Tuesday 18 February 2014

Sequence Breaking

I'll be straight up about today's puzzle: I dug it out of the ever-growing rejects pile. I haven't submitted anything in months, but I had a real cold streak last year where like 10 puzzles in a row got rejected. To be honest, it took a lot of the fun out of constructing for me, which partly contributed to my decision to revive the old blog here. I still get some negative/constructive feedback here which is always very welcome, but it's more than balanced by hearing about the enjoyment solvers get out of the puzzles. And I don't have to wait 6 months.

Anyway, things are still pretty hectic around Cross Nerd HQ, despite it being a long weekend in honour of...what again? Oh yeah, "family day" or some such nonsense.

Valentine's gig on friday which was fun. Actually, I was super nervous and in way over my head. It was a jazz gig with a fantastic vocalist by the name of Kaitlyn Semple (even has her own IMDB page!) and a cookin band including her old man Jack (whose no slouch on the 6-string, to put it modestly). Now, I love jazz, but I'm a hack when it comes to playing it. Not sure how I ended up on the bill for this Regina Jazz Society concert (needed to provide head shots and bios and everything), but I was sweating it in the days leading up. Went better than expected in the end, though, so I promptly got drunk.

Sunday found me at the curling rink, for, shamefully, my first real curling experience. Curling has always seemed really difficult, but I think I was getting the hang of it. Went better than expected, at least, so we promptly got drunk.

Other than that, I put off doing my not insignificant amount of homework (did I tell you I'm back at school?) by watching the new season of House of Cards and working on my Super Metroid speedrunning strats. If part of that last sentence made no sense to you, I encourage you to watch this. I don't play a lot of video games, but when I do I play the shit out of them. I got obsessed with NES Tetris for a while (the Platonic ideal of video games, if you ask me), and got good enough to bag the 42nd highest recorded score (595,000-something). I'm still shooting for the 999,999 max-out, but it's a long way off. Only about a dozen people have ever done it. Now I've gone and dug out Super Metroid, though, another one of my faves and a perennial contender for best video game ever made. I adored it as a kid but was worried it wouldn't have aged well. On the contrary, I appreciate it even more now. The moody and gritty atmosphere, haunting music, sense of isolation and exploration, and general badassery that drew me in as a youngster are still as great as ever, but I've been struck most by the sublime design of the puzzles, map, and gameplay. It's a paragon of game design, rife with subtle but ingenious ways that the player is guided worldlessly around would could have been a very confusing and frustrating world. Not only that, but it's the perfect game for speedrunning, mostly because of all the sequence-breaking you can do. You can beat the game with only 15% of the power-ups, beat all of the bosses in reverse order, etc. And that's basically without any glitches and certainly no cheating; rather, the complex controls allow for a rich array of advanced techniques that can be exploited to circumvent the "soft lock" approach to limiting progress in the world. 20 years since its release, and people are still finding new tricks and shaving time off their runs (my first and only complete run took 57 min, but a few players have gone below 30. This is a game that took me weeks as a kid). Sorry for nerding out there, I'm just a bit obsessed at the moment.

...which leads me to this week's puzzle, which was supposed to be a freestyle that never got finished. Instead, it's a...wait for it....theme puzzle, believe it or not. Not the most inventive theme, but I thought it was solid enough and the fill clean enough that it might have a shot in the NYT or LAT. Not so, as it turns out. Luckily my standards are so much lower. I did go through and toughen up a few of the clues to put them more in the typical CN freestyle range. Hope you don't mind. Back to business as usual next week, most likely.

More words, crossed and otherwise, next week.

Puzzle: Up a Pole
Difficulty: Tues/Wed theme, Wed/Thurs clues


Anonymous said...

It was enjoyable enough! I like the more esoteric aspects. Prefer one like this to vwllss, but then, that's just me. I thought it was a fair Tuesday-Wednesday solve (which I just noticed you gave it as well!).

e.a. said...

the long answers are all winners.

jefe said...

approx 8 minutes; at one point I paused to tab out then forgot to restart it. Good entries, though I had some trouble with all the names.