Start by opening the croco-puzzle.de site.
So this is the front page of croco-puzzle.de. "Nicht angemeldet" at the top-right shows that I am not logged in, and centre-right gives me the option to log in. If you haven't registered for the site, select the fifth tab, the Benutzerkonto link.
This page lets you log in. As you might expect, the little tick-box beneath the username and password is a "remember me" option. If you haven't registered for the site, select the "Benutzerkonto anlegen" link.
Pretty much what you might expect here: pick a username, a password, confirm it and then supply a real e-mail address. You will then get an e-mail inviting you to register for the site. Follow the link in the e-mail, log yourself back in to the account that you have created and head back to the Benutzerkonto page.
The top boxes here let you change your password if you like, and the next section is about e-mail and your personal identity. Further down the page:
OK, this is the trickiest bit, and even this isn't too hard. If you want to solve the Überraschungsrätsel puzzle on the day it's set, and have your performance monitored and ranked, you need to tick the Highscoretabelle box. You can find translations of the rest online, for instance using Google Translate, preset for German to English. At the bottom of the page:
You can rate different puzzle styles according to how much you like them. In order to make changes, like having your selection of the Highscoretabelle box registered, you must enter your password (your old password, if you've changed it) into the bottom box and press the big blue button.
So now you're registered, and would like to solve some puzzles! Press the Rätselspaß button in the fourth tab.
There are lots of different sections with lots of different puzzles, but in this walk-through we will concern ourselves with the top two. The first one is about prize puzzles.
Translate, translate... oh, that's cool - all the correct participants to last week's prize puzzle won a five-euro online shop voucher! Cha-ching! Don't expect this to happen every week, though; normally only three participants win prizes. Scrolling down this page:
Here are the names of the weekly puzzle types, and a little about the size and style of the puzzle. Only the last puzzle represents an active prize contest; the other links above it represent the previous weeks' prize puzzles, which are useful as an archive of examples of different puzzle types. You can also see the prize puzzles from previous years as well. Let's look at the Gebietssummen puzzle, number 39, and click on that link. Give the Java applet a little time to load, and refresh your browser if necessary, and you'll get a puzzle like this:
This puzzle requires you to fill the boxes with the digits 1 to 6 so that each row contains each number once, each column contains each number once and the different shapes have numbers which add up to the specified total. It's basically a 6x6 Killer Sudoku without the subsidiary 2x3 (or 3x2) boxes as an extra constraint. The Preisratsel puzzles tend to be relatively simple examples of the genre. I'll go into all the specifics of the user interface later.
((ETA: You are also allowed to repeat digits within the shapes in a Gebietssummen puzzle, but you can't in a Killer Sudoku.))
For now, let's get back to the main event, the Überraschungsrätsel puzzles. You can get there through the second link on the Rätselspaß page (see four pictures above), or through the Überraschungsrätsel link in the box at the left. Again, wait for the applet to load.
This page lets you start playing the daily Überraschungsrätsel puzzle, but we'll come back to that. For now, we'll explore the other Überraschungsrätsel-related pages. The first link under Überraschungsrätsel puzzle on the left, Highscoretabelle, probably translates to "high-score table".
So today's puzzle is a Heyawake, and the fastest solvers in the world can crack it in a minute or two. Scrolling further down:
Even the slower solvers aren't spending too too long on this. The "Fehlversuch" figures refer to occasions on which solvers have attempted to submit an incorrect solution and been hit with a five-minute penalty, so (for instance) Siti1 took 3 minutes and 5 seconds, but had 10 minutes added for two incorrect attempts. Let's go back to the top of the page and pick the second link under Überraschungsrätsel puzzle on the left, "Ratingliste". Guess what that is?
This list shows the highest overall ratings for solving Überraschungsrätsel puzzles over the years. As discussed yesterday, the top solver, uvo, or seven-time World Puzzle Champion Ulrich Voigt, has a preposterously high overall rating. (You can also see he's tried 604 daily puzzles over the years and got very nearly all of them right.) Scrolling further down:
There I am! #450 in the world, with an overall rating of 129. ashu and ThinkBig, I'm coming for you. Keep scrolling further and further down:
Everybody starts here, and #450 makes more sense in context when it's 450 out of 558. So pretty near the bottom, but moving up. You can also see that the fastest solution to today's puzzle took 79 seconds and the median solution took 288 seconds. OK, I get the impression that today's puzzle is not going to be too much puzzle for me to want to solve it today. However, before we do, let's scroll back up and click on my name:
This graph shows changes in my rating over time; when your rating is as low as mine, it's quite easy to gain several points from a single puzzle, but you can't lose more than a point or two. The green and red lines show rolling averages over the last 50 and 200 distinct ratings, and the red line is used for the purpose of awarding kyu and dan titles. Scrolling down:
As well as getting an overall rating, you get a rating for each of the puzzle types. As you can see, I'm not great at Heyawake puzzles, and rather better at - say - Tapa and Sternenhimmel puzzles. There's not much of a sample size, though.
Enough of this; let's go and try to solve a puzzle and earn some points. Let's go back to the top and click the Überraschungsrätsel link in the box on the left, to reload this page:
From now on, until specified, all the clicks are going to be in the Java applet itself. The square box on the left, numbered one, will present the instructions to the puzzle. Clicking it produces this:
These are the rules to Heyawake, in German. I wasn't familiar with Heyawake before playing them here, but the puzzle has its own Wikipedia page, which explains (and discusses) the puzzle type in English. Quoting Wikipedia, here are the rules:
Rule 1: Painted cells may never be orthogonally connected (they may not share a side, although they can touch diagonally).
Rule 2: All white cells must be interconnected (form a single polyomino).
Rule 3: A number indicates exactly how many painted cells there must be in that particular room.
Rule 4: A room which has no number may contain any number of painted cells (including the possibility of zero cells).
Rule 5: Where a straight (orthogonal) line of connected white cells is formed, it must not contain cells from more than two rooms - in other words, any such line of white cells which connects three or more rooms is forbidden.
If you haven't solved a Heyawake before, you may well want to find some other Heyawake puzzles to practice on elsewhere on the web, before you take this one "for real". In this case, the English-language Nikoli site has a really good walk-through of the puzzle type, and some sample puzzles to try as well. Other web sites do similar things, but for this puzzle type, I happen to prefer Nikoli to (for instance) Heyawake at Seth Weiss's site or Heyawake at janko.at. Your opinion may well vary, of course, and I'm very glad that there are so many different places to try.
I won't assume you know how to solve a Heyawake when I continue this walk-through. In short, it's a puzzle about recognising some standard puzzle patterns, following their implications logically and possibly trying some alternatives and following through the alternatives' logical implications. It's quite a fun puzzle.
The "Anleitung" and "Bedienung" links show information about how to solve Heyawake puzzles using the croco-puzzle.de interface. The "Zuruck zum Ratsel" link returns to the Überraschungsrätsel main menu, and I'll click it next.
Starting to solve the puzzle is a two-step process. First you have to click the middle box, numbered 2, which starts the timer at the server; once you have done so, you are committing to taking part in the puzzle that day and will be penalised for never getting around to submitting the correct answer. Then, once you have started the timer, click the "3. Starten" button on the right - and you can get to solving the puzzle.
This is that day's Überraschungsrätsel puzzle. Note, at bottom middle, there are black, blue, yellow and pink boxes, and the black box has a white border around it. This means that when you fill cells into the grid, you'll be doing so using black ink. OK, instantly we can fill a few boxes in, based on rules 1 and 3 above, as follows:
After that, I'm a bit stuck. Better solvers than me may well not be stuck at this point, though. ((ETA: For instance, consider the square one to the right and one down of the black 2; if it too were X rather than black, this would mean three consecutive rooms of empty cells in that column.))
I know that rule 3 and rule 1 suggest that there are only two ways that the 2x2 "2" room can be filled in, so I'll start work from there. As I'm not sure, I'm going to click the light blue box, try one of the two possible ways to fill that one room, then make some logical deductions from there and fill some other cells in, based on all five rules.
Seems plausible, but I'm a bit stuck again now. That 2x3 "2" room seems worth further investigation, particularly as there are only two ways of filling it in. Let's change to orange ink, try one of those ways and make some more logical deductions from there.
If you start glazing over at this point and not really following what's going on with the rules of the puzzle, don't worry about it. Just enjoy the narrative.
You can also see a cell I've filled in with red ink, and I have a problem. If it's filled in, then I break rule 2 - the crossed-out square to the left is cut off from the rest of the world. If it's empty, then I break rule 5 - the chain of empty squares spans three rooms. I have messed up. Using the "loschen" link next to a coloured box removes all the marks in that particular colour, so I'll remove the red marking, remove the orange markings, try the other way to fill in that room I was looking at before and go from there.
Nuts, that doesn't work either; the same thing goes wrong in another place. Again I have filled in the cell where it all goes pear-shaped in red ink. OK, let's go back a bit further; perhaps the way I tried filling in the 2x2 "2" room was wrong after all. Let's erase the red, orange and blue markings, fill that 2x2 "2" room in the other way and have another go from there.
It doesn't work either. The cell to the lower left of the red square is where it breaks down, in exactly the same way as before. OK, perhaps I was right about the 2x2 "2" room before and my mistake was somewhere else. Let's put the 2x2 "2" room back the way it was and try again. Given that the problems always seemed to occur just to the right of the black-marked squares, how about if I try to solve towards them next - solve "to the right" instead of solving "down", if you will - to see if I can get that tricky bit sorted out and hoping that the rest is a bit easier?
Now that's working better, and I've filled just about all the grid in by now. I might be wrong here, because I'm working from memory, but I think the "Anleitung" link takes you back to those information pages, and the "Ruckgangig" link acts as a sort of mega-undo, clearing ((ETA: the last big change you did. For instance if you cleared markings of the wrong colour by mistake, you could redo them all at a stroke. It is possible to Ruckgangig-undo a Ruckgangig-undo, too.)) Let's try something to see if we can fill in the last few cells of the puzzle.
OK, that seems plausible, and a quick check doesn't show it to be obviously breaking any of the rules. The "all white cells must be interconnected" rule is equivalent to "there mustn't be a diagonal chain of black cells from one side to another side", and I can't see any chains of empty cells three or more rooms long. I think I've cracked it, and will submit my solution using the "Testen" button.
It's all gone blue, which means it's correct! Hooray! If I had an error before I pressed "Testen" then that's the point at which I would have had the five-minute Fehler penalty applied, and the errant cells would have been highlighted in red. Let's continue to let it flash in happy blue.
And here you can see that the server has successfully been contacted, and my time of 22 minutes and 28 seconds has been passed on. Is that any good, I wonder? Let's follow the Highscoretabelle link and look down the high-score table until my performance appears:
No, it isn't much good! I'm #271! I'm #271! Still, there were some slower solvers - admittedly, not very many - and I managed not to make any incorrect solutions on the way. It probably would have been a bit quicker if I hadn't been stopping to take screen grabs and if we hadn't been watching "Man Vs. Food" in the background; not much quicker, probably - maybe 18 minutes instead of 22? - but that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. I don't really think jochschr took over two hours to solve the puzzle - more likely, she or he started the puzzle, gave up on it, started again two hours later and the time reflects the gap between the time they started first time and the time at which they finally submitted a correct answer.
So, the big question: what that done to my overall rating and position in the global charts? Back to the top and the Ratingliste link to find out:
Previously I was 450th with an overall rating of 129; my solution was so slow and thus so poorly-rated that I'm still 450th, but now with an overall rating of 127. Nuts!
If this sounds like fun to you, or the process of learning new puzzles so that you can be rated for them appeals, then you really should consider give croco-puzzle.de a try. I think it's great, and admire the low degree of commitment that the site requires. The single biggest tip I'd have is - particularly if you're not a very confident solver - make sure to look at the high-score table to find out what type the day's puzzle is, and how long it might take you, before you decide to commit to trying to solve it. Today's puzzle is a Killer Sudoku which has a median solving time of over half an hour, so, yeah, that's one I'll not be trying. Perhaps tomorrow's puzzle may be more to my taste!
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