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The Zotmeister

solving the puzzle of life one entry at a time

Apr. 22nd, 2015

03:50 pm - Puzzle 68: The One Ring

See Puzzle 3 for most of the instructions. I've added two additional elements here (and I lack the time to properly update the full rules to include them right now): when the loop is completed, all green checkmarks must be inside the loop and all red 'X's must be outside the loop.

I was a year late with my "35" puzzle, so I figured I should be a year early with this one. Of course, some of you may have seen this a year even earlier, as it was a perk in my IndieGogo campaign for my upcoming book. That was, in fact, the reason I crafted it in the first place - otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered. Although I suppose I'm thankful to have endured yet another twelve months, I'm finding little celebratory in this number steadily increasing. Don't expect another one of these six years from now… - ZM


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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

Jun. 8th, 2012

12:58 am - Puzzle 2 - Minecraft Edition


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Current Music: "This Is It", Mel Blanc

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

Mar. 23rd, 2012

01:23 pm - Puzzles 55-8: Polyominous

First off, a reminder (or introduction if you missed it earlier): I'm running a contest right here on my journal right now that technically isn't a puzzle but is very puzzle-like in nature; it's called "Oxendo", and you can check it out with that very link.

Grant Fikes - aliases include "mathgrant", "foxger", and "President of the Zotmeister Fan Club" - some time back in 2008 got sick of waiting for me to make another Puzzlesmith contest (es having missed my first - and so far only - one back in 2005) and decided to open es own reader-submitted puzzle gallery. Since then, four more "Logicsmith Exhibition"s have graced es weblog, and in a surprisingly non-ironic manner, I have managed to miss all but one of those myself... but what is ironic about it is that I kept asking em over and over to do more of them. Especially given that four of them were for Polyominous puzzles - something I consider a specialty of mine (I'd also note that Grant just up and stole my name for them!), I have long thought this a serious problem. Although I still plan on some more Puzzlesmith contests of my own - and eventually getting around to remaking the images for the first one! - I figured I'd take care of this chunk of unfinished business first, and in style: behold, my first puzzle tetraptych!

See Puzzle 7 for instructions.

Puzzle 55

Grant's first Exhibition had a lovely required givens pattern for a ten-by-eighteen grid. Even with only two entries to the original Exhibition - one of which was Grant's emself - I still was surprised no one else did what I did with the grid, something that came to mind pretty much immediately. I'm sure you'll know what I mean when you get to it.

Puzzle 56

This is the one I actually managed to not miss. Grant offered up a smaller grid with a denser required givens pattern in the hopes of pulling in more submissions, and it worked. The astute may notice that my '5's here look different. That's because this image is based off of the one I originally sent to Grant, which is before I started generally using the larger digits, much less finalized my "bigalpha" font. I figured I'd leave it that way for historical purposes.

Puzzle 57

The required givens pattern for es third gallery was so cluster-friendly that I figured I had to do something fairly technical in order to make the resulting puzzle actually interesting. As is hopefully immediately apparent, I'd like to think I succeeded. With apologies to Thomas Snyder, a mindgame: try to guess before you start solving whether any implied polyominoes will require a digit other than '1' or '4' :)

Puzzle 58

Grant's fourth Exhibition is for a different puzzle type - a weird one I have no experience with - and I have no real interest in that at this time. However, es fifth and most recent gallery is arguably even weirder - instead of a givens pattern, the requirement was quantity-based: exactly four of each digit from '1' to '9' (in any rotationally-symmetric pattern). In the write-up, e seemed quite willing to dole out accolades for those squeezing in two-digit implied polyominoes; I have to admit to making this in response, although what exactly I'm trying to say with it I'll leave as an exercise for those who really ought to be doing something else with themselves.

Right, so now that that's done... Logicsmith Exhibition 6, please! - ZM

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Current Music: "Peg", Steely Dan

Jan. 24th, 2012

11:42 am - RESURRECTION!

You know what they say, the third strike is what counts...

- Adam Tensta, "Third Strike 2011"

As of this entry, all fifty-five numbered puzzles are back on my journal(s). Other images - including the Puzzlesmith 1 results - are largely absent; some of those may be returning, but some may well be permanently lost now. Time will tell. The contest puzzles in particular WILL return (I need to recreate the graphic from scratch, though).

ObTeaser (first correct answer gets to pick the type for Puzzle 76): What has exactly two dozen rooms, each with a single captive that is destroyed as soon as it is freed? [Reminder: if you'd like to pick the type for Puzzle 59, that ObTeaser is still unsolved!]

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Jan. 9th, 2012

04:59 pm - State of the Journal Address

Before I begin: the reason I've been putting the 'puzzles' tag on these updates is that many of my readers ONLY read entries with that tag, so I need to do that to keep them in the loop. That's why I've also adopted the ObTeasers, so that there would be some actual puzzly content in these entries... but as there's still one outstanding without even a single guess at it, you're still not getting another one here! Let me sweeten the pot: the first correct solver gets to choose the type of Puzzle 59; there will be some restrictions on that choice for continuity reasons, but it's otherwise a free selection. Bonus credit (of an as yet undetermined nature) will be awarded if answered in spoiler-hiding white, something LJ broke some time ago but still works in DW comments! (Okay, so the DW site skin isn't exactly white, but it's close enough for me.) The reason it'll be 59 is that I'm saving the next four slots for my first puzzle tetraptych! ...Oops, segued into the actual content. So much for "Before I begin".

Puzzle 60 will be substantial - I'll be keeping that much of the tradition going - but this time there will be no vote. It will be a The One Ring. It will likely be my largest AND easiest multiple-of-fifteen puzzle simultaneously. I do expect to reinstate the poll for future substantial offerings.

Puzzles 61 to 67 will be a heptaptych. Some of you may have seen them before, however. It occurred to me that the faster I get from 60 to 75, the sooner I have an incentive to make another big puzzle, and I like making big puzzles. Some of my best puzzles are not among my numbered offerings here, and I've decided I'd like to remedy that. I will pace them out over time for the most part.

But what about the disappearance of the first 54 puzzles, you may well ask. I made the unfortunate discovery that I'm actually missing one of my puzzle images, but it's none of those: it's the one with the results of my first (and so far only, but I'll be fixing that soon) Puzzlesmith contest. Someway, somehow, I managed to never save a local copy of that file. I have, however, located the archive I stored the original entries in and found my own composition for the contest in my notebooks, so I can create a replacement for it (and back it up this time). I shouldn't be missing anything else, and about a third of my puzzles are back up now. I'm still hoping I get a better means of storing them online than Scrapbook. ...Oh, crap. That means...

[ahem] For my fiction fans (say it with me: both of you), it actually just occurred to me that I may have no means of offering font files at present. Thankfully, the website I've borrowed my current offerings from still exists, so for the time being I can just link to their original locations. I don't intend to rely upon this; when I find a decent hosting solution, I'll make my own copies available again. (I suppose I could do something retarded with file extensions to stick them in Scrapbook, but I don't want to have to do that sort of thing and my readers shouldn't have to undo it.)

Presently, however, I'll be taking a break from stressing out over getting my journal back up to snuff and instead start stressing out over the MIT Mystery Hunt coming up this weekend, starting with how on Earth I'll be getting there... As some of you may know, my car was totalled in a collision in October (the second week of my new job!). NOT my fault, by the way. Although I've managed to make arrangements for purchasing another vehicle, it won't be available in time for the Hunt, so I'm, to condense a phrase, paddleless. Hopefully I (or one of my teammates) will think of something. - ZM

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