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The road to Hungary - Many a mickle maks a muckle

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May 25th, 2005


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10:04 pm - The road to Hungary
addedentry, bateleur, bopeepsheep, daweaver, dezzikitty, dr4b, dumbgenius, foppe, gwendolyngrace, imc, jvvw, len, mr_babbage, oinomel71, pchou, rhiannon333, songmonk, strangefrontier, tall_man, themightyuser, uqx, whipartist, xnera, zorac and Peter Sarrett, I'm calling y'all out... (and anyone else who wants to be called out, of course!)

The fourteenth World Puzzle Championships will take place in Eger, Hungary between the 12th and 17th 8th and 13th (whoops!) of October this year, the week after The Witching Hour. You can represent your country, if you can make the grade. This year, you have a better chance than ever of being at the main event: "If you do not make your national team, you can still be at the event as guest or as member of an unofficial B-team (you can compete like all the others, but your results will not be listed in the official results)." I've been to three World Puzzle Championships and blogged live from the most recent one.

Finding out about your country's selection test is sometimes a little easier said than done; the puzzle ratings blog mentioned the Dutch qualifying competition, for instance. However, parts of the UK, US and Canadian teams are selected by the Google US Puzzle Championship, the biggest and most famous qualifying competition of them all. Safe to say, wherever you are in the world, a strong performance in the US qualifier is likely to catch the selector's eye. If your country doesn't have a formal team - ringbark, you would be solving from New Zealand at the time and could probably represent them if you liked - then you can use this to knock up at least part of a national team with yourself on it. Brits, the standard required isn't that high - I was able to qualify twice, after all! - and there's a free holiday, one of the best holidays of your life, at stake. (If that wasn't enough, the fact that Google sponsor the event and will be impressed by strong competitors as potential employees doesn't hurt...)

The other reason why you should be interested is that it's just plain fun. Two and a half hours to complete as many of the fiendish, imaginitive and interesting logic puzzles on the paper that you can. Two and a half hours is enough that you can really get into it and eliminate distractions from behind; it's not so long as to be inaccessible. The paper will probably have about fifteen or twenty puzzles on it; the puzzles are hard, and last year's median (half-way-up) US score was about 82 points out of 432, so about 19%. Every single puzzle answered is a little triumph. They're not knowledge puzzles, they're not language puzzles, anyone can do them - cold hard logic, coupled with imagination to work out the winning technique. It's also free to take part, too! Tell your friends!

Put the date in your diary: Saturday June 18, 2005 at 1pm ET - 10am Pacific time, 6pm British time. Make sure you register at least two days in advance. Look, British folk, if you've been at all amused by the current Su Doku craze, try this - this has more imagination and variety than a month of daily columns. If you like solving Su Doku, you'll love solving these.

If you're keen, the best way to get practice (or, the other way to look at it - the other way to get lots of fun puzzles to solve!) is the archive of the previous six online qualifying tests, with answers. The precise puzzle formats change from year to year, which is part of the reason why they're so good, but the flavour remains the same. I think things have broadly got tougher over the years, so start with the 1999 event and have a concentrated stab at it. Don't worry about the time limit, just try to solve as many as you can. (You'll get faster with practice!) If you're really struggling, here are discussions of solution techniques for the 1999 and 2000 qualifying tests - you'll see that they are hard, but definitely possible.

Bank on hearing about this here at least, ooh, once or twice more before the qualifying test itself on Super Saturday. Now get solving!
Current Mood: hopefullookin' forward to it!

(38 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:verlaine
Date:May 25th, 2005 03:19 pm (UTC)
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Heh. I have signed up for this, as an American, in the hope of being able to contribute to the utter destruction of your puny nation ;)
[User Picture]
From:oinomel71
Date:May 25th, 2005 03:36 pm (UTC)
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There are many reasons why I shouldn't say this, but... heck, we can do *that* perfectly well on our own. Jeez, you should see us some years... :-)
[User Picture]
From:imc
Date:May 26th, 2005 11:40 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]
From:oinomel71
Date:May 25th, 2005 03:38 pm (UTC)
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Good shout. Is your shift pattern remotely compatible with another trip out east?
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:May 25th, 2005 09:08 pm (UTC)
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Theoretically so, if I were to leave immediately after the finals on finals day, make my way to the airport at top speed, Easyjet it back from Budapest to Newcastle and not mind about not having too much sleep the night before a set of day shifts.

In practice, if I'm going to The Witching Hour, which I assume I will be (and I hope I will get the final confirmation that I have arranged the shift swap for time off to attend it today) then I won't want to go to both.

Actually, I've just spotted that my dates are wrong in my post - I have the dates from last year's event. Bugger. Let me correct them.
From:mr_babbage
Date:May 25th, 2005 03:42 pm (UTC)
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Nuts, I'm on holiday that Saturday. I was really going to enter it this year too.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:May 25th, 2005 09:10 pm (UTC)
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Do the paper when you get back. The UK selectors are trusting. Usually. It's at least as much fun, anyway.
From:quidditchmaster
Date:May 25th, 2005 04:22 pm (UTC)
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Yayayayay! *marks date down*

They're still sponsoring the trip for US team members, yes?
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:May 25th, 2005 09:12 pm (UTC)
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I couldn't confirm that for sure, but it doesn't look like they're not and I can't think of any reasons why not.

Your usericon makes me think of a Katamari Damacy ball o'perverts.
[User Picture]
From:mewcenary
Date:May 26th, 2005 01:18 am (UTC)
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I am rubbish at puzzles. Nooooooooo.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:May 26th, 2005 01:16 pm (UTC)
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I am very far from world class (clue: look almost at the bottom). :-)

Still enjoy the puzzles greatly, though. I reckon there are puzzles out there that you would enjoy, if you were to find them.
[User Picture]
From:bateleur
Date:May 26th, 2005 02:39 am (UTC)
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I won't be getting involved with that. At least not this year.

Thing is, whilst I admire the purity of the puzzles, this is very much like the Maths Olympiad. However much we all wish otherwise, the puzzles conform to standard types and scores depend heavily on the familiarity of the contestants with the range of puzzle archetypes.

At the highest level, it's a pretty good test of puzzle solving prowess. Otherwise, like every other game, it favours those who put in the hours over an extended period.

From Matthew's commentary on 1999 puzzle 24:

"I am told that the lone solver is a veteran member of the US team and as such has seen enough Letter Bourses that he could solve them in his sleep."

'nuff said.
[User Picture]
From:jvvw
Date:May 26th, 2005 03:58 am (UTC)
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I'm not convinced that scores in the Maths Olympiad depended that heavily on familiarity with a range of puzzle archetypes. The people I know who got into the British team and did well are genuinely better mathematicians than me not just people with a greater familiarity with the type of problems.

A certain amount of familiarity helps in the sense that without it, you probably don't stand a chance, but you can certainly have that familiarity and not be able to do the problems.

I'd say it's a bit like the difference between getting the top upper second and the top first in exams at Oxford. You almost certainly won't get the top first without working through some old exam papers, but working through old exam papers, working hard and being bright enough to have been selected by the university in the first place probably won't guarantee you more than an upper second.
[User Picture]
From:jvvw
Date:May 26th, 2005 03:59 am (UTC)
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Is it embarrassingly public if you do badly?
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:May 26th, 2005 01:33 pm (UTC)
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Grr argh! Firefox inadvertently net-reset itself. Bad Firefox, losing my 150+-word reply.

In short, see http://wpc.puzzles.com/history/tests/uspc03/results-full.htm and decide whether you would be embarrassed. I certainly don't intend to embarrass participants who try and perform modestly. At a pinch, take the test under timed conditions but outside the official entrance mechanism; a very high score might be considered for selection - at least, there is some precedent of the UK team having included such thinking, though I wouldn't want to prejudge the selectors this year.

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