The annual DASH participation statistics post

Bar chart showing improving performance over timeIf it’s a few days after DASH, it’s time for the annual participation statistics post! Please find below an updated version of a table which details the number of teams on the scoreboard for each city in each edition of the DASH puzzle hunt to date.

Location DASH 1 DASH 2 DASH 3 DASH 4 DASH 5 DASH 6 DASH 7 DASH 8
Albuquerque, NM 6 6+1 3+2+0 4+0+0
Atlanta, GA 5+7
Austin, TX 2 11 12 13+4 10+4+0 17+6+0 20+4
Bay Area, CA Y(SF)
Y(PA)
7(SR)
59(LA)
16(SR)
74(SM)
73(SF) 34+7(SF)
32+3(HMB)
53+17+0(SF)
39+5+0(C)
46+15+0(SF)
37+7+0(SJ)
48+10(SF)
43+12(PA)
Boston, MA Y 18 26 29 27+2 30+7+1 30+6+0 38+13
Chicago, IL 17 14 10+1 15+9+0 16+24+0 16+16
Davis, CA 16 15 16 13+7 8+7+1 13+7+0 12+8
Denver, CO 3+12+0 6+7
Houston, TX Y
London, UK 6+2 8+13+0 14+9+0 14+8
Los Angeles, CA Y 7 22 21 15+4 15+2+0
(Pasadena)
12+7+0
(Sta Monica)
19+17
Minneapolis, MN 8+7 7+4+0
(recast)
9+7+0 7+9
New York, NY 12 24 25 30+7 26+15+2 29+15+0 24+15
Portland, OR Y 6 17 19 19+2 11+7+0 10+10+0 12+5
San Diego, CA 7
Seattle, WA Y 32 47 49 49+2 58+4+2 60+9+2 63+6
South Bend, IN 1
St. Louis, MO 2 2+3 7+8+1 8+10
Washington, DC Y 14 22 33 31+1 27+5+0 26+9+0 28+12

Here are some initial interpretations:

1) Errors and omissions excepted, with apologies in advance. The Minneapolis DASH 6 recast figures came from the organisers by private e-mail.

2) The numbers are drawn from the scoreboards and may not reflect teams that participate but do not make the scoreboard for whatever reason, or other infelicities. (On the other hand, it does include teams which do make the scoreboard even despite being listed as “not started”.) DASH 1 does not have a public scoreboard on the web site and thus “Y” represents the hunt having happened there with an unknown number of participants. When there are pluses, the number before the first plus reflects the number of teams on the experienced track, the number after the first plus reflects the number of teams on the “new players” track (DASH 5, 6, 7 and 8), and the number after the second plus reflects the number of teams on the junior track (DASH 6 and 7 only).

3) Interpret “Bay Area, CA” using the following key: SF = San Francisco (1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8), PA = Palo Alto (1 and 8), SR = Santa Rosa (2,3), LA = Los Altos (2), SM = San Mateo (3), HMB = Half Moon Bay (5), C = Cupertino (6), SJ = San Jose (7). (Santa Rosa counts as Bay Area, doesn’t it?)

4) It’s not a competition to see whose DASH can be the largest; all DASH organiser teams are glorious, generous paragons of virtue, whether their event had one team or 70+, and the community at large thanks them all for the time and effort that they put in.

5) Many locations had events that were similar in size or even slightly smaller (perhaps for reasons as simple as a higher number of teams who pay but, for whatever reason, just don’t show on the day) than the previous year. As discussed, there’s no reason why bigger necessarily has to be better and there’s no sense in deliberately trying to emphasise quantity over quality. It’s tempting to wonder how much unmet demand there is in the various cities around the world and whether everyone who wants to play is getting to do so in practice.

6) The line-up of 16 locations participating in DASH 8 was actually very similar to that for DASH 7, representing only a substitution of Atlanta, GA to replace Albequerque, NM. Registration was also offered in Missoula, MT, but the event did not happen in the end. The growth in Puzzled Pint over the year has been explosive with 32 locations in April 2016 against 14 in April 2015; it’s true that some of those were previous DASH cities, but surely it seems likely that some cities will go from Puzzled Pint to DASH – and beyond? – rather than the other way around. PP is currently played in five countries; it also seems plausible at the very least that DASH will start to catch up before much longer.

7) The overall numbers of teams has risen over the last three years from 295 to 307 to 333 to 363 on the “experienced” track and from 53 to 101 to 151 to 159 on the “novice” track, with every location featuring at least one team on each of the two tracks.

Some quick comparisons between editions of DASH

DASH logoThere’s no editorial here, and definitely no intent to suggest there is such a thing as an optimal set of values, but this might still be of interest to set some context for comparison purposes. The times refer to puzzles offered in the most popular (i.e. expert/experienced) track from DASH 5 onwards.

Edition Par time Fast* time Usual* time Teams Structure
2 5:00 1:51 4:32 173 8+M
3 6:00 2:57 6:42 298 8+M
4 6:00 1:53 4:48 300 8+M
5 4:30 2:14 5:32 295+N IB+7+M
6 5:50 2:33 5:10 307+N IB+8+M
7 5:45 3:38 6:55 333+N IB+8+M
8 6:40 2:33 4:35 363+N IB+7+M
* median,
top-11
* median,
middle-8/9
N = normal track M = metapuzzle,
IB = icebreaker

Data remains available for DASH 2, DASH 3, DASH 4, DASH 5, DASH 6, DASH 7 and ((edited:)) DASH 8. Note that the usual time was calculated from the median time quoted for either the middle-scoring 8 or 9 teams, depending on whether the overall number of teams was even or odd, and may not represent every puzzle being solved without a hint or even every puzzle being solved at all. The times quoted do not include the par or solving times for the unscored co-operative icebreaker puzzle from DASH 5 onwards.

DASH7: the numbers game

Now that's a numbers game

Now that‘s a numbers game

Three points of number work from the recent DASH hunt. Where did London’s conspirators spend your money? Did any cities do better or worse than others. And if your team scored 311 on the Novice track, what’s that worth in Expert points? Continue reading

DASH 7 by the numbers

DASH logoIt’s the annual DASH stats post! Please find below an updated version of a table which details the number of teams on the scoreboard for each city in each edition of the DASH puzzle hunt to date.

Location DASH 1 DASH 2 DASH 3 DASH 4 DASH 5 DASH 6 DASH 7
Albuquerque, NM 6 6+1 3+2+0 4+0+0
Austin, TX 2 11 12 13+4 10+4+0 17+6+0
Bay Area, CA Y(SF)
Y(PA)
7(SR)
59(LA)
16(SR)
74(SM)
73(SF) 34+7(SF)
32+3(HMB)
53+17+0(SF)
39+5+0(C)
46+15+0(SF)
37+7+0(SJ)
Boston, MA Y 18 26 29 27+2 30+7+1 30+6+0
Chicago, IL 17 14 10+1 15+9+0 16+24+0
Davis, CA 16 15 16 13+7 8+7+1 13+7+0
Denver, CO 3+12+0
Houston, TX Y
London, UK 6+2 8+13+0 14+9+0
Los Angeles, CA Y 7 22 21 15+4 15+2+0
(Pasadena)
12+7+0
(Sta Monica)
Minneapolis, MN 8+7 7+4+0
(recast)
9+7+0
New York, NY 12 24 25 30+7 26+15+2 29+15+0
Portland, OR Y 6 17 19 19+2 11+7+0 10+10+0
San Diego, CA 7
Seattle, WA Y 32 47 49 49+2 58+4+2 60+9+2
South Bend, IN 1
St. Louis, MO 2 2+3 7+8+1
Washington, DC Y 14 22 33 31+1 27+5+0 26+9+0

Here are some initial interpretations:

1) Errors and omissions excepted, with apologies in advance. The Minneapolis DASH 6 recast figures came from the organisers by private e-mail.

2) The numbers are drawn from the scoreboards and may not reflect teams that participate but do not make the scoreboard for whatever reason, or other infelicities. DASH 1 does not have a public scoreboard on the web site and thus “Y” represents the hunt having happened there with an unknown number of participants. When there are pluses, the number before the first plus reflects the number of teams on the experienced track, the number after the first plus reflects the number of teams on the “new players” track (DASH 5, 6 and 7), and the number after the second plus reflects the number of teams on the junior track (DASH 6 and 7).

3) Interpret “Bay Area, CA” using the following key: SF = San Francisco (1, 4, 5, 6), PA = Palo Alto (1), SR = Santa Rosa (2,3), LA = Los Altos (2), SM = San Mateo (3), HMB = Half Moon Bay (5), C = Cupertino (6), SJ = San Jose (7). (Santa Rosa counts as Bay Area, doesn’t it?)

4) It’s not a competition to see whose DASH can be the largest; all DASH organiser teams are glorious, generous paragons of virtue, whether their event had one team or 70+, and the community at large thanks them all for the time and effort that they put in.

5) Phoenix, AZ and Pittsburgh, PA both talked about having locations at DASH 6, but it didn’t happen; however, both cities now host Puzzled Pint, so they aren’t doing too badly and surely their DASH time will come when someone there steps up to the plate. Toronto and Montreal seem likely expansions as well. Where else? Who knows! (This site is rooting for Australia and south-east Asia, but other countries are certainly possible as well…)

6) The overall numbers of teams has risen over the last two years from 295 to 307 to 333 on the “experienced” track and from 53 to 101 to 151 on the “novice” track, with every city but one featuring at least one team on each of the two tracks. The junior track dropped from 6 to 3 but it’ll get there and it’s great that there’s an event that’s proactive in this regard.

DASH stats 2: the difference between Experienced and New tracks

Close-up of plastic yellow lemon

After looking at whether there was a cultural gap, I next consider the difference between New and Experienced tracks. Here, I’m only going to look at those puzzles where there was a difference in content.

“First sale”, “Advertising”, “Viral marketing”, and (after compensating for the London difference), “Buyout” will be control puzzles. On these four identical puzzles, Experienced were significantly better players. The gap is least if New scores are increased by 4 or 5 points per puzzle.

Again, I think that a Student t-test is an appropriate method, comparing New to Experienced. My chosen data sets are the raw scores for teams completing each individual puzzle. Teams dropping out part-way through the day will contribute data for puzzles they solved.

Collecting Ingredients II” involved solving cryptic clues. These cryptics were different between the tracks – New had a word in a sentence; Experienced had a partial anagram. Experienced needed to fully resolve the sudoku, New only needed the middle three letters, but I think that’s a marginal difference. The evidence suggests that Experienced teams performed worse than New, and the discrepancy goes away by allowing 2 points to Experienced. Given the advantage of Experienced teams on identical puzzles, we might add 6 to Experienced scores.

In “End of the First Day“, Experienced had a longer route to the answer, more letters to decrypt from ternary, and weren’t given the partial hint that there was decryption (but didn’t need to solve that partial hint). Many sides who got this puzzle got it very quickly (though I’ve discarded a team credited with the answer in 40 seconds), and it appears New sides were behind by 1 point. However, we might expect New to be further behind on equal puzzles, so add another 3 points to Experienced scores.

For “Practicing the Sales Pitch“, New had a much clearer hint that semaphore was involved, *and* a time limit more generous by 10 minutes. Experienced were clearly behind, by about 8 points. For our notional parity, try adding 12 to Experienced scores.

In “Mass Production“, there was a small difference – New were explicitly told there’s a word chain. Don’t think that’ll have altered the scores, and this proves to be the case – Experienced were up by 3 points. I can’t reject the hypothesis that there was no additional advantage to either track, so no change.

Finally, for “Memoirs“, New were told that these were rebuses, and given one of the least obvious initial answers, but penalised with a 10 minute shorter time limit. Experienced appears to have benefitted by about 9 points, so we might deduct 4 from their score.

Solely to compensate for differences in the puzzles, I suggest that New teams might deduct 17 points from their score and compare with Experienced sides. That would put the top New team, Colleen Werthmann, in a tie for 31st place; six New teams crack the overall top 100.

DASH stats 1: London’s “Buyout” problem

Lemonade stand

Chris has already written about the DASH audio I’ve put together. The best audio deals with topics that work as audio. Clips of what it was like to be there, experiences of solving puzzles, that works in your ears. Hardcore statistical nerdery, that needs to come out through your eyes.

In a later post, I’ll be looking at the difference between the New and Experienced tracks, from analysis of the results. Here, I’m considering whether the UK players in DASH 6 were disadvantaged by one of the puzzles.

London had a problem. Players in Britain mostly spoke in British English. It’s a dialect similar, but not identical, to American English. Spellings alter, words have other meanings, and there are major differences in commercial culture.

These differences came to the fore in the “Buyout” puzzle, which attempted to clue to a commercial company. It’s an American brand, unfamiliar in Britain. The organisers had attempted to reduce this problem, by substituting a similar but different puzzle, but this hadn’t quite worked out.

London players experienced a different puzzle, each clue resolved to a verb-noun combination. Other players got a verb-noun combination that makes a commercial product. Were London players at a disadvantage by not getting the branded nature of the puzzle?

A Student’s t-test is appropriate to compare the performances between London (where 13 teams took New and 8 Experienced) and All Other Locations (84 New, 300 Experienced). The t-test compares the difference of each value in a set from the set’s mean, and works out the probability that the two data sets have the same mean – the “null hypothesis” in this test. It’s especially useful for sets of different sizes.

Technical points: I’m only considering those teams that recorded a solve time for “Buyout”. Also, note how London had more New than Experienced teams: I can conjecture that, if anything, London teams may have under-estimated their abilities, and could prove better than All Other Locations.

For the “Buyout” puzzle, analysis suggests that I can reject the null hypothesis, and there probably *was* a difference between London teams and all others. On the Easy track, there’s a 3% chance that the observed scores come from the same population. These probabilities are even lower for the Experienced track, where the small sample set might not be representative.

If we boost the scores of London teams by 2 points, we can accept the null hypothesis on all measures. So, yes, the teams of London appear to have been disadvantaged by the cultural gap, but only by a minute.

As a control, I’ve repeated this analysis for the other puzzles. We can easily accept the null hypothesis in all cases, and assume that there was no trans-atlantic difference.

DASH 6 by the numbers

DASH logoPlease find below an updated version of a table which details the number of teams on the scoreboard for each city in each edition of the DASH puzzle hunt to date.

Location DASH 1 DASH 2 DASH 3 DASH 4 DASH 5 DASH 6
Albuquerque, NM 6 6+1 3+2+0
Austin, TX 2 11 12 13+4 10+4+0
Bay Area, CA Y(SF)
Y(PA)
7(SR)
59(LA)
16(SR)
74(SM)
73(SF) 34+7(SF)
32+3(HMB)
53+17+0(SF)
39+5+0(C)
Boston, MA Y 18 26 29 27+2 30+7+1
Chicago, IL 17 14 10+1 15+9+0
Davis, CA 16 15 16 13+7 8+7+1
Houston, TX Y
London, UK 6+2 8+13+0
Los Angeles, CA Y 7 22 21 15+4 15+2+0
(Pasadena)
Minneapolis, MN 8+7 7+4+0
(recast)
New York, NY 12 24 25 30+7 26+15+2
Portland, OR Y 6 17 19 19+2 11+7+0
San Diego, CA 7
Seattle, WA Y 32 47 49 49+2 58+4+2
South Bend, IN 1
St. Louis, MO 2 2+3
Washington, DC Y 14 22 33 31+1 27+5+0

Here are my initial thoughts:

1) Errors and omissions excepted, with my apologies in advance. The Minneapolis recast figures come from the organisers by private e-mail.

2) The numbers are drawn from the scoreboards and may not reflect teams that participate but do not make the scoreboard for whatever reason, or other infelicities. DASH 1 does not have a public scoreboard on the web site and thus “Y” represents the hunt having happened there with an unknown number of participants. When there are pluses, the number before the first plus reflects the number of teams on the experienced track, the number after the first plus reflects the number of teams on the “new players” track (DASH 5 and 6), and the number after the second plus reflects the number of teams on the junior track (DASH 6).

3) Interpret “Bay Area, CA” using the following key: SF = San Francisco (1, 4, 5, 6), PA = Palo Alto (1), SR = Santa Rosa (2,3), LA = Los Altos (2), SM = San Mateo (3), HMB = Half Moon Bay (5), C = Cupertino (6). I apologise if some of those locations are not really in the Bay Area. (If you tell me that I am a bad person for jumbling Santa Rosa in with the others, I’d believe you.)

4) It’s not a competition to see whose DASH can be the largest; all DASH organiser teams are glorious, generous paragons of virtue, whether their event had one team or 70+, and the community at large thanks them all for the time and effort that they put in.

5) I think it’s fair to say that DASH 6 was a little troubled, with both Seattle and Portland briefly removed from the list of participating cities; thankfully, both cities eventually found local Game Control teams, and I’m sure everyone is particularly grateful there. There was discussion of locations in Phoenix, AZ and Pittsburgh, PA, but sadly neither came to fruition; thanks to people who put in the effort there, all the same.

6) Again, it probably reflects well on the decision to have parallel “experienced” and “newcomer” tracks at DASH 5 and DASH 6 that every city had at least one team playing each track. Indeed, the number of teams on the “new players” track rose from 53 to 101, further justifying its purpose. The junior track may take a little longer to gain traction.

7) I’m in two minds about the Minneapolis recast. The more people who get to join in the DASH fun, the better, but the three-week gap between the first run and the recast means that a lot of the momentum has been lost before people can talk about it, so there hasn’t been nearly as much buzz about a tremendous event as there might have been. (Us UK solvers can talk, given that we held discussion of DASH 5 back a week last year, so perhaps the point of comparison would have to be DASHes 4 and earlier.)

8) There are definitely several other countries to which DASH might expand in the future: given that Sydney and Melbourne have famous and popular puzzle hunts, there’s no reason why there couldn’t be DASH locations there. Closer to the US, Snoutcast recently had Stacy Costa from the University of Toronto, so clearly there is puzzle interest in Canada. Every other English-speaking country is a possibility; maybe even non-Anglophone major world cities with significant expat communities could host DASH some day.