Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tembak Series 1—Fighting For A Candy

In the Plaza Grand Millennium, while my skin was burning in the extremely hot and humid condition, under serious time pressure, and mentally resigned to the reality that my team was gonna lose big time to the other teams, I failed to solve some annoyingly easy questions.

However, a couple of those questions, though not very tough, were tricky enough to catch the regular hunters. Consider the question below, which I'd like to think that I'm be able to solve in any ordinary day, but which I failed to solve under the circumstances mentioned above:



The CoC explained the solution like this:

The word SOUNDS in the question is a homophone indicator. It means that the word we're looking for sounds like another word with a different meaning and different spelling.

The "&" found in the intended answer is first converted to "AND", of which we would then yield "K AND Y" from the original "K & Y".

KANDY, when read like that, sounds like CANDY which is a synonym of SWEET.

At this point, however, a regular hunter, Richard Tsen, interrupted the CoC to challenge his solution. He pointed out that when looking at that signboard, the way it is read is K-AND-Y, i.e. a 3-syllable word. Anyone looking at that signboard would not read it as KAN-DY, i.e. a 2-syllable word. Therefore, if that intended answer is not read as KAN-DY, then it follows that it's not possible for that answer to sound like CANDY. And if it doesn't sound like CANDY, why, then it does not satisfy the requirement of sounds like. That being the case, "K & Y" is not an acceptable answer to the question!

Everyone in the audience perked up to this little debate between Richard and Alvin. And then Richard turned an appealing face to me. I made up my mind about this particular question—and the arguments for and against the solution—there and then, but I did not think it was appropriate for me to take up the role of an arbitrator for the dispute. I didn't think it's amusing that everyone should think that I'm some sort of authority in treasure hunts, because of course I am simply not!

As everyone knows, the CoC has always been, and will always be, the sole decision maker whenever there is any dispute in his hunt. I'm not saying that the CoC is always right; merely that he always has the final say. I said to Richard that I understood his point of argument, but did not elaborate whether I supported him or Alvin. And then that was that; thus Richard was silenced, the audience turned attentive faces to Alvin once again, and the presentation continued.

In my opinion, Richard had a very strong point. Looking at the signboard as it was, an average person in the street would read it as a 3-syllable word, i.e. K-AND-Y, and not as a 2-syllable word, i.e. KAN-DY. When viewed rigidly from this angle, it is very easy to agree with Richard.

That said, however, in this particular case, my decision would without any doubt be in favour of the CoC, even though I myself have failed to answer this question!

There are 2 points I'd like to raise to support the CoC's case. Firstly, the character of treasure hunt questions has been cryptic in nature for many years now. What it means is that a lot of the time, one must be able to view the clues not only in the literal sense, but also in the lateral sense. "Space deception" has been an integral part of hunt questions, and I can't imagine how restricted the setter would be without the use of "space deception". Even if the "K & Y" are separated into 3 elements, and pronounced as 3 separate elements as a norm, it doesn't follow that we are restricted to pronounce it only as a 3-syllable word. I must ask Richard why he did not object to another question in the same hunt where "space deception" was also used.



Based on the question, we're talking about 2 separate words, each with its own independent meaning, i.e. "MAN" and "IS". But in the answer, what we have is a single word, i.e. "MANIS". And even if we want to argue that "MANIS" is pronounced as a 2-syllable word, that still can't stand, because the pronunciation is "MA" and "NIS"— not "MAN" and "IS".

Secondly, I feel that the CoC had protected himself sufficiently in this case with the clever use of the question mark (?). The "?" is used in cryptic clues to signal to the solver some sort of pun—an indirect interpretation or a lateral way of looking at a particular word or sentence. I have discussed about this before in another post in this blog.

On account of the "?" in the question, it is suggestive of an alternative way of pronouncing the word on the board. Which means eventhough we're seeing K-AND-Y, because of the suggestive "?", the solver should also explore the possibility of KAN-DY.

For the above reasons, I'm inclined to take the side of the CoC. I thought it's a decent question of an average difficulty level. Unfortunately, I failed to see the KAN-DY during the hunt. Sigh.


Tal said...

Haha~ we answered Worldwide Victory Sdn. Bhd. for this one. Logic: victory is sweet, right? :) K&Y didn't even cross our minds, even after driving around Millenium for the umpteenth time. sigh~

Cornelius said...


It is quite normal to have alternative answers to a single hunt question. But we need the most fitting one.

Yes, there is that famous line, "victory is sweet", but if that's the intended answer, the word "SOUNDS" in the question becomes redundant - there is no necessity for it to be there. The CoC could have simply given a question like this:


The word "SOUNDS" is in the question because it has to be there for a specific purpose. For it is the sounds like (homophone) indicator. It tells the solver that he's dealing with a homophone puzzle.

An example of a homophone question:

Q) Fidel was the former ruler of the said country.


Notice that the word "said" signals to the solver that we're dealing with something spoken/oral. It's also a sounds like indicator. Q BAR fits because it sounds like CUBA.