So I thought instead I'd talk about the event as a whole. (This notion was probably aided by the recent post here and here about trust and story in puzzle events.) This was certainly an ambitious project; five "real-world" artifacts with puzzles embedded in them. The claim of round-the-clock GC interaction, even if aided by automatic correct answer recognition and immediately gainsaid by telling you when you wouldn't get a response and when that response would take a while, required a great deal of manpower to maintain. I have no idea how many people were behind this event, either in terms of writing puzzles or manning the e-mail queue or wrapping up mugs or anything else; I can say they made a good run of it. If my e-mail filtering is working properly, I sent off in the vicinity of 200 responses (some of which made very little sense outside of my own head) and they sent back the correct response nearly 98% of the time. That sentence looks very snarky, but actually I think it's very very good, especially since the responses that are more important to us solvers (confirmation of methods, intermediate results, nearly but not right) are the ones that can't be automated. (I know this is the thing that gave me the most indigestion while running the Valentine's Day contest: "What if someone sends me something while I'm asleep! They won't get an answer for a long time! Oh no!" It never made a difference, but I wish I had had the time to get a decent answer checker thing hosted somewhere. I should probably pester Foggy to find out what he uses for P&A.)
I got the sense at the time, I'm not sure how, that the event sort of tripped over the finish line, went splat, and was content to lay face-down without the will to get up and acknowledge the crowd. Looking back, I don't think there was very much going on during the last puzzle to give me that impression, just that I found the last artifact's puzzles to not make a great deal of sense. However, now that it has been over a month since I "finished" (and it took me a month to do so as well) with no real expression of "hey this is over now" (such as congratulating winners, or coming out with the promised solution manual, or anything else), the sense is getting stronger. I suppose people may still be working on things, but I fear the top ten is probably set.
What about the puzzles? This is the part where I welcome the wisdom of my readers (both of you), but in my opinion the puzzles started out well done but tapered off towards the end. I didn't have any real complaints about anything on the first three; the paperback was marred (IMHO) by using OCR text; yes it is easily available, but deliberately choosing "filler" that has more (both less and more subtle) "anomalies" than the "anomalous artifact" we are supposed to be examining can only lead to heartbreak. And again IMHO, the puzzles on the map started out well, but they all seemed to take a left turn at Albuquerque (difficult to spot, since it wasn't on the map) that I didn't necessarily see any reason to take (this is probably just me not being on the designers' wavelength). The thing that got on my nerves the most, though, was the "story". During all the interaction I had with the BLG team, they stayed in character (and believe me I know how hard that is). There are only two problems with that: the puzzles didn't see any need to "stay in character", unless you think that a
I've never had to deal with running a puzzle event where I was relying on other people to make the objects (I'm pretty hands-on with my PDFs), so I cannot complain about typos cropping up during the process, as I suspect that's a guarantee. I would have preferred an errata list, rather than the errors either being ignored or being mentioned in the automated response to the correct answer to the puzzle they were in. Congratulations to BLG for owning up to the castle errata, even if only via Facebook.
All in all, with the bit of perspective that a month can bring, I think the whole thing was well done, overall. There were a lot of puzzles, with only a few clunkers; the organization was mostly well-done and I know what to avoid, in terms of dealing with the organization, if there is a future. I would likely do it again; I like to think that the next iteration would be smoother, but of course I have no way of knowing if the second iteration would even have the same people in it, let alone whether they'd learned anything. Still, one has to have faith in something in this world.