I got up at early-o'-clock (approximately 06:40, or "two full hours before I normally wake up"), picked up Ankur, Annelise, and Josiah, and drove down to Stanford for this year's Microsoft College Puzzle Challenge. The CPC wasn't being held this year at Berkeley, but that won't keep a team of serious puzzlers like ours from getting their puzzle fix.
We wound up packing an extraordinary amount of supplies. There's the obvious things: pencils, scratch paper, computer, and power supply. There's the not-obvious-the-first-time-but-obvious-if-you've-done-it-before: scissors, tape, colored pencils, a ruler, whiteboard markers that work, and a portable whiteboard. There's the we-like-being-nourished-while-thinking-this-hard: bananas, oranges, Clif bars, crackers, trail mix. There's the we're-serious-about-having-everything-we-might-benefit-from-having-on-hand: a projector, a 14-port power strip, an extra pair of laptops. And finally, there's the we-do-this-in-style: t-shirts from past puzzle competitions and a wizard hat. Ankur also had a pillow and a sleeping bag (unrelated - he needed to return them to a friend), but he left those in the car.
We settled into a snazzy conference room, and then another team dropped in saying they had reserved it for the day, so we moved to a different unoccupied one. Fortunately, Stanford's CS building is snazzy and has lots of awesome conference rooms. We wound up in a room with a giant table, in between a men's bathroom and a kitchen. I plopped my power stip in the middle, and we got to work.
I felt our teamwork was very solid overall. We played to our strengths - Annelise is great with word puzzles, Josiah does an amazing job of finding obscure things and can jump in to help on pretty much any puzzle, Ankur excels at figuring out answers with insufficient or mistaken information and notices patterns well, and I tend to be decent at throwing down extraction mechanics, know a pile of encodings, and hack together scripts. To top it off, we're all pretty good at catching each other's mistakes. :)
Puzzles that I had a hand in solving:
All told, we got second nationally, and first at Stanford, so we each got a $100 Best Buy gift card. This bodes well for Google Games (upcoming on the 28th). We also earned the distinction of being the only team to complete every puzzle during the competition.
After the brief award ceremony, we hung out on campus with a group of Ankur's friends. Ankur led us to several fruit trees, and picked lots of kumquats from the trees. Apparently Stanford has an online encyclopedia of the flowering plants on campus. After eating kumquats and oranges, we went to The Axe and Palm for dinner. The same building had lots of snazzy meeting rooms, so our team sat down and worked for a bit on our puzzle hunt. Annelise and Ankur focused on finalizing the t-shirt design, and Josiah and I played puzzle-doctor for a particularly broken puzzle. After toying with a decent number of options, we rewrote
And then, all of a sudden, it was 23:00, so I drove us back to Berkeley. I dropped Ankur at his residence, then joined Josiah and Annelise for a cup of tea and another hour of coding for our puzzlehunt website.
It was a good day, and I'm looking forward to hunting with that team again. :)