I guess January is puzzles month

And it’s not even January any more.

(Thing negative two: Thing zero, which is at the bottom of this post, contains two puzzles by me. Skip there if that sounds interesting and text walls don’t.)

Thing negative one: I abandoned this blog (again). The last month has been a mess and much of it is political stuff of the sort that I’m the worst/slowest at writing about.

Thing one: I was on-site for a second MIT Mystery Hunt.

In fact, I was on HuntComm and kind-of sort-of ran our team. I bought a lot of snacks, collected a lot of cash, took a lot of calls, and pronounced a lot of airplane emoji. Whoosh! Neeeowwww! On the other hand, I feel like I saw a lot fewer puzzles, or at least worked through a lot fewer of them. I certainly didn’t get to see any of the mathy puzzles until after the hunt (it looks like Great Tits! and Digital Display are of that type.) It is not clear how much of this was due to the hunt’s length and how much of it was due to my totally different role. The puzzles were excellent, just much easier on average and a lot of the hard ones backsolvable — for instance, I think Chromesthesia might have been up there if we hadn’t backsolved it? The theme and skit were fantastic. We completed the final runaround around 2–3 PM on Saturday. I don’t have too much to say here, sorry.

Things I contributed to nontrivially: Swifties (which I was filmed for), Bigram Battleships (which I kept hoping/expecting would have a secret twist or two), Dot Matrix (in which bcodex came in useful, and would have been even more useful without one of the missing features!), Repeated Punishment (plenty of people could have gotten the key insight but I was pleasantly surprised to get it independently; I also found a few quotes), the Broken Bridge meta (we were really disappointed that we never got the puzzle related to [redacted, MD5 = 5244c453d95ff560ebab2bae15d82216], even after solving it), Capital Punishment (lol), Hopping Lock (one of the last puzzles we unlocked; everybody awake was stuck on other puzzles, so we converged on it, solved it in five minutes, and went back to being stuck). I also went to the Saturday morning Constitution event, which was a silly but entertaining bobblehead race.

Before the hunt, I also solved a few P&A puzzles with the Simmons puzzlehunters that happened to sit next to me on the flight from SFO to BOS, so there was that.

Thing two: the inaugural Cambridge Puzzle Hunt. For this time floorpi mixed up with the plughs and I hunted on “plugh needs a rubber” with two other pizens and Paul, who is really good at puzzles. We placed third and I learned a lot about both solving puzzles and guessing your way around them.

This being the first apparent puzzle hunt held by this group, the puzzles lack a certain amount of polish, as I think one would expect, but I can recommend Archimedes’ Calculus and Lips, Secure as decent puzzles. The other particularly interesting (shall we say) puzzle was Calligraphy. The thing where I had a culture advantage of knowing (Mandarin) Chinese happened again (previously, MUMS 2013)! The puzzle was so difficult and full of ambiguities that we still couldn’t solve it until days after all three hints had been provided, but the construction is still kind of impressive to behold, and gripe about, and that sort of thing.

Thing zero: I wrote five puzzle and a meta for last November. Well, that was the plan. I think it was supposed to be an arithmetic sequence. Unfortunately, writing puzzles is too hard, and now I also have a better place to put my puzzle ideas (I say this too often, but stay tuned!)

Still, I finished writing and testsolving two puzzles (thanks to the kind people of Patzers Club) and finally I decided I should just throw them here for no occasion and with no additional context. They’re not really general-audience puzzles anyway. (I will somewhat apologize in advance for the answers that were meta-constrained but aren’t any longer, but I’m too lazy to rewrite them.) So here are some puzzles. Happy solving!


Music II

When I first made myself commit to posting weekly, I was trying to make myself spend a little time every day of the week thinking and writing and whittling away at old drafts. Instead I’m here at 10:40 PM basically starting a brand-new post. Oh well.

I last blogged about music in 2013. I tagged two other posts with “music” since then, but neither is particularly deep: 8 Songs for 18 Years and Drop-In Filler. Let’s continue the tradition of self-analysis part IIs from nowhere…

I meditated a little bit in Conversations about “lacking experience or interest in a lot of the commonly discussed culture.” I think this applies to me and music as well, although not as fully. Back in Taiwan, when mentally bracing myself for coming to the U.S. for college, I sometimes worried about not knowing enough about pop music and bands and not listening enough to popular albums, and having trouble integrating into the culture for this.

Turns out, among the communities I wandered into and friends I made, it was a more frequent obstacle that I didn’t know enough about classical music and composers. Whoops. Some of the names rang faint bells from either music class or conversations with high school friends who did do classical music, but I could not identify or remember any styles or eras, and would remember composers only by unreliable first letters or unusual substrings of their names.

(Although this isn’t particularly unique to music, and is adequately explained by me just being bad at names. Fun fact: In first grade or thereabouts, during “computer” “class” where we practiced making Microsoft Word documents about things, I wrote some sort of introduction to Leonhard Euler and said that he proved that there were infinitely many primes. I believe my first-grade self conflated Euler with Euclid by assuming that only one important mathematical name would ever start with such an odd digraph. A digraph of two vowels at that.)

(Mental challenge: In two minutes, list as many of your friends whose names start with two vowels in a row as you can. Go!)

I don’t think that not following pop music helps either, but when I visited Taiwan over breaks, I realized my sister learned more about U.S. pop music by staying in school there than I did actually studying in the U.S.

Continue reading

Brand New

(all the times that you beat me unconscious I forgive)

angst [████████  ] (8/10)

We’re overdue for one of these posts, I guess.

(all the crimes incomplete – listen, honestly I’ll live)

Last-ditch feeble attempts at cleaning and reorganizing my desk and shelf before I figuratively drowned in academics led to me finding

  • the Google physical linked puzzle, which I placed in the Kitchen Lounge to nerd-snipe people, successfully
  • a Burger King crown from the previous career fair
  • ID stickers from the Putnam, one of which is now on my keyboard cover cover (← not a typo), just because
  • assorted edibles, like candies and jellies, which I ate; as well as the half-finished Ziploc bag of candy from my FPOP, six months ago, which I just tossed in the trash
  • a box. It’s just, like, a box. I don’t know what goes or went into it

I feel more in control of my living quarters. Marginally. Guess I’ll be fine.

(mr. cool, mr. right, mr. know-it-all is through)

Pros and cons of having a departmental advisor in your area of interest:

  • Pro: the advisor knows something about the classes you want to take and can help you choose classes
  • Con: the advisor knows something about the classes you want to take and can help you choose classes

Continue reading

whoosh (spoiler-free)

I finally did it.

I was on-site for the 2016 MIT Mystery Hunt. I even solved a metapuzzle. This year I hunted with ✈✈✈ Galactic Trendsetters ✈✈✈, the team primarily but not overwhelmingly formed from floorpi, my dorm floor. (Perhaps somewhat regrettably, I didn’t contribute to any events or runarounds or things given to HQ, unless you count attending a “recitation” for Student Simulator (round King Arthur, second from left).)

(Also, I made this post. Has it been two weeks already? Okay, that’s not an unusual timeframe.)

But wow, I got to touch so many puzzles.

Non-spoilery comments on particularly memorable puzzles I did, which are disproportionately programming-related, if anybody wants to look at them (I am describing how to get to the puzzle from the round instead of linking because I’m lazy and links might rot but the instructions will hopefully survive archival (although turns out there’s actually a table of contents so I don’t know what I’m doing)):

  • identify, SORT, index, solve (round Sleeping Beauty, bottom-right) is my favorite puzzle. Since I probably have a lot of readers in that direction, I should mention it’s also math-related!
  • Time Suck (round Endymion, second from left in bottom row) is hilarious and pretty fun, too. Programming/scripting/hacking-things-together ability helps, but I suppose you can do this the long titular way if you want…
  • ASCII Characters (round Rip Van Winkle, top pin behind the center one): I enjoyed the first part, but am pretty dissatisfied with the second, even though we managed to get it eventually (more precisely, while some of us working on it had gotten stuck and left our hunt room to get burritos, phenomist guessed it remotely).
  • Luminance Shift (round Ysera, rightmost in Your Hand) was fun. I guess I might only complain that it’s not quite as cohesive as I like my puzzles to be.
  • Unimaginably Twisted Files (round Sleeping Beauty, one below top-center) was fun but we got stuck several times.
  • I did the Sleeping Gypsy meta! I even managed to backsolve one and a half answers from it! It was exhilarating!

Non-spoilery comments on cool puzzles I looked at but didn’t solve much of:

  • CLICK TO WIN!!! (round King Arthur, center): Cute use of the medium.
  • Replication (round Ysera, second from left in Enemy Side): Just look at this thing. Seriously, just look at it.
  • Quantum Minesweeper (round Pam Ewing, bottom-left): Also cute to behold.

And non-puzzly final observations:

  • I also got to meet quite a few friends who flew in for hunt! Perhaps most notably, I thought very hard and discussed with lots of people in order to come up with an interesting and robust protocol for meeting and recognizing Yoshiap, which we didn’t end up using, I ended up just visibly sending a chat over Hangouts saying “!!!”; even though I don’t know how often I’ll be in a similar situation again, suggestions for cooler protocols would be much appreciated, if only for mental gratification. Also unfortunately there were a few other people I only got to wave at. Oh well, there are probably still quite a few more next times.
  • The first morning, I got 4 hours of sleep. No regrets. I think sleep deprivation really only set in a few days later, but boy, that was quite the experience and totally worth it.
  • I got to look at somebody’s screen and ask somebody “What Flight are you on?”
  • Verbally following up to the title is so fun.
  • Does Holden Lee read my blog????????

Oh well, back to normal life…

As last time, spoilery comments are in a separate protected post, whose password is “spoilery”.

Puzzle 49 / Triple Back

I’m not really satisfied with the execution, but eh, what the hell. My brain can only function at so much of its full capacity when it’s a few kilometers up in the sky.

This is a Triple Back, variant on MellowMelon’s Double Back. Briefly, draw a closed loop through all square centers visiting each bold-outlined area exactly three (= ⌊π⌋) times. Shaded cells do not influence solving, only aesthetics.


Thanks for being an awesome place to live. ❤

(Yes, I know I’ve been posting way too many puzzles and way too few text posts recently. Expect that to change soon.)


There are 30 minutes until my laundry finishes.

It is 2:30 in the morning as I write this. Normal people are not awake at this time of day. It’s possible that normal MIT students are, though.

I’ve been meaning to blog for a while, but things happen and other things happen and still more things happen. From a state of total inexperience in the kitchen, I’ve already managed to single-handedly cook six six-person meals for my co-op, not to mention all the weird meals I make for myself (which is just as well, I don’t think they are of typically mentionable caliber.) I’ve already taken two exams in three of my classes and the big midterm for my fourth. Four puzzlehunts — Simmons, aquarium, Palantir, ΣUMS; five if you perhaps include Next Haunt. Six SIPB meetings. A few bottles of Soylent; I lost count and don’t want to check my room because that’ll disturb my roommate. Θ(3000) zephyrs. And after many weekends of eye-opening group practice, tonight I have to catch a flight to Rochester, NY for ACM-ICPC regionals.

(On the other hand, Drop Date for this term, the deadline for dropping classes, is yet to arrive.)

I really wanted to capture all of this somewhere. Still do. But words take time and even then they fail me. What can I say about all of this, in these thirty sleep-deprived minutes I barely manage to squeeze out of my schedule?

Life is hard, and in so many different ways. People are amazing, and in so many different ways. Time is such a painfully illiquid asset. I think I made the right choice coming here.