NPL Con Information: Official Program
What is the Official Program?
Puzzle contests were features of the earliest conventions, but Willz, as part of the resurrection of conventions in the mid-1970s,
instituted a program of games and puzzles created by League members and presented for entertainment more than serious competition.
Similar programs were organized in subsequent years and the program eventually became an "official" part of the convention experience.
Who organizes the Official Program and what does it include?
The Official Program is overseen by a committee of volunteers, currently Willz, Fraz, Rubrick, and T McAy. The committee works with convention hosts and members of the League to generate activities and schedule those activities throughout the convention. Common activities include:
- Group game sessions - a set of dynamic and socially engaging games traditionally scheduled on Thursday and Friday evening.
- Pencil-and-paper sessions - a set of timed puzzles solved in a quiet environment and traditionally scheduled on Saturday afternoon. A flat solving competition is part of this session.
- Extravaganzas - Large-scale events of connected puzzles solved by teams. An extravaganza traditionally lasts about three hours and is scheduled for Saturday night.
- Over-the-weekend challenges - Handout puzzles or creative challenges that must be completed by the end of the convention. A pairs cryptic crossword solving competition is a popular over-the-weekend challenge.
- Hidden Puzzles (a.k.a. Hidden Contests) - a puzzle that is hidden or subtly presented within the convention. Solvers show that they have found the puzzle by identifying the creator and/or performing the puzzle's instructions.
- Organized discussions of puzzle-related topics.
- An awards ceremony for the Official Program activities is traditionally scheduled on Sunday morning. The Sphinxie Awards for outstanding contributions to the Enigma are traditionally given out on Saturday during dinner.
How do members of the League contribute to the Official Program?
The committee relies on members of the League for all the program areas listed above. Send ideas for games, puzzles, flat competition themes, discussion topics, etc. to the committee at email@example.com. Many League members who propose ideas for puzzles and games also volunteer to develop the idea and present it at the convention, but this is not a requirement. You can send just an idea and the committee will find others to develop it. The committee is delighted to receive ideas at any time. The committee welcomes innovative and unusual ideas but encourages the following guidelines for most program activities.
- Group games should run 30-45 minutes. Paper-and-pencil puzzles should run 20-30 minutes.
- Wordplay-based activities are the most popular. Other puzzle and game types, such as trivia and logic, may be included in moderation but need to be very accessible.
- Simple ideas make successful activities. The easier an activity is to explain the better it will be received. Avoid ideas that require complex instructions.
- Team activities are more popular than solo activities.
- Games should include all participants in a meaningful way.
- Games with player movement sometimes present challenges. Be thoughtful of mobility requirements in activities and try to anticipate possible issues.
- Games and puzzles should have winners. Occasionally the main program will feature non-competitive exercises as a "games" but these are rare and the payoffs must be very compelling. Winners can be determined subjectively, e.g. judging favorites in a creative competition.
- Activities may include presentation equipment such as projectors and sound amplifiers. The committee will help arrange this equipment when required.
- Cryptic crosswords for Official Program competitions should not be overly difficult. A pair of medium-level solvers should be able to complete the puzzle in less than an hour. Avoid indexing to find letters or messages.
- NPL extravaganzas have many specific guidelines. Contact the committee to learn more about extravaganza requirements.
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Updated January 6, 2018