2017-03-27 12:07 am

Galactic Puzzle Hunt

Maybe my LJ/DW/whatever goal for the year should be to write at least something about all of the puzzle hunts I do this year.

So last week was the Galactic Puzzle Hunt, an all-remote week-long thing, "in the style of SUMS or mezzacotta", which are, of course, hunts I had heard of, but had never done. The idea is that there's some number of puzzles -- in GPH, there were 30 -- released over the course of some number of days -- in GPH, it was over 6 days, 5 puzzles a day -- and there are complicated scoring systems about when you solve the puzzles to determine a winner. GPH's rules were that you got full credit for puzzles no matter when you solved them, but if you took longer than 24 hours on them, you would get an "average adjusted solve time", which was the average time over 24 hours that you took divided by the number of puzzles you solved.

Only four teams solved the entire hunt in the appropriate 24-hour period chunks. We were 11th place since we didn't solve the very last two metas until Wednesday night.

I didn't really know what to expect for this hunt -- when I first heard about it, my inclination was to just plan to print out all 25-30 puzzles over the weekend and get together a bunch of people then to solve them, but I figured that maybe we could at least try the first day or two puzzles and see if it was going to be worth trying to solve them and go for a good score/time. As a result, my team was all people who work at Google MTV (me, Chris, Richard, Ken, Sean) or nearby (Glenn) or work at Google but decided not to actually meet up with us (Channing). I was originally going to recruit 2-3 more people but ended up not doing it. Team limit was 10 and we had 7, so. I figured that with a pool of 7 people we'd end up with an average of 4 who could make it on any given day, which is about what happened.

I reserved a conference room at Google that was close to a cafe and a printer and in a quiet side of the building where we wouldn't disturb anyone, and on Tuesday the 14th we got together to solve.

Actually there are lots of puzzle spoilers within so I should probably cut this just in case, even though the hunt is over now, you could still go look at the puzzles if you wanted. )

Since this was my first time doing one of these hunts, I'm not sure what to think. I mean, I enjoyed having puzzles to do every day, and getting together with my friends to hang out and do puzzles is always fun. But I think we got pretty frustrated later on in the hunt when the slogs and leaps got harder, and I also think people got pretty burnt out after a while. (But only kind of. I mean, you could see us in the conference room later in the evening just like "aaaaaaaaaa what IS this stuff", but at the same time, people were always peeking in at the hunt spreadsheet during work hours and exchanging emails around the clock about solving ideas. So.)

Overall I'm glad we did it -- I'm always complaining there aren't enough puzzle hunts anymore and so I'd be a huge hypocrite for not taking advantage of the ones there are. I'd heard about SUMS/MUMS before but wasn't sure this format would really excite/motivate me (no physical component and not really interacting with other teams), though I think the leaderboard aspect here helped a lot because we kept looking at other teams like "argh, everyone else is solving this, it's clearly solveable, what's wrong with us?"

Ok, well, I've been writing this entry over a couple of days and I'm not sure it's entirely coherent or will even be interesting to anyone besides me. So.