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Fastest solvers: An experiment

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  • Fastest solvers: An experiment

    So over the holidays I did a little experiment. I did a thousand cryptograms, and for each one I made a note of the record holder for the fastest solve time. When there was a tie, I counted multiple record-holders (which is why the numbers don’t add up to 1000.) Here’s who held the records:

    nanrich 255
    bansaisequoia 207
    LacrosseSticks 168
    munchlet/MoiAussi 111
    twskinner 108
    will0416 76
    Deanna48 68
    Descifrador 49
    defeaterdefeater 24
    Annamariah 20
    Altoid701 19
    GramBow 18
    rotorguru 13
    azhang941 9
    FloatLikeButterfly 6
    Lurker 6
    kb83 5
    wings35 5
    shaquille 4
    nedzeppelin1453 3
    SippyGurl 3
    contrary 2
    henrietta 2
    kayen 2
    kgun5 2
    LLapp 2
    Madbury 2
    opallady 2
    priestp 2
    Unwinding_at_The_Falcon 2
    xenia 2
    Zachman285 2
    4pouncers 1
    bassood 1
    bellaxocampo 1
    caa 1
    damsel22 1
    debzhaus 1
    guavamango 1
    jimdgar 1
    kat 1
    Laura 1
    LilyH 1
    Nautilus 1
    patsy86 1
    puffybob 1
    tchen 1

    A few observations:

    1. Of course, not knowing the algorithm, I have no idea whether this was a truly random sample; but if it were, I believe the margin of error would be around plus-or-minus three percent.

    2. This really shows how amazing some of our fast solvers are. I barely ever get to see the plane fly anymore, but nanrich apparently sees (or has seen) it on one out of every four puzzles! (And that doesn't even count the records she has set that have subsequently been broken by others.)

    3. Until I did this, I didn’t realize just how much bansaisequoia had decreased his presence here over the past few years. Since so many of his records remain intact, it felt like he was still here. But I see now that although he continued to rack up trophies until late 2017, the great majority of his record times came before 2012. It’s amazing how many of them are still there, sometimes ten years later.

    Those of us who have been around this site since its early days can remember when it seemed like bansai held the record on almost every puzzle. As I was doing this experiment, I did a little mini-experiment: For a hundred puzzles in a row, I looked at who had the fastest pre-2013 solve time. Two-thirds of the time, it was bansai. If this site had a stadium, it would be named after him.

    4. I was surprised at how few ties there were. Out of a thousand puzzles, only 211 had a tie for fastest solver. I guess I thought that as time went on, the fast solvers would all eventually converge on the “fastest feasible time” for each puzzle. But the power of the bell curve is strong, I guess; the great majority of time, someone managed to be the outlier (if only by a second).

    5. For counting purposes, I assumed lacrossesticks, LacrosseSticks, lacatorcesticks, and lacrosseballs were the same person. Same with bansaisequoia and banzaisequoia. (His several other pseudonyms — impededredwood is my favorite — did not appear in the results.) Same with JCarlosCuevas and Descifrador, based on what I’ve heard here. If there are other multiple pseudonyms that I should account for, just let me know. (Just corrected this to combine munchlet and MoiAussi.)

    6. I suppose it would also be possible, in theory, to gauge how many of these records each player had *per total number of puzzles they’ve played*. But that was beyond what I felt I could reliably do, and is especially complicated by the fact that some players have multiple usernames. Also, let’s face it, weird things have happened over the years. (For example, the site says that GramBow has solved only 61 puzzles, which is simply impossible, given how often she appeared in my tiny sample.) But, for what it’s worth, it does look like twskinner, LacrosseSticks, and will0416 have extraordinary rates of records-held-per-puzzles-played.

    7. Of course, I guess Stephen could probably run a script and tell us the exact number of records held by everyone. I’d be curious to see it! Having been playing for ten years, I’ve seen the plane fly more times than I can count, but I strongly suspect that virtually all my records have fallen. A clumsy two-finger typist like me will never be among the fastest. (My one appearance on this list was on one of those new puzzles that hasn’t been played much yet.)

    Anyway, I hope you are all enjoying a nice holiday season. Good luck with future solving!
    Last edited by puffybob; 05-26-2020, 07:26 PM.

  • #2
    Puffybob, this is so interesting! I love your observations and conjectures, and I especially appreciate your historical perspective from the early days of the site. "If this site had a stadium, it would be named after him." -- I love that.

    Should we assume the list of records may include some recurrences of the same puzzle, or did you somehow keep track of recurrences?


    • #3
      That is really cool! What a great idea. And so neat to see those results.


      • #4
        LLapp -- I struck four puzzles that I knew for sure I had already encountered in the survey. There were about four others that I thought I might have already seen, but I wasn't sure, so I left them in.

        Deanna48 -- Thanks! You were one of the names I saw an awful lot of!


        • #5
          I'm not totally sure, but I think Madbury is Munchlet. I know she also uses MoreMadMunch. I'm also Lurker Smurf. There's a player who usually uses Widowmaker but has about 5 userIDs. I don't see any of them on the current list.

          That was an interesting study in statistics. Thanks.


          • #6
            I am a very good Boggle player, and I moved to Wordtwist as an alternative. But I'm only a 'low' scorer in Wordtwist. I'm pretty sure that I"m playing against artificial intelligences in this game. I'd love to compare my scores to human players, where I suspect I'd have the same record of high scores i routinely get in Boggle. I imagine cryptograms are similarly readily solvable by AI. I don't mind having the AI's compete, but I'd prefer it were done openly.
            --thanks for your statistical understanding!, Susan Root (


            • #7
              Agree with you on AI. I would gladly check off one of those little "i am not a bot" every time I sit down to play.


              • #8
                I can't imagine why anybody would waste their time on this site cheating...I mean, what's the point? Wouldn't people have better things to do? Bansai and Lacrossesticks (I believe) posted youtube videos proving that these cryptos can indeed be solved very quickly.


                • #9
                  Yeah, I've had about 40 or so sub-10 second times and I am definitely NOT a bot. BTW, I've NEVER set a record with any of my super-low times.


                  • #10
                    I agree with Deanna48 and oddcouple. At first, I too found the record times hard to believe. But after a while, you get better and start coming close to them yourself. Even with my lousy typing skills, I'm often only three or four seconds behind the record holder. This was one of the benefits that came out of listing the top 20 finishers on each puzzle: you could see that a lot of people are getting pretty fast times. I suppose there's no way to prove that there's no cheating going on, but if someone really were using AI, you'd expect them to be excelling on every puzzle they do, when in fact the "top 20" listings show that everyone *sometimes* has scores that are significantly behind the record-holder.
                    Last edited by puffybob; 12-31-2019, 02:53 AM.


                    • #11
                      Hello Susan Root -

                      Artificial intelligence would solve a cryptogram in 1 or, at most, 2 seconds, and not in 7, 8, or 9 seconds, which is what you see from the fast players here. I've seen discussion from longtime players who recall that there was a player long ago who did use a solving program, and that player's solving times were actually 1 second; that person and all their records were taken off the site.

                      Be assured that it is well within human ability to solve a cryptogram in under 10 seconds on this site, especially since the auto-fill feature means you type each included letter of the alphabet only once. Given auto-fill, if a quote uses, say, 20 letters of the alphabet, and you type those 20 letters in 10 seconds to solve it, then your typing speed would come out to 120 letters per minute -- which equals only 24 words per minute (assuming the average word has 5 letters). So even a slow touch typist could solve a cryptogram here in 10 seconds, especially if the letter patterns are obvious and easily decoded. The easier the puzzle, the more people solve it in under 10 seconds. I've seen some puzzles here where the chart of "top 20 solvers" shows speeds no longer than 8 seconds.

                      You are not the first player to express certainty that some players must be using an AI program to solve cryptograms so fast. If you stick with it and keep practicing, you will see how the fast speeds are quite doable. I started 5 years ago with an average solving speed above 70 seconds; I've since gotten my average speed down to about 31 seconds, and I've broken 10 seconds many, many times.

                      - Lisa


                      • #12
                        Thanks for sharing this, puffybob! What a lot of work for you, but very interesting to see. I agree with you, LLapp, Deanna and oddcouple regarding the fast times. I've solved a few puzzles in 8 seconds, and I am a slow-paced, middle-aged person with a poor memory. However, I do see patterns that help me recognize words right away and I have good typing skills and a fairly fast internet connection, which helps a lot. Some of our current young players are in their early teens, and have extremely good typing skills and sharp minds. If I can finish in 8 seconds, I'm not at all surprised (but am very impressed!) that they can finish puzzles in 3 or 4 seconds.


                        • #13
                          I was curious how the atmosphere of the site had changed in the past couple of months, so I conducted a sort of mini-study myself too (pretty much a continuation of puffybob's thing). Here are the record tallies that I found over the course of 500 puzzles (disclaimer: I skipped ~4 puzzles because I couldn't bear sitting there for over a couple of minutes, but I don't think the bias introduced by those will be too noticeable). I made two lists: one showing the original record holders of the puzzle (a.k.a. not including my most recent attempt on them) and the other showing the record holder after I was done with it (the former is definitely a more accurate depiction of the spread of records on the site). I didn't count ties, just the username that popped up as the record holder (for simplicity's sake) and also tried to keep any pseudonyms in mind, grouping the amount of records by person rather than by username. Please let me know of any pseudonyms I left separated.

                          List 1

                          will0416 - 120
                          nanrich - 92
                          bansaisequoia - 75
                          lacrossesticks - 52
                          twskinner - 36
                          munchlet - 29
                          Deanna48 - 18
                          Descifrador - 12
                          azhang941 - 10
                          Annamariah - 8
                          DMVJDCPA - 7
                          GramBow - 5
                          damsel22 - 5
                          Altoid701 - 4
                          Lurker - 3
                          defeaterdefeater - 3
                          kb83 - 3
                          contrary - 2
                          patsy86 - 2
                          rotorguru - 2
                          wings35 - 1
                          xenia - 1
                          mellav1 - 1
                          debzhaus - 1
                          puffybob - 1
                          jimdgar - 1
                          DivideByZero - 1
                          steakkguy - 1
                          nedzeppelin1453 - 1
                          Alduto - 1
                          Cheese555 - 1
                          jliu10000 - 1

                          List 2

                          will0416 - 313
                          nanrich - 51
                          bansaisequoia - 35
                          lacrossesticks - 29
                          twskinner - 17
                          munchlet - 10
                          Deanna48 - 8
                          azhang941 - 5
                          DMVJDCPA - 5
                          Descifrador - 5
                          Annamariah - 4
                          damsel22 - 3
                          GramBow - 2
                          Altoid741 - 2
                          kb83 - 2
                          wings35 - 1
                          puffybob - 1
                          jimdgar - 1
                          defeaterdefeater - 1
                          nedzeppelin1453 - 1
                          Cheese555 - 1
                          jliu10000 - 1
                          rotorguru - 1
                          DivideByZero - 1

                          The only record that was slightly bittersweet to break was steakkguy's. He was a great mentor for me and his 48 second record stood the test of time for 2 years on one of the more unusual quotes I had seen here. Hopefully I see his name on this site again.

                          Oh, and for anyone who doesn't know/is curious, I'm will0416 (this is my 2nd account).
                          Last edited by mysavinggrace; 05-22-2020, 03:22 PM.


                          • #14
                            I agreed earlier to do 500 more on top of will's 500 so we can have 1000 results similarly to puffybob's original experiment. I did keep track of ties, and I didn't get the result for one cryptogram because I double hit enter, but otherwise this was done at a 100% rate. I also did not include any records I set in this count.
                            Also quick edit: I included repeats. There was at least one game that I was pretty sure it was a repeat, but I left it in anyways because I couldn't tell with 100% certainty if it was a repeat or not.
                            will0416 105 + mysavinggrace 30 = 135
                            nanrich 107
                            bansaisequoia 86 + bonzaisekuoia 1 =87
                            lacrossesticks 67 + lacrosseballs 2 + lacatorcesticks 1 = 70
                            munchlet 49 + MoiAussi 5 = 54
                            twskinner 42
                            Deanna48 33
                            Descifrador 13 + JCarlosCuevas 5 = 18
                            Grambow 12
                            Altoid701 12
                            defeaterdefeater 11
                            azhang941 9 + SyoCB 2 = 11
                            DMVJDCPA 7
                            rotorguru 5
                            Shaquille 3
                            Lurker 3
                            Zachman285 2
                            Annamariah 2
                            xenia 2
                            bbray 2
                            caa 1
                            puffybob 1
                            laura 1
                            kat 1
                            nedzeppelin1453 1
                            pajarito7 1
                            kb83 1
                            Disturbed1 1
                            wings35 1
                            gryhnd51 1
                            damsel22 1
                            FloatLikeButterfly 1
                            peaceandluv87 1
                            Unwinding_at_The_Falcon 1
                            pootie49 1
                            LilyH 1
                            Cheese555 1

                            A full spreadsheet of the exact results I got in order and also a page with not including ties can be found in here:
                            Last edited by azhang941; 05-22-2020, 04:10 PM. Reason: Edit 2: Added MoiAussi to Munchlet


                            • #15
                              i'm happy just to crack the top 20 list. It would be interesting to know though, the list of record holders. I have often wondered about that myself. Maybe a new section on the "High Scores" page could be created for everyone to see?