Ask Dr. Sudoku #11 – About that hidden contest…?

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For the last couple weeks Sunday has been a day where we’ve seen a huge increase in page views, strictly because a new hint was released for the site’s first Hidden Contest. This led a few dedicated solvers to scour the site again looking for something out of place.

This Hidden Contest was an experiment in having “other” puzzle styles here; I’m a huge fan of puzzle hunts and secret codes and the like and was curious to see if my more observant solvers would catch onto something odd.

For this contest, the “something odd” was tied to each of the posted puzzles. The information needed for the contest was hidden in the filename of each puzzle (in both the .png and .pdf). Specifically, every puzzle posted in the first 60 had an extra four character string at the end of the filename. The first 6 puzzles, for example, were “GM-Sudoku1-Erbx”, “GM-TomTom1-lknM”, “GM-Sudoku2-zrAk”, “GM-TomTom2-Itrg”, “GM-Sudoku3-gpfL”, “GM-TomTom3-rAqv”.

Once the solvers’ attention is drawn to these extra characters, they should notice exactly one is capitalized in each puzzle name. These letters spell “EMAIL A PUZZLE TO HIDDEN CONTEST AT GMPUZZLES DOT COM THE FIRST THREE WIN”

We’ve now received four submissions, and will be giving a prize of a puzzle book to each of them despite the official count of “three” given in the message. One of our goals with the contest was to start encouraging interesting puzzle submissions to this site and each puzzle submitted by a contest winner was of very high quality.

The overall winner was FoxFireX. He was the first to communicate to me by email that he’d intuited that the initial contest announcement was for a “hidden contest”, but it took some time (and some of the Sunday hints here) before he caught on to where the contest was. He submitted a very cool sudoku he’d written as a gift for a family member’s birthday.

The other correct submissions, in order, were from Bryce Herdt, Giovanni P., and Scott Handelman. Their three puzzles will appear later today as our first Sunday Surprises. While this contest is now over, some more contests will certainly come in the future. Some will be announced, and others unannounced; we hope you find all of them to be fun. Congrats to our winners, and enjoy their puzzles when they get posted later today.

  • skynet says:

    I dont feel disappointed now!because i never saved EVEN ONE PUZZLE ON MY SYSTEM.All i did was click the PDF ,take a direct prinout and solve the puzzle because i did not have any neccessity to save the puzzle.I can understand how some people would have found that out.They might have solved many puzzles on MS Paint or something so they would need a saved copy of the file so that they can refer it anytime.
    So it has thrown me and many others who would have done the same (take a direct printout)directly out of the contest.

    • Chris G says:

      I didn’t even get that far! All I do is transfer the puzzle to a sheet of squared paper and use a pen and paper, the only thing I see is the puzzle and never the file name!

    • Scott Handelman says:

      But when you click on the PDF link, the name of the PDF appears in the address window of your browser, so it was still visible to you even though you never saved an image. Not that I blame anyone for not getting it…only reason I was able to is because I quit, then loaded a puzzle image onto my own website, and thought “Hey, I didn’t check the image names!”

      • Avatar photo drsudoku says:

        I also see link names all the time when I hover over them, so even without clicking it is something you could see. That many didn’t notice it means it was a very good hiding place. Now I need to find some others that are similarly fair but challenging.

  • Tom Collyer says:

    I had an inclination it might be something like this when I saw one of the filenames. Congratulations to those who actually had the patience to piece everything together!

  • Avatar photo Grant Fikes says:

    Congratulations to fellow furries FoxFireX and Bryce Herdt! for being smart enough to find this thing!

    • FoxFireX says:

      Curious, as a featured author (-to-be at the time) did you know beforehand how the contest was hidden? Would you have been eligible to win?

      • Avatar photo drsudoku says:

        I told none of my testers it existed. And when I sent the puzzles out early, none of them got files with the extra characters. So I would have considered them eligible. But having solved the puzzles early (and in many cases not visiting the website as frequently/at all), they may have been at a greater disadvantage.

        So just another situation I’d considered that didn’t arise. They would not have bumped any other solver from the “top three” prize, but they would have gotten recognition for completing the contest.

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