Ellen (ennienyc) wrote,

Puzzle events - no social skills needed

On Labor Day, nplchainsaw hosted a solving session/backyard BBQ of Zebraboy's extravaganza at his spacious new place in Brooklyn. Our group of mostly experienced NPLers couldn't get it all, but we still had fun trying. Hints and solutions are now up, so I maybe can finish.

Then there was Ryan & Brian's Lollapuzzoola August 23. I offered to edit the puzzles (available through previous link, so go solve if you don't want any spoilage), and wasn't sure they could pull off the event with the short lead time. I arrived at the church in Jackson Heights (site of the first Scrabble game, which was relevant to one of the puzzles) to find the room comfortably filled with 30+ people; any more and it would have been too crowded. I saw many familiar faces, and finally met Ryan, Brian, Puzzlegirl, and Amanda (who told me we'd previously met at an IFC "Wordplay" showing). Will even stopped by on his way to table tennis.

I had strongly suggested Pleasantville-style scoring (first correct puzzle wins the round) but R&B wanted each contestant to get a score, so devised an original system. Unfortunately, this counted correct and incorrect letters instead of words, and could have been a nightmare. Luckily, the volume was manageable and contestants helped grade after they were done.

The atmosphere was casual and light. Contestants received 10 "Google tickets" that could be used to request answers after half the time had elapsed. The lowest score was dropped, allowing constructor Mike Nothnagel to compete and just drop his own puzzle. The perfect paper bonus was small and the time bonus was basically 5 points more than the person behind you and so on, so even an expert solver like Howard Barkin would not necessarily slaughter the competition (though he did win).

Other quirky features included mandatory food after puzzle 2, a Twister game with the top solvers of puzzle 4, and musical clues in puzzle 5 (which can still be done without the clues). Puzzle 6 had a few harder clues for the top people at that point. The prizes were random stuff. People went out for Indian food afterward (I've learned that korma dishes are acceptably non-spicy) to end a pleasant day.

PhillySolver posted a detailed report.

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