I was hoping for top 20
In my early years dealing with puzzles, I could not completely understand the logic of solving. If I am to understand something or feel it in my bones, I have to see the meaning underneath it. For example, when you tell me “this is a bike” it means nothing to me, I cannot understand what it does. But if you explain how a bike operates, what the pedals do, why the wheels work that way; then I can understand what a bike is.
When I was in college, my friends used to memorize lots of formulas. I had problems understanding this; what they do seemed to me as disrespect to science. I thought you should understand the logic of it, and when you did, those formulas were not so important at all. They thought my way was stupid, and so were theirs for me. So at the beginning I could not completely understand what a Loop or an Easy As ABC was. I knew the rules, and I had learned some solving techniques, but I did not understand what we were exactly doing. I was asking people: What the hell are we doing, what are these for?
Just when I started OAPC and just when I examined JPC puzzles, I began to understand what we were doing. We were chasing after a system just like the bike example. This system existed under what was visible and we could reveal that system by following the clues. This idea evolved into something better in time, and when I met a puzzle, what I did was to reveal those systems. Because I had understood what we were doing.
But I could not solve fast enough, in the competitions or anywhere else. When I was making puzzles, I could build systems like those easily, but when it came to solving, I was not fast enough. I just could not understand what I was doing wrong. In last year’s WPC, I asked Michael Ley during a cigarette break: Dear Great Solver, I too know lots of solving techniques, I too do know the way, but why can’t I solve fast enough? He asked me how I solved. I told that I tried to see the knots, I followed the traces. It was something like that. Then he asked me what I did when I could not see anything and I said that I try to see. He said “I do trials, and if still nothing comes up, I skip for a while.” Then I realized that, making trials are as important as trying to find a logic. You have to find a balance.
For a year, I tried to apply this in some competitions, but I was not quite successful with it. But either way, I knew I could be in the top 20 in WPC. It seemed pretty realistic and I was sure I had to rank there. But sometimes it is not the case, I guess.
I was never assertive about Sudoku, and 39th place was not so bad for a slow-solver like me. But the top 20 target would be great for me. WPC had nice classic parts like Skyscrapers, Domino, etc. But in the very first day, my system encountered an error. The first 5 minutes, I stared at the first Domino puzzle. Nothing happened and I skipped to the next one. Same again, and I went to the last puzzle to proceed back-to-forth. I got an average total of points. For the following parts, my engine began to warm up; the last part of the first day showed that I was doing well: 129/180 points. That motivation was perfect for starting day 2, and the top 20 target.
But the next morning I was disappointed, seeing the results of day 1. I had broken 5 or 6 puzzles until the last part, and the last part was 107 points instead of 129. At first, I could not understand that the broken puzzle was Tapa. But as I proceeded to the breakfast room, I realized “Oh my God, that was Tapa”. It was really broken. I should have blackened just two cells to get the correct solution. And the second day was also a disaster and the competition was over for me.
I wish I had taken the booklet with me, so I could post a picture, but I’m going to tell anyway. I don’t know which part it was, there was a Snake puzzle. For long enough, I struggled to solve that as if it was a Battleships puzzle. I thought the head and tail were two 1-unit ships. Pretty stupid, because there is the instruction, and the example, and there are large numbers in the grid, how could it be a Battleships? As I reach to the end of the part, I saw the title “Snake” and I thought, “Oh, there was a Snake puzzle? Why didn’t I solve it?” I looked and could not find any Snake puzzles. Then I realized, the one I thought to be a Battleships was actually a Snake puzzle.
I told this because in the second day, all my parts were screwed up, I could not focus and it was over. In the last part, Half Domino puzzle, I did not even think about the rule of 1-9 dominoes in 9×9 grids. All I thought of was “I want this to end”.
I know that I can be in the top 20, but I don’t think that is going to happen soon, because I am not a good athlete. My target for 24 HPC is top 5, and if that happens, maybe that motivation makes me a good one 🙂