14 May 2018

Jumpman's Grand Puzzle - Grand Banquet

Monday, April 23, 2018

Jumpman's Grand Banquet

Tonight was our night for answers. Pints & Pixels was hosting a pizza night for all the Grand Puzzle's gunters. The bar was usually only available for private parties on Mondays anyway, so they simply scheduled their own. Pizza from Domino's (and mini-cupcakes from Sugar Belle) meant they didn't have to have kitchen staff, but the bar was open. Soft drinks were free; hard ones were not.

Our crew was me and my wife as my "+1" and Walter and his brother as his "+1". We were met at the door by Sherry Wallace, who is co-owner of the bar with Richard "Jumpman" Moss. It turned out she was the one who created most of the actual puzzles. So thanks to her for all her hard work. She had all the gunters sign a copy of a Ready Player One movie poster as a surprise for Richard. Walter also got a ticket for the door prize drawings. Because I'd finished in the High Five, I was getting something special instead.

The pizza arrived right after we did. I still had some tokens left from a previous trip, so the boys played a few games while they set up. Then everyone got their pizza and started eating. After a while, Richard began. First he introduced all his helpers. I didn't get all their names, but their was the lich who I think was also the Game Tech for the final Jumpman challenge, the Princess Bride reader and his helper who'd they recruited that night when so many people came through to do the lines, the guys that made the props, the Float Shop artist who'd also made plates for his puzzle, and, of course, Sherry. She wound up the thanks by presenting Richard with the poster.

A table full of prizes, door prizes, and thank you gifts.

Next we were presented with the prizes. Shadow, in fifth place, got a "squashed Jumpman box" (the laminated copy of the box cover from the Huntsville Escape Rooms challenge), the Clue game from which the pieces were used for the clear box puzzle at Toy Box Bistro, and a $5 Pints & Pixels gift card. I believe Shadow was the person I saw doing the Princess Bride lines the Tuesday night I finished the final challenge, so he made kind of a mad dash at the end to be fifth.

I, Liberator, as fourth place, got a "squashed Jumpman box", a copy of the Space Invaders Dice! game, and a $15 P&P gift card. I'd never heard of the Space Invaders Dice! game, so that was very cool. None of us can remember exactly what third place got, but it may have been a set of keys based on the movie and a $25 P&P gift card. Second place got two of the Tiny Arcade games and a $50 P&P gift card. I found out at the end of the evening that the guys in second and third were hosts of Rocket Punch, a locally produced podcast.

Then we got into the individual puzzles. In the first puzzle that lead to Lucky Dice Cafe, the "heroes spin" line did indeed refer to HeroClix, not comic book spinner racks. It seems the owner is a nationally ranked HeroClix player. They'd also originally planned to have end of the first line, "you need to go" point gunters to the restrooms, which is where the posters would be. They thought Lucky Dice already had lots of posters in their restrooms, but it turned out they didn't have any in them, so they left them out in the main part of the store.

There wasn't much revealed about the next several puzzles that we hadn't already figured out. One detail many of us had missed was that the lich in the video (who was someone other than the lich we played against) was walking like an Egyptian as he went through the background. I also asked how many beat the lich without changing sides. Only one other gunter at the banquet raiser her hand.

Then we got to that cursed box at Toy Box Bistro. It turns out the letters inside spelled out "Ulysses Grant", complete with a space for between the words. And the "U. G." in "U. G. White Mercantile" stands for Ulysses Grant, which I didn't know. When they beta tested the puzzle, there were only four tiles in the box: U, G, and two blanks. The beta testers declared that too easy, so we got more tiles.

Shortly thereafter, we discussed the damnable Ruby Key. It turns out the phrase on the key unscrambles to "IT's what we all do down here." This is in reference to a line in IT by Stephen King: "We all float down here." The Float Shop in Lowe Mill was where we had to go. What had been intended as a clue for those unfamiliar with the story, the capital I and T, had wound up messing us all up. We had been so close in correctly assuming each word was the length of the letters we got in the scramble. It also turned out the punctuation marks (apostrophe and period) were within the words they went with, even though the rest of the characters weren't already in those words. It turned out the grand prize winner, Mr. Tumnus, had figured it out eventually, but only after he'd stumbled upon the Steve at the Float Shop. He got a bonus prize of a Pints & Pixels cap for getting it.

The last puzzle of note was the word search at Haven. Walter pointed out I'd missed an uncircled letter: a J. I brought this up and Sherry handed me the word list to double-check my work. It seems I'd missed "Jem" (as in Jem and the Holograms) as one of the words.

I asked about the Jumpman level editor he used. It's called Jumpman Under Construction. The Jumpman link on the Facebook page linked to a page that then linked to the software. I'd not clicked on all the links -- especially ones I'd already heard of -- so I'd missed that.

I asked if they'd considered changing the letters on the word search puzzle they had facing the outside of the window at Haven Comics. They said no. Later, during closing remarks on the contest, they pointed out that they didn't provide red herrings in the clues because we the players provided ourselves plenty of red herrings along the way. I hadn't though of that, but it's absolutely correct.

After all questions had been answered, they drew tickets for door prizes. One person got a lot of the props, including three Rubik's Cubes, the map plates, The Princess Bride wedding poster, and I forget what else. Walter won a $20 gift certificate for Supper Heroes.

The final announcement of the night was to mark our calendars for September 10. Jumpman's Grand Puzzle II would start then. And it's going to be based on the '90s. I might be in trouble. I was an adult by the '90s, albeit a young one, and not as in touch with pop culture as I had been in the '80s. And my oldest child was born so late in the '90s he doesn't remember them, so we may be at a disadvantage all around.

My loot.
I'm happy to say that as we left, each player got a copy of the props from the game: a choice of Steve on a white or clear background, the three keys and the gold coin. I spoke to Richard about a couple of last things while the boys tried out Fix-It Felix. Then it was back home to our mundane life.

I'm so thankful to Richard, Sherry, and the rest of their crew for putting this together. It's obvious a lot of time and a fair amount of money went into it. I mentioned the movie Midnight Madness way back in the first contest entry proper. Since seeing that movie, I had dreamed of participating in a contest like that, but figured it would never actually happen. Now, not only has it, but I might get to do it again! The most appropriate word is obvious: Awesome!

For the previous entries, see the Jumpman's Grand Puzzle label.

11 May 2018

Jumpman's Grand Puzzle - Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

Since finishing the contest, I've been reflecting on what I've learned. Some of it useful in life; some just for the next time, should there be one.

Don't underestimate others

My family would probably disagree, but I did not take this contest as seriously as I could. Particularly the first night at Pints & Pixels. We hung around and played games instead of moving on. Meanwhile, several others hit both The Deep and Supper Heroes that night, letting them hit the First Gate at Honest Coffee first thing the next morning. In the grand scheme, I don't think this hurt us, but continuing like that would have put us further behind. There were natural breaks where we had downtime due to store schedules. Wait for those as a time to slow down.

Be observant

I tend to think of myself as an observant person, but we all get caught up in our assumptions. My whole family missed the sugar cubes in the background of the first clue. We concentrated on the record and didn't stop to think, "Why did they choose Belle for this clue?" We almost derailed ourselves from the start!

Later, on the clue leading to Toy Box Bistro, I again concentrated in the foreground and not the background. I'll never know how long I would have spent figuring out the location because Walter got it so fast.

Two (or more) heads are better than one

I don't know how I would have done without what became my team, particularly my wife. She got several clues before the rest of us.

But it went beyond her. Would we have noticed the sugar cubes without Walter's coworker? Would I have figured out the clear plates that made a map without Walter? I don't know.

I know in the early entries I was irritated at bringing others in. I wanted to do it all myself. But along the way I eventually realized teamwork was the way to go.

Be patient

I was often in a hurry, particularly on weekdays when I had to get back to work. That could have cost me at the Second Gate with the map challenge. I was thinking "I'll take pictures and figure it out later." That would have been extremely difficult. Unlike most, that was a puzzle that had to be figured out there with it in front of you. Thank goodness Walter didn't have to be at work right away then and we stuck around.
Not this...

...but this!

Summary

The fiasco at U. G. White Mercantile, where I initially walked past the clue without seeing it, best exemplifies these points. I was not observant, so I missed the clue. And I was not observant because I was in a hurry and didn't practice patience. And it was only after consulting with another player ahead of me, who I might have initially underestimated, that we went back. And it was as a group that we finally found it. Lessons to keep in mind.

Final Scoreboard

On the last day of the contest, Thursday, April 19, 2018, one final gunter passed the third gate. I'm kind of hoping that since only five of us finished, they'll give a little something to us as prizes for fourth and fifth place, too.
Those that finished

Stay tuned for a final entry on Monday about the Grand Banquet, where all will hopefully be revealed.

For additional entries, see the Jumpman's Grand Puzzle label.

08 May 2018

Jumpman's Grand Puzzle - Stage 6, Level 3

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Stage 6, Level 3 (Third Gate)

As I mentioned in an earlier entry, we had a prior commitment Tuesday evening, so we showed up at Pints & Pixels a bit after 6:00 PM. I figured I'd have to put my name on the list and wait for a while to get my turn. However, when we got there, no one else had signed up. Apparently, since the prizes had been won, the other three people that had gotten to the final challenge on Friday weren't interested in completing it.

Richard Moss was having some technical difficulties, so I wound up playing it directly on the laptop without using the CRT monitor he had. That was a shame, but it was okay. I still got to use the USB Atari joystick.

I'd played an emulated copy a little bit after going home the night the winner was crowned, but that was it. I'd not had time to practice over the weekend. I did find some time to read the original manual and watch a YouTube walkthrough. That was when I discovered where the name for the contest, Jumpman's Grand Puzzle, came from. In the original game there are three buildings of levels, each with a different difficulty level. The final level of each building was titled "Grand Puzzle" I through III.

It turned out Richard was actually using a level editor I hadn't heard of and now, sadly, can't remember the name of. That explained why some of the levels I'd seen the winner play weren't seen in the walkthrough video. One thing I quickly learned is that to walk off a ladder, you had to be aligned just right with the platform you wanted to walk on. I believe that was different than the original game, and a little frustrating, but I got used to it.

So I had to play the Grand Loop. In the original game, that would be 30 levels, but Richard wouldn't say how many levels I had to go through. The first time through I made it to the third screen before losing a life. Then I kept repeating the same mistake of jumping off the screen and dying. I think I finished that level, but didn't make it through to the end.

There was still no one else there to play Jumpman, just one guy trying to get through The Princess Bride lines, so I got to immediately try again. This time I did better. In fact, I eventually found myself on the final screen that said, "YOU WIN"! I think there were only about five levels to play through. And that was that. I was fourth. I started in the High Five and I ended in the High Five. In the meantime, I'd dropped down, but never left the top ten. So far, I'm the only original High Five contestant to end there as well.

I talked to Richard a bit after winning. I told him the misdirection I got at Huntsville Escape Rooms about the lock combination. He said that maybe they should post the Journal page to ignore any such hints.

I also asked how many people defeated the lich without switching sides. He said they hadn't kept track, but it would have been less than half. Apparently the lich had been instructed to play to win if on the Player 1 side. Regardless, however, he wasn't supposed to attack the other player until after the first level. If the player asked to switch, he was supposed to still play reasonably well, but not his top game. My takeaway was that I should be proud to beat him in the first set of three without changing sides.

I also provided one piece of feedback, but was trying to save the rest of my questions for the Grand Banquet next week. Oh, did I not mention that? Coming Monday is Jumpman's Grand Bandquet at Pints & Pixels. They're going to provide pizza and soft drinks, plus have a cash bar available. It's only open to contestants and one guest each. So look for an epilogue entry on Monday.

Later that day they updated the scoreboard. Looks like I may be the only one still interested in finishing the challenge now that the announced prizes have been awarded.


For additional entries, see the Jumpman's Grand Puzzle label.

06 May 2018

Jumpman's Grand Puzzle - Stage 6, Level 2

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Stage 6, Level 2

I realized over the weekend that Huntsville Escape Rooms was only open 3:00-6:00 PM Sunday and was closed Monday, so I needed to go by there on Sunday. We had an appointment Tuesday evening that was going to probably make me late to Pints & Pixels as it was, so a stopover at the escape rooms wasn't going to help.

Walter was working and we had some shopping to do, so it was just me, my wife, and the two younger kids. We went in and I gave the pass phrase from the word search handout: "Oh my God, I'm such a geek." I think I showed the Emerald Key as well, but the employee at the counter didn't take it. He handed me a Wordlock with a laminated copy of the Jumpman box art on it. (Sadly, I forgot to take photos while the lock was still on it.) The back had the familiar days and times on it.


I asked if there were any instructions. He replied he couldn't give me a hint, but I should look at the Journal. Darn it, I'd left all my notes at home. I called my son at home and had him get my printout and look for entries that were four or five letters long. (The fifth wheel of the lock had a blank.) I tried all those that we I could and none worked. The fact that there was no R on the first wheel turned out to narrow things down.

My wife pulled up the Journal page and started handing out suggestions, as my son hadn't done a very good job of spotting possibilities. I also spent some time looking at the word search clue again, but was trying to think of what would go with "settle" in "Then the dials you'll turn and spin, / Until the answer settles in." Finally, after what had to be at least 30 minutes fooling with the thing, I figured it out. The word was "spin." I felt foolish, but he'd given me a complete red herring. I returned the lock and we were on our way. There was nothing left to do until Tuesday.

For additional entries, see the Jumpman's Grand Puzzle label.

04 May 2018

Jumpman's Grand Puzzle - Stage 6, Level 1

Friday, April 13, 2018

Stage 6, Level 1

Just before noon, I set out for Haven Comics. I happened to arrive the same time as the owner, Josh Olive, who I know from mutual friends back in college. I went inside as he was gathering things in his car. I was greeted by a familiar face and after exchanging greetings, I told the employee I needed a handout. As expected, it was a copy of the word search. But it turned out the first two lines on the poster were only one-third of the next riddle.

When most are gone those that remain,
Will send you on your way again.
But if you wish to solve you'll speak
“Oh my God I'm such a geek!”
Then the dials you'll turn and spin,
Until the answer settles in.

I had already solved the word search using the photo I'd taken a week before. The words were mostly from the links on the Jumpman's Journal Facebook page. The exceptions being "synthesizer" instead of "Yamaha DX7," and the partials "Atari" and "Commodore" from "Atari 2600" and "Commodore 64" (or "Commodore VIC-20"), respectively.

Even if you didn't figure out where the words came from, you could probably spot enough of them to figure out the pattern: horizontal words at the top and bottom, vertical along the left and right, and diagonals to take up the middle. "Those that remain" are the uncircled letters which, when read left to right, top to bottom, spell out H-U-N-T-S-V-I-L-L-E E-S-C-A-P-E R-O-O-M-S. Hardly a surprise since I'd already spotted the Steve there.

I spoke to Josh about the contest, as he said he hadn't been keeping up with it. I passed on my son's theory that the Pints & Pixels folks weren't happy with how bad the escape room folks were at keeping secrets. Which reminded me, I'd neglected to show the Emerald Key when I asked for the handout and they'd forgotten to ask, so I showed it then to prove I had it.

Speaking of secrets, I'd noticed something about my photo of the word search during the past week. There was a second Steve behind the poster that didn't quite line up with the one facing the inside of the store. What, then, might be seen from the outside? I checked it out as I left. It turns out there was another word search poster behind the one inside. Except it was a mirror image so that it would appear to be the poster inside showing through. This poster, however, was missing any surrounding text, including the bit about "ask for a handout." Without the handout, a contestant might have the next location, but they wouldn't have the password they needed. That was rather evil. Although if they'd been totally evil, they could have changed the remaining letters in the word search and sent the contestant who tried to proceed without going inside -- presumably because Haven wasn't open when they came by -- to an entirely different location. But they weren't that evil.

By the time I started checking my photo of the outer poster I was back at work. I started thinking about too much about it and the word "But if you wish to solve you'll speak." Did the poster outside mean Huntsville Escape Rooms was a complete decoy? Was I supposed to say "Oh my God, I'm such a geek" at Haven? Although I wasn't Facebook friends with Josh, I messaged him to say I had suspicions and if they were correct, he deserved an acting award. He responded he already had some for performances in local theater. Figures.

I texted Walter my suspicions so he could check when he went by that afternoon. He did, and said no, there was nothing else to be done at Haven. I'd worked myself up over conspiracy theories for nothing. Well, that's a relief, I guess.

The next chance at the final challenge wouldn't be until Tuesday, so there was no rush to go by Huntsville Escape Rooms. Besides, we had other things to get done over the weekend. We'd get there.

For additional entries, see the Jumpman's Grand Puzzle label.