First Finalist - Helen Bennett
I spent the first 30 years of my life on the east coast of Essex, obtaining a degree and PhD in Physics along the way, before moving up north and then settling down (for now at least) in Worcestershire. I use my scientific knowledge everyday working for a multi-national research company finding solutions without knowing if they exist and beating computer software into submission. Interests and hobbies include science, geocaching (a high-tech GPS-based treasure hunt which can involve some fiendish puzzles), music, amateur radio, walking, travelling and, obviously, solving puzzles.
How did you find out about The Code?
I saw one of the TV trailers in July and thought that might be interesting. If I had seen the card puzzles on the multimedia sites I probably would have emailed for them.
At what stage did you get involved?
I started to look on the website the week before the first episode, I think, and played the Fermat the Frog game and looked over the Codebreaker. From there I just kept going.
What was your favourite part?
I'd have to say the errors! The first puzzle I solved was the dot-to-dot puzzle and I was still confident of the answer even with the missing letter. There was a repeated section of text in one of the Enigma codes but after some thought I realised I had sufficient information to extract nearly all the answer and decrypted it a few hours before the errata were published. I also enjoyed trying to unravel some of the puzzles that were left unsolved towards the end.
What did you find the most tricky?
My main difficulty was finding natural points at which to stop (there was always something else to look at) and keeping up with everyone else trying to solve the puzzles (I would have submitted to the Wiki page but when I solved a puzzle the answer was already there); these led to some long days and nights.
Have you taken part in anything similar before?
I did dabble with Perplex City, an online game with puzzle cards to solve. That had even more involved social media collaborations but I never really got drawn in. It did show me that with these puzzles within puzzles and meta-puzzles, good bookkeeping is a must.
What are your problem-solving strengths and weaknesses?
I am generally good at cracking codes and number puzzles; I am analytical which can be both a strength and weakness. Word puzzles tend to be more difficult for me, as are hands-on puzzles, but I usually get there in the end. Ultimately it is always easier when you have seen a similar puzzle before.
What do you think your chances are of winning?
Either very good or very bad… it all depends on what the finale involves!
Overall how would you rate The Code as an experience?
Good fun. Being a scientist that uses maths all the time I cannot say that the TV programmes showed me anything new, but then they are meant to encourage people to get in to the subject, which I applaud. As for the puzzles, you always learn something new… how else can I justify all the sleepless nights?