Spider has made it on CTC!

Spider has finally appeared on Cracking The Cryptic! Unfortunately it’s not the right type of spider we know and love. We all know how many words a picture is worth so I’ll just do a screen dump and let you judge for yourself.

I believe every man dog and millipede on the planet must have heard of CTC by now. If you’re not familiar with CTC there’s always Google Search. If you’re not familiar with Google Search you can apply recursion and do a google search on Google Search. Bad jokes aside, this is easily one of the best Sudoku puzzles I have ever come across –

Yes, it’s a Sudoku. With no given digits. Not one. Just a bunch of lines that look like a spider. Plus a black dot between row 9 column 4 and row 9 column 5.

Lucy Audrin has set a number of puzzles for CTC and she also has many interests outside of Sudoku. She is definitely one of the Awesome People, and the world could do with a few more of those!

Oh yes, I should probably mention the rules: Normal Sudoku rules apply. Digits on a “thermometer” must strictly increase starting from the bulb (for example 13678). Some thermos share a common bulb. The black dot indicates two numbers in a ratio of 1:2 but you don’t know which cell is twice the other. It turns out this is enough to enforce a unique solution.

HINT: for those unfamiliar with Thermometer Sudoku, one of the thermometers is length 9, allowing you to enter nine digits immediately.

If you know your Kropki Sudoku, this puzzle has no “negative constraint” i.e. some cells can have consecutive digits or digits in 1:2 ratio despite the absence of a black or white dot.

Let me know if you enjoyed this Sudoku 😊

Winning with score of 1000+ (short story)

Oh goodie! I have three more students signing up to my Spider Solitaire classes. This time they are humans.

“Hi, I’m Simon”

“Spider GM,” I reply. “Nice to meet you”

“I like to see the game as a logical puzzle,” says Simon. “With sufficient thought we can deduce the proper play in any given position – or at least something reasonably close to optimal. I call this logical deduction”

Simon is a down-to-earth bloke who clearly knows the game. He plays guitar way better than I do. And he can play a mean game of Starcraft. A teacher’s pet if you pardon the terrible cliché.

“I’m Mark,” says Mark.

“I’m Spider GM, nice to meet you”

“I like the use of rot13(haqb) …”

Uh oh, Mark is probably not one of my better students. But he is an approachable dude with a wry sense of humour. He definitely knows his Cryptic Crosswords. I once gave him “At first condemn our very feeble excuse for everything that follows constant negative press (7)” and he got the answer in, like, less than three nano-seconds.

“especially with a variant that requires the player to complete all eight suits with a score of 1000 or better,” continues Mark. “So if I make a bad move, I can still rot13(haqb) but lower my score since each move or rot13(haqb) costs 1 point. Rot13(haqb) also makes sense in a Spider Solitaire Speed-solving championship. I call this rot13(ovshepngvba).”

“I call it blooper-reeling,” I reply. Mark and Simon are known for their witty banter and occasional pranks – and unlike Starcraft I can mix it with the best of ‘em.

I have never been a fan of rot13(haqb) and I have certainly never heard anyone use the term of rot13(ovshepngvba) to describe the cardinal sin of Spider Solitaire. Still, I will concede Mark has a point. With a target score of 1000+ or better, rot13(haqb) can only be used sparingly so we could still have some interesting scenarios with non-trivial decisions. But I have already started this game, so no rot13(ovshepngvba) for now. Maybe in a later game …

“I’m Eugene,” says a third person.

“I’m Spider GM … hang on, you’ve brought a chess set with you. Another one of my hobbies!”

It doesn’t take long for us to set up the pieces. My other students watch with great interest. Despite having an International Master title, Eugene somehow rot13(jubbcf zl nff) ten times in a row. This guy is something special.

I take my king in my right hand and offer it to Eugene, as though it were a Christmas gift.”

“It’s your game,” I say. “Take it.”

Eugene is puzzled. “I thought the pieces were supposed to go back in the box.”

“You never watched the Queen’s Gambit?”

“Never heard of it.”

“Name of a movie, or more precisely, a mini-series. Named after the opening of course – White plays d4, Black d5, White c4.”

Eugene struggles to locate the squares d4,d5,c4 on the chessboard.

“But – but there’s nothing defending the pawn on c4,” says Eugene.

I suddenly realise Eugene was wearing a “magic hat” during our 10-game series. If my intuition is correct, he will probably call it rot13(purngvat). Eugene can play a mean game of chess (or several), but doesn’t understand basic social principles such as Maintaining Eye Contact 101.

“Wait a minute,” I say. “You’re the guy who also plays Sudoku?”

“Yes,” replies Eugene. “Been a while.”

I quickly scribble a Sudoku grid with only the digit in row 5 column 5 missing. There are no quirky rules like thermometers, arrows, disjoint sets, killer clues or sandwiches. It takes him a good minute or two to deduce the missing digit is a Six.

In the distance I notice the Bad Idea Bears giggling to themselves. They hold a strange device that was clearly meant to communicate with Eugene during our chess games. I later find out the BIB thought it would be hilarious to troll Eugene by deliberately giving him the wrong digit in the easiest ever Sudoku puzzle in history. Normally I don’t condone this sort of behaviour but given that they exposed yet another cheat in this sorry state of the world I can forgive them today. However, if this trend continues …

The End

Spider Solitaire videos on YouTube

I have now started a new project: Spider Solitaire videos on YouTube with the aim of teaching other players how to play well at Four-Suit Spider Solitaire sans boop. So far I have two vids, an introduction to the rules and a lesson on guaranteed minimum turnovers.

This is also an opportunity for me to “upskill” e.g. how to use OBS Studio or how to prepare material for lessons etc. I’ve learnt quite a bit after two videos – for instance listening to my own voice just downright 83,85,67,75,83 etc. With the pandemic not going away any time soon, I thought it was just as well to learn something new – who knows, my mad skillz might come in handy one day.

Unfortunately this means the silly stories you all know and love will be put on hold temporarily, but hopefully I can compensate with even cornier jokes. I can’t claim to be raking in the views just yet, so my modest goal is to achieve at least the square root of the number of videos for Aad Van Der Wetering’s Pi Sudoku – apparently you can write the first 20 decimals of pi in an approximate circle inside a 9×9 grid, add in a King constraint (no two equal digits diagonally adjacent) and voila – there is a unique solution! This video is sitting pretty at 301,405 views so I need 549.0036429751628 views (at the time of writing) and I’m only up to 45 views for both videos combined. So if you have plenty of spare time on your hands, haven’t seen my vids yet and are desperately keen to improve your Spider Solitaire game then you know what to do 🙂