Puzzle potluck

Puzzle Potluck 3

Our third puzzle potluck, Puzzle Potluck III, was held on January 12, 2013, and organized by Steven Clontz. The event was based on the same format as the previous two potlucks organized by Eric Harshbarger.

The event lasted from 10am to about 3pm, and was held at the Auburn University Student Center.

Like the previous potluck, this wiki served as the official home page for the event.


Charles and Erin McPillan claimed victory with 792 points. Full results are below:

Team Number Players Solve Score Difficulty Score Design Score Total
1 Tracy Cobbs / Calvin Thomas 400 (4 solved) 100 (6/6) 34 (278 raw) 534
2 Andrew Owens / Zachary Sarver 400 (4 solved) 150 (3/6) 38 (284 raw) 588
3 Charles McPillan / Erin McPillan 500 (5 solved) 200 (4/6) 92 (358 raw) 792
4 Robert Ford / Tim Hardwick 500 (5 solved) 100 (2/6) 0 (232 raw) 600
5 Kelly Hollingsworth / Mike Hollingsworth 400 (4 solved) 150 (3/6) 70 (328 raw) 620
6 Eric Harshbarger / Hope Judd 500 (5 solved) 100 (6/6) 100 (369 raw) 700
7 Phillip Clontz / Steven Clontz 300 (3 solved) 100 (6/6) 14 (251 raw) 414

Raw spreadsheet


Once each team had designed a puzzle and planned on attending, they edited this section of the wiki to add their team to the list below. Each team was required to be composed of one or two players. There were no restrictions on who could be on a team.

The event organizer randomly sorted the teams to pick their team number. The puzzle titles are listed below.

  1. Tracy Cobbs / Calvin Thomas
    • "A Maze 2 Die 4"
  2. Andrew Owens / Zachary Sarver
    • "Why So Oblique?"
  3. Charles McPillan / Erin McPillan
    • "Time Lord's First Coloring Book"
  4. Robert Ford / Tim Hardwick
    • "1st and 4most"
  5. Mike Hollingsworth / Kelly Hollingsworth
    • "The New Haley Center Tour"
  6. Eric Harshbarger / Hope Judd
    • "Letter Shadow Box"
  7. Steven Clontz / Phillip Clontz
    • "The Nonary Game"

Game Format and RulesEdit

These rules were basically the same as Puzzle Potluck 2 with a few minor additions, which are in bold.

  • Teams are comprised of one or two people.
  • Each Team brings one original puzzle for all of the other teams to solve. Teams should provide enough copies of their puzzle for every other Team. Puzzles will be scored "all-or-nothing".
  • Puzzles can be of any type (creativity is encouraged! -- suggestions below) but should be designed with the time limit in mind (see next). All necessary material to solve a puzzle should be provided by the designing team (assume competing teams will only have pencil, paper, and simple calculator). For example, you may provide "code sheets" (even if not all codes on it will be used). You might provide a word list of some type. You could even provide a laptop with Wi-Fi access if the internet is needed as a resourse to solve it (do not assume teams will have internet access otherwise).
  • Puzzles may optionally be designed so that solutions should be written on answer sheets provided by the organizer. Solutions can be a specific word, a sentence, a drawing, or anything which can be written on the sheet.
  • The Potluck consists of one station per team (Station 1, Station 2, etc.), plus a Timekeeper Station, and one 30 minute Round per team. Teams begin at the Station number equal to their team number plus one, looping back to the Timekeeper Station. (Team 1 starts at Station 2, Team 2 starts at Station 3, and the highest-numbered Team starts at the Timekeeper Station.)
  • Each Team leaves a copy of their puzzle at the Station matching their own number. During each Round, each Team solves the puzzle at their Station before the 30 minutes elapses. The Team at the Timekeeper Station is responsible for timing the 30 minutes for the Round and giving warnings at 20, 10, and 5 minutes.
  • There will be a few minutes between Rounds for each Team to evaluate and reset the puzzle at their Station. Results should be recorded on the Team Scoresheet.
  • Each consecutive Round, Teams progress to the next numbered Station, looping from the final Station to the Timekeeper Station.
  • After all of the Rounds are completed, Teams will gather to explain their puzzles and solutions in order. After these explanations, teams will fill out and turn in their Puzzle Ranking Sheets. Points will be scaled linearly so that each team awards the same number of points total to their opponents.
  • Finally, each Team will turn in their Team Scoresheet and Puzzle Ranking Sheet to the organizer, who will tabulate the scores and announce the winners.


  • Each Team's "Solve Score" is worth 100 points for each puzzle that Team solved.
  • Each Team's "Difficulty Score" is worth up to 200 points as follows (this will be adjusted based on the number of teams attending):
Fraction of opposing Teams that Solved Puzzle Difficulty Score (Average net score)
0/6 0 (0)
1/6 50 (33)
1/3 100 (67)
1/2 150 (100)
2/3 200 (133)
5/6 150 (67)
6/6 100 (0)

(The "average net score" is the Difficulty Score subtracted by the average amount of points other teams earned from your puzzle.)

  • Each Team's "Design Score" is worth up to 100 points. It is a linear scale of the sum of normalized points awarded by opposing teams on their Puzzle Ranking Sheets, such that the team receiving the highest average ranking receives 100 points and the team receiving the lowest average ranking receives 0 points. For example, assume there are four teams, and each team awards 100 total points to their opponents:
    • Team 1 rankings sum to 150 → Team 1's Design Score is 0 points
    • Team 2 rankings sum to 200 → Team 2's Design Score is 17 points
    • Team 3 rankings sum to 450 → Team 3's Design Score is 100 points
    • Team 4 rankings sum to 300 → Team 4's Design Score is 50 points

If you like algebra, the formula for a team's Design Score is

(Team's Ranking Sum - Lowest Ranking Sum)/(Highest Ranking Sum - Lowest Ranking Sum)*100
  • The winning Team will be determined by the sum of each Team's Solve, Difficulty, and Design Scores. Ties will be broken by Design Score.

The spreadsheet used to calculate scores can be found on Google Docs.

Puzzle TypesEdit

Here's some advice from Eric on designing puzzles, taken from his Puzzle Potluck II event page:

Having a hard time thinking of a puzzle to bring to the potluck? There's hardly a wrong "type"; just try to design something that you think will keep a team of two people puzzled (in a fun way) for a half hour. Of course, it should be solvable (don't make an impossible puzzle). It should also have "all-or-nothing" grading; either the team gets 100 Points (for getting the answer) or 0 Points 9if they do not get the answer). You will be grading the puzzle you bring between each round (i.e. grading the team that just tried to solve it) -- so make sure you'll be able to grade it fairly quickly (in a few minute or so). You may look at the first potluck webpage for ideas or consider this list:

  • Mazes
  • Crosswords
  • Wordsearches
  • Puzzle that requires people to run around the AU Student Union (gather clues, or looking for specific things)
  • Codes
  • Riddles
  • Physcal/Manipulative puzzles
  • Wordplay puzzles
  • Custom Jigsaw puzzles
  • Pentominoes
  • Logic puzzles
  • Or maybe you will be inspired to make a puzzle based on certain gaming objects:
    • Dice
    • Cards
    • Dominoes
    • Chessboard and Pieces

The trick is to try to put your own "twist" on a puzzle. And be sure you have enough copies that each team will have a fresh version at the start of their round to solve it (or that the puzzle can be "reset" properly between rounds).


Steven has volunteered to organize this potluck, and will provide the following:

  • A timer for the Timekeeper Station
  • Markers for each Station
  • Copies of Eric's puzzle potluck Code Sheet, the Team Scoresheet, and Puzzle Ranking Sheet for each team.

The organizer will also bring a laptop for storing and calculating scores.

Team RequirementsEdit

Each team must consist of either one or two players, and is required to bring a single puzzle.

Teams are encouraged to bring the following items:

  • Paper
  • Writing utensils
  • Clipboards
  • Basic calculators

Teams may not bring any other supplies or "cheat sheets" to the event. If other supplies are needed to solve a puzzle, the designing team must provide them.


Due to concerns that campus dining would be closed as during the previous potluck, the organizer coordinated a pizza delivery for lunch, and provided a cooler of sodas, paper plates, etc.

It turned out Chick-Fil-A was open anyway!