Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Charity Hunt 2008—Answer Which Is Not The Answer

While in the process of conjuring up a cryptic clue, the good setter will try to construct a sentence which appears to have a specific literal meaning or "storyline" for the sole purpose of deceiving the solver.

Good treasure hunt clues also obey almost all of the cryptic crosswords principles except for some variations. But as far as the surface readings are concerned, the setter will always try his best to mislead the solver. For this reason, the setter is quite often challenged to be creative; to come up with something that will conceal his true intention. A lot of the time, the challenge lies in the literal storyline instead of the cryptic puzzle. Occasionally, the setter throws in the word "answer" into the clue itself, and that word is taken in its literal meaning too!

Here is an example from one of my past hunts:

Q) Follow this way to get the answer, eight of which results in a gross outcome.

A) Jalan Lapan Belas

"Follow this way" tells the solver that the required answer comes after the word WAY, or in this case JALAN. It is designed to limit the scope of search to only those with the word JALAN on the board (or perhaps ROAD or STREET).

"eight of which results in a gross outcome" means we're referring to the answer that is to be multiplied by eight, and as a result of that multiplication, would give a "gross outcome". Doing a bit of simple calculation, we will know that we're looking for 18, because 8 x 18 = 144 (gross).

You will see that when I said "answer" in the clue, I literally meant it to refer to the required answer, i.e. Lapan Belas (18). But of course I protected myself here with the "Jalan", just in case that "18" could also be found elsewhere such as on the shop window etc.

If you like, you can replace the "answer" in the clue with "18", and you will see that it won't change the accuracy of the sentence, viz:

Q) Follow this way to get 18, eight of which results in a gross outcome.

Now look at this question which was given in the Christmas Charity Hunt 2008:



When we reached this sector, I and Chai went for a toilet break; Vincent went to buy some of the treasures; Margaret was scanning the sector on foot. After my toilet break, I walked that sector too. I spotted the above answer and went to Margaret to tell her. But she had also found it. I saw the defect immediately, but again was able to convince myself that the setter had wrongly constructed the clue. So we took this answer anyway.

The explanation given by the CoC was like this:

"ONLY" is the definition part of the clue. Then "A LETTER AT THE END" means to add "A" on the board. In this case, when "A" is added to "SAHAJ", we will get "SAHAJA" which is the Malay word for "ONLY". Very good! I can find nothing wrong with that.

But then why "TO GET THE ANSWER"? I know the purpose of the setter was to complete the sentence so that it won't hang. But since he's using the word "answer" here, he must be sure that is will not affect the cryptic part of the riddle. Unfortunately, in this case, that word "answer" has not been used in harmony with the rest of the riddle.

Let us now remind ourselves—what is the answer that we're looking for? Essentially, what we're looking for is the word "SAHAJ". The rest of the words found on the board are only required to confirm that the solver has spotted that board and was not only guessing.

In other words, if we want to rewrite the clue, it becomes something like saying:


Is that so? Will we get SAHAJ if we put "A" at the end?

In fact, instead of adding the "A", we need to remove the "A" from SAHAJA (ONLY) to get the answer (SAHAJ).

As you can see from the comment box below, CK Loh suggested that the word REMOVE be inserted into the clue like this:


Perhaps not a very "attractive" way to phrase the clue, but at least this is more accurate than the original clue. In this modified version of the clue, we start with the word ONLY—or rather its synonym, SAHAJA, of which we remove a letter at the end, and that will give us the answer. It would certainly agree with what we get on the signboard, i.e. the answer, which is the word SAHAJ.

However, if it were me to set the clue based on the same intended answer, I'd probably do something like this:

Q) The answer is only lacking its last letter.

I think this would be a more efficient way to express the intention of the setter. The clue is short and direct to the point. It is irrelevant what that "last letter" is. We just have to find the word SAHAJA, and then lacking its last letter, which is the "A" in this case.

Having said that, however, the CoC must also scan the sector to ensure that there is no board containing something like JAWAPA or JAWA or ANSWE etc.

Nobody said it's easy being the CoC!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Charity Hunt 2008—Losing Time On A Cruise

I remember setting a question in a past hunt, of which the intended answer had the word "EASTWARDS" in it. I can't remember where I keep that question; and I can't remember how exactly I worded it. If I'm not wrong, only Main Tembak got the correct answer. But basically I mentioned something like "Going there to gain time". I got the idea of that question from the famous story, Around The World In 80 Days. Indeed, going eastwards is a time-gaining process. And if one were to go to the east, and making a full circle around the world, he will eventually gain an entire day!

The following question made me remember my own question for obvious reason:



It's not about going to the east, but instead to the west. While I used the EASTWARDS in my question in its literal sense, the above question has a cryptic significance to that word WESTWARD. Essentially, WESTWARD is used to indicate a reversal of the order of letters found in a word (s).

This was how the CoC explained the answer:



WESTWARD = reversal indicator

HOLDING = container indicator

SOME = take only some letters from the fodder.




and then WESTWARD (reversed) to become LIGAMAS

During the hunt, my team mates were all too busy spotting an answer to a preceding question. And I spotted LIGAMAS. But I didn't think it would fit. I saw the reversed SAIL almost on the spot, but I didn't think this answer could fit. And in fact, it didn't! But, y'know, in the end I satisfied myself that the CoC must have erred, and so I alerted the rest. We made a second trip to the sector and duly written down this answer which, of course, was the intended answer.

Two points I'd like to raise about this solution. Firstly, about the AMMO = MAGAZINE part, which I don't quite agree. I don't think it is very fair to use the synonyms of the fodder where we need to take only some of the letters therefrom. I can accept "some AMMO = AM or MO", but to expect the conversion to, say, BULLET first, and then followed by taking only BU or LET therefrom on account of "some" is just a bit too much.

Having said that, however, I can also see the logic of the acceptability of the above because treasure hunt is not exactly the same as cryptic crosswords. In the case of a treasure hunt, the required answers are all fixed—they're found on the signboards. Hunters are therefore required to narrow down possible answers and then spot them on the board. In that sense, I can accept the conversion of AMMO to MAGAZINE first before taking out MAG therefrom.

But now we come to a more important issue, i.e. the sequence of the indicators in the clue.

Still using the same basic analysis as above, we can now simplify the clue like this:

SAIL westward holding some MAGAZINE

SAIL reversed containing MAG

LIAS containing MAG



Therefore, based on the sequence of the indicators found in the sentence, that answer, LIGAMAS, is wrong.

Christmas Charity Hunt 2008—Series

What exactly does the word "series" mean? A quick check from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary reveals, inter alia:

Several events or things of a similar kind that happen one after the other...

Ages ago, when I was still in highschool, I have also learned about series in maths. But I have since given back all that I've learned to the schools. Thankfully, we need not have an indepth knowledge about the mathematical series for our present discussion.


A7) Butik SEW & SOUL

According to the CoC, the "CAPITAL" refers to SEOUL (South Korea). SEOUL can be the third homophone in the series of SEW SOUL SEOUL...

To be honest, I was defeated by the above question. If it's not for Margaret, this question would have been a goner for our team. I did not see the significance of the pronunciations for SEW and SOUL. But perhaps the main reason I rejected this particular board was because I was looking for a series of some sort.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, ... is a series. So is A, B, C, D, E, ...; and DO, RE, MI, ...

Now can we say that 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & 5 ... is a series? Or A & B & C...?

I have lost my knowledge on "series", so I am not very sure myself.

Is it accurate to say that SEW & SOUL is a series?... or rather the start of a series? I doubt it, but I may be wrong. Perhaps Weng Ngai—if you're reading this—would like to comment? Of course now that the answer has been explained that way, we can simply ignore that "&" as insignificant and only concentrate on the words SEW and SOUL. I can live with that, but still would like to know if there is any difference between "SEW & SOUL" and "SEW, SOUL". Can anybody help?

Christmas Charity Hunt 2008

I was scheduled to depart for KL at 12:30pm on Sunday. But the flight was delayed till 2:30pm. I was stuck at the airport and spent most of my time doing crossword puzzles. Upon reaching the LCCT-KL, I took a bus to KL Sentral Station, and then proceeded on the LRT to Kelana Jaya where my friend, KK Chai was already waiting for me.

We had a glorious dinner comprising crabs and fried rice at Fatty Crabs. I was told that it’s a very famous restaurant and I could see that it’s not an exaggeration because there were quite a number of people queuing outside (did someone say that we’re going through an economic crisis?).

It was difficult to talk during dinner as the next table was occupied by a loud company; I mean really loud. Apparently, it was a Japanese group. A fair number of empty beer bottles and red faces—and the result was a bunch of guys laughing annoyingly loud and non-stop like the hyenas.

Due to the last-minute arrangement, I did not bother to book a hotel room, and opted to put up with the Chais upon their kind offer. The next morning, we had a light breakfast before leaving for the start venue of the hunt. On the way there, we went round to fetch Vincent at his house.

It was drizzling when we arrived at the start venue and there were already many teams there. A short briefing by Lawrence and then we were flagged off at around 8:30am. However, we were deemed to have been flagged off at 9:00am.

I found the hunt much tougher than then Mensa held 2 weeks ago. We immediately stumbled on the first 3 questions, and we had to turn back before finally finding the answers. But we were still stuck with the second question—and that proved to be the case until the end of the hunt!

I’m so glad that I took the trouble to make this hunt, as I enjoyed the challenge very much. However, I feel that I did not contribute very much to the team. Hunters “R” Us is a very strong team, and they probably would have performed equally well without me in the car! But I flatter myself with the thought that I contributed in very small ways here and there—to sort of fill up the gaps, if you know what I mean. I also think that we would’ve been able to perform better had Vincent been able to hunt with us the whole time. But he had to leave us for a good 90 minutes or so for an appointment he couldn’t escape from. For tough hunts like this, lacking a single member can have devastating effect.

When Vincent finally rejoined us, we tried to do a bit of catching up, and I think we achieved that to a certain extent. However, it was obviously not good enough as we were already in serious time deficit by then. We had to rush through the last sectors and in the haste, Chai went into a wrong sector, thus resulting in the loss of even more precious time. In the end Vincent and I were dropped off to cover the Jln Kilang stretch on foot—a very long stretch to find a single answer to one of the questions while the Chais rushed to the finish control. It must have been all in my mind, but I felt like time was ticking away by the minutes rather than by the seconds.

While walking, I bumped into some familiar faces. Amongst others, I saw Weng Ngai, Teck Koon and even Claire. The latter had apparently held her bladder for almost 5 hours by then. Claire dear, that's not exactly a recommended strategy to play the game. But the next time we meet again, I'll remind you to kill me for bringing this up here (smile). Margaret, if you’re reading this, I hate to break it to you, but contrary to what you said in the car that night after dinner, treasure hunting might not be a very healthy activity after all, huh?

Anyway, after covering the entire stretch of Jln Kilang, I finally spotted the answer: DALAMAS ENTERPRISE SDN. BHD. The excitement mounted and I quickly made a call to Margaret. Unfortunately, by then she had already submitted our answers. Again another mistake on our part. If I had been dropped off on the right end of Jln Kilang, I would’ve found DALAMAS in good time for an extra 3 points. But, y’know, it’s all in the game!

As usual, I will discuss some of the interesting questions in separate posts, but I’d like to mention here that it is very rare that I have difficulties in finding inaccuracies in hunt questions. Looking at the questions on the whole, I must say that I am very impressed; and I would have been proud to have set some of those questions myself exactly the same way too!

I hope the 3 CoCs who worked together to make this hunt possible would team up again somehow to conjure up another awe-inspiring hunt like this. If I am to vote for a possible Major for a treasure hunt, I would without any doubt vote for this one!

Well, in the end we failed in 4 questions out of 28; and we got fourth. It did not matter—I enjoyed the hunt anyway.

I would gladly come again if there is another like this one. But, folks, is it so terribly wrong to confirm the hunt a little earlier, hmmm? There’s a big hole in my pocket right now. A big chunk of my lunch allowance had gone through that hole to AirAsia. And it’s just so damn painful to see those badges on the stewardesses’ uniforms: “SAY NO TO FUEL SURCHARGE”. Yeah right—I still had to pay RM1,123!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Last One for 2008

I have a shrewd suspicion that the hunting fraternity in the west is up to no good! (Smile). They simply had to wait until the very last minute before confirming that the Christmas Charity Hunt is on after all. It will be held on Monday, 29 December. Unless if I am mistaken, this will be the last hunt of 2008.

Apparently very few teams have signed up for this hunt until just a day or two ago. The hunt was at risk of getting cancelled. But, y'know, Malaysians being who they are, a number of them signed up at the last minute. And so it is now confirmed that we have a greenlight for the Christmas Charity Hunt 2008!

About a month ago, a friend texted me about this hunt. There is absolutely nothing to shout about as far as the prizes are concerned. But what's unique is that it will be a joint effort betweem the Time Out Solutions' folks and Lawrence Hie.

It costs me a fortune to buy the plane tickets at this last minute (I can easily make two return trips under normal circumstances), but I simply can't afford to miss this hunt. But I hope not to get what I got in the Mensa about two weeks ago. I don't mind the general knowledge questions, really, but at least don't make it so straightforward lah!

I'll be flying to KL tomorrow. Keeping my fingers crossed. I'm sure I have something interesting to report when I return... Stay tuned.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas 2008

Well, folks, it's countdown to Christmas!

Wishing you all a Merry Chirstmas and a Happy New Year!

and I'd be even happier if I had more money!... hehehe

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I haven't been playing for a very long time, but I occasionally visit chess websites to find interesting games to analyse. With so much time spent on treasure hunts (both hunting as well as setting questions) and running, I hardly have much time left for chess analysis. However, whenever I can find the time I'd spend hours hovering over a chess board to study positions. Chess analysis, just like treasure hunt questions, can be quite addictive.

I know there are some of you who love chess, and maybe still play the game on a regular basis. I'd like to share a very interesting game I found, which I spent quite a lot of time analysing. My personal favourite is the Dragon Sicilian, but I've also read widely on the French Defense. Unfortunately, I've lost most of my knowledge. Such a waste when I think of the amount of time I've spent to learn all those moves etc.

1. e4 e6
2. d4 d5

A textbook approach in the French where Black challenges White for the central squares immediately.

3. e5 c5

White avoids an early exchange of pawns. Black in turn challenges White's pawn base at d4.

4. Nf3 Nc6

White defends his d pawn, and Black continues attacking it with his knight.

5. Bb5 Qb6

White develops his king's bishop by pinning the black knight. Black answers by developing his queen while attacking the white bishop.

6. Nc3 cxd4

White develops his queen's knight while defending his bishop. Black takes the d pawn while attacking the knight on c3.

7. Nxd4 Bd7
8. Bxc6 bxc6

After the exchange on d4, Black develops his bishop and thus breaking the pin on his knight. White takes the knight on c6, and Black takes back with his pawn—a strange-looking proceeding which limits the scope of his own bishop. But the reason Black takes back with the b pawn is because he plans to use it to support his central pawns. His central pawns will soon march down the board, thus cramping White's game.

9. 0-0 c5
10. Nf3 Ne7
11. Ne2 Nf5
12. c3 Be7

At this stage, White has developed 2 minor pieces and made the short castle. Black has developed 3 minor pieces and his queen. His last move also clears the way for the short castle. In terms of development, Black is slightly better. In terms of structure, I think Black is also more superior. White's pawn on e5 can quickly become a liability rather than an asset. Black can very quickly pile up on that e5 pawn and probably can win it soon. Perhaps White would like to develop his queen's bishop, but he can't develop it yet since the black queen is bearing on the b2 pawn. Therefore:

13. b3 a5
14. c4 d4

Black declines the exchange to maintain his advantage. As a general rule, the side which has the space advantage will try not to exchange, whereas the side suffering the limited space will try to trade down for the sake of piece mobility.

15. Bg5 f6
16. exf6 gxf6

White takes the f pawn with his e pawn, and Black takes back with his g pawn. It is now clear that black isn't going to castle after all. Instead he has opened up the g file to activate his king's rook while at the same time attacking the white bishop. A very strong and efficient move!

17. Bf4 Rg8

Not many choices for White, he can of course retreat to, say, d2 but that's a dubious move. The idea is for that bishop to retreat to the kingside for defensive purposes. On the other hand, Black begins his offensive mission with his rook.

18. h3 e5
19. Bh2

White creates an escape square for his poor bishop. Black builds up on his domination of the central squares while attacking the white bishop. The latter retreats to h2. It makes sense to be near to his king since it's obvious that the attack is coming very quickly.

Now how should Black continue at this point? Can you guess Black's next move?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Spring Cleaning

I was having a yam-cha with my partner about a week ago. He said we’re approaching the end of 2008 and soon we will be ushering the new year, 2009. To make a fresh start he’d like to see a tidy and neat office. He asked me for my views.

Well, that’s a tricky question, because I am one of those culprits with messy desks in the office. But it’s hard to disagree with a tidy office. I can think of so many good things about a tidy desk; and so many bad things about a messy desk. It’s just that I haven’t been very disciplined to tidy up my own desk. So if there is a time to do it, perhaps this is it.

In fact, my partner has been bringing up this same issue several times in the past, but apparently no one paid any attention. So this time he’s determined to make them listen. He issued a memo to the staff. Essentially, everyone must tidy up; otherwise they won’t get their salaries and bonuses! It was quite a drastic measure, but I can understand why he did it that way.

Now I have always advocated leadership by example. It means that the tidy-up instruction must be heeded by everyone including me. And if I failed to tidy up, then I shall not get my pay cheque too!

It was quite amusing, really. After I had signed all the pay cheques, my partner actually took the trouble going round the office to inspect all the desks. And several of them failed the “tidy-desk” test. What’s even funnier was that I was amongst the first to have failed! So no pay cheque!

And then suddenly everyone was busy doing spring cleaning; all sorts of ancient rubbish—missing pens and pencils of years ago suddenly emerged from the piles of papers; files from years ago; long-outdated memos and faxes; even a can of 7-Up which must have dated back to at least 10 years ago!

By the end of last week, almost everyone had passed the tidy-desk test, but I haven’t even started to deal with the mountain of rubbish on my desk. So today I started to do something about it. And let me tell you that spring cleaning isn’t fun at all. Stacks of papers, outdated memos and faxes, pen and pencils and erasers, paper clips, Economist, TIME—you name it! It must have been years ago since the last time I tidied up my desk, and I surprised myself with the amount of useless things on my desk. I had to stop several times and continue again.

Yes, folks, it’s about time that I start a new year with a tidy desk. But I just wonder how long will I be able to keep it tidy! Keeping my fingers crossed…

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Robes & Square Hats

It must have been a hundred years ago when I was in the kindergarten, apparently going through those torturous moments learning the A-B-C and 1-2-3. Can you imagine what it was like, trying to memorize the 26 letters of the alphabet? And then the numbers—oh! so many of them, and there’s just no limit too! Not to mention that we also had to do a bit of Jawi. The only good thing I can remember about the kindergarten was that I had so many friends to play with everyday.

But apart from waking up early to go to school, each day we had plenty of homeworks to do too! Those forsaken homeworks—we had to practise writing the letters and numbers. Such a torture, especially since the “d” looked so much like the “b”; and “17” looked so much like “71”. Little did I know that that was just the beginning of the years of mental torture I had to go through! I’m so glad that my schooling days are now behind me.

Actually, except for the above, there isn’t much I can remember about the kindergarten days. Well, OK, there was this big bully I was so scared of. And I just hated it when he kept picking on me—and only me alone! Was I a magnet for big bullies or what?

One thing I can remember was that my kindergarten days were not very sophisticated as what we have these days. Certainly there wasn’t any concerts where the kids had to perform; we did not have the so-called graduation day too.

Recently, JJ had finally completed her 2 years at the kindergarten. A couple of weeks before the end of the school term, they had a big concert where all the kids took part to perform a couple of songs and dances. That has become almost a trend these days. It’s a good opportunity for the school to raise funds. They sell tickets to the parents and grandparents. And those tickets are not exactly cheap! But, y’know, when it’s your kids performing on stage, can you refrain from attending those concerts?

After the big concert the kids had a graduation day! Graduation day!? During my time in the kindergarten, we’ve never heard of a graduation day. It’s no joke—they’re dressed up in the robes and square hats. All very grand, you see.

And apart from the graduation ceremony, my JJ also received a Certificate of Participation for some sort of maths classes which her mommy enrolled her in. She still gets confused between her “17” and “71” occasionally, but she gets a certificate! Wow! Cool, huh?

JJ is very happy that she's done with kindergarten. She has the (wrong) impression that she’s done with school. Perhaps she thinks she can now spend everyday staying at home watching Mariposa and Island Princess. Little does she know that she’s going to spend the next 15 years or more in school.

In about 2 weeks’ time, she will be going to primary one. I really hope that she will be able to cope with her studies. In about 15 years from now, if I’m lucky, she will be dressed up in a similar robe and square hat again; and get a piece a paper known as a degree. Only this time it will probably cost me several hundred thousand bucks. But that is if she’s hardworking enough to get that far. Otherwise, I’m gonna enjoy her education fund myself!

Friday, December 19, 2008


It's been a little over a year since I started this blog, and I surprise myself that I've posted well over 200 articles. Although many of my readers are from the treasure hunt fraternity, there're also many other readers who stumbled upon this blog because of the many other subjects I write about.

Those who did not find this blog through my treasure hunting friends have generally arrived here because they were led here from their searches via google or yahoo etc. From an invisible counter which is linked to this blog, I am able to trace what are the popular articles in this blog—those which have been attracting many, many people to this blog.

Well, I'd like to share with my readers 5 of the so-called "evergreens" of this blog—people from all over the world just keep coming here for them!:

An article wherein I related the story from my schooling days in Sultan Abdul Samad, PJ. You'd be surprised how frequently people are making searches originating from the word "pantat", which eventually led them to this blog!

What's even more amazing is that those searches are sometimes very specific too. I have seen searches for "pantat melayu", "main pantat", "cari pantat" and even "suka main pantat"!

Usually towards the end of the year, I get many visitors from the western world who'd be looking for more information (or perhaps comparing prices) between turkeys and chickens. Since a few weeks ago, I've had quite a number of people finding their ways to this blog. Ahhh... that Christmas spirit is so wonderful, huh?

An article I wrote about tattoo business which's apparently becoming fashionable again. I'm not very sure why people keep hitting my blog because of this article. I think many people want to know more about tattoos and body-piercings.

An article I wrote based on a link I received from one of my loyal readers. Many people were searching for "steel benches" and found their ways here. Others were searching for "parks" etc. I can only guess that they must have been annoyed when they found an article about an idiot instead!

A little experiment I made in this blog to illustrate a point about how boys and girls think differently—how they'd work out their problems and arrive at their respective solutions. Very interesting indeed and I still maintain that there's a lot of truth in the experiment too! Those of you who've not read it before, try out the experiment. And then find out if you really have the mind of a boy or girl here. Don't cheat!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mensa Hunt 2008—Fruit vs Vegatable

My team went through quite a bit of anxious moments with Treasure 3, i.e. the Philips Genie 14W warm white Energy Saving light bulb. The treasure clue was fairly straightforward to the experienced hunter, but might have been a bit tricky for the newbies. There appear to be 2 choices—one was the Genie, and the other was the Essential. Otherwise both these light bulbs are by the same company.

If one were to read the clue carefully, he's bound to know that the correct treasure is the Genie—and only the Genie. However, we were unable to find the Genie in several shops. We were more or less about to surrender, when our team driver made one last attempt and then found the forsaken item. Claire was so happy that she burst out saying, "Oh! I could just give you a kiss, Wong!". But thankfully she did not execute the action. Otherwise Teck Koon and I might have demanded for our shares too!

In my opinion, treasure clues once broken should be easily available in the supermarkets and department stores. And I also try my best not to ask for such an expensive item. I would consider an item costing RM15-RM20 as too expensive. However, what's even more frustrating is that another team which brought in the Essential—which is a wrong item based on the clue—was given the 8 points too. 8 points for this kind of hunt can have a major impact to the positions of the teams! Check out the comments in this post.

Anyway, I want to discuss about Treasure 6, which was the last treasure of the Mensa Hunt 2008:


The first line tells the solver that we're looking for, well, a juice.

The second line is just some sort of a statement that hints of a famous brand name.

The third line is basically a googling exercise to find CAMPBELL'S.

The fourth line tells the solver to connect the line 2 and 3.

The fifth line asks specifically for "A VEGETABLE" and "A NUTRITIOUS CONSUMABLE".

The last line limits the scope of search on canned food (recyclable).

Now the solver can search for the item in a supermarket. And going to the section where the Campbell's canned stuff are located, one can quite easily shortlist to 2 possible choices:

(1) Campbell's TOMATO JUICE:

On the can is shown a TOMATO and some other nutritional information, e.g. vitamins, calorie etc.

(2) Campbell's VEGETABLE JUICE (V8):

On the can is shown several kinds of vegetables. I think there're tomatoes and carrots, and probably other vegetables too.

Which of the two would you submit for T6?

Well, to be honest, at first I liked the VEGETABLE JUICE. There's that "JUICE" in the first line; and there's that "VEGETABLE" in the fifth line. But now we come to a small problem.

We need to read the CoC—whether a TOMATO is considered a fruit or a vegetable? A TOMATO is classified as a fruit, I believe from the berry family. However, Teck Koon said he has come across some articles where the TOMATO has been referred to as vegetable too. And I have come across some of those articles too. But will the CoC be strict? Will he insist that the TOMATO is a fruit and not a vegetable? Teck Koon thought he'd accept TOMATO as both fruit and vegetable. I had no choice but to rely on Teck Koon on that since he had hunted in this CoC's hunts before.

Up to that point I still liked the VEGETABLE JUICE, but had to admit the logic in TOMATO JUICE too. And then came the consideration which convinced me fully. The fifth line asks for "A VEGETABLE" and then "A NUTRITIOUS CONSUMABLE". Note the emphasis on the "A" on both counts. A singular item. Between the two cans only the TOMATO JUICE can qualify. The other can has several VEGETABLES, plural and therefore fails on grammatical grounds! And so in the end we submitted the TOMATO JUICE.

In spite of the brilliant analysis above, the CoC accepted both the TOMATO JUICE and VEGETABLE JUICE, which was a bad call. His decision must have had an impact on the positions of the teams.

Sometimes the fate of the hunter is absolutely in the hands of the CoC, and no amount of brilliant analysis can help. The prizes can go the wrong way due to wrong decisions. But we live to hunt another day. We just hope that we won't have too many of such lousy experiences in an otherwise wonderful sport.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mensa Hunt 2008—Next Question

This is going to be a short one. It's not really about a major error in the question. Rather, I'd like to share a funny story about how the treasure hunt god was smiling upon us that day.


As you can see, there is absolutely nothing cryptic about this question. It's a pure googling exercise. As most masters will tell you, the usual approach in handling hunt questions is to tackle them before reaching the sector, not after you have reached it.

However, according to the CoC, there was a decoy within this sector, namely a signboard bearing the word DEJAVOU, or something like that. I'm not very sure about the spelling, because to be quite honest, we did not even bother to look further after we have made up our minds on the answer! Besides, the title of the movie by D Washington was spelt DEJAVU, if I'm not wrong.

This was what happened in the car. Upon reading the question, someone was saying, "Oh! what was that movie... was it DEJAVU?".

Claire (turning to me): "Oh! you know that movie starred by Nicholas Cage?"

Me: "Yeah sure... ummm... I think it's entitled NEXT."

Claire: "Ah! yes, that's the one!"

And then just as soon as we got to the sector, we saw NEXT on a signboard.

"OK, there's the NEXT, don't forget to write those small stuff underneath it"

"Wait, wait! What's that... ummm... 3A-6C-PJU S/3 11", OK let's go!"

And we did not even see that decoy, DEJAVOU!


But really, I don't only know that movie, NEXT, I have actually seen it myself. And in that story, the hero was able to see what's gonna happen next; hence the title NEXT. In that movie, he did not "seemed to know what will happen"; rather, he knew for certain!

Therefore, strictly speaking, the question is technically inaccurate. I think a more accurate way to set the question is to omit the "seemed to", so that it becomes like this:


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mensa Hunt 2008—Redundancy

I have briefly discussed the employment of the question mark (?) in treasure hunt questions. Most of the time the “?” is used when there is some sort of wordplay—a pun involved in the riddle. However, there is always the danger in setting such questions because the intended answers are usually not exclusive.

In the case of the crossword puzzles, it’s quite OK, since the solutions will be dictated by the other answers in the grids. That in itself will limit the scope of answers. But in the case of treasure hunts, there is practically nothing to limit the scope of the search within the sector (s). Therefore, the CoC might end up in an embarrassing situation where other possible answers are given, and he has no defense to reject them! That is why whenever I set questions where the answers are non-exclusive, I would take special measure to check the sectors several times to ensure that no other answers can fit.

However, sometimes no amount of checking and double-checking can help. The hunters may well come up with a valid reason to an answer which the CoC did not think of. Furthermore, it does not help if the CoC fails to protect himself by limiting the scope of search by means of constructing some sort of cleverly-worded clues.


Note the “?” at the end of the clue. I’m sure we can all think of so many possible names for “RAINFOREST”, but of course in this case we’re restricted to only those signs found within the question sector.

The first thing we must ask ourselves is: Why “RAINFOREST”? That's the thing we’re looking for, so it is necessary to study that “RAINFOREST” carefully.

When my team arrived at that sector, we saw the word TROPICS. In fact, I dare say it’s almost impossible to miss that sign, although it’s not exactly a huge sign. My team paused for a brief moment on TROPICS, but Teck Koon opined that that can’t be the answer as TROPICS covers so many other areas, not necessarily the RAINFOREST only. And I was quick to agree with him too. I would have criticized the CoC severely if TROPICS were the intended answer. No—the answer should be more specific; otherwise there is no meaning to “RAINFOREST”. Note that it’s not even “FOREST”—it’s “RAINFOREST”.

We spent some minutes within that sector but eventually had to leave it without finding a satisfactory answer. We kept the TROPICS in view though, just in case we find nothing till the end.

It was much later when we had to rush back to the sector when a team mate spotted a small word, “TIMBERLAND” on a signboard. We thought that could fit too, although we still had our doubts. At that stage, we more or less had to try to read the CoC, not so much the question. I would have been satisfied with “TIMBERLAND” had the question been simply “FOREST”, but no, it’s “RAINFOREST”. Why “RAIN” when the word “FOREST” was good enough to do the job?

Unfortunately, we did not have the luxury of time to be too choosy. We had to leave the sector for the second time—but this time with “TIMBERLAND”. Not exactly a satisfactory answer as far as I was concerned, but certainly more superior than “TROPICS”.

When the CoC revealed the answer, “TIMBERLAND” was indeed the required answer. He said some teams also gave “TROPICS”, but having considered it for a while, he decided to reject “TROPICS” due to the same reason why we rejected it earlier.

However, there were also some teams which gave “RIMBA MULIA”. The CoC, having checked his dictionary, and considered the answer in the context of the question, decided to accept “RIMBA MULIA”.

I fully support the CoC’s decision on “TROPICS”, but I disagree with the acceptability of “RIMBA MULIA”.

Elsewhere, I have discussed the issue of word redundancy in cryptic clues. In this clue, I find no reason for the “RAIN” to be in the sentence; and I also find no reason to support the presence of “MULIA” in the answer.

I myself used to set questions where the intended answers were single-words from multi-worded signs. But after discussing and debating on the issue, I have since made it a point to cover the full names. Exceptions are additional words like “PRIVATE LTD CO”, “SENDIRIAN BERHAD”, “SUPERMARKET”, “DEPARTMENT STORE” etc. Therefore, if for example, I want to set a question on a signboard containing “HOTEL SUMMER VIEW”, I would set the clue to cover both the words “SUMMER” and “VIEW”. As for the “HOTEL”, that is just an additional word which is required in the answer to confirm that the solver had actually spotted the sign. The key to the question is the name of the hotel, which is “SUMMER VIEW”.

Maybe, it would have been sufficient if Q18 had been simply:



There is still one more possibility. It remains unclear whether “RIMBA MULIA” can be acceptable if the hunter submitted it like this:


In my opinion there is a strong case to support the acceptability of this answer when submitted this way. But during the answer presentation, the CoC did not elaborate how it was submitted. So we are unable comment further on his decision.

Mensa Hunt 2008—Hair Complications

Many riddles which are related to wordplays frequently have something to do with anagrams. There are of course many other themes in cryptic clueing, but I dare say that the anagrams are one of the most popular.

Anagrams are basically the process of rearranging letters found in a word (s) to form a new word (s). In cryptic clueing, anagram operations are usually hinted with the help of words commonly known as the indicators. There are many, many words that can qualify as the anagram indicators, but that doesn’t mean that one can use just any word!

Let’s now try to understand what are the common requirements for words to qualify as the anagram indicators.


As if indicating that the original word has been modified:



These words signal that the original word (s) has been changed or subject to be changed:



More action words that signal the modification and/or disturbance to the original form or shape of the words:


I was told that there was at least one CoC in the Malaysian hunting scene who had the habit of using the question mark (?) as the anagram indicator in his clues. But apparently that idea was not well-received and has since been abandoned after the said CoC went into retirement.

It is interesting to note that, perhaps because the anagrams are the easiest style to use, many CoCs (especially the new ones) have the tendency to “overuse” the anagrams in their clues. Likewise, many new hunters are also apt to search for the anagrams in every single clue. In fact, many hunters love the anagrams so much that they will try to squeeze anagrams out of clues even when it’s obvious that those clues have nothing to do with anagrams!


A strange-looking clue from the Mensa Hunt 2008. I’m still trying to imagine the process of “HAIR SPURT” up to now. But the experienced hunters will tell you that whenever you see a clue with dubious surface reading like the above, you can more or less guess that the sentence is set like that because the setter’s hands are tied—he has no choice but to use the same letters found in the original word (s). And you can quite safely assume that some sort of anagram is involved in the riddle.

For example, when you see something like, “TOY TAG TIED WRONGLY…” you can more or less assume that you need to anagram “TOY TAG TIED” to form a new word (s). In fact, you can go one step further—that this is a direct anagram because if it’s an indirect anagram, perhaps the words can be better blended to form a “smoother” sentence.

Coming back to the “HAIR SPURT” above, the “HERE” refers of course to what’s found on the signboard. Therefore, IF this is an anagram riddle, the word “CURBING”, which is the only word left in the clue, must be the anagram indicator. And so, scanning the available signboards within that sector, one is bound to come to: SHARITPUR.


If you have made up your mind on the possible anagram in the this question, I don’t think that it’s very difficult to spot “HAIR SPURT” in “SHARITPUR”.

But the question we must ask ourselves is whether “CURBING” can qualify as an anagram indicator? In order to answer this question, we must first investigate what’s the exact meaning of that word. As a verb, the word can mean “to control or put a limit on” something. It doesn’t really change the form or shape of that something. Neither does it indicate that the original word (s) is subject to modifications. It doesn’t mean that just any action word can qualify as an anagram indicator. I therefore am not in favour of using “CURBING” as an anagram indicator.

But now we come back to reality. In life, sometimes we just can’t get everything perfectly as we would like them to be. As I said earlier, one can quite easily spot “HAIR SPURT” in “SHARITPUR”, and it is also reasonable to assume an anagram operation. “CURBING” as I said is at least a debatable anagram indicator, but then sometimes we will find ourselves answering the CoC, and not the question!

Just one sentence from my team mate, and I was immediately convinced that we have arrived at the correct solution (in spite of the fact that the CoC revealed, later on, that he had a decoy for this question).

My team mate (he has hunted in the past Mensa hunts) said: “This CoC is not very particular about his anagram indicators”, or something to that effect. And so all of us settled for the “SHARITPUR” and moved on to the next question.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Mensa Hunt 20008—Persuasively Strong

About 2 weeks ago, I organised a virtual hunt in this blog. At the end of that hunt, I discussed all the questions one by one. One of those issues which arose from those questions was regarding the positioning of a particular word in relation to others. Check out the discussion here.

In that question, we had the word "about". That word, in its literal sense, can mean nearby or next to or adjacent. However, I had intended to use "about" as a container indicator.

If for example we say X is next to Y, is there anything to restrict X's position to before or after Y? I decided that there's no such restriction. Therefore both XY and YX should be accepted as perfectly answering, in terms of sequence, the "X is next to Y".



According to the CoC, he was there at the sector that morning, and he found it strange that a fair number of the hunters seemed to linger for a long time on this question. He had intended it to be a relatively "easy" question. He put the long time spent on this question as "over-analysing" on the part of the hunters. I disagree with his view.

Let us now look at the CoC's explanation, and then see if it can hold water.



Therefore, AL is joined to STRONG to become ALSTRONG.

I have two points I'd like to raise as far as the above solution is concerned. Firstly, whether we can be fully satisfied with equating PERSUASIVE to STRONG. I suppose one can say persuasive argument and we can take that to mean strong argument. When used in that sense, I guess persuasive and strong may be used interchangeably without changing the meaning of the phrase. But when taken independently, can we accept persuasive = strong? I happen to know that many people have employed this kind of relations between words, and in that sense perhaps we can say that persuasive = strong can be accepted.

But now we come to the question of the positions of the words relative to each other. Is there anything in the question that suggests the STRONG to come after AL? In this question we don't have "nearby" separating these two words. Therefore, in this particular case, we can only join whatever products of our analysis by means of the charade operation based on the cryptic approach. There is no reason that would allow us to put AL before STRONG other than trying to fit the answer to the question.

In other words, since PERSUASIVE comes before the ADVOCATE, then we can only join STRONG to AL, by means of the charade operation to become STRONGAL and not ALSTRONG.

Maybe, I would have been able to live with ALSTRONG eventhough it's wrong on grounds of "there's nothing better within that sector". But the trouble is that also found there—and obeying the sequence of the question too—is the word STANLEY. And a quick search from the internet can yield a fair number of STANLEYs in connection with "advocating against man-made climatic changes". And some of them are very persuasive too! For example, check out this STANLEY who's a professor at John Hopkins University. To be quite honest, I don't know how persuasive is Al Gore, but to me Prof. Stanley's comment is very persuasive (strong?), don't you agree?

Mensa Hunt 2008

The Mensa Hunt 2009 was held yesterday morning. I touched down at LCCT-KL at about 3:00pm on Saturday. I took the bus to KL Sentral Station, and finally checked in to Hotel Florida at almost 5:00pm.

Later that evening, I received a call from Claire. She was together with Teck Koon—they had just attended the Mensa Hunt briefing. They got stuck in the traffic jam, but finally arrived at the hotel at around 7:00pm. Then we went for dinner at a closeby restaurant where I was finally able to present the hard-earned RM100 prize of my virtual hunt to Claire. In return, Claire was kind enough to treat Teck Koon and I for dinner.

We were very excited about the Mensa Hunt and throughout dinner, we were trying to anticipate the types of questions and treasures etc. I had obtained the Mensa questions for 2004 and 2006 by the same CoC. In fact, that was the main reason why I took the trouble to join this hunt. From the past questions, I found the style very appealing—they were mainly cryptic in nature. Furthermore, some very strong master hunters have also regarded the Mensa Hunt as one of the 4 “majors” of the year. That’s why I simply had to find my way into this hunt.

The night passed quite uneventfully; and before I knew it, it was already 6am the next morning. The plan was for Claire and Teck Koon to come and fetch me from the hotel at 7am. By 6:20am, I was already sitting by a roadside stall and eating roti telur complemented with Teh-C ping. Then I rushed back to the hotel to pack the very little that I had to pack.

As I was brushing my teeth for the second time that morning, I received a call from Claire. She said that they’re gonna be late—that to expect them at 7:30am instead of 7am as initially planned. Apparently Teck Koon went to the petrol station to top up his fuel, but when he wanted to start his car again, he somehow twisted his car key and broke it. Well, not really broken into 2 pieces, but obviously twisted and was barely in one piece. So in the end, he called Vincent up and the latter was kind enough to fetch Teck Koon home to get his spare key.

So anyway, they reached the hotel at almost 7:30am, and we went straight to the starting point of the hunt. Well, actually not really straight—I had a shrewd suspicion that Teck Koon was all out to scare Claire and I that morning. He went into a wrong road somehow and we had to make a big turn to get back to the right track. Claire was well-equipped with road maps etc, and while I was panicking in the backseat, Teck Koon was again able to find his way back to the correct road. All those unnecessary excitement in the morning. But, people, y’know!

After all those adrenalin-pumping adventures first thing in the morning, we made it to the flag-off point in good time for the final briefing. One final quick visit to the toilet and then we were flagged off soon after. And then we immediately stumbled upon the first question. Perhaps it was because of the excitement that caused serious blindness in all of us that morning, but we eventually left that first sector without anything to show.

Having said that, however, I must say that I was disappointed with the questions given in the Mensa 2008. They were nothing like what I had expected. Perhaps about half of the questions were googling challenge. So those who had fast internet access would be advantaged. I have written in another thread that general knowledge questions are no longer a big deal these days. My team did some googling too, but the flow of information was of course slower through cellphones.

As for the cryptic challenge, I found very few of them worthy of a Mensa hunt. Nonetheless, we were beaten in 2 of the questions, namely one which was just a simple direct anagram which we failed to spot on a parking meter; and another which was the only beautiful question of the entire hunt, but quite easily solvable had we been able to spot the word “bold” on the signboard.

Apparently the CoC set up quite a number of “red herrings”, except that not even one of them had any impact on our team. Somehow we reached the sectors, spotted perfect-fit answers, and just left in a jiffy without even considering any other possible answers!

I was also disappointed that in spite of the quality of the questions in the past Mensa Hunts, I found some debatable points in the solutions of the CoC for Mensa 2008. But as usual I will discuss them separately in other threads shortly.

The treasure clues were also all too straightforward. It’s almost as good as just simply telling the hunters to go get the stuff in the supermarket; nothing cryptic whatsoever. Well, except for the last treasure which caused a bit of a stir, and of course the CoC made a mistake when he accepted an obviously wrong submission.

Apart from the 2 route answers which we failed to spot, we also failed to solve a puzzle. Beyond that, there was hardly any challenge for this hunt, except that it was so difficult to find the lightbulb. I did not find it amusing that the treasure clue, once broken, should be hard to find in the shops.

Well, in the end, we dropped 2 route questions and the puzzle. I have very high respect for my team members, but I had expected tougher questions to be worthy of a Mensa Hunt. As a comparison, when we hunted in Jayaram’s hunt, there’s just no way that we’d only drop one or two questions. Dropping half of them would be more like it. Maybe the grandmasters would at least drop several questions. But I have a feeling that several teams in the Mensa 2008 got perfect score for the route questions. For this reason, I did not consider its ranking as a “Major” in the hunt calendar.

We scored 130 points from a maximum of 140 points—too good to be true for a Mensa Hunt! Whatever it is, and no matter what’s our position, I must say that I enjoyed hunting with my team members, and I’d gladly hunt with them again. Although I’m disappointed with the questions, I am even more disappointed for failing to solve a numerical puzzle!

Who knows, perhaps someone should come up with a hunt that is really worthy of being the fourth major of the hunting calendar?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cabbies—A Tale Of Two Cities

When I go travelling to foreign places, I prefer to take the cabs rather than other modes of transportation. Well, OK, perhaps the exceptions are when I was in London and Paris. In those two cities, the traffic jams were just too awful, and it's almost a sin to waste those precious hours getting stuck sitting in a cab in the traffic jams. In the end one will be forced to take the trains in these cities.

Both the cities of Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Singapore have the automated train systems too. And they're both very efficient means of transportation. But although the traffic jams in the streets are bad, I'd say they're still bearable. Well, at least those jams are not around the clock. Therefore, whenever I'm in KL or Singapore, I still prefer to take the cabs, and very rarely the trains.

I haven't been to Singapore for a long time until last week, and I have therefore forgotten quite a lot of things about that little country. Apart from running the half marathon, I also spent some time going sight-seeing, e.g. to the Singapore Zoo, Jurong Bird Park, and the many attractions in Sentosa Island. In most cases, I took the cab to move around. It's still the most convenient means of transportation since I had JJ and my mother-in-law with me. The queues and competition for seats in the trains can be very disagreeable to them.

It's a bit amusing that I took quite a while to get used to the cabs in Singapore. The first few times I got into the Singapore cabs, I automatically started negotiating the fares for the rides. It's a peculiar habit that was a direct result of taking the cabs in KL.

In KL all the cabs are installed with meters which are supposed to show the passengers the distance covered as well as the amount due. The cabbies are supposed to charge based on what's shown on those meters. I was given to understand that those meters are tamper-proof, and at any rate if the cabbies try to meddle with them, they can get into big trouble with the authority.

But the cabbies in KL hardly ever use those meters in their cabs. Most of the times, one will have to negotiate with the cabbies before even starting the journey. The fare would normally be much higher than what's supposed to be if the meters are used.

Some of the cabbies are kind enough to explain why they're doing that. One popular version is that during the peak hours, it takes a long time to get from one point to another in the city; and after dropping off their passengers, they will continue to get stuck in the traffic jam for a long time, thus burning fuel for nothing! Therefore, they need to charge more to cover for those idle moments in the jams. Of course it is also possible that they are able to pick another passenger, but they can't be sure of that.

In some cases, the cabbies will decline passengers heading for the traffic jam areas, unless the passengers are willing to pay double or triple the usual fares.

The taxi systems in KL and Singapore are apparently the same. Some very lucky people will get the exclusive right to the taxi licence. They typically get up to hundreds or thousands of taxi permits. They then rent those permits to individuals who wish to become cab drivers. After allowing for the rents to these lucky people, the cost of repairs and maintenance of the vehicles (usually borne by the cab drivers), the fuel and tyres etc, there is not much left for these cabbies to make ends meet. So the only way to survive is to cheat on the meters.

A typical cab driver in KL works about 10 to 12 hours per day; and many of them have to work everyday because the rent they're paying are based on daily rates regardless of whether the vehicles are working or not.

In Singapore, I was told that there're 8 companies granted the taxi licence. There are plenty of choices, and one can find a cab in almost any street of the city; and at any time of the day. And even if you can't find one on the street, a quick call to any of those 8 companies, and just a few minutes later a cab will come by. Because of the competition, as well as the regulation imposed by the Singapore Government, the cabs are also generally newer than their peers in KL. It is far from the monopoly situation we have in KL.

I must have taken the cab at least 10 times within those few days I was in Singapore, and not once did a cabbie try to do without the meter. There was also no need to negotiate about the destinations. You just get into the cab, tell the cabbie where you want to go to, and he'll start the meter and then the journey starts. When you reach your intended destination, you pay the amount that's shown on the meter.

Two big cities with apparently similar cab-licencing systems. I'm sure there are many good things I can say about Malaysia against Singapore, but I hate to admit that I prefer the Singapore cab system much more.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon

It must have been at least 10 years since the last time I visited Singapore. I’ve been to many other places around the region, but I somehow never found a good reason to visit Singapore—until I signed up for the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2008, which was held last Sunday.

Just a few months ago, it was beyond my wildest dreams that I’d be able to run the half marathon (21 km), but since the Borneo International Marathon in October, I have done the Mizuno Wave Run (10 km) in KL, and the Penang Bridge International Marathon (25 km) in November.

When I signed up for the Singapore Marathon, Mia decided to sign up too. And it was her very first half marathon. When I ran the half marathon in my hometown, Kota Kinabalu in October, I completed the 21.1 km in 02:03:57. So when I flew to Singapore last Friday, my mission was to complete the half marathon in under 2 hours. I tagged along JJ and my mother-in-law, the official baby-sitter of the trip.

Mia and I went to collect our race packs on Friday afternoon, and we were pleased to find very few people there then. We did not have to go through long queues. We merely showed our identity cards, and then within two minutes we were already leaving the counter with our race packs.

We put up in Victoria Hotel, which’s located at Victoria Street, some 900 metres from the start line of the marathon. On the morning of the event, we woke up at 5:00 am. We left the hotel at about 5:45 am. It was very easy to find our way to the start line as there were so many other runners heading there.

As we approached the start line, there were a couple of DJs blaring through the huge speakers and there were loud music in the background. Apparently there were 12,000 runners for the half marathon. Unlike the Penang Bridge Marathon, the men and women were flagged off at the same time, i.e. 6:30am.

There was silence 20 seconds before the start of the race. Then the countdown; and finally the start horn. It took us about half a minute before we finally passed the start line. I turned to Mia and said that I was going to try to make that 2 hours target. Then I eased into my comfortable pace of about 5.5-minute per km.

The weather that morning was perfect. We zig-zagged through the city streets before turning to a long stretch heading to a straight bridge. The first half of that bridge was quite tiring as we had to go through a long gradual climb. Thankfully, it wasn’t as punishing as the one in Penang. But still, you know, as the miles built behind me, I began to feel the exhaustion. I made several stops for drinks, but otherwise I continued running throughout the course.

I copied this photo from the official website. It's just a sample photo. I didn't do well in this event, so I reckoned I'm just too cheap-skate to pay the astronomical price they're charging for a high-resolution digital photo.

As I was making the return leg through the bridge again, I was already fighting very hard the inclination to stop running. That’s a dangerous point, because as any runner would tell you, once you stop, it’s extremely hard to start running again. So I reduced my pace instead. Step by step… slow and steady…

Then I came to the 16 km point, and I felt horrified by the thought of having to run 5 km still. Then 17 km and soon 40 km (this latter sign was meant for the full marathon runners, i.e. only 2 km remaining). At that point I looked at my watch and realised that I only had 8 minutes left for the 2-hour target. It was quite obvious at that point that I was going to fail again. I kept trying for the next best thing, i.e. to improve on my previous 21 km time somehow.

Very soon, I was already making that last turn, and I could see the arch where we were flagged off about 2 hours earlier. I increased my pace. And then I almost fainted when I realised that that was not the finish line after all! Instead of 21.1 km, the “half marathon” distance in Singapore was 21.2 km. That extra 100 metres was so tough on me. But I ran as fast as I could anyway and arrived at the finish line at 02:03:08.

A screenshot (click on the picture for a clearer view) of the results taken from the official website. Overall position of 701 out of 6,399 men who ran in this event. I'm afraid nothing to shout about. Hopefully if I try again next year, I can improve that to top 600 runners (smile).

I’m disappointed to have failed yet again, but I consoled myself that I have at least shaved off almost a minute from my previous record. An ideal opportunity to go under 2 hours wasted just like that. The weather was perfect; the terrain was equally good. The people cheering from the roadsides. Everything was perfect! Yet I wasn’t good enough.

The next mission would probably be the KL International Marathon. But I was told that there will be slopes. I dread the slopes, and I doubt that I will be able to improve on my time. If anything, it’s likelier that I will take at least 10 minutes longer to complete the race. But I’ll probably have to do it anyway. I must keep myself prepared for an attempt for the full marathon in October 2009.

Keeping my fingers crossed…

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Short Break To Singapore

Well, folks, first thing tomorrow morning I will be flying to Singapore for a short holiday. I will be running the half marathon on Sunday morning. Mia will be running her first ever half marathon too.

This year the event has attracted 50,000 runners. If I am not wrong it is the biggest marathon in this region. Except for the pain on my right ankle, I'm feeling great. I'm still going to try to complete the 21km in under 2 hours, but I have the feeling that this won't be the time I'm going to achieve it.

Will only be back on Tuesday next week; and then I have a tight schedule—going to Keningau on Wednesday; back to KK on Thursday and Friday. And then off to KL on Saturday for the Mensa Hunt on Sunday. Will be flying home on Sunday evening.

So next week is gonna be a very exhausting week for me! There will be lots to tell I'm sure!

Manglish = Malay + English

I received an email from a friend this morning. In it he provided a link to the Official Website of our National Registration Department. At the top right hand corner of the page is a catchy tagline: JPN ERA BARU. To those who're not familiar with Bahasa Malaysia, that tagline means JPN NEW ERA.

The subject webpage concerns Frequently-Asked-Questions (FAQ), specifically dealing with the issue of identity cards. Below is a screenshot of the webpage (it will probably be removed or amended very soon):

Click on the picture to get a better view of its contents.

While it is possible—hopefully—to understand what the Department is trying to explain to the public, the standard of English is just awful. Years of neglect and gradual decline of the standard of English in our education system had resulted in such an embarrassing product—in our Government's website.

It's one of the most common reasons why I have to reluctantly reject the job applications of the many graduates from our local universities.

Don't believe those politicians when they appear to defend our education system. If you investigate further, you might be surprised to find that they themselves send their children to foreign universities. That should give you an idea of what they think of our own universities, in spite of what they say.

This is not exactly the kind of "new era" we're hoping for, don't you think so?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Outgoing President

Outgoing US President, George W Bush is quite a guy. He is the 43rd President of the United States of America. His term ends on 20 January 2009. But apart from being famous as the US President, he is also famous for his blunders. Well, OK, let's rephrase that—for the blunders of his administration. And of course that includes his many advisors.

In an interview set for broadcast on Monday, Bush answers some interesting questions. He says his "biggest regret" is "the intelligence failure in Iraq". He's referring of course to his resources which claimed that the late Saddam Hussein had amassed weapons of mass destruction.

The US attacked Iraq with its state-of-the-art weaponry; dropping bombs here and there; deploying ground troops and ousted Saddam Hussein. Billions and billions of dollars have been spent to finance the war; over 4,200 American soldiers were lost. Yet in the end no weapon of mass destruction was found. What a blunder. It is really hard to imagine that a country such as the US can make such a mistake.

Perhaps if Bush had only taken the trouble to take off the caps from his binoculars' lenses, he would have been better able to see clearer; and then give better instructions to his generals. Who knows, maybe they wouldn't have lost so many lives that way.

"I'm sorry it's happening, of course" he said when asked about the global economic crisis. But he rejected effort to blame his administration.

Let's be fair, it's not entirely his fault for the global economic crisis. But the trouble with being the President is that he must be accountable one way or another. Of course behind the scene, it's his economic advisors who had screwed up somehow.

Maybe Bush should have listened to more capable people on how to handle the economy. But of course he has to learn how to read first. Reading a book the right way up would be a good start.

Well, in January 2009 he will hand over his responsibilities as the President of USA to Obama. It will be an uphill task for Obama, but let's hope that he can do something good for the sake of the world.

In the mean time, Bush will be leaving the presidency with his head held high.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Chain Mails

SOME people, perhaps due to too much free time, spend their days and nights thinking how to instill fears in other people. I can only imagine that as soon as they get out of bed in the morning, the first thing they'd do is to find what story to invent for the sole purpose of scaring others. I suppose they get their kicks that way. Some people are not quite right up there, if you know what I mean.

Having thought of something dreadful, they would then start their day by composing emails. In those emails they'd demonstate their creativity on making up things which are quite often stupid and illogical. They'd then send out those emails to friends. Those emails are frequently ended with something like: Please forward to everyone...; or Forward to at least 20 people if you want...; or Forward to ... Otherwise bad luck will...

Here is an extract of an email entitled "New Fraud Tactics" which arrived in my Inbox recently:

It starts quite simply with: "Someone shared the following cases" (but we are not informed of who that "Someone" is, of course).

"(1) Today I passed by a building which has an ATM machine. There was an old man looking at me. Suddenly, he called me. He said he didn't know how to read, so he gave me his ATM card and asked me to help him withdraw money from the ATM machine. I answerd 'NO!! If you need help, ask the security to help you.' Then he said 'nevermind..' and continued to find other people to help him...

REMEMBER : ATM machines have CCTVs. If you help him he will later claim that you have robbed him or stolen his ATM card. Besides, his ATM card could be a stolen one. So please be careful of these tactics.

(2) Suddenly your house lights go off. From your window you find that your neighbours still have lights. So you go out of your house to check the Meter Box. But once you open the door, a knife will be pointing at you and preventing you from closing it. This is when you will be robbed and injured.

REMEMBER : Even though your electricity suddenly goes off, DO NOT open your door immediately. Look around to see if there is anything unusual or if there is any noise around.

(3) This is another incident. You may have heard it before, it is about a lady who she saw a kid crying by the roadside. When she spoke to the kid, the kid told her he was lost and wanted her to take him home. The kid even gave her a paper with his house address. So she took him home. But when she rang the door bell, she had an electric shock. Later when she woke up, she was naked in an empty room.

REMEMBER : Being such a compassionate and helpful person might not be a good thing these days. Pass this on and girls, please be careful... DON'T BE TOO KIND!!"

The following is an email entitled: "If You Are Forced To Withdraw From ATM Press The PIN# Reversely"

If you should ever be forced by a robber to withdraw money from an ATM machine, you can notify the police by entering your Pin # in reverse. For example if your pin number is 1234 then you would key in 4321. The ATM recognizes that your pin number is backwards from the ATM card you placed in the machine. The machine will still give you the money you requested, but unknown to the robber, the police will be immediately dispatched to help you. This information was recently broadcast on TV and it states that it's seldom used because people don't know it exists..

Please pass this information to as many people as possible."

I love that part about "The machine will still give you the money you requested..." To be quite honest, I didn't even bother to check the truth of this email, but if there is any bank in Malaysia which has the above feature, please let me know. I will make sure that I never ever open an account in that bank. I can't bear the thought that "The machine will still give the money" in spite of the wrong PIN.

I find it surprising that many, many people would actually take the trouble to forward these kind of emails to their friends. Even my wife would forward them to me. But how can I scold her for doing so? She's just concerned that I'm being an uninformed person, you see. Besides, if I scold her too much, she might just go on strike for a month, and I will surely suffer.

But I do welcome some forwarded emails; this is one of them:

Miss Beatrice, The church organist, Was in her eighties And had never been married. She was admired for her sweetness And kindness to all. One afternoon the pastor Came to call on her and she showed him into her quaint sitting room. She invited him to have a seat while she prepared tea. As he sat facing her old Hammond organ, The young minister Noticed a cute glass bowl Sitting on top of it. The bowl was filled With water, and in the water Floated, of all things, a condom!

When she returned With tea and scones, They began to chat. The pastor tried to stifle his curiosity About the bowl of water and its strange floater, but soon it got the better of him and he could no longer resist. 'Miss Beatrice', he said, 'I wonder if you would tell me about this?' Pointing to the bowl. 'Oh, yes,' she replied, 'Isn't it wonderful? I was walking through The Park a few months ago And I found this little package On the ground. The directions said To place it on the organ, Keep it wet and that it would prevent the spread of disease. Do you know I haven't had the flu All winter.'

Sunday, November 30, 2008

1st Anniversary Virtual Hunt—The Winner

It is time to announce the winner of my First Anniversary Virtual Hunt 2008...

And the person who wins the title of Freak Hunter and RM100 prize is (drums rolling...):


Applause please!!!... *clap clap clap*


She performed as follows:

Q1-1; Q2-10; Q3-1; Q4-10; Q5-8; Q6-10; Q7-8 for a total of 48/70 points

She went through a bit of rough rides during the earlier part of the hunt. For some strange reasons, she was unable to figure out Q1 for a long time, in fact she did not submit the answer for Q1 until I have posted Q5. She rebounded very quickly for Q2, only to go into some anxious moments again for Q3. Although she was finally able to submit the correct answer for Q3 way after midnight, many other participants had submitted the correct answer by then. She was therefore only able to earn 1 point for Q3. After that she practically bulldozed her way through to the end.

The other 4 people at the top are:

2) CHONG VOON KIAT - 34/70

3) CHAN HENG CHEW - 29/70

4) MARGARET SHA - 23/70

5) LIONG CHIAN MIN - 21/70

Special mention to honour the PERFECT SOLVERS (In order of scores):




1st Anniversary Virtual Hunt—Search For Half Of Cryptic Clue

In Q6 we have seen the idea of a Double Jeopardy (DJ). To repeat, the DJ is where the solver is given the answer, and he is then required to spot the question on the signboard.

However, Q6 is a bit extraordinary because in a typical DJ, the question to be spotted on the signboard is usually a cryptic clue. For example, the solver is given, say, “REMAINS”, and then he is required to find “CONSTRUCTION SEMINAR” on the signboard. You can see that “CONSTRUCTION SEMINAR” is a cryptic clue in that it has an anagram indicator, i.e. “CONSTRUCTION”; and then the fodder is “SEMINAR”, the letters of which are to be reconfigured to form “REMAINS”. In the case of Q6, the question to be spotted on the signboard is not cryptic in nature. It is just a good old-fashioned mathematical question.

Contrary to what 2 masters said about Q7, it is not a DJ. I’m still trying to make up my mind on what to call it, but I’d say it is a novelty in hunt question. To understand what we’re dealing with here, let’s look at the various structures of a hunt question.



The solver is given the question. He is then required to figure out the riddle to derive the answer. He then tries to find that answer on one of the many signboards within that sector.



The solver is given the answer. He is then required to figure out what is the question to that answer. He then tries to find that question—which is usually cryptic in nature, though not necessarily so—on one of the many signboards within that sector.


The solver is given a question in the form of lacking a piece—just like the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle. To take Q3 as an example, the solver is given:

_____ + USHER = MAKE-UP

And he is required to figure out what can fit into that blank so that he can solve the “equation”. In this case, we are looking for something to complete a word which would then agree with MAKE-UP.

In Q7, I have done something of a cross-breed between (B) and (C) above. It is not exactly a DJ, because we are not exactly looking for the question on the signboard. And it is also not exactly the usual kind of jigsaw puzzle type either where we complete a word to agree with a definition.

What I have done in Q7 is quite different. I have broken up a cryptic clue into 2 portions. Half of the cryptic riddle is given in the question itself. And the other half is hidden on one of the signboards within the sector. In order to “solve” the equation, the solver must find the other half of the cryptic riddle on the signboard, and then combine it with the half that is already given to the solver!

I suppose you can treat this riddle like a treasure map that has been torn into 2, and both pieces are hidden in different places. But only half of that map has been given to you. The task is therefore to search for the other half so that you can have a complete map to find the treasure.

Q7) _______nut = worm

Of course a “nut” is not a “worm”. And unless if I am mistaken, there is no other word (s)—at least none that can be found within the sector—which can fit in with “nut” to give the meaning of “worm” directly. It is logical, therefore, to assume that whatever we’re looking for to fit into that blank will complement “nut” to become a cryptic riddle; and that that cryptic riddle can eventually give the meaning of “worm”.

The next logical thing to do is to find the synonyms of “worm”, and this is where some of you might have to spend a bit of time, because you might have to fit in one word at a time on a trial-and-error approach. But then again, I’m convinced that with methodical approach, one wouldn’t take very long anyway.

Well, to cut the long story short, from the several possible synonyms of “worm”, and if you can remember Malay synonyms too, you will come to either “cacing” or “ulat”. I suppose there are other possible words too, but “ulat” should immediately attract the attention of the solver. The reason is quite simple—both the words “nut” and “ulat” have U and T in them.

If one were to concentrate on the U and T only, “ulat” has the “LA” in it. Wouldn’t it be nice if we’re able to insert “LA” into the “UT” of “nut”? But what about that “N”? How do we deal with that? Well, because we need to insert something into something else, it means that we need to employ the service of a container indicator. And so the word we are looking for must be LAI, because if we put LAI ahead of NUT, we will get:


But the solver sees it cryptically like this:

LA in UT

Which will give ULAT (because the LA is inserted into UT) which in turn agrees with WORM.


Q7 is not intended to be an easy question. It is considered tough because it is something new for the treasure hunting fraternity. But actually it is based on the same basic cryptic clueing principles. If one were to work on it hard enough, and coupled with some logical deductions, this question is solvable. In fact it was solved. Unfortunately, only 3 participants solved it. However, I’d like to think that many more people who were watching from the sidelines solved Q7 too.

Well, there you have it—7 questions for a total of 8 days of mental torture! To the new hunters, I hope this has been an exciting learning experience. To the masters, I hope at least some of these questions have been a challenge. Thank you all for participating in my First Anniversary Virtual Hunt!