Wrestling with Group Solves and Nudges

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Al Sisti
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Wrestling with Group Solves and Nudges

#1

Post by Al Sisti » Thu Jan 30, 2020 12:59 am

So I've been having a little devil/angel-on-my-shoulders kind of discussion with myself lately, regarding my asking for hints when I get stumped (usually by well overshooting the intended mechanism). On the one hand, I like extending a streak, but lately, I've been feeling pretty sheepish when I look at my streak and I realize/admit that it's only where it is because I got a nudge from a friend. I do check that it wasn't a solo solve, so it's not like I try to sneak it in -- but still, I know I don't deserve the streak being continued.

So I've come to a decision. Starting now (currently dead in the water with this week's PGWCC, and with a Week 5 MGWCC coming up), I am no longer going to ask for nudges/hints, and if my streaks end, they end. I mean, it's not the end of the world, right? After all, who's gonna remember any of this in 50 years (except Jangler, whose streak will have to be written in scientific notation by then)?

PS: How was that, angel-on-my-shoulder? You happy now? Yeah? Then how about giving my brain a little boost?

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FrankieHeck
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#2

Post by FrankieHeck » Thu Jan 30, 2020 8:46 am

Al, I feel mostly the same as you do. Like my streak doesn't really represent much of anything if I got help. Even when there is no published streak, but just the piece of notebook paper I've been using. I would like to say that I'll stick to no hints, but I know that I tend to cave when the deadline approaches, and there is a week 5 coming up, so here are some of my random thoughts on the matter:

1) I'll probably cave on January week 5. If he's counting it as solo anyway, I might as well keep my streak for now. I'll start fresh in February.

2) I prefer pooling "finds" with other non-solvers than taking a hint from a solver. If the other person then figures it out first, I don't want the answer or any nudges. It's just the pooling of information, more like we're at a bar discussing a freshly printed puzzle, which reminds me...

3) I am still going to discuss these puzzles with my family. (Much to their dismay, perhaps.) Realistically, these metas have become my favorite pastime, and my husband is always asking me what the puzzle is today. And if one of my boys is home, they will take a look. If they are tricky, I might have a couple in front of me all weekend. It's just hard not to talk about them, and the husband always has strong opinions. This is my first opportunity at a full year with Matt's puzzle, so I'll have to make an effort to keep him away from that one, in the interest of a potential solo streak, but other than that, I consider my family an extension of myself. (And in the case of prizes, nobody else in the family submits an entry.)

4) I'd like to give myself till close to the deadline on my own, but then I can see myself maybe asking a solver something like "do I need to consider the clues?" or "does that asymmetry have something to do with it?" Sometimes I get so hung up on one strategy that just eliminating that as a possibility will allow me to see the right path. And it's amazing how often I get the answer on the last possible day, if I keep trying.

So those are my random thoughts, for what it's worth. I realize that everybody will do their own thing, and that's cool. Aside from Matt's solo streak, which isn't visible, streaks will always mean different things to different people. Everyone should do what makes them happy. But like Al, I get less joy out of it when I get a substantial push, and so I am going to try to wean myself. Broken streaks can sometimes be very freeing. (And I suspect I'll be freed around February 21 or 28.)

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Al Sisti
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#3

Post by Al Sisti » Thu Jan 30, 2020 9:09 am

FrankieHeck wrote:
Thu Jan 30, 2020 8:46 am
Al, I feel mostly the same as you do. Like my streak doesn't really represent much of anything if I got help. Even when there is no published streak, but just the piece of notebook paper I've been using. I would like to say that I'll stick to no hints, but I know that I tend to cave when the deadline approaches, and there is a week 5 coming up, so here are some of my random thoughts on the matter:

1) I'll probably cave on January week 5. If he's counting it as solo anyway, I might as well keep my streak for now. I'll start fresh in February.

2) I prefer pooling "finds" with other non-solvers than taking a hint from a solver. If the other person then figures it out first, I don't want the answer or any nudges. It's just the pooling of information, more like we're at a bar discussing a freshly printed puzzle, which reminds me...

3) I am still going to discuss these puzzles with my family. (Much to their dismay, perhaps.) Realistically, these metas have become my favorite pastime, and my husband is always asking me what the puzzle is today. And if one of my boys is home, they will take a look. If they are tricky, I might have a couple in front of me all weekend. It's just hard not to talk about them, and the husband always has strong opinions. This is my first opportunity at a full year with Matt's puzzle, so I'll have to make an effort to keep him away from that one, in the interest of a potential solo streak, but other than that, I consider my family an extension of myself. (And in the case of prizes, nobody else in the family submits an entry.)

4) I'd like to give myself till close to the deadline on my own, but then I can see myself maybe asking a solver something like "do I need to consider the clues?" or "does that asymmetry have something to do with it?" Sometimes I get so hung up on one strategy that just eliminating that as a possibility will allow me to see the right path. And it's amazing how often I get the answer on the last possible day, if I keep trying.

So those are my random thoughts, for what it's worth. I realize that everybody will do their own thing, and that's cool. Aside from Matt's solo streak, which isn't visible, streaks will always mean different things to different people. Everyone should do what makes them happy. But like Al, I get less joy out of it when I get a substantial push, and so I am going to try to wean myself. Broken streaks can sometimes be very freeing. (And I suspect I'll be freed around February 21 or 28.)
You make a good point about team solving, especially when it's with a spouse, partner, family, friends... I guess I was talking more about "screen name solvers" teaming with other "screen name solvers" to keep streaks going. As for your points about "am I going in the right direction," etc., yeah, that's where I was mostly situated. And made some nice friendships as a result along the way.

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FrankieHeck
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#4

Post by FrankieHeck » Thu Jan 30, 2020 9:16 am

Al Sisti wrote:
Thu Jan 30, 2020 9:09 am
As for your points about "am I going in the right direction," etc., yeah, that's where I was mostly situated. And made some nice friendships as a result along the way.
I consider those the most innocent of nudges. Sometimes you don't want to be told the right path. You just want to know if you've traveled many miles down one of the wrong ones.

Laura M
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#5

Post by Laura M » Thu Jan 30, 2020 6:32 pm

I think I'm addicted to the feeling of solving a tough one completely on my own, so I'm always chasing that high. Solving with a hint just isn't the same. That said, it's better than not solving at all, and sometimes a nudge does keep a puzzle from eating my entire weekend...

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Hector
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#6

Post by Hector » Thu Jan 30, 2020 7:02 pm

If you're worried about an unearned streak, why not just resolve not to submit after getting help? When I've asked for help, it was never to extend a streak, but only to have, hopefully, greater than zero of the solving fun. And it's fun to be on the other end, too, devising a nudge that doesn't give everything away.

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FrankieHeck
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#7

Post by FrankieHeck » Fri Jan 31, 2020 3:59 pm

Hector wrote:
Thu Jan 30, 2020 7:02 pm
If you're worried about an unearned streak, why not just resolve not to submit after getting help? When I've asked for help, it was never to extend a streak, but only to have, hopefully, greater than zero of the solving fun. And it's fun to be on the other end, too, devising a nudge that doesn't give everything away.
You're right...it is ultimately about fun. The hard part for me is deciding at what point I will sacrifice the joy of solving on my own. I guess by the time I've just about memorized the grid, and the mere sight of it nearly sends me into a rage...that's probably when I'm ultimately going to have more fun by phoning a friend.

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BarbaraK
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#8

Post by BarbaraK » Fri Jan 31, 2020 5:16 pm

FrankieHeck wrote:
Thu Jan 30, 2020 8:46 am

3) I am still going to discuss these puzzles with my family. (Much to their dismay, perhaps.) Realistically, these metas have become my favorite pastime, and my husband is always asking me what the puzzle is today. And if one of my boys is home, they will take a look. If they are tricky, I might have a couple in front of me all weekend. It's just hard not to talk about them, and the husband always has strong opinions. This is my first opportunity at a full year with Matt's puzzle, so I'll have to make an effort to keep him away from that one, in the interest of a potential solo streak, but other than that, I consider my family an extension of myself. (And in the case of prizes, nobody else in the family submits an entry.)
Isn't there some rule about regular small groups solving together still counting as solo, so long as only one person in the group submits? Seems like your family could fit under that rule. I don't see the details on Matt's site though - probably in one of the weekly posts at the beginning of last year when he started the Solo button. His FAQ is really out of date; maybe he'll work on that soon.

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FrankieHeck
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#9

Post by FrankieHeck » Fri Jan 31, 2020 5:25 pm

BarbaraK wrote:
Fri Jan 31, 2020 5:16 pm
FrankieHeck wrote:
Thu Jan 30, 2020 8:46 am

3) I am still going to discuss these puzzles with my family. (Much to their dismay, perhaps.) Realistically, these metas have become my favorite pastime, and my husband is always asking me what the puzzle is today. And if one of my boys is home, they will take a look. If they are tricky, I might have a couple in front of me all weekend. It's just hard not to talk about them, and the husband always has strong opinions. This is my first opportunity at a full year with Matt's puzzle, so I'll have to make an effort to keep him away from that one, in the interest of a potential solo streak, but other than that, I consider my family an extension of myself. (And in the case of prizes, nobody else in the family submits an entry.)
Isn't there some rule about regular small groups solving together still counting as solo, so long as only one person in the group submits? Seems like your family could fit under that rule. I don't see the details on Matt's site though - probably in one of the weekly posts at the beginning of last year when he started the Solo button. His FAQ is really out of date; maybe he'll work on that soon.
I discovered metas less than a year ago, and while I remember reading Matt's discussing the dilemma, I don't remember exactly what he decided. I was thinking that for last year he decided solo meant no discussion whatsoever (I sort of think reading comments here would disqualify), but that solo solves would only matter for the annual prizes. Group solvers would still be eligible for weekly and monthly. I think he's going to report back with his rules for 2020. We shall see!

One thing I noticed with the solo solve option on his site is that his submission form defaults to solo. And while I usually solo solve, I have to remember to check the other option if I don't. I kind of wish he left that blank, so I would be forced to pick the right option.

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TMart
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#10

Post by TMart » Fri Jan 31, 2020 10:32 pm

This is all for fun, so it's really a matter of personal preference. That said, I have always felt (in my long, long career of meta solving, which just recently reached one year) that I would rather fail and kill a streak than get a hint or nudge that the constructor didn't feel was necessary for the solve. Especially on Matt's, as he uses number of correct solvers to judge the difficulty after the fact, and I'm trying to do my part not to skew that. As I write this, I am struggling mightily with this week's WSJ meta, with a streak of 61 on the line. I popped onto the forum to look for Gaffney archives that I might be able to glean something from to aid me in the solve, and saw this topic, so I'm adding my 2 cents.

I don't want nudges because I know myself too well - I think taking a nudge would be like a drug - it feels good at first to keep the streak alive, but then the pleasure of the aha moment would be diminished, as I'm sure I would begin to succumb to the temptation each week of asking for a hint when the going got tough, and pretty soon the whole meta high would wear off, and I'd stop doing them altogether. I almost gave up on week 4 last week from Matt, but gave it one last shot and got it, and the feeling was incredible. I wouldn't trade that for a streak that I didn't think I had earned. I'm now up to a streak 6 on Gaffney (after today's easy "week 5"), and feel good that I can get to 9 until the next week 4 hits. And then.... I'll start again. Sisyphus would be proud.

For now, I'm strapped in for a long weekend. I hope I can get the WSJ solved before the Super Bowl starts. If not, so be it. The nice thing is, there's always another meta just a few days away and a chance to start a brand new streak.

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MajordomoTom
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#11

Post by MajordomoTom » Fri Jan 31, 2020 10:45 pm

I'm tempted to ask for a nudge for the parting of the waters, but also want to have the satisfaction of solving it myself, so haven't asked for one.

This one though ... it's deep to me.
"Lots of planets have a North", the Ninth Doctor.

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ChrisKochmanski
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#12

Post by ChrisKochmanski » Wed Feb 19, 2020 12:31 pm

Hector wrote:
Thu Jan 30, 2020 7:02 pm
If you're worried about an unearned streak, why not just resolve not to submit after getting help? When I've asked for help, it was never to extend a streak, but only to have, hopefully, greater than zero of the solving fun. And it's fun to be on the other end, too, devising a nudge that doesn't give everything away.
I've been feeling guilty too. But I still enjoy the experience of getting the puzzle when it requires a nudge. (AND the experience of giving a nudge -- though I believe I've given only two.) So I'll do as Hector does: I'll still occasionally ask for a nudge, get the puzzle, and be half-happy -- but not submit for the streak.

Glad I came across this discussion. I really was feeling guilty.

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MajordomoTom
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#13

Post by MajordomoTom » Wed Feb 19, 2020 5:17 pm

For SOAP OPERAS, my wife kept asking me to ask someone on the forum for a nudge. I refused, I wanted a "clean" answer.

And once I changed "FEZ" to "FES", we had that clean answer.

It feels better to do it w/o a nudge. With one, it then depends ... if I got a "yes, you're on the right track, keep going", I think you've solved it and should submit and hope for the mug.

But if you get "here, do X, then do Y, then do Z", that's too much. But the helpers I've found on this forum generally haven't gone down that route - it's always "sure, what do you have and what are you thinking?".

Great forum and greater people.

T
"Lots of planets have a North", the Ninth Doctor.

Inca
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#14

Post by Inca » Thu Feb 20, 2020 7:48 pm

MajordomoTom wrote:
Wed Feb 19, 2020 5:17 pm
........
It feels better to do it w/o a nudge.
Great forum and greater people.

T
So true.

I was keeping my grandchildren busy with some brain teasers (like the one about the farmer who has to get the fox, chicken and corn across the river, etc...). One of them kept asking for a clue until his 9-yr old sister explained it this way:

"Did you ever figure something out all by yourself? It feels sooo goood. And if you take the hint, later you regret not having that feeling."

She definitely has the puzzle-solving bug--addicted to that Aha! feeling; but I think she's more into logic and numbers than crosswords.

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