We return to WSC/WPC week in London, UK at the end of the sight-seeing day. That night was the WPC Q&A. I was extremely sleepy. Its a bit irresponsible of me, but I couldn’t really help it and was half asleep for most of the Q&A. Thankfully, misinterpretation or misunderstanding of rules wasn’t a problem in the next two days. There was an impromptu announcement during Q&A about a WPF General Assembly (or maybe it was announced earlier somewhere and I didn’t notice, I confess I was fully engrossed in other activities in the lead up to the Championships and didn’t read the schedule). Either way, I just think that was a bad time-slot to put it in. The WPC was the next morning. If it was, say, the night before sight seeing day, I’d have kept awake somehow and attended. But since it was obviously important to get sufficient rest before the competition, I decided to go sleep. This presented another problem….
To understand this problem, we need to go back to the day before the travel from India. One of our WPC A team members hadn’t received his passport yet (for some reason, he had applied for it almost two months after knowing he was on the team). Since he was scheduled to travel on the 12th and the rest of us were all scheduled to travel on the 10th, I told him to let us know by midnight on 11th whether he’s traveling or not. Thankfully, we had two B team members, and I could slot one of them into the A team in case this member did not receive his passport. On 11th, he confirmed he isn’t participating, and I made the change, and promoted Jayant Ameta, who was the higher ranked participant at the IPC out of the two B team members, to the A team.
On the 12th, however, I received a mail from the team member stating that he received his passport, re-booked a flight and would arrive on the night before the WPC. He requested to be placed back on the A team, but by this point we had discussed strategy, etc. with Jayant and as it would cause too much confusion to wait until the night before the WPC in uncertainty (not to mention it’d be unfair on Jayant), I declined this request. However, this still presented the problem on the night before the WPC, as I felt obligated to stay up and be around for the UK team in case they needed me (all the uncertainty in the lead up left me fearing more uncertainty on the night). I talked about this to the organizing team, and they said they would manage everything. I am very thankful to them for this, and in the morning he had reached and been allocated a room. So that problem resolved itself, and after a nice breakfast, it was time for the WPC to begin. No, not that wpc, the World Puzzle Championship!
Round 1 – Welcome Round (50 minutes) – 420/750. 11/15 solved.
I missed a high pointer Scramble UK (a scrabble-like puzzle) because I can’t spell. The round had some nice UK 2014 themes. It also had some weaknesses for me (including Scramble UK, why did I try that?!). Add to this the fact that I’m a slow starter and it was a recipe for disaster. Even after blitzing through the 80 point Fillomino, I couldn’t salvage the round, breaking a Triangular Minesweeper and getting stuck on both Digitiles (Oh, that’s why I tried Scramble UK. OK).
Round 2 – The Great Outdoors (30 minutes) – 465/450. 7/7 solved, 1:32 minutes before time.
Yay, a bonus! But eh, almost everyone I would consider myself competing with for rankings secured a bonus here. It was a really nice round, showcasing a well-themed, elaborate and fun way to get Simple Loop out of the way. I blitzed through everything except the Running Trail, and would probably have targeted a 15 minute bonus with a clean solve of that one. The puzzle had a path moving through flags, and having equal length between each flag. Determining the length was a simple calculation as the path(loop) must travel through all white cells of the grid. The length required was 11, and for some typically idiotic reason, I calculated it to be 12, and reached an evil contradiction. It took me a typically huge amount of time to figure out the reason for this and change it to 11, after which I blitzed through this one too. Ugh.
Round 3 – Classics (120 minutes) – 1570/1800. 26/29 solved, 25 correct.
This round went predictably well (me, long round, two Tapa, two Yajilin, a Masyu, and so on, bound to be good) and 1670 was my expected total. Unfortunately, I missed a double bridge on Hashi, which cost me 100 points. Again, typically, I chose the highest pointer for this error.
In spite of this, by this stage I was building a gap between the other members of the Indian team. Rohan had had a great Round 1, but started falling behind after it. Swaroop was steadily scoring just below Rohan and Jayant was doing ok for a debutant. Our placements relative to each other had already started forming the pattern that would stay on until the eventual rankings. Either way, that’s 3 rounds that could’ve gone better, to say the least (learn to spell, learn to count, don’t leave out double bridges. Important lessons for any aspiring puzzler out there). Anyway, after a break for lunch, there were 4 more rounds:
Round 4 – Latin Squares (60 minutes) – 590/900. 11/17 solved.
I expected to do better here, considering I do well in that other Championship… I broke 2 Fuzulis, Made a mess of some others too, and ended up with a decent score. I think I beat Palmer Mebane on this round, but can’t be sure. Also, I’m horrible at Mathrax.
Round 5 – On Your Own (45 minutes) – 200/600. 5/9 solved, 4 correct.
This was an Instructionless round where I didn’t do well at all (I guess Round 5s are just not for me. Petition to have Round 6 be after Round 4 from next year? Maybe). The rules were to be figured out from solved examples. I have three things to note here –
1. This was a nice way to get Hex Puzzles out of the way as well (All puzzles in this round were Hexed variants).
2. It is always difficult to execute an Instructionless round without clarity issues and nondeductible rulesets. Considering that, this round was really well done, even though I messed it up personally.
3. There was, however, one clarity issue. One of the puzzles had a rule that all cells must be passed, and this rule wasn’t expressly indicated and just implied by the solution having all cells used. Maybe I’m just bitter as I got this wrong because I didn’t obey the cell-usage rule, but probably a valid negative feedback.
Round 6 – Sprint (30 minutes) – 440/600. 14/19 solved.
The reaction to this round was unanimous among the participants I spoke to later – “What on earth were those No Four In A Row puzzles doing on a sprint round?!”. So yeah, there were these 2 50 pointer No Four In A Row (A.K.A. X and O) puzzles, which were either really difficult or required bifurcation. Either way, considering this was not a strength anyway, I struggled badly on them and (at least among the people I spoke with) so did anyone who decided to attempt them. Why attempt them when it wasn’t a strength, you ask? Because on one of the pages was a Walls puzzle, which was probably covered by invisible walls, because I completely missed the page. I forgot they were on this round, and thought the only other option was the Unequal Length Maze, which is an even bigger weakness. I am good at Walls, so this was a big miss and a big disappointment for me. Also a big disappointment? Because I missed these, I thought the only ones I didn’t solve were a No Four In A Row and two Unequal Length Mazes (20+20+50=90). Finding out about the Walls page meant I had missed another 70 points. Ouch.
Round 7 – Table for Four (Team Round) (60 minutes) – 2400/3600. 3/4 solved. 1 horribly messed up in four different colors!
This was another of those rounds with 4 different color pens, like in the WSC, but here we didn’t have to rotate the sheet. There were 4 different sets of clues, oriented differently so everyone could read their own clues normally, and you only had to solve the ones of your color. Communication was much more flexible here though, so we got through fairly quickly with the first Snake Pit puzzle, and the Tetromino and Pentomino puzzles went smoothly too. Then we reached the Battleships. The logic hidden here was really nice with many ‘squares’ restricting where the longer ships can go. Eventually we thought we had eliminated all other possibilities and proceeded with a configuration for the longer ships, but kept reaching a contradiction. In the end we made a quick guess and ended up with extra blue segments. Oops. Anyway, we knew this would be wrong, so it wasn’t a good round, considering many teams had finished. But in perspective of one of our teammates being a debutant, this was ok.
The Next recap will be about WPC Day 2.