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2018 MIT Mystery Hunt

My third MIT Mystery Hunt with ✈✈✈ Galactic Trendsetters ✈✈✈ (also see: 2017 and 2016, writing with Random in 2015). It was a good hunt with a fun theme, solid puzzles, and extraordinary production quality, marred only by a fickle unlock structure and a handful of unnecessarily involved extractions.

Since we had been told the hunt would be smaller than past years’ (now a controversial statement since the coin was not found particularly early) and we didn’t particularly want to win (yet), part of our team temporarily split off this year to hunt as Teammate. Based on our Discord channel, ✈✈✈ Galactic Trendsetters ✈✈✈ had 75 people this year, including remote solvers and people who dropped in and out.

A short description of the hunt structure: This year’s hunt theme was Inside Out, the Disney movie about anthropomorphized emotions. This was revealed through a kickoff that demonstrated the hunt’s extraordinary production quality, in which we watched the unveiling of the Health & Safety hunt, first directly, then in the Control Room with the emotions of a distraught hunter (Miss Terry Hunter) and a lot of beautiful memory orbs and scenery. After Terry’s emotions became overwhelmed in response to the theme, we had to help her emotions to allow her to complete the Health & Safety hunt. The intro round took place in the Control Room; we had to solve 34 regular puzzles and five metapuzzles (somewhat overlapping, with some regular puzzles belonging to more than one metapuzzle) to help each of the five emotions get back to the Control Room. The rest of the hunt consisted of recovering memory orbs from each of four Islands of Personality, each of which had its own theme and meta structure, and which we could choose the unlock order of.

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.

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.

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

whoosh

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)):

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.

Puzzle 48 / Double Back

At least one person wants me to post. I’m not even going to try do a life summary. It’s too hard. Let’s just say:

  1. right now, my blog drafts contain a backlog of ~7500 words and counting;
  2. I was not accepted as an MIT Admissions blogger, which is bad because my blogging will continue to not reach a large audience, but good because my blogging will continue to not reach a large audience. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that, because the application form wouldn’t let me submit without any media, I panickedly cranked out the following puzzle in an hour or so to attach.

MIT Course Number Mnemonics

When I first realized it might be helpful to start trying to remember the correspondence between MIT courses and their numbers, I expected a list of mnemonics for this correspondence would be one of those Things That Should Exist On the Internet. I’m pretty surprised it doesn’t. I mean, MIT has, what, at least 100,000 alumni; as far as I know, nearly everybody who goes there speaks the number correspondence fluently, so they have to learn it; and the science of mnemonics has been with us since the ancient Greeks and people who understand its usefulness can’t be uncommon, especially not in such a prestigious institute of higher education.

What gives?

I’m not sure. Maybe it’s just that nobody has posted their mnemonic set on the Internet out of embarrassment? My mnemonics are pretty bad too, but hey, Cunningham’s Law — if you’re reading, feel free to add better ones in the comments, or to criticize my horribly unenlightened and stereotypical characterizations of your courses, to make this thing better. Or maybe it’s out of concern that nobody else will find it useful? I get that feeling but my streak compels me to ignore it now, as it has for the last dozen posts or so. Or maybe they just didn’t optimize for search engine findability, so I can’t find it? I hope this post fixes that.

Actually, I guess the most likely reason is that maybe most people don’t actually have all the course numbers memorized with perfect recall, only the handful of most common ones they and their friends are in, and it’s perfectly fine to ask for clarification when an unknown number comes up in conversation, so nobody ever feels like they need to bother with mnemonics for every single course. Feels sensible to me.

But anyway, I’m not most people.


The most comprehensive resource of courses and numbers, including their history, appears to have once been at http://alumweb.mit.edu/clubs/sandiego/contents_courses.shtml. Many, many links point there. Unfortunately, it is dead and I cannot find its new home, if it has one. Fortunately, there is an archived version on archive.is; on the other hand, I am not sure whether any updates have occurred since it was archived. A more recent version with course populations from 2005 is this chart linked from the MIT Admissions blog post Numbers are names too. Speaking of which, I realize that this chart will likely reduce the effectiveness of using course numbers as a shibboleth, which the blog post appreciated. But I say if this mnemonic set can reduce the cognitive load of a few other MIT students, so they have more time and more energy to spend on academics and self-actualization and various important things, then it’s worth it. (I don’t care either way. I have fun memorizing weird things.)

2015 MIT Mystery Hunt

Well, it’s been over a week, which is a long time for blog posts to be delayed after the event they’re documenting in probably all of the world except my blog. So.

I guess this post should start with a bit of background. I’ve been puzzlehunting for… wow, three and a half years now. I was introduced to puzzlehunts from AoPS, when some fellow members got together a team for CiSRA 2011, and I think I’ve participated to some degree in every known internet Australian puzzlehunt since.