Wednesday, November 5, 2008

theSun Hunt 2008—The Spider-Look-Alike Ant, The Grumpy Old Man & The Rooster

The vast majority of treasure hunters have only experienced the sport from the hunters' point of view; only a small number of them have experienced it from the Clerk-of-Course's (CoC) point of view.

When these people put on the hats of the treasure hunters, they're approaching the riddles from the questions, leading to the answers; whereas when they put on the hats of the CoCs, they're approaching the riddles from the answers, leading to the questions. The two opposing directions require different strategies and different sets of considerations.

When approaching the riddles from the CoC's point of view, i.e. from the questions leading to the answers, the CoC needs to constantly put himself in the hunters' shoes. Essentially, he needs to constantly ask himself if it is humanly realistic to expect the hunters to stretch their minds as much as that required by the riddles in order to arrive at the intended answers. The construction of the questions; the tricks behind them; the turns and twists, may be brilliantly created; they may be entertaining too. But for the questions to qualify as masterpieces, in my opinion, they must be reasonably solvable.

Therefore, whenever I clerk hunts, I tend to spend a major portion of my time asking and keep asking myself if it is reasonable to expect the hunters to stretch their minds to the extent of that required to solve the riddles. But at the same time, I also have a personal obsession to make my questions as tricky and entertaining as possible. Quite often, my so-called most difficult questions are those which are "simple"—in fact, so "simple" that even the most outstanding hunters might fail to see their simplicity!

I want to share with my readers what I consider to be a brilliant treasure clue in the theSun Hunt last Sunday. It is beautiful in its trickery; in its simplicity; in its novelty. Regretfully, however, in my opinion the clue requires an unrealistic imagination and stretch of the mind on the part of the solvers.

The clue goes like this:

Figure out these picture clues carefully,
And an edible item will appear surely.

I have downloaded the above pictures from the net and those of you who have the original question papers may find them slightly different. But for practical purpose, it doesn't really matter.

OK, so now we have these 3 pictures in that order. Many of you are now aware of the required item. But imagine that you are seeing this clue for the very first time. How and where should you start?

Well, the first picture is that of an ant, although I know at least 3 masters who said they thought that's a spider when they first saw it. What can you make out of that picture? I'll be honest with you—I came up with ANT and SEMUT. I also for a very brief moment thought of INSECT. But because INSECT is just too wide, I abandoned that choice almost on the spot.

Now imagine that you are the CoC, is it reasonable to expect the solver to think of INSECT? Yes? OK, how about ANT or SEMUT? Yes? Fine, what else can you reasonably expect from the solver?

Now let's move on to the second picture. The grumpy old man is a little bit easier. This famous man used to be the ruler of Malaysia. Yes, I said the ruler, because he was above everyone else when he was in power—even more powerful than the judges and the Sultans. I don't really like this man, but I have to reluctantly admit that he's the best Prime Minister that our country has ever had. Now what can the CoC reasonably expect from the solver? DR M? TUN DR M? MAHATHIR? DR MAHATHIR? Or just MM? Of course the choices can go a little further to cover, for example, CHEDET. So out of these possibilities, the solver has to choose one—for the purpose of being the raw material to derive the answer. But let's keep the option open for now.

Now we come to the intriguing third picture. It is what's commonly referred to as the WEATHERCOCK, so it is reasonable to expect the solver to come up with that word first. But what else can be reasonably expected from the solver? DIRECTIONS? POINTS? COCK? ROOSTER? N.E.W.S? Anything else? How about N? W? S? E? Or even NW? SW? SE? etc.

So as you can see, it is already a Herculean task just to figure out the first level of the solution. Remember that if you are lucky enough to be able to guess the words or letters required from those 3 pictures, that is only the beginning of the solution. You are still very far from the end!

But let's just assume that because you are an exceptionally brilliant all-rounder person with an impeccable knowledge of specific categorisation of insects, then you would know that the first picture is a SOLDIER ANT. It is a SOLDIER ANT because of its exceptionally large head. Fine, we can now sift out all the other choices and zoom in on SOLDIER ANT. We progress—capital!

Now we move on to the second picture. Presumably by adopting the trial and error process, we start taking one choice at a time, try to fit it to the other pictures, spend probably a good 5 hours, and finally decide that it has nothing to do with DR M or MAHATHIR. Instead, we are simply looking for the word TUN.

As for the third picture, it is even more complicated. Can it be an anagram indicator? Nah... not likely. Has it got anything to do with the Rooster? Hmmm... I don't believe it! Directions? Which one? Or which ones? OK, let's adopt the trial and error process again and start eliminating the less likely candidates. And after spending 5 hours, we have finally decided that we are looking for a single letter from the third picture, i.e. the letter S. Why not W? Or N? Or NW? I don't know. It's just a lucky guess.

Phew, we have brilliantly solved the first step of the clue—we have successfully identified the raw materials from those pictures so that we are now ready to go to the next step.

Let us now summarise our hard-earned deductions so far:

Picture 1: SOLDIER ANT

Picture 2: TUN

Picture 3: S

Now what?

Well, the solver is expected to suddenly realise that of all the kinds of SOLDIER, and classifications and rankings and all those, we can come up with SOLDIER = GI.

And then, voila!


Now we have arrived at the final homestretch. TUN + S don't seem to mean anything. But wouldn't it be nice if there is an anagram indicator somewhere in the pictures so that we might then do a bit of reconfigurations of the letters to come up with something more meaningful? Maybe we can come up with STUN or NUTS? Hey! NUTS!...

And then suddenly the solver remembers the Double Jeopardy. He realises that the CoC expects him to look for the anagram indicator on the item itself! And so he came up with GROUND NUTS. Tada!!

And reaching the finish line shortly after midnight, he submits the precious treasure:


Now the important question which the CoC must ask himself when conjuring up this clue:

Is it humanly realistic to expect the solver to have such a stretchable and imaginative mental capacity?

Anyone out there who can honestly say he or she came anywhere close to GIANT GROUND NUTS?


Cornelius said...

I forgot to say that I was still in KK up to Saturday afternoon. I was therefore unable to attend the hunt briefing which was held ealier during the week.

Generally speaking, whenever I clerk a hunt, I would make sure that the treasures, when solved, would be available along the route of the hunt; or at least just off the route. I feel it is unfair to expect the hunters to go very far off the route to get the treasures.

During this hunt, I did not notice any Giant Supermarket along the route of the hunt. But perhaps that's because I was not concentrating on supermarkets. It would have been interesting to know how far we have had to detour out of the hunting route had we been able to crack T4.

Anonymous said...

Hi, now I can feel that we r really really far behind with Q's like these. So, the year is ending and seems like it would be a disappointing TWO hunts in a YEAR in Sabah!!! In KL, u might get 2-3 hunts in a week. Guess I better stick to my Marathon training rather than cracking my head solving Q's from your hunt experience.

Cornelius said...


If it helps at all, no team solved this clue. Or rather, no team solved it as intended by the CoC. But of course many teams "solved" it, with numerous explanations and justifications, and brought in items which had nothing to do with ground nuts.

You practically have to know the answer beforehand and then the task would have been to figure out why or how to connect the answer to the clue.

Many teams brought in the AYAM BRAND TUNA. At least we did! But I believe we brought in the TUNA not because we were 100% happy with that item. Rather, we did it because of playing safe. We somehow had the impression that other teams were very likely gonna submit the TUNA too. And we were also very sure that they, too, did not know why the TUNA! So we had nothing to lose, but 5 points to gain. If the TUNA was correct somehow, at least we won't lose that 5 points against the other teams.

To be frank, teo, I actually thought of the nuts, and I informed my team mates about it. We ended up buying the COCKTAIL NUTS. It's just that we couldn't connect it to the first picture. So in the end we submitted the TUNA.

Regarding the number of hunts in Sabah, I must agree with you. We desperately need more hunts. But on the other hand, teo, many of the hunts in KL are not really useful for the purpose of learning. Many of them are organised to please the new comers. There is nothing much you can learn with coconut bowling and the likes. But I'd recommend that you come for the quality hunts like the coming Mensa in December.

Anonymous said...

Hi Corny,

Yup, it seems like the CoC is in his own wavelength from your explanation. Ant, Tun, S might be possible if only you get the right mix. But GI from my point of view is the killer!!

AYAM BRAND TUNA.....maybe the best answer from my point of view but not too convincing coz the cock is actually a compass. Anyway, i prefer the treasures that were set by u during our last KK Challenge, at least u can justify your answers. (Will this comment spur u to organised another hunt by this yr??)

About goin to KL just for hunts... i guess for the time being our team would stick to the Kampung Hunts and try to be the Juara Kampung first b4 goin overseas haha. Main Tembak should try at least once a year competing with the Masters to gauge their real potential. As for you, I suggest you should form your own team and give Main Tembak a run for their money.

adrian said...

hey ckoh and teo,
As much as we too didnt get the treasure, i really thought it was brilliant.
For the masters category, i believe it was fair to set it at that level. One of our team mate did mention soldier ant and nuts but due to time, we didnt really put much thought into it. So to be fair, i think it was solvable if given time.

Cornelius said...

Ah! But that's the thing, adrian, we did not have enough time! If we had time, there is no need to discuss most of the questions here. I am sure most of them are solvable.

Name me one team which had extra time for the hunt... there's none! My team did not get the time penalty, but that's because we decided it's safer to simply drop some of the questions within the last sectors.

With the scope of possibilities for the 3rd picture alone would require a long time to sift out all the useless letters and words to arrive at the single letter S. And then even if we had managed to solve the clue, we would have had to travel some distance to find a Giant Supermarket to get the treasure.

So I would maintain, under the condition of the hunt last Sunday, with only 5.5 hours available to include travelling, treasures etc. T4 was not reasonably solvable.

But, yes, I would still maintain the idea behind the clue was brilliant!

adrian said...

Frankly speaking, time was of essence. My team would not have been so pressured if not becoz of SERTA signboard not being there. That cost us loads of time thus getting into unnecessary pressure and no time to solve T4. Otherwise, we were relatively ok on time.

Cornelius said...

Hahaha!!... I think everyone is grumbling about that SERTA question.

It has a lot to do with psychology. The question was so straightforward and anyone could more or less guess only very few possibilities. All we needed to look for was a word beginning with the letter S, and then followed by RATE in any configuration. It was a very novice-level question; so much so that none of the masters was willling to drop that question.

At the back of their minds, soooo sayang to drop an easy question, especially if other teams can find it. So in the end, we won't budge until after so much time is wasted! Arghhh!!

Jimmy Lee said...

I am not sure where to post this but I think here at least it is related to theSun hunt somehow.

I've send you the Q&A for open category. In case you didn't receive it you can always drop a message to ask me to resend it. :)