For my first post under this new banner, I will concentrate on the subset of one-player games known as puzzles. The organisation responsible for the Indian entry into the World Puzzle Championship and World Sudoku Championships, Logic Masters India, are holding their "Evergreens II" puzzle contest online this weekend; I took part today and enjoyed it greatly.
You can choose when you wish to start the contest; at this point, you are given a password to decrypt the .pdf file containing the puzzles and you are allowed 80 minutes to submit answers to as many of those puzzles as you like. Submissions are permitted until 23:59 GMT on the 5th of September, i.e. 00:59 BST on the 6th of September, 19:59 EDT on the 5th of September, 16:59 PDT on the 5th of September or your local equivalent; you have a little under twenty-seven hours left to take part, as I type. The title, "Evergreens II", refers to the fact that the puzzles are evergreen, classic puzzle formats; there are some neat variations, but also some unashamedly relatively famous types as well.
There are two reasons why I would particuarly recommend the test:
1) It is deliberately intended to be more accessible than, say, the US Puzzle Championship or most other World Puzzle Championship qualifying events. There are twenty-five puzzles in the test and it is intended that a world-class solver can complete them all with time to spare. This means that even a very moderate recreational solver, like me, can find plenty to get their teeth into, and 80 minutes is not an overwhelming commitment. (I solved seven puzzles in 80 minutes, and managed to enter solutions for five of them correctly. There were a couple of others that I didn't solve, but enjoyed getting close on as well.) Experienced solvers might consider them to be speedwork, but experienced solvers know about this contest already.
2) LMI deserve encouragement; time-limited puzzle contests are the only ones that I am motivated enough to spend thought and effort on these days, LMI have a good user interface for running such tests, the format that permits you to compete at a time of your choice is an unusually flexible and convenient one (*), they produce interesting material with admirable frequency and it's admirable that they do run competitions with less competitive solvers in mind, as well as aiming to entertain the usual suspects. I don't have time for (even inadvertent) snobbery when it comes to puzzle difficulty and consider the words "hard" and "easy" to be relative at best; for me, this contest succeeds at being "as much fun as possible for as many people as possible", recognising that the potential participant base will always be self-selecting.
(*) Admittedly it does present the potential for cheating, by virtue of the ability to see the questions and work on them before your 80 minutes starts - but if you want to cheat on a puzzle test badly enough, you'll find ways to do it anyway.
The standard is such that if you enjoy - say - newspaper sudoku, but don't necessarily consider yourself particularly expert at them, then you are likely to find puzzles here with both a difficulty level and originality that you will enjoy. You don't need to be an ARG-level puzzle solver, let alone a MIT Mystery Hunt level solver, to enjoy yourself here. Even if you've never entered a puzzle contest before, or if you haven't entered one for years, do have a look; I have set you a target to beat of 85 points. Here you go; now go have a go!
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