Monday 8 March 2010

Communication Breakdown

This could be the start of a new trend of Led Zeppelin titles for my non-Friday puzzles posts. I look forward to the moment of indulgent self-pity when I get to use “Poor Tom”.

So the reason for this post is simple. I have an apology – of sorts – to offer and some clarifications to make. But first a bit of context, and an update in the long running saga with Puzzler Media. I went to their offices in Redhill on Friday to participate in a play-off for the right for an expenses paid trip to the WSC in Philadelphia. I thought I had bottled the entire thing, and was perfectly prepared to divert my puzzling energies to anything but sudoku, but it turns out that despite my absolute shocker I have qualified.

Long time readers of this blog will be well aware I have been lightning quick to criticise Puzzler on anything and everything regarding their qualifiers. My tone has often been sneering and sarcastic, and many would argue entirely juvenile. If I were a neutral outsider, I think I’d be among them. However, part of my quest was to get a little more openness regarding their selection policy. It turns out that:
Our system for selecting the UK team is quite clear. The competitor with the best performance at the previous years’ WSC is given automatic qualification. Anybody else must compete for a place. If you do not like this system, you do not have to participate.
I wish I had known this before now – and if anyone else was aware of this please come forward and say so. My only defence here is that this was certainly not clear to me, and things would have been different if this was. Part of my attack was based upon the seemingly arbitrary (although perhaps practical) preferential treatment enjoyed by David M. There seemed a horrible contradiction that an individual could be deemed to be above qualifying, whereas the current Times national champion was forced to qualify from 2008 onwards. Whilst the possibility that a national champion is not sent out to represent their country at a world championship troubles me a little, I can recognise the practicalities of this principle of supercedence now that I understand it is based upon accountable axiom.

As such, I can only apologise for my ill-informed and juvenile attacks aimed at Puzzler Media with regards to their professional integrity. I have privately apologised for any (unintended) personal offence.

Now for a clarification regarding the actual contents of the qualifier, where I believe improvements could still be made. As I have commented to regular reader Thomas S, there’s still a niggling argument in my mind saying “it’s the same for everyone” which applies. This is countered by the fact if it is indeed the same for everyone, why stand for an unsatisfactory situation, when you could have a more satisfactory one?

I still maintain the following points that would in my opinion improve any qualifier that has not already taken them into account. In my experience most qualifiers do.
  • Any qualifier should have a pre-released instruction booklet detailing puzzle types. This especially helps in clearing up potential ambiguities well in advance.
  • Any qualifier should be able to be finished by the hypothetical best candidate(s).
  • Any qualifier should not contain too many non-relevant puzzles. Three killers, for example, and four 8×8 puzzles will never appear in any single WSC round.
  • Any qualifier should not contain too many standard variants that can be cheated on. These would be any from the following: classics, diagonals, killers, and irregulars.
  • Even with the above taken into account, any qualifier should ideally be offline. This can often be impractical, and so if it must be online, then the above should especially be taken into account.
This is my analysis. As with my apology, it can be taken or left and I’m not going to worry to much either way – this is the legacy of the Communication Breakdown – it works both ways. My only caveat is I’m not going to go to any extra bother at all in the future; the first sign of any trouble and I’m out. I’ve got better things to get stressed about.

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