Saturday, June 20, 2009

USPC 2009

Update: Well, it turns out I was off by 3 on Window Pain (doh!), but Nick was nice enough not to penalize me for the late submission on Magic Puzzle'Rs - which means I actually ended up with a score of 95 and rank of 105 (about a 50 place drop from last year). Which actually is a bit heartening, because if I didn't make stupid mistakes, a score of 125 would put me at the 44-48 rank and being on top of things really would have netted me a top 20 finish this year. There is hope for 2010!

Well, I knew I probably wouldn't do as well as last year, given the little prep time I had this year. Overall, though, it wasn't bad. I think if I had spent an hour or two reading over the instructions so that I knew what puzzles would be nice to do and strategies to take, (and how to put in the answers) along with being in top shape, I could have scored in the 180 range.

Here's the breakdown:

1. Battleships - I finished this first and very quickly, due to a (correct) early guess on the second cruiser position. I forget my writing scheme, so I had to break out the white-out (doh!).

2. Sudoku - I wasn't really on top of my sudoku game, so I took a crack at this and stalled a few minutes in. I left it alone, came back later, made one guess and extended until I found a contradiction, and then changed it and solved the rest. Took about 20 minutes. (blargh)

3. KenKen - The instructions were somewhat confusing, but I figured out that 2 square cages *could* be multiplication or addition, and 3 square cages *must* be multiplication or addition. It should have been worded differently (ie. 2 square cages can be any operation, but there is a constraint on 3 square cages). Anyway, the singleton 2 helped by forcing the 4+6 on the 10 in the same row. 20 and 40 had to be multiplication, which forced some early numbers, and then there was a bit of casework on the bottom and top rows to get the rest.

4. Sum Thing - I guessed that the center node was the key, since it intersected with 4 pairs of lines - forcing it to be 4. I struggled a bit with placing the rest, until I realized that the 5 had to be in the only unconnected node to the center and it came around nicely.

5. Eminent D'OHmain - In retrospect, rather easy, if a bit time consuming. Probably took me around 15 minutes (after the test) to solve. (which really isn't that much better than my sudoku solve for the same number of points)

6. Switch Cheese - Really easy this time: I got all 10 differences in a few minutes using the good old cut in half, flip over and vdiff.

7. Writer's Block - I initially started looking at 3 down without significant progress and then went to 2 across and filled in everything nicely. Unfortunately I crossed off the MICHENER by accident and messed up the bottom left area. Ended up answering incorrectly. Doh...

8. Corral - I am not a fan of corral puzzles: they take me way too much time - so I left this out, spent about 20 minutes afterwards and still didn't get it. (I think I'm close, though.)

9. Coordinate Pairs - I started by looking at N and its possible pairs. Realized (3,0) was out of the question, as was (2,1) and (4,1), which left (4,2), and resulted in the solution.

10. Triangular Skyscrapers - Looked too complicated - regular skyscrapers is already pushing my point/minute rate - so I left this one alone. It took me about 30 min to get afterwards, once I was able to fix the positions of the 8 and 7's.

11. Window Pain - Halfway through counting, I realized what I was doing and sped things up a bit. I think the strategy here is to look at different sizes of squares and figure out possible positions for the upper left corner. Take the number of valid x-coordinates and multiply by the number of valid y-coordinates to get the solution. Bit annoying to add everything together.

12. Masyu - Spent 1 minute starting, and realized this was a much bigger Masyu than I had done in the past, with no real recent practice, so I left this one alone. I spent about 40 min afterward resolving everything but the middle of the right side, which probably would have been a good place to start. Still unsolved. (but I think I'm close)

13. C Note - I didn't have a good strategy for this one, so I left it alone. Afterwards, I realized you could start with the middle row, since exactly 2 of the 3 givens have to be ones digits. Some casework results in 56 for the middle of the right column, and some guessing led me to the answer. Also about 20 min.

14. Lucky Sevens - No complaints, but seemed real familiar. Actually in the same format as 2003 - 8. Unlucky Sevens - with many of the same words.

15. 2-3 Maze - I wasted about 20 min darkening unusable squares, screwed up a couple times, but eventually got the answer. Probably could have saved a bit of time, but oh well.

16. Sweet Sixteen - I have some intuition about trying to fit the middle 6 numbers, but never found a workable solution after some 20 minutes post-test.

17. Yajilin - Did a little bit, messed up - figured it was the same situation as Masyu (larger than expected and little practice), so I left it alone.

18. Wolves and Sheep in Fences - Also not a fan of fences.

19. Magic Puzzle'Rs - ARGH: spent over an hour trying to fit things in. I realized early that Merrell was key - since it had to be placed diagonally. I wasted about 20 minutes of trying to fit it in until I realized it would fit in the other diagonal location. Then wasted another 30 minutes trying to fit in the 7-letter names to no avail. Came back with about 25 minutes left and solved with 6 seconds to spare, but then spent 17 seconds to put in the answer. (Hey Nick, can you number the columns for me next time?) Overtime, but worth the penalty for the 10 extra points (20 for solving, -10 for overtime)

20. SuDOUku - Worked on it for a few minutes - screwed up - then solved afterwards in about 25 minutes, which is pretty good for the points award. DOH. The key was realizing which empty cells forced 2 of one number in a column or row, which then required no collisions in all other columns/rows. For instance, there is a forced 4 collision in column 7 or 8, which means all other columns contain exactly one 4, which can be placed in row 1 for column 6, which conveniently also means all the collisions for 4 are known (row, column, cell). The tricky part is realizing that there are 2 collisions for 7 along rows, columns, and cells.

21. Di-Agony - Haven't tried it and no real intention to, either...

22. Four Square - Spent about 10 minutes post test looking at some clues, but I've never really seen Snake before, so I left this alone.

23. Inside/Outside Corral - Remember what I said about Corral?

Results: I think 100 points. (Hopefully I counted correctly for 11.) I probably should've gotten 125 points (-15 for 7. and -10 for 19.) Again, if I had been able to prep and were in practice, probably could have also squeezed in KenKen, C Note, and SuDOUku for another 50 points. Ideally, maybe also Masyu or Yajilin, but I'm ok with trying to the potential 175 mark I think is doable for next year. (with appropriate point scaling)

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