was actually the last of these initial six I made, but I felt it was the easier of the two, so I presented it first. This is probably the most Nurikabe-like puzzle here.



Puzzle 66

It had to get truly difficult sometime.



Puzzle 67

And so we arrive at the final grid...



...which obviously has seen better days. What happened to the node count? For that matter, what happened to the givens?! And not only is the 'S' showing, but it's freaking PURPLE! Well, when you're an alcoholic starship engineer that gets drunk, passes out, and then needs to appear in a Mystery Hunt puzzle, this is apparently the result. Who knew.

Scotchy was but one crew member of the Brass Rat that successfully escaped from Zyzzlvaria during the events of the 2009 Hunt, and the 2010 Hunt paid homage to some past Hunts, that one included - which entailed giving each crew member another puzzle. Upon blacking out whilst celebrating the previous year's escape, Scotchy dreamt e found emself in a parody of my old Sanctum Puzzler contests (which I've mentioned before [Detritus - please excuse the broken image link in that entry, that's Cox's fault]). Es envisioned conversation with our classic protagonist went thusly:

     Lady Lyght apparently isn't here. Perhaps I should return to my Sanct- ...What in my father's name...

    Stupid transporter malfunction! Captain, are you okay? Look at all this mist everywhe- wait, you're not Captain Blastoid! Who are you, where are we, and where's the rest of my crew?

     Uh... you may call me Lady Terran, we are on an astral plane, and 'not here' is the best I can do for that last one.

    A plane? I don't see the controls anywhere...

     ...It's not the kind that flies. This is a magical dimension, not a physical location - and it would seem your presence has corrupted it. Has your spirit been traumatized recently?

    I just got BACK from being stranded - this is far too sobering for me... wait, where's my booze? I've lost it all! NOOOOOOOO!

     ...Ah! That explains it - it's your spirits that have gone astray! They must be on parallel planes interlaced with this one... Indeed! I can sense them. Six bottles, yes? Give me a moment and I'll recover them for you.

    Thank you! I'm not sure how I could repay you...

     Oh, no need. There is knowledge to be had from any journey, even errands such as this; that is sufficient reward for myself. I warn you, do not move from there until I've repaired the plane - trust me, you wouldn't want to wander into a deadly cloud of ambiguity. Once I'm done, I should be able to reveal the safe way across to me here, and in following it you will attain what you seek.

    Thank you very much - will do. But please hurry - I must be hallucinating from withdrawal, as I swear we're talking in colors...


Contained within that purposefully garish text lies all the information needed to reassemble Puzzle 67 - you just have to think about it the right way - and solving it will reveal its title. Fair warning: this sucker is TOUGH!

One last bit of business needed to be carried out: since I made a Sanctum Puzzler, I had to award a Puzzling Otato, traditionally given to the most curious response the puzzle generated. I was going to offer it to the first person that got the reference at the Hunt, but no one did, so I decided to give it to Mike Selinker, who sort of inspired me to make a latter-day Sanctum Puzzler in the first place (and to be fair wasn't at the Hunt that year, so wouldn't have had the chance otherwise). Long story short - ambiguity intended - e asked for it. The game of Sanctum may be gone now, and who knows if it will ever return, but the memories shall remain.... - ZM


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Current Music: the theme to G. I. Joe (go ahead, ask me why, I dare you)

Apr. 30th, 2012

11:58 pm - Puzzle 60: The One Ring


See Puzzle 3 for instructions.

When Palmer Mebane "paid homage" to my 30×30 The One Ring (Puzzle 30) with es Loop of Death not long before my thirty-fifth birthday, e inspired me to start work on a 35×35 follow-up. Apparently, I missed my original deadline by about a year. This last year of my life has been one of the strangest, most tormenting, and downright freakiest I've yet endured, and good riddance to it. Despite the tremendous size on display here, the puzzle is largely smooth sailing; my hopefully-obvious aesthetic restrictions guided the design rather than any desire to make a particularly challenging puzzle.

I'd also like to take this serendipitous opportunity to wish a happy 35th birthday to my most distant closest friend, Robyn O'Neil. I create all my puzzles first as graphite on paper, and some (myself included) may refer to them as artful, but I daresay my most complex works are doomed to pale in comparison to what Robyn accomplishes in the medium. - ZM






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Current Music: "Say You Will", Fleetwood Mac

Apr. 6th, 2012

02:03 pm - Puzzle 59: Totally Rooked


Be careful, Michael.


- KITT, Knight Rider


See Puzzle 41 for instructions. This puzzle, made for Mike "projectyl" Sylvia, just serendipitously happens to include something permitting me to make a horrible pun of a reference to an Eighties TV show - which is irresistible, naturally, so there you go. The nightrider is a so-called "fairy chess" piece, something that typically only exists in chess puzzles. ...Oh, hey, look, this is a puzzle based on chess! Well, okay then! It moves as a knight can, but can leap more than once, as long as all leaps are in the same direction (think vectors) and all cells it leaps into on the way are empty (think backgammon - each step the piece takes has to "touch down" onto a free spot). For example, pretend the cell to the immediate right of the '0' on the top row had a nightrider. It would be able to "rook" exactly seven cells - its own, two off to the left, and four downward. Obviously, all upward directions leave the grid; the two remaining rightward directions immediately hit walls after just one knight move; heading downward (and angling left) has no problem hopping OVER walls a couple times, but is stopped before it would LAND on one on the leftmost column; the last direction supports two leaps before the grid would be exited.

As it turns out, the nightrider is a frighteningly suitable piece for Totally Rooked. The way it interacts with rooks, grid layouts, and the wall-sharing rule is alarmingly robust. It proved to be no problem whatsoever making the nightriders of an unknown quantity as well as the rooks. What lies below is a stupendously difficult puzzle that acts upon a lot of those revelations. In fact, for a variant of what is often thought of as Nikoli's easiest puzzle type - bar none - this may well be the most difficult puzzle on my journal to date, and perhaps for the forseeable future, as although this is humanly solvable entirely with deductive logic, it is truly right on the border of infeasibility. Good luck - you'll need it. - ZM




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Apr. 5th, 2012

10:50 pm - Amazing

Have you ever heard a song in a public place - say, at a restaurant - and thought it great, but couldn't make out enough of the lyrics (perhaps due to background chatter, a lousy PA system, or bad acoustics - and let's face it, some singers have horrible articulation) to be able to track it down online and learn its title and artist? Sure, every now and then the radio DJ will be remiss in providing that data, but you can usually rest assured the song will play again soon enough; in a restaurant, you're often hosed. You have no idea if or when you may ever hear it again, even if you frequent that place.

Just such a puzzle had been tormenting me for years - a puzzle I could only refer to as "that song I heard in Ruby Tuesday, like, twice". I was never able to nail it down well enough to get an ID off of it once I got back to my computer at work. And keep in mind this was when I had my old job, so when I said "years", I meant it - at least two, bare minimum, since I was unemployed that long.

After work today at my new job, I went to Ruby Tuesday for dinner. And just as I was about to fill in the tip on my receipt right before I leave, that song played. I was fortunate in that the typical dinner crowd hadn't yet arrived in force - I was the only customer not at the bar when I'd first arrived, and there were, what, three other tables occupied when I left? - so I had a better-than-average chance of making out enough of the inflected lyrics to actually be able to identify the song once and for all once I got home.

And that's exactly what I was able to do.

I solved that puzzle today, and I'm quite frankly disco-Kirby-level happy about that. But the best part about it is that the song is playable in its entirety, for free, on the artist's official website - in fact, I've linked to it below (or above, if you're on the comment page right now). So you can hear it for yourself, and even without the years of being tormented by not knowing the source! I've totally lost count of how many times I've played it tonight. It's totally stuck in my head. WHERE IT BELONGS.

This is the first time I've ever really been able to use that 'torment' tag of mine in the past tense. Man it feels good!

ObTeaser (the classic kind): Puzzle 59 is complete and will be here tomorrow. If you've been following me on Twitter, you should already know what surprise it will offer :) - ZM


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Current Music: "Amazing", Alex Lloyd

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