by Vebrile, Somerville MA
As advertised, the first national minicon was held on May 11th. The centerpiece was an online extravaganza in the spirit of Trazom and Hudu's “Intercoastal Altercations” from 1989. Trazom led a group of puzzle constructors to create Intercoastal Altercations 2, to be started at 7:pm EDT / 4:pm PDT by teams of Krewefolk nationwide.
In some of the more heavily populated areas, various NPL members played host for food and entertainment around IA2. Wrybosh and Saxifrage hosted gatherings for the New York- and Boston-area Krewe, respectively, and each had about eighteen guests. On the West Coast, Bluff had about fifteen guests from the LA area while Trazom had around twenty in San Francisco. Gordot hosted eight in Seattle, large enough to split into two teams, and therefore large enough to make this list. Other pockets of Krewe gathered across the country and online, bringing the total number of participants on the 11th to right around a hundred.
A fair number of non-NPLers made it to these gatherings, enticed by IA2. Anomaly and Atlantic each formed two-man teams with the help of a non-NPL friend. In less isolated areas, players of the MIT Mystery Hunt, the Stanford Game, and the Microsoft Puzzle Hunt came to see what the NPL could put together, and they all enjoyed schmoozing with the crowds before and after.
While IA2 was to serve as the main event for the day, the hope was that various gatherings would organize their own events for the rest of the time. From the reports I received, that didn't seem to happen so much– guests were content just to chat and eat before IA2, with a few small games breaking out here and there. The puzzles themselves took longer than planned, so it's understandable that the Krewe would just want to sleep afterwards.
So, onto IA2! If you haven't tried solving yet, you can find the puzzles at http://www.altercations.net. Dozens of Krewe have taken a leisurely approach to solving IA2 since May, and I expect that some of the larger puzzles will make an appearance at ConCouver.
Since May 11th was International Migratory Bird Day, it seemed natural that the theme should therefore be Wild Goose Chase: each puzzle was about tracking a group of birds (whose deisgnatory letter you had to determine) to a US city (which you also had to determine). Puzzles were spread out over a five rounds, released by a fancy passcode verifier written by The Foole. Besides Trazom and The Foole, the others who helped write IA2 were Jo the Loiterer, Kray, Wrybosh, and me.
The first round had few surprises or snags, but some puzzles' unusual cities sent teams looking for an atlas or sadly trying to solve the puzzle from scratch again. Several people wrote in to say they enjoyed Trazom's logic puzzle, but judging by the guesses recorded by The Foole's gateway program, it seems that it was many teams' last puzzle to fall. Wrybosh wrote the paint-by numbers; Jo the Loiterer wrote Birds of a Feather and Cuckoo Crossword; and I wrote the other three, including Skua Rrangements. Bartok writes: “The jigsaw scissor-and-paper stuff was good but we probably didn't need two of them.” Well, you see, Skua Rrangements was just a warm-up.
I also wrote the giant jigsaw in the second round, the puzzle that spawned the most anecdotes. While this caused the purely on-line teams quite a bit of grief, folks solving this in person said it turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable and not very daunting at all. Xemu says: “My contribution to the jigsaw was mostly to invent the sorting scheme for the pieces to make them easy to find. We organized the pieces into buckets by the central tab/slot on their left edges. This made it easy to find the next letter.” This puzzle had to be somewhat large and involving because there was only one other puzzle in the round: Trazom's diagramless.
The Foole's puzzle in the third round drew many group solvers and much acclaim– Qaqaq says, “I think my favorite of the puzzles I got to solve was 'Empty Nest'.” Wrybosh wrote the other two puzzles in this round: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest”, and the cryptarithm.
For a few reasons, round four was very troublesome. It was the first round with two tricky puzzles: Jo the Loiterer's horoscope puzzle and Wrybosh's “Rara Avis”. Many teams got about half of the latter and none of the former, and this block just came at a bad time– we'd initially hoped that IA2 would take around three hours, but we planned poorly. Codex writes: “May 11 was my birthday. Nonetheless, I protested that I didn't want to do the 'Your Bird-Day Today' puzzle. Twin A took it, and I'm glad– even now, and knowing the solution, I have yet to figure out how that one works.” Finishing out the round were Jo the Loiterer's “Birds in Cages”; Kray's “Acrowstic”, complete with its popular online guessing game; and my “Spring Chicken”, another crowd favorite.
In the fifth round, Trazom's word ladder puzzle and variety cryptic caused a bit of a hassle for tired teams– picking the wrong set of letters or putting spaces in the wrong place was a little too easy –but nothing major. Realizing how painfully tired our testsolvers had become by this point, the constructors threw together “Bird Droppings”, the dropquote puzzle, as a group effort. Wrybosh's “Mother Goose” and Jo the Loiterer's “Just for a Lark” round out the round.
And then the endgame– well, you either remember or you'll find out for yourself. As I mentioned, we as constructors fell down on the job by not trimming IA2 to its advertised size, but many teams stuck with it for five or six hours or more, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Special thanks to testsolvers Philana, Tahnan, Sidhe, and Spelvin, without whose input IA2 would have probably taken yet another hour.
Several features kept the playing fields from being level: some sites were better equipped with computers or reference books, some had preprinted rounds of puzzles to save time, and we suspect some sort of brain food doping at Wrybosh's. San Francisco teams split up into “walkers, joggers, and sprinters” so that everyone could proceed at his own pace, while Boston teams tried to remain balanced so that everyone would wrap up at about the same time. Still, we would like to congratulate “Tastes Like Chicken” (Tyger, Coach, Lilith, Noam, and Story) for finishing up first, in an astonishing three hours and twenty-four minutes.
So many people said they were looking forward to IA3 that I'm afraid we may have a new tradition on our hands. We'll see how it shapes up, but I'm looking forward to it as well!
by Hot and Kray
On May 11, 2002, the NPL will hold its first-ever national miniconvention. Krewe in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, and (we hope) many other areas will gather at locations with Internet access to play games, solve puzzles, and schmooze. Trazom is leading a national team of puzzle constructors to create a con-style extravaganza/megagame, which will be distributed via the Internet. The megagame, titled “Intercoastal Altercations: Wild Goose Chase,” will run from 7-10 p.m. EDT (4-7 p.m. PDT). The rest of the program will take place before and/or afterwards, depending on local considerations.
Kray is coordinating other games and puzzles on the program. The Foole is the technical consultant. For more details, see the official IA web site: www.altercations.net. Or, if you're near Boston, L.A., N.Y.C., or San Francisco, contact Saxifrage, Bluff, Wrybosh, or Trazom, respectively, who are coordinating gatherings in those areas. Others are, of course, welcome to play too — plan a gathering in your area!
(The first correct round 6 login for each team): 1) 2002-05-11_19.23.40 - Tastes Like Chicken 2) 2002-05-11_19.24.57 - Coal Tit-Anser 3) 2002-05-11_19.30.06 - Swifts 4) 2002-05-11_19.35.40 - Tits, Cocks, and Boobies 5) 2002-05-11_19.51.34 - Flock of Seagulls 6) 2002-05-11_19.58.28 - Who Gives a Hoot? 7) 2002-05-11_20.09.07 - Hunt and Peck 8) 2002-05-11_20.09.09 - Herons 9) 2002-05-11_20.17.46 - (anonymous team) 10) 2002-05-11_20.32.52 - Murder of Crows 11) 2002-05-11_20.46.59 - Jayhawks 12) 2002-05-11_20.52.04 - Emus 13) 2002-05-11_20.58.59 - Bluejays 14) 2002-05-11_21.02.15 - Penguins 15) 2002-05-11_21.15.29 - Operation Condor