Oh what a hunt! As I had expected, time was the main challenge. There were 35 route questions and 5 "bonus" questions, i.e. 40 questions; and 5 treasures. The time control was 4 hours. Michael Pang, the Clerk-of-Course (CoC), must have had a bad day before the hunt, and I had a shrewd suspicion that he was determined to let it all out on us during the hunt (smile)! He gave no grace period—failure to submit within the 4-hour time control would result in disqualification! I am convinced that about half of the teams must have been disqualified.
First thing in the morning, I took the train from KL Sentral Station to Taman Bahagia where my friends picked me up. Then a very short detour to pick another team member before heading to the flag-off point. There were speeches before teams were flagged off at about 8:15am.
I will get to the analysis of some of the questions shortly (it's not like me not to analyse!), but before that I'd like to give an overall picture of the hunt.
It was a very intense hunt—from the very beginning we were pressured by the mere 4 hours that was ticking away—apparently so quickly—against the questions which were mostly killers!
The questions were, in my opinion, mainly cryptic in nature. I fancy that grandmasters Margaret and VK Chong would have excelled in such a hunt. They're after all cryptic crosswords freaks! In spite of the small number of teams (22 teams) competing that day, we had a very strong field of grandmasters. In particular, Machines were there. Of course most of these grandmasters are cryptic crosswords freaks too. Throughout the hunt, I could sense the respect and admiration of all the other hunters for Machines. They were obviously the team to beat!
The hunt was divided into 2 legs: Leg 1 comprising 15+5 questions; Leg 2 comprising 20 questions. The hunt route was surprisingly short. However, the short distance didn't translate into any advantage whatsoever. There were questions to be answered at almost every turn, so hunters had no recovery period between tough questions.
By the time we submitted Leg 1 of the hunt, we were already in time deficit. We ventured into Leg 2 without any rest. To be fair to the CoC, however, he did throw in some "easier" questions. But, y'know, when you don't have enough time, easier questions are tough too. We solved a number of questions, but were unable to spot them on the board anyway.
Interestingly, the CoC unleashed an interesting style in the 5 treasures—they were linked to each other. Therefore if one were to fail in the first clue, he is dead meat! We started sending out SOSes to some hunters who were not hunting. I called up master Margaret, but I wasn't fast enough. She said someone had SOS-ed her earlier! A few minutes later, she called me back and helped me out with Treasure 1, but left the rest for us to solve on our own. In the end, it didn't make much difference, because a team member's husband (apparently he was a retired hunter himself) cracked the clue for Treasure 1 anyway.
Looking at the difficulty of the questions, I thought they deserved at least 5 hours. I am OK with tough questions. I am after all in it for the training, so tough questions are good for development. However, I felt a bit cheated for not having sufficient opportunity to work on the clues.
And now, at the risk of all the big guns aimed at me, let me do a bit of analysis and comments on some of the questions in this hunt. These comments are of course from the position of a new hunter. So I may not know some well-established treasure hunt norms. I discussed some of them with the CoC, a nice gentleman who I've known for a while over the cyber world, but was only able to meet during this hunt.
OK, so here goes nothing...
Q4) Disable island.
Because we found no better alternatives, we chose "Elba". But I disagree to the prefix "Dis" as an anagram indicator to rearrange the letters in "able". I am aware of some similar questions, e.g. "Earthquake" where the "quake" is treated as an anagram indicator so that we can eventually get "heart" as the answer. But I don't think we can treat "Dis" the same way as in this question.
Q11) Shoe for a princess?
The kind of question which requires some guessing. Which princess might the CoC be referring to? One has to stretch one's mind quite far. As a general rule, most CoCs, when setting questions, would refer to famous figures—even fictional characters. So, for example, it makes sense to explore the names of princesses of Disney classics. Here, the CoC intended to refer to the Star Wars princess—the twin of Luke Skywalker.
I happen to know a bit about Star Wars too. But Luke's sister was Princess Leia, not Lea. I suppose some hunters don't really care about that "i", but knowing that some CoCs are very particular about details, most of the times we just can't take chances!
Again, failing to find anything better, we settled with PUMPFIELD anyway. "Pump" agrees with the "shoe"; and "field" agrees with the "lea".
Q16) Dance studio without its 2 students.
A16) Polk Audio.
When I read this question, I saw immediately what was on the mind of the CoC. I said aloud, "look for 'udio'." But my team member wasn't convinced. Instead he suggested looking for "sti". And I can agree with him too. I think the confusion arose because the question was defective. Let's analyse.
First, the word "without" indicates a deletion. Here, the solver can guess fairly easily that he needs to delete some letters from the word "studio". But which letters? I knew that the CoC intended to delete S and T. But in that case, a good way to phrase it would be "... without its first 2 students." Or if he likes, in this question, another possible way is "... without its last 2 students." By saying "... without its 2 students.", my team member deleted "duo" from "studio". But after we made another turn, we saw "Polka" which agrees with "Dance"; and "udio" which agrees with "... studio without its (first) 2 students." Interestingly, it's also possible to fashion out the question like this, "Dance studio without some students."
Q19) Fish gets inside.
When you are under time pressure, you don't have much time to consider every minute detail. It's mainly a touch-and-go affair! But I must agree that another answer given by another master would have been a better fit; and the above "carpentry" could have qualified as the infamous red herring! Let's see why.
The explanation offerred by the CoC was that the "carp" agrees with the "fish"; and "entry" agrees with "gets inside". Unfortunately, this explanation fails on grammatical grounds. Notice that "gets" is a verb. Therefore, "gets inside" can only agree with "enters", and not "entry". In the absence of better alternatives, I suppose we can reluctantly accept the CoC's answer. But here, we had better!
The correct and exclusive fit was the word "carpet". "Carpet" doesn't violate grammatical rules; and it satisfies cryptic rules! Again, "carp" agrees with "fish"; and "et" agrees with "gets inside".
Q24) Painkillers have strength.
According to the CoC, "numbers" agrees with "painkillers" because we can see them cryptically as "something that numb (the nerves, eg)". I can readily accept this. But he went on to say that when you have the numbers, you have strength too. Perhaps the CoC was inspired by the recent rallies we had in KL, huh? (Smile).
I think in a way, the CoC had a point. I can therefore accept his answer. But in this case, I think we had better! A more convincing answer was "CM Power Electrical". C and M are of course numbers too (Roman numerals). But we had a strong support to justify "strength" in the word "power". The CoC, having deliberated on these possible answers, decided to accept both as correct!
Unusual tropics captured by traveller and sent home to family.
The cryptic addicts will find the above clue very exciting. "Unusual" is the anagram indicator. The letters found in "tropics captured" are rearranged to become "picture postcards", which of course agrees with "... by traveller and sent home to family."
We figured the picture postcards and submitted the item. But the submission was rejected because there were no conventional lines and the small "stamp box" at the corner, behind the picture. The CoC insisted on those stuff at the back of the picture to be eligible for the 5 points.
I beg to differ. I am very particular to details. In fact, I've been branded as too obsessed with details! But I fail to see how the absence of lines and "stamp box" can make a picture postcard any less a postcard. A postcard is a postcard, with or without lines. If I had wanter the hunters to bring me one with those lines, then I will reflect such requirements in the clue. But if such requirements are kept silent in the clue, then it is only fair to accept any picture postcard, in whatever size, shape and colours—lines or without lines.
Well, folks, that's my 2 cents on the Beautiful Gate Hunt.
In the end, we only managed fourth position. And yes, Machines justified the respect and admiration by all the hunters. They won the hunt with a comfortable 6-point margin against their closest rival. They're truly great champions! A more detailed results are available at Mike's blog.
In spite of my comments above, I must say that this hunt was much better than the MAH which I joined 2 weeks earlier. I hope Michael Pang would seriously consider doing more open hunts, and I would try my very best to make it. One of these days, I hope to conquer his hunt!