Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Wei-Hwa's Puzzle Challenges

Wey Hey! Da Vinci Code quests may be over, but Wei-Hwa's Puzzle Challenges are now live on Google. Bit of a let down though...

The first is a simple math puzzle. Use 8, 8, 3, 3 and your choice of +-*/ and parentheses to make 24.

Spoiler Alert.

Its actually way easy.

8 /(3-(8/3))

3 - (8/3) = 9/3 - 8/3 = 1/3.

So 8 / 1 / 3 = 8 * 3 = 24.

Hope the next one has some cool graphics at least : )

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Final Puzzle for the Da Vinci Code Eurostart Quest

This was a nice one. A 10 dial cryptex using the 21 consonents as keys:

I'm showing my second play here. My first was 8 attempts, second 7, third 6. I think someone may do it in five, but I'm not too distressed. I wouldn't be able to make June 14th anyway.

This was by far a more challenging and interesting puzzle quest than the google marathon. I'm looking forward to more puzzles of a similar nature. There needs to be a competition involved to add the required incentive. If you see anything - let me know...

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Monday, May 22, 2006

DVCQoG: Final Challenge - Newsflash

Dan Dascalescu has posted a video of solving the final challenge in about 5 mins. This really does prove that ~ 5 mins is the hard limit of physically completing the game in any way.

Rumor has it that Google are going to bring the top 10 people to a physical location and have them play some new puzzles under scrutiny. The winner will get to pay the taxes, the 9 runners up will be offered jobs. Especially if they originally hacked the code.

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Lots of links from the official blog

Saturday, May 20, 2006

We switched to Vonage - how about you?

Last week we finally said goodbye to SBC (now AT&T again) and said hello to Vonage. Well, actually we didn't say anything, just a few clicks on their website

For $14.99 / month we get 500 minutes of long-distance, which is fine for us cos we use mainly cell phones for that anyway, but also get cheap international - UK 2cs, India 17cs. They transfered our old SBC number in just a week, and so far the service is impeccable. Getting email alerts for voicemail is one of the many added bonuses.

We have Comcast high speed cable for our broadband connection (can reach 8Mbs), and have been looking for an alternative to SBC for a while. I thought about skype, but lack of a phone adaptor (that doesn't require a PC), non-duplex connection and other annoying things ruled it out. Comcasts own phone service is $40 a month, Vonage is less than $15 - a no brainer really.

I got the Linksys phone adaptor - mainly because I've been unhappy with other makes, and Motorolo seems to generally suck at anything phone related (sorry RAZR fans).

So here's the deal. If you are on broadband already (Cable only, DSL will make things complicated cos you still need the land-line for that), and want a cheap reliable phone service, you should give it a try. If you are on dial-up, you can get Comcast Internet + Vonage for less than ATT phone + dial-up, so it's a win-win.

If you would like a referral, and one month's credit (in addition to that you get already if you go for the 24.99 rate), email me at bxcellant-blog@yahoo.com, give me your email address, and I'll give you a referal.

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My Final Time for DVCQoG

With lots of help from GoogleFact, I completed the The Da Vinci Code Quest on Google in 11 mins 9 seconds.

I think I could have done it faster with practice.

So, puzzle one - SuDoKu (see my blog post on that if you want a solver) - was the same for me as everyone else:

Took less about two minutes of clicking.

Puzzle two - Restoration, also the same. Solved as follows, also about 2 mins:

Puzzle three - Pictures - easy without cheating, about 1 1/2 mins:

Puzzle four - Chess - 2-2-4, less than 30 secs.

So I was into the Jigsaw in about 6 mins. It took me 5 mins to do. Corners, sides, then middle. It is very hard on the eyes - glad I'm not epileptic.

All in all, a fun time, but I don't think I'm fast enough to win. Someone else will have to pay the taxes.

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Lots of links from the official blog

DVCQoG - Final Challenge / Fatal Flaw

It seems that there is a major flaw in the technology used for the final challenge.

You can access the puzzle without logging into Google.

Anyone can go to http://www.google.com/ig/davinci/puzzle.html?puzzle=100 and play the puzzle. You don't need to have logged in.

Judging by comments on my blog, people are doing just that.

I'm hoping google are tracking IP Address as a way of spotting such behaviour, but there's still a scenario in which this won't work.

If you have a mouse / key logging / replay program, you can go to Starbucks with your laptop, use wifi there (one IP address), go to the URL (without logging in), play the game while recording keystrokes, then go home, log into google, replay the keystrokes.

There's no way Google can spot this, apart from an absurdly fast time. However, if the time is close, but slightly faster than the guessed minimum, its not traceable.

I think they'll find the results are impossible to parse, and they cannot disqualify those that cheated. In that case they may have to think about rerunning the final round with more security.

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Lots of links from the official blog

Friday, May 19, 2006

Da Vinci Code Eurostar Quest Update

The next level of the eurostar challenge was also released today. Too many puzzles, too little time.

There were five challenges, which you could complete in any order as before, followed by a more complex cryptex final puzzle. The challenges were:

Dice - turn 8 dice to complete a mathematic puzzle - they have to total 58. Note, not add up to 58. The symbols + - * and / are positioned randomly between the dice. A hin t here is to look for the + and - signs, they are the easiest to twiddle to get the right answer.

Alphabetic Cypher - find the names of 8 masons to crack the code. I just looked for an obvious one, like George Washington, got his name right, and the rest just fell into place.

Match the Symbols - something like 28 symbols, show 2 at a time and match them. They move around if you take too long.

Louve Pyramid Letters - Find the Priory of Sion grandmasters in the letters. This was quite hard, until I realized it wasn't just the historical ones. Look through the book to find where they listed - makes it easier.

Build the Pompidou Center - just put the pieces in the right place to build a photo. Not too hard.

The final puzzle in this round was a much harder cryptex. 10 dials of 20 numbers - 2.5 Quintillion combinations. Somehow I managed to complete this in just 5 attempts and about 4 minutes (did it slowly / steadily, swap out missing numbers, move around yellows) - that was a fluke I think.

After all that, you get a message that the real final round can be played after May 25th and you'll get an email...

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The Da Vinci Code Quest on Google - Final Challenge

Looks like the The Da Vinci Code Quest on Google Final Challenge is up early.

I'm not going to copy the text out, but basically, it is timed and you need to do all five challenges without stopping. It was live at around 12:15 EDT.

I also received an email:
Dear Da Vinci Code Quest on Google Finalist.

Today is the day! The Final Challenge begins shortly. We have heard that some of you had not received the Finalist notification that we sent out on Monday. This may be due to our mail being directed to your spam filter. Therefore we wanted to send another email in the hopes that it reaches those of you who may not have received our last communication. In order to participate in the final challenge visit the link below and start your quest for spectacular prizes.

Keep in mind that this is a journey. You must complete the challenge by 1pm EDT on Sunday 5/21. The winner is not the first to complete the challenge but the one who finishes in the least amount of time will be crowned the champion. Be sure to leave enough time to finish, for once you begin you may not pause or stop the clock.

Good luck and enjoy the final challenge.

We have also heard word that some finalists have not received their cryptexes in the mail yet. The cryptexes were sent out Sat 5/13 and Monday 5/15. They were sent to the addresses provided on the contest registration form, therefore if anything was not provided correctly the cryptex may have been shipped to the wrong location. Be assured that if a cryptex comes back in the mail we will be contacting you to get the correct address.
The Da Vinci Code now in theaters

I haven't had chance to start it yet, but seems that the puzzles are basically the same as the original quest.

1) SuDoKu (maybe my excel solver will come in handy if its a traditional 9x9)
2) Restoration (the annoying paint splotches)

UPDATED: Is this the restoration solution??

3) Curator (hang the paintings)
4) Chess - with no questions. The most sited solutions seems to be 2-2-4, lets see
5) Movie trailer jigsaw puzzle - mixed observation / geography?

No word from Sony / Google on Taxes, so I'll probably capture some screen shots on the way. Don't want to win if its gonna cost me $50K.

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Lots of links from the official blog

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Da Vinici Code Quest Cheaters

On the GoogleFact blog there are two posts that claim to have received two Cryptexes. One from a husband and wife, one from someone using two Google Ids.

It seemed pretty clear in the rules that you could only enter once, with one google ID, and that there was only one prize per household, apart from if you win the Cryptex and the Grand Prize.
Jeff Blankenburg said...

I actually got two cryptexes in the mail today. One for me, and one for my wife. I figure if we team up, our second try at the content ought to go pretty well.

here's to $40K in taxes!!!
H-sizzle said...

Yay! My cryptexes arrived! (I entered twice, with 2 gmail accounts...)
I've posted this to Wei-Hwa Huang's blog in the hope that he can do something about this cheating, since he was instrumental in the puzzle creation.

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Lots of links from the official blog

Da Vinci Code Quest Taxes

I've been thinking about the tax implications, if, in the 1 in 10000 chance, I won.

I've read the tax rules on this:

If you win a prize or award in a lucky number drawing, television or radio quiz program, beauty contest, or other event, you must include its fair market value in your taxable income and report it on your tax return. For example, if you win a $50 prize or award in a photography contest, you must report this taxable income on Line 21 of Form 1040.

However, if your award or prize meets all of the following four tests it is not taxable on your tax return:
it is in recognition of religious, charitable, scientific, educational, artistic, literary, or civic achievement;
you do not have to perform services;
you were selected without any action on your part;
you assign the prize or award to a government unit or tax exempt charitable organization prior to your use of, or receipt of benefits from, the award. You can't claim a charitable tax deduction for the assignment on your tax return.

If you receive merchandise for a prize or award, you must report the fair market value of the prize or award as taxable income on your tax return.

If you refuse to accept a prize or award, do not include it in taxable income on your tax return.

It seems pretty clear. The total ARV is $128,170.54. At my tax rate that would be close to $50,000 in taxes.

Does anyone have any opinions on this? Can anyone afford to win? There is no cash included in the prize, so this would be out of pocket expense. If I won, I'd probably refuse most of the prize (can't sell it since it can't be transfered).

ID, and that there was only one prize per household, apart from if you win the Cryptex and the Grand Prize.
Jeff Blankenburg said...

I actually got two cryptexes in the mail today. One for me, and one for my wife. I figure if we team up, our second try at the content ought to go pretty well.

here's to $40K in taxes!!!
H-sizzle said...

Yay! My cryptexes arrived! (I entered twice, with 2 gmail accounts...)
I've posted this to Wei-Hwa Huang's blog in the hope that he can do something about this cheating, since he was instrumental in the puzzle creation.

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Lots of links from the official blog

Monday, May 15, 2006

Update 5 - Cryptex from Da Vinci Code Quest on Google

Here's some pics of the Cryptex from the Da Vinci Code Quest on Google.

1) Cryptex in the original box

2) Cryptex out of the box with the "secret" code selected. Hint its on the back of the box!!

3) Cryptex opened

And some interesting things.

1) The Cryptex is hard-coded, and only uses the last two letters. You can see this from the last picture - there are only two notches in the mechanism. Any combination ending in "IL" will work
2) I'm betting that there's something more about this Cryptex that will form part of the last challenge. Anyone got a black light pen? I wouldn't go selling it on ebay yet, although someone was getting a bid of over $100 for one of them...

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Lots of links from the official blog

Update 4 - Finalist in Da Vinci Code Quest on Google


Two things arrived today (in the wrong order but who cares).

1) My Cryptex (photos to come)
2) My email (at 7:15pm)

Your journey does not end here. You have also qualified to compete for the grand prize which includes trips for four to New York, Paris, Rome and London, a colossal Sony® Electronics package and more valued at over $100,000! See official rules.

Beginning on or around 1pm EDT May 19th at www.google.com/davincicode, the final challenge, which is a time trial, will be made available to you for 48 hours. You can begin whenever you like, but prepare well, for once you begin there is no turning back. The player who completes all five tasks in the shortest amount of time will be declared the winner.

As for your previous accomplishments, your skill and perseverance will be rewarded with a limited edition replica cryptex arriving in your mailbox in the coming days.

While you wait, Click here to watch a congratulatory message from Sir Ian McKellen and a sneak peek of The Da Vinci Code and then continue on to view special offers and discounts from our Quest partners.

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Update 3 - Da Vinci Code Quest on Google

Still no email from Google : (

And I won't be home until 9pm this evening, so I'll have to wait until then to see if I have received a Cryptex in the mail like many others.

Until I get my hands on a real one, I'll just have to look at other peoples photos,
like this one:

Actually, this guy did a really good job of capturing the moment. You can see his full gallery here.

Let me know if you got yours, or as soon as you get an email.

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Da Vinci Code - Eurostar Quest

I had some time to look at the Eurostar Quest
today. YADVCP (Yet Another Da Vinci Code Promotion).

Some of the puzzles were pretty simple (like the shakespeare google lookup), some were annoying (I hate sliding puzzles), others quite challenging (where the hell is the A in the photos - spent ages looking for that). Someone on the Brand New Eurostar Blog (why would someone bother, a single post like this in an existing blog is good enough for comments, right?) posted where it was, but that's cheating, right?

The hardest (for me anyway) was the blueprints puzzle. So tough, I had to take a screenshot.

The idea was to move the blueprint segments (20 of them) around until the drawing was complete - they were mixed up to start with. The numbers at the bottom only appear for about 5 seconds when you use help, which is available twice. The fact I have a screenshot here with numbers on is a hint on how to solve it...

As for the final puzzles. Hmm. I don't think I did too well on the time based things. I got the Cryptex in 1:04, the safe in 54s, somehow I don't think that's fast enough : (

Looking forward to another challenge on May 19th. Will have to schedule it in around the DVCQoG, though : )

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Thursday, May 11, 2006

Update 2 - Da Vinci Code Quest on Google

The other question is about this page:


For me it gives the following:

The question is, does it for everyone. This is discussed on Warp Whistle, GoogleFact and most interestingly, on the blog of Wei-Hwa Huang, the main puzzle guy behind the game.

When asked about the page, he says:
"Oh, *that* screen.
Hmm.... can't comment."
Which basically means it means something.

Please post comments here, let us all know. If you go to the above URL do you get the same page? Whether you do or not, please post, including the approx time you entered the competition. More than 10,000 people can't wait until Monday.

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Update 1 - Da Vinci Code Quest on Google

For some reason, as you can see above, you get two. One from spotlight@news.sonypictures.com, the other from davincicodequest@sonypictures.com. They confirm that we will not know if we qualified until May 15th - Monday.

The actual text is:
Thank you for participating in "The Da Vinci Code" Quest on Google.

This email is to confirm that you have completed all 24 puzzles within the quest and successfully registered for a chance to participate in the final challenge. Well done!

We will be contacting the 10,000 finalists on Monday 5/15 via email regarding their cryptex shipment. Within that email the 10,000 finalists will also receive instructions on how to participate in the final challenge.

All remaining players who finished the quest will also receive a surprise message via email.

Thank you all for participating in "The Da Vinci Code" Quest on Google and making it such a success. We hope you enjoyed playing.

This doesn't stop people making things people from making things up. There's a guy called Gary over at Warp Whistle, that swears he's got the tracking code for his Cryptex. Where are they shipping his from? Outer Mongolia? I doubt if they are in teh mail yet to arrive May 18th.

I have to ask though, why would someone lie about such a thing? Is he a mega troll? Trying to get a rise out of people? Plain stupid? Hard to tell. I'm 99.99% convinced its a lie though.

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Da Vinci Code Quest on Google

I've been hooked on this thing for the last 24 days, but have kept quiet because writing too much about the answers may help others get through. Not very altruistist, I know, and not like the guys on Warp Whistle. They've been posting answers on a daily basis throughout the first phase.

The ironic thing is that the hoster of the site wasn't around to finish the day 24 puzzle in a timely fashion, and, as I've posted in comments there, only the first 10,000 timestamped entries make it through to the next round.

I entered at 1:08 EDT (actualy 10:08 PDT since I'm in CA). Was that quick enough? Are there 10,000 Americans intelligent enough to make it through? Will Google publish some nice stats, such as drop-off rate over time? It's all to be seen. I should find out (as should others) if I've made it to the next round by next Monday.

I'll write more as it happens.

If you hear before me - post it here.

Here's another quest I just found on technorati.

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