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June 1st, 2003

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05:42 am - Fine day
After the morning's eclipse excitements, the rest of the day has not disappointed. A quick four hours of shut-eye, a shower, a shave and off to Middlesbrough to meet fruufoo for the fourth time and superfi for the first.

We met up at Middlesbrough Train Station, with superfi's train being a positively restrained 7 minutes late. A drive-by quick trip to Forbidden Planet was all that separated us from a trip to Hungry Jacks, even though the queue was longer than I had ever seen it before. We sat outside in the sun by The Bottle Of Notes, a ten year old strange piece of sculpture in the centre of the town which initially attracted attention as a supposed waste of money but won a few awards. Three kids came and used it as a climbing frame, overseen by two presumably-parents. There was much colourful and inventive invective; we particularly liked the kids calling each other "necrophiliac", "bum-sniffer" and "winnet". The kids climbed ever higher up the 35' structure, not least inspired by their mother(?)'s cheerful encouragement of "Keep going, you little fags". At least one of the kids was bawling about the height they had reached, though it was impossible to tell whether the disquiet was genuine or not.

Later, our party of three advanced to the shade, mostly enjoying fruufoo's Encyclopedia of Unusual Sexual Practices. This was sadly not quite as encyclopaedic as I would've liked, but still had a few amusing entries. We particularly liked timeophilia, the attraction to wealth and status, with the note that the Roman Emperor Caligula particularly liked to relax neck-deep in a vault of gold coins. It was noted that so does $crooge McDuck and so the One True Pairing was born. Now we aren't the first to spot the resemblance, but there yet might well soon be an addition to The Erotic Adventures of Scrooge McDuck (disappointingly work-safe link) that even they hadn't thought of. (Oh yes, and $crooge's appearance in the Forbes Fictional Fifteen is funny.)

The other jolly idea we had was to apply the traditions of fandom to the tremendously influential ongoing storylines of the Cambridge Latin Course. Now I don't know how many of you followed the adventures of Caecilius, Metella, Quintus et al (al as an abbreviation of alii - others - rather than as a character called al) but it was a formative introduction to episodic narrative while teaching us Latin as well. The scope for fandom malarky is considerable, not least exploring the evident slashy subtext, getting into flame wars against the Ecce Romani plebes, bizarre interdimensional crossovers through time and space and the like. We all know what sort of hanky-panky the Roman Emperors got up to, not least after reading the glorious detail of the above-mentioned encyclopedia, so there's no reason why the ordinary citizens couldn't get up to as much fun.

As it happens, there is a fab colourful new fourth edition of the series replacing the old one at the moment and a little search finds it for a vaguely reasonable £9.25 + P&P from amazon.co.uk. Have a look at some sample pages from the North American edition; if you can read this 2MB PDF without it crashing, you might be as amused as I was by the tale on page five. Sundry minor characters ejaculate euge! at each other and one of them says quid tu dicis. I have a sudden desire to translate that as "What you say?" and try to translate all the rest of All Your Base Are Belong To Us into Latin, but that's just me.

Other highlights of the trip included a trip to another of Middlesbrough's trendy pubs which I would never otherwise visit were it not for these fascinating ladies leading me astray and discussion of lots of Japanese animation of which I currently have virtually no concept. A lot of fun, some extremely clement weather and an excellent reminder of the fact that you really can't get an idea about how people are in real life from reading their LiveJournal. The two of them might both kill me for this, but superfi behaved a lot more like how I would have expected phoenix_dru to do from her LiveJournal and vice versa. The three of us shall have to meet soon so the two of them can exact a joint revenge on me for this most sweeping of statements.

After that, a quick check on LJ and a quick lie-down before the World Puzzle Championship.

You've probably already seen mention of the problems with this year's online qualifying test - specifically, the password wasn't posted until about thirteen minutes after the scheduled start of the test. (The server was running about three minutes fast all day and so the official figure was 16 minutes, but the offset was at least consistent throughout.) I had done no particular preparation at all for this year's qualifying test, despite some well-laid plans. I'll discuss the questions now, which will probably only make much sense if you're familiar with them. (They're still downloadable if you're interested.)

#1 was a completely standard Battleships problem. I solved this in five minutes, but remember feeling that with practice - and battleships are fun problems to practice - I could probably have shaved a minute or two off that time.

#2, "Pentomino Division", was pretty standard. There must be a swifter solution technique than mine, which was to work out all the possible pairs and use trial and error to determine which was accurate. This took maybe 10-15 minutes for 5 points - not so good.

#3, "Making Change", had a clever twist in the tail. I didn't spot this in my first three minutes, but got it in about five minutes second time around.

#4, "Dutch Treats", was a reasonably standard incomplete wordsearch. 15 minutes, 15 points. If you're really competitive then you'll not worry about tyring to find all the words in the grid and only consider the ones which contain letters you need to fill in, but I'm not sure how you'd do this in practice.

#5, "Dutch Segway", was an insanely intricate mirror-image spot-the-difference. Spent about 5-8 minutes on this, eliminated one of the six, gave up.

#6, "Common Element", was a tough but extremely clever example of the type. For the first two questions, I managed to get the more obvious half of the connecting rule to narrow the nine down to three but no further. Spent 5-10 minutes, no answers.

#8, "Unlucky Sevens", was remarkable. I concentrated on the four words where every letter intersected with the start or end of another word and eliminated four of the 29 possibilities. Then I took a pot-luck guess, filled one of the words in. By a 1-in-25 miracle, it happened to be the right one which made everything fall in place around it. Not sure what the strategy for working out what the first word to place really must be. I think the actual answer was just about intuitable from the question number and title if you had enough chutzpah.

#10. Got the first three of these sequences. Clever and cute.

#11, "Jigsaw Word Search", was my final race-against-the-clock puzzle. (At least, against the first deadline!) The key to this one is to start with the only eight-letter word, which can be placed uniquely. Everything falls into place around it. Cool!

#12, "Special Latin Square" solved itself just through careful and methodical progress. Took about 15-20 minutes for 20 points.

#13, "Number Place" was a pretty easy example of the genre. 10 points plus possible 5 bonus if we ever work out how these bonuses work, 8 minutes.

#21, "Rolling Block Maze" - I worked on this for 5-10 minutes, but didn't get the answer. I managed to get some possible starts and some possible ends, but couldn't connect the two. A physical model would probably have helped here.

I started frantically typing my answers with fewer than five minutes to go and finished with about two left, but didn't manage to actually submit my answers until after the expiry. (I wasn't too worried - everyone had the same problems.) Then the entry form pointed out the extra 13/16 minutes, so I had a look at #9, "Minesweeper Path". I managed to solve about 2/3 of it in those last 10-ish minutes but made a major mistake from which I couldn't recover to find the solution.

The solutions are available already; I think I got all the answers I submitted correct, modulo comma placement, which makes me happy. Accordingly I'm hoping for a score of 110 or 120 if I've somehow picked up the bonuses as well, which which I am very satisfied - more because I always had puzzles to enjoy trying to solve throughout the time and never felt I wasted a huge amount of time on a bad solution rather than anything else. That's just as much as I could ask for.

The key question, I suppose, is "Will my score be large enough to get me on the UK team?"; as ever, the answer depends far more on who else from the UK has taken part rather than anything else. I think Ken Wilshire and ericklendl have both clearly beaten me by about 20 or 30, but I beat Alan O'Donnell. We shall see the results soon - this week, hopefully. I would be thrilled if someone who I didn't previously associate as a WPC puzzler but who read about it from me on their Friends page turns out to have got an unexpected massive score and qualifies for the team. (There might also be some nationality eligibility questions concerning a very cool guy called Michael Colao, who entered under "New Zealand" but has been living in the UK for years and will have British citizenship in weeks.) I hope for a well-placed alternate's position, as in 2001, and am on standby as a substitute should the UK (as almost always) is unable to field its strongest possible team - the O'Neill factor.

Despite the problems, great questions and great fun - more so than any other timed puzzle event I've yet found. Roll on the 2004 qualifying test!

After the qualifying test, beef casserole for dinner, some light comedy, some British heavyweight boxing and some provocative, fascinating and hugely worthwhile LJ posts. Definitely a fine day in my book.
Current Mood: playful!
Current Music: F.L.Y. - "Hello from Martian World Puzzle Championship team"

(34 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:May 31st, 2003 09:51 pm (UTC)


Why would Santa Claus be on a "fictional" list?

Of note: ABC aired what appears to be a glaring Richie Rich ripoff, Goldie Gold and Action Jack, during the 1981-82 season. Goldie is said to be "the world's richest girl."

Her omission from the list is an obvious oversight.
[User Picture]
Date:May 31st, 2003 10:28 pm (UTC)


Goodness me, haven't heard mention of Lucius Caecilius Iucundus for many years now.
Q. Why does Caecilius spend so much time counting money? ("Caecilius pecuniam numerat.")
A. Because your Latin isn't up to "He's reconciling the credit statements for January".
And I also remember Cerberus the dog, who only had one head.
(Deleted comment)
Date:June 1st, 2003 02:11 am (UTC)

Re: Caecilius

Sorry, is that The Indestructible Quintus? Quintus non exanimatus erat, quod indestructibilis erat and all that jazz.

IIRC, he was the only one of Caecillius's household to escape the eruption of Vesuvius at the end of chapter 12, and (completely for plot reasons) relocated to Britain for the second book.

Very minor claim to fame: my class believes itself to be the first anywhere in the country to use 4B, in autumn 1989.
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
Date:June 1st, 2003 07:56 am (UTC)

Re: Caecilius

Caecilius pecuniam numerat.

That's it - obviously fixated and as dodgy as anything. Into the money bin alongside Caligula and McDuck $. with him.
[User Picture]
Date:June 1st, 2003 02:03 am (UTC)
Sounds like you had a brilliant day! We have an odd sculpture at UF that everyone refers to as the "French Fries" because that's what they look like. I don't think anyone ever climbs it though.

Am also v. amused by the Cambridge Latin Course. I don't have time to check out the pages yet, but will have a look sometime post-exam. And I would SO read "All Your Base" in Latin. :D

Hope you end up doing well on the puzzles! They sound interesting, and it's been ages since I've done anything like that.

Get some sleep today!
[User Picture]
Date:June 1st, 2003 02:06 am (UTC)


Excellent musical taste as well!
[User Picture]
Date:June 1st, 2003 07:40 am (UTC)
It struck me that there couldn't really be a Martian World Puzzle Championship team - it would instead be a Martian Universal Puzzle Championship team.

I hear that Neptune have a particularly strong foursome.
[User Picture]
Date:June 1st, 2003 02:13 am (UTC)
Cambridge Latin Course! I remember that one of the first translations I did from that came out (and I'd done it correctly) as "Grumio pleases Melissa, Melissa pleases Grumio, Grumio is very happy". So very dodgy!

I hated Quintus - everyone did, but had a soft spot for Ceberus, who was always barking in the street (and did Metella ever do anything except sit in the hall?).

My teacher was one of the authors, so we got previews of the new books - the nearly A4 sized glossy colour ones, but I prefered the old A5ish ones because the vocab at the end of each unit was in a nicer format *geeky*

Must go find all my old work sheets now...
[User Picture]
Date:June 1st, 2003 07:11 am (UTC)
So very dodgy!

Of course! Now you can begin to imagine the possibilities. There's a fandom waiting here to happen. Grumio has almost pulled just in the story in page five of the PDF with the sample pages. euge! indeed.

I hated Quintus - everyone did

Yes! Everyone really did. I can't remember what he did to raise everyone's ire, except possibly make it past the first year when all the other, more interesting, characters bought it.

did Metella ever do anything except sit in the hall?

She bitched about slaves from time to time. That was her lot in life.

OK, now I've got the puzzles done, I ought to have the time to be able to look at your P2 problems today... :-)
[User Picture]
Date:June 1st, 2003 07:19 am (UTC)


I just found the illustration from the beginning of stage nine (thermae). It features full frontal nudity.

*mind boggles at how this got published as a text book - or as one of our teachers once said "sex book" - an unforunate Freudian slip*

Am so making an LJ icon with this illustration...
Date:June 1st, 2003 04:39 am (UTC)

You may have beaten me...

I answered two of the three parts of question six in haste without noting that there was a secondary complication, and only got one of the two correct by pure good fortune. Hence, subtract five for a turned-out-not-to-be-right answer and another 10 for a wrong answer from my score. Nick Gardner appears to be The Man, yet again.

All the same, they were fun puzzles and probably the most enjoyable test of its type that I've done so far.

Oh, and #8 - the simple key was to deduce the pair of words that slotted into the bottom right corner. That only took a couple of minutes, and then the rest was just word-crunching.
[User Picture]
Date:June 1st, 2003 07:37 am (UTC)

Re: You may have beaten me...

Well, they said that top scores would be released on Sunday, but I haven't seen anything yet. Late Sunday Eastern time, probably, but there could well be more angst and decisions required over the timing to slow things down than they had realised. Really not sure what's going to happen about the commas, too. I'm expecting David O'Neill to have scored massively, probably Michael Colao too (unless his accuracy turns out to have been very wild?) and there could well be another unknown (or PQRST-only) name or two popping out of the woodwork.

the simple key was to deduce the pair of words that slotted into the bottom right corner.

How do you do that? Obviously you look for words which end in the same letter and I suppose you can try to complete the whole of the outer bottom-right square by extension, but the more I think about it, the more I realise that I got really, really lucky here. :-)
Date:June 1st, 2003 07:51 am (UTC)

Re: You may have beaten me...

there could well be more angst and decisions required over the timing to slow things down than they had realised.

Now, I *am* peeved by that. I'm certain that I didn't know until after the event that I'd be able to submit a late entry without penalty because of the technical problems, so I wound up not putting in about 25 points worth of solutions that I had a fair claim on (not helped by the fact that my PC decided to blue screen and force shutdown at 20:33). However, I only have my word for that so I'm not going to make a big fuss about it.

Really not sure what's going to happen about the commas, too.

The wording in the instructions was "When an answer key requests a list of values, please try to use the following guidelines". I don't think that could be taken as "Use the following guidelines or it'll be marked as a wrong answer".

How do you do that?

About three passes. First eliminate everything that doesn't share its last letter with another of the words. Then eliminate everything with an A or an I in position 1,3,5 or 7. That reduced it to no more than about five possibilities - all the wrong ones broke quickly when you tried to work with them.

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