1*October*2011*12:01:01As a number of players noted, none of the choices would do the trick - and they wondered if we'd made a mistake. Yes, indeed, that was a typo. So at 6:15 AM Chicago time, Steven woke up, checked his email and was immediately at all the bug reports.
Then he changed the question text to:
1*October*2011*12*01*01so that the several hundred other Oracle technologists who would be playing the quiz on the 11th would have a more interesting experience.
As a result of these actions, we will issue a correction to the 189 players who chose "Not correct" for the fourth choice (which should have been correct).
It is, of course, frustrating to everyone when we make mistakes like this, and I (yes, this is me, Steven, talking earlier in the third person) apologize to all. But when I am done apologizing, I like to think about how mistakes like this can happen.
You see, I was especially frustrated this morning because at about 03:00 on the 11th (10 PM Chicago time), I received an email from Jeffrey Kemp, one of the most diligent and expert of our players who also happens to live in Perth and so he plays very early in the day (UTC-timewise). He reported this problem. So I took a look. I looked at the question text. I ran the code for the "correct choice"...
And it looked just fine to me! And so another 8 hours passed, and hundreds of other answers submitted, before I took a closer look and recognized/accepted my error.
How could this be? Because we humans have a tendency to see what we want or expect to see, rather than what is really there. This "quick and dirty" approach to life can be helpful at times, but when it comes to analyzing and debugging code, it is a downright nasty tendency.
Professional proofreaders scan text backwards so that they will not be able to read the text and thereby make all sorts of assumptions, and skip over problems in the text. We programmers can't read our code backwards, so we have to make an extra effort to force ourselves to really look at, really read, what we've written, and make sure it makes sense.
That's what I am going to do from now on. Promise.