But I mean, I'm feeling really good about how we've been doing at events lately. It's funny because I'd gotten used to being part of a team (Liboncatipu) known for being one of the top teams in Seattle, but down here I feel like people are still surprised when Ducky Charms does really well in things. (But we've been one of the top teams in pretty much every event we played in this year.) My team won Palantir's hunt in early November, and won the Iron Puzzler in late November as well, and there were plenty of the usual suspects around to beat out in those. We were 2nd or 3rd place in the final Shinteki Decathlon depending on how you count as well. I dunno. This past week Chris and I went to Puzzled Pint with just the two of us and finished all 7 puzzles in under an hour. I still certainly enjoy it, but there are times where I have to remind myself that "these only seem easy because you have been doing this for 12 years." and also to keep perspective when we're feeling like "we can't solve this, it must be broken" (though Iron Puzzler is, of course, the exception to that).
I still think it's a good stretch when we have puzzle events every 2 weeks for a while, though.
On Oct 17 we played in the Mastermind Hunt with Corey and Melinda. It's funny, I go into every Mastermind Hunt with an expectation of something being broken, and this was no exception. Worse, this time it wasn't the puzzle that was broken so much as it was the staff that was broken - they told us to leave a site when we didn't have all of the information necessary to solve a puzzle. Very frustrating. (It was a boat display in the window of a game store on Pier 39, and there were strings of nautical flags hanging which spelled out the instructions; the staff member handed us a sheet of paper with the positions of the boats and said "This is all you need, you don't need to stay here", which was patently not true, as there were also pluses and minuses on the boats which were integral to the puzzle.) Turns out we wouldn't have won anyway because we screwed up another answer, but the taste in my mouth from that hunt was unfortunately all about the one puzzle mishap, since that's pretty much how we spent the last hour -- trying to figure out what to do with this puzzle that seemed broken because we just hadn't gotten the information from the site, and we weren't about to go back a mile to get it at that point, though we did work out an info trade with Dan and Doug. It's a shame, because up to that point it was pretty fun; we were mostly just doing the wander-around-SF-looking-for-stuff thing, and I do think puzzles are always a great excuse to get out on a nice day with friends and be active.
So on Oct 24 we played in the Telegraph Hill BANG. Chris signed us up while I was in Japan and organized, which meant that it ended up being only me and Chris and Sean. I think we were 5th or 6th place. I can't even remember any particular things that slowed us down, puzzle-wise; everything was fairly solid and all involved Morse code in some way or another. Even though I have the Morse alphabet memorized, there were a few that tested my brain on that (one involved all sorts of operations to letters, like reversing or flipping or shifting (like L flipped is Y because .-.. becomes -.--) which turned out to be really hard for me to do mentally for some reason). We did have to climb up to the Coit Tower from the Embarcadero, which really sucked. I did that climb a few years ago with Takuma and Kosuge and was clearly in much better shape back then because I don't remember it being nearly as awful. One funny thing about the day was that the opening "activity" had asked teams to show up wearing either solids, stripes, or spots (for a Morse activity, being stripes as dashes and spots as dots). Our team got spots. But we weren't sure what to do about that since none of us own spotted clothing. So Chris and I put little Chrome stickers all over our Ducky Charms shirts to be spots.
The stickers kept falling off anyway, so halfway through the day I started "chroming" the GC staffers. Every start code had an O in it, so I'd take off one of my Chrome stickers and put them in the O.
At the end of the day we were hanging out at the final location. Richard had mentioned to me that Palantir was doing a hunt on nov 7th at Stanford, which he had discovered while looking at their Berkeley hunt. So, since we were standing there, and Bruce was talking to Sean, I was like "Well, we have 5 of us right here, why don't we be a Palantir team?"
So I went home that night and registered us. I also invited my friend Ken to come play since the team limit was 6 and Glenn was busy. Ken works at Google and we met in the ballroom dance club, but he's also into board games and puzzles and stuff, and I had him join our Berkeley Mystery Hunt team the past two years since he's a recent grad from there and ostensibly could help us get around campus (but in reality he is a pretty solid puzzler. I feel bad because he said that as an undergrad he'd try to do the hunt and his friends would flake out on him), and so I've been trying to invite him to puzzle events when I can; he also joined us when we did the Houdini escape room back in September.
Nov 7th was the Palantir Stanford hunt. They run it from noon to 6pm or so, with lunch beforehand and dinner afterwards since it's technically a recruiting event for college students so they have budget for all kinds of stuff (but they let some non-student teams play too, which is nice of them). I think in past years it's been in Octoberish, but this time it was in Novemberish, with sunset at 5pm or so. Anyway, the crazy nutso thing here was that we completely blasted this hunt. I mean, every single puzzle, we'd find some way to shortcut it. Like we'd have three letters and say "LAS? Must be LASERS!" and enter that. Some were even worse offenders of having like 3 out of 8 letters and nutrimaticking out an answer (I think we did that having D_C___P_ and figured out DUCKTAPE from that). Apparently we also just got lucky in some -- like there was a thing with transparencies and squares and words and stuff, and I immediately said "we're making a QR code", and I was also lucky in that my weirdo Japanese QR code reader app managed to read the thing on the first try -- afterwards a lot of teams said they had a lot of trouble getting it to read even after they had the whole thing done. We short-circuited a Lego-themed puzzle by basically knowing letter sets based on the position of some squares and coming up with valid words. We paralellized things really well too. Almost every puzzle had some moment where someone would finish up the part they were doing only to find out that we'd just solved the entire thing from letter-guessing. I dunno. The puzzles were actually totally decent puzzles, just that since they were meant for college students and not necessarily superpuzzlers, we were able to blaze through them like that.
Towards the end of the day, we were That Team that arrived at every site first and left before any other team got there, and pushed GC to arrive early for us. One of the sites was outside a gym, and we arrived at the same time as GC and basically said "well we'll go to the bathroom while you set up?" and did so. And then we finished the puzzle and were talking to the GC guy, who told us to wait until the next site opened -- he was asking about other puzzle events and I said "Oh, you should see puzzlehuntcalendar.com", and he's like "What's that?" and I said "It's a website that lists puzzle hunts like this but all over the place -- in about 2-3 minutes the Burninators will show up here and a guy in a Trogdor shirt, that's Dan, he runs the site. I think this hunt was on it too?" And sure enough, about 2 minutes later the Burninators showed up, and GC guy was like "How did you know that was going to happen?" and I said "Well, usually WE'RE 10 minutes behind THEM... this is a weird day."
We finished the final meta before 4pm.
Sean went off to hang out with some of his friends at Stanford for a little while, and in the meantime we weren't (well, Chris wasn't) sure if we wanted to hang out until the endgame. Dinner wasn't going to show up until 5:30pm and prizes weren't going to be until 6:30, which seemed like a long time to be there with nothing to do (and we hadn't brought games or anything). But then, like... the Burninators wandered over to our table, as did LXP, and so we compared notes about the day and then people started telling funny stories about other puzzle things going on (the SUMS puzzle hunt was going on at that time, which I think Wei-Hwa and Derek were both playing in). And so we hung out and talked puzzles. And it got dark. And so we got out our flashlights and put them out on the table like candles. And eventually food did show up, and we got sandwiches and continued nerding out about puzzles and other things. Bruce said it was like "puzzle hunt camp", kinda like space camp.
Sure enough, we won! (And LXP and Burninators were 2nd and 3rd place). Of course, this year the prizes were not towels but instead were water bottles. Not nearly as interesting. There were frisbees for getting the first place time on a puzzle, and we picked up a few of those for our team as well.
Afterwards, Dan invited us over to his house to play boardgames, so we (well, Chris and I) did that! We played a game of Alchemists with Wei-Hwa and Derek, although the main thing I enjoyed about it was having my cellphone check the chemicals, the rest of the game play wasn't as interesting to me. I might get it a little bit more on a second play now that I get the whole picture about how the game works, at least. And then we played a game of Codenames, where one team was Wei-Hwa giving clues to Thomas and Derek, and the other was Chris giving clues to me and Dan. That was pretty fun. It is often weird how things you think are "obvious" associations with words are not obvious at all.
Hm, I'll write about Iron Puzzler some other time.