I like post-mortems as much as the next guy; no, probably more. But somehow, while I've enjoyed discussing things with my team, I don't feel any particular need to go through the typical recriminations and praises and so forth.
I did read the posts, and comments, on thedan's blog. I didn't reply to any of them, though, tempted as I was. He talked about, and people replied to, thoughts about what he called "sweatshop teams" who, when he visited, looked more focused on solving than socializing. Noah has thoughts about "pure" vs. "shell" metas, about whether the Round VIII Meta was broken, and so forth, and I by and large won't comment on those, either. I will say that he talks about the 2003 hunt having "shell" metas, metapuzzles in which you put the words into a framework rather than just using them as words; but that by my count, there were only two rounds of seven where the answers were used as transformations on a grid (I'm not counting Round 2; we could have left out the grid, but that would have only made it harder). (I'll also note with amusement that he complains that, for the Mystery Hunt, "starting out with a round of pop-culture and a round of sports was somewhat inappropriate"; whereas many Hunters complain that having too many crossword-and-wordplay puzzles is inappropriate.)
The discussion about whether the Round VIII Meta is "broken" seems to be typified by two opinions:
- "Anyway, bottom line, two different teams solved the puzzle without any hinting. That's the definition of solvable, and while it could have been calibrated better, that's good enough for me." -Dan
- "Any puzzle that stumps so many smart people for so long is probably broken, even if it is ultimately solveable." -Noah
I think they're both right, in a sense, but also somewhat misguided.
It's possible to solve a broken puzzle. Heck, I've solved broken puzzles. Being able to get to a solution does not in and of itself make a puzzle broken. It's also possible for a puzzle to be hard, even perhaps universally hard, without being "broken".
I don't think the Round VIII Meta was broken. I also don't think the fact that (a few) teams solved it should be taken to indicate that it was somehow "all right". I do think it was terribly underclued (which I think Dan acknowledges in his post). I think it ultimately had the problem which Bridget called the "Taipei Problem" when we were writing the 2003 Hunt, based on this puzzle. Teams solved that puzzle; that wasn't the problem. The Taipei Problem is this: the right thing to do is reasonable, but there are hundreds of other perfectly reasonable-looking wrong things to do. That, I feel, is what happened here: using the Senate floor as a grid is reasonable, but so is listing the senators alphabetically, or by seniority, or...