tablesaw: "This sounds like Waiting for Spy Godot" (Hunt)
Tablesaw Tablesawsen ([personal profile] tablesaw) wrote2011-01-19 02:33 pm

Mystery Hunt Recs

I still am not quite prepared to talk in detail about the Mystery Hunt, because a lot has to do with my team experience, which was awesome, but also more personal. So instead, here's a list of recommended puzzles from this year's Hunt.

This post contains minor spoilers. Most Mystery Hunt puzzles have little or no instructions. Under the cut tags, I'm going to give more explicit instructions and some comments to make the puzzles accessible, both to more casual solvers and to seasoned veterans who want to skip ahead to the good stuff. (If you don't see any cut text and you would prefer not to see some or all of these spoilers, read this page from my Jaunary 19 page.) Complete answers to each puzzle can be found using the "Call in answer" link at the top of each page.

Keyboard Cat. This is a typing game where you are given a LOLcat word (like "cheezeburger") and have to type the correct word (in the first case "cheeseburger") under the time limit. If you liking typing games, this will be a good challenge. (Finding final answer to the puzzle is a bit more complicated and involves keeping track of which letters were changed. I don't particularly recommended it.)

Toad's List. Identify the fictional places and objects based on the fake Craigslist Toadslist ads. Note that the e-mail address for each ad gives you a clue to the answer, and tells you how to get the final solution. For example, the second item has the e-mail address "". The object you're looking for is a three word phrase where the first word is three letters, the second word is two letters, and the five letters (hence "325"). To find the final answer, use the final number to extract a letter out of the answer you got (since the last number, separated by the hyphen, is 6, you take the sixth letter). These letters describe the answer to the puzzle.

Everybody's Got to Be Somewhere. From the answer page: "Each map displays or pinpoints a location whose name appears in the title of a song from a musical. The text clue is written from the perspective of the character who sings that song (or one such character). The numbers after the clue provide the enumeration of the character's name, and an index for a letter to extract." So identify the person who sings the song (if it's more than one person, use the enumeration to figure out which person is meant, then take out the specified letter of that person's name. The letters you take out will give instructions to find another picture and clue. The final answer is the person given by that final clue.

Meta Testing. One of the things that makes the Mystery Hunt unique is the concept of a metapuzzle. That is, each puzzle has a final answer, and some of those final answers then combine to form another puzzle. In this puzzle, you are given all the pertinent information to solve a metapuzzle. You're missing some of the information, but if you figure out how the metapuzzle is supposed to work, based on the theme and the information you have, you shouldn't need them. To find the final answer, take two letters from each metapuzzle that aren't given by the information you have.

Timbales. The answer page explains it best: "Each clue is a Latin phrase as it might be interpreted by someone who doesn't really know any Latin." These are a lot of fun to solve once you get into the right frame of mind, and this puzzle was frequently cited as a favorite by Hunters. There is no trick to the spaces and the boxes, just fill in each answer and read the letters that fall into the boxes to get another clue that leads to the final answer.

Stuff Nerd People Like. Yes, that's an actual blogspot blog. The most recent entry is new, and is, obviously, not part of the puzzle. Each entry has a title that describes a thing nerd people like. The text of each entry also contains a number of references to things nerd people like that are listed elsewhere on the blog. The number of references is given by the number of "likes" at the end of each entry. Getting to the final answer is a bit futzy and not recommended, but the writing is fun on its own. The actual puzzle page (with the link to the answer) is here.

Expletive Deleted. Figuring out how to fill in the blanks shouldn't be that hard, and I'd feel bad spelling it out. I will spell out how to get from there to the final answer: Once you've filled in the blanks, the symbols are a simple substitution cipher (like a cryptogram) for the correct words. Throughout the dialogue there are words that describe one of the symbols. Take the letter that stands for the symbol described to spell out a message leading to the answer.

The Cats Meow. The video is a live-action recreation of various Garfield strips. Unsurprisingly, the actual cat used in filming was unable (or unwilling) to provide Garfield's lines, making it similar to Garfield Minus Garfield. Identify the original comic strips. Then path to the final answer is too finicky to be recommended or even explained, but it's on the answer page if you want to see it. You may not even want to locate the original strips, but the video is pretty funny anyway.

Part of Speech. From the answer page: These are Reed-Kellogg diagrams of excerpts from a few famous English-language speeches. . . . Take the names of the speakers and read the diagonal." That is, read the first letter of the first person, the second letter of the second person, et cetera.

Painted Potsherds. Each drawing is a somewhat silly depiction of a famous movie quote. Identify the movies and put them into the grid wherever they fit, and the boxes will spell out another movie quote. The answer is that movie.

Inventory Quest. Identify the videogame that is described as an interactive-fiction walkthrough, then identify the item that has been replaced by question marks. To get the final answer, alphebetize the items, then take the Nth letter of each item (N being the number in parentheses next to the item in each walk through) to get a clue leading to the answer.

Laureate. No need for spoiler tags, this one is straight up with its instructions. This is a cryptic crossword, so if you're not familiar with those conventions, it's going to be very difficult. Specifically, this is a cryptic in the style of the Listener Cryptic, so if you're an American cryptic solver unfamiliar with British conventions, this will still be very hard. But if you do happen to be familiar with solving very difficult cryptics in the British vein, this puzzle is lots of fun.

Hints, with a bit of love!. From the answer page: "Use the words in the list at the bottom of the page to fill in the blanks in such a way as to construct &lit-style cryptic clues for the capitalized words." This is another puzzle that requires cryptic-crossword knowledge. To get the final answer, after creating &lit clues to the fourteen capitalized words, use the remaining words in the fifteenth blank to create another &lit clue. The answer is the solution to that fifteenth clue.

A Representative Sampling. The team that ran the Hunt this year, Metaphysical Plant, has a thing about the number 17. Each of the items clued in this puzzle is the 17th of some series. Identify the series, and place them in the grid at the bottom so that they all fit. Then take every 17th letter to spell out something that is also 17th in a series.

Plotlines. I think this is the puzzle that maximizes accessibility and awesomeness. Definitely look even if you click through immediately to the answers. These are diagrams of movies, plays, books, etc. in the style of XKCD's Movie Narrative Charts. The characters' names have been replaced by initials, and one has been replaced by a question mark. Identify the work, then identify the missing initials, and they spell out a word.

Toto, I Have a Feeling We're Not in Kansas Anymore. I can't really spoil this one, but I feel like the aha is fairly accesible to the right sorts of geek. If you don't see what's going on fairly quickly, click through to the answer. If you do, read along the diagonal of your answers. That is, take the first letter of the first answer, the second letter of the second answer, and so on.

Unnatural Law. Straight from the answer page: "This puzzle consists of 16 little stories that take place after the Robot Overlords come to power on Earth. Each story is actually an allegory for a scientific or mathematical law/principle/theorem/etc that is named after a person. Each story is also a cautionary tale about the need for one of the amendments to the US Constitution. When ordered by amendment (the initial ordering is alphabetical by person), you can index into the person's name using the digits in HistoryBot-2225121561375435." That is, take the second letter of the name from the first amendment story, the second letter of the name from the second amendment story, etc.

E Pluribus Unum. Okay, this one looks unfair, but it's actually fairly tractable, and can be a good way to start thinking laterally about puzzles like this. From the answer page: Eight of the nine grids can be filled with some canonical set of items in such a way that the highlighted letters spell out some thematic word or phrase, as shown below. The final grid (actually the fifth grid) can be filled with the thematic answers to the other eight grids to spell the answer.

Unlikely Situations. Just look at the puzzle. If this puzzle is for you, you'll recognize it instantly and figure out what to do. If you don't it's probably not the puzzle for you. Each picture is a recreation of an XKCD panel. The hover text asks a question that can be answered using the original strip. The first letters of the answers to the question direct you to the answer. Even if you don't want to solve the puzzle, you may want to click through to the answer to see a little bit more about the subject.

So those are my recommendations. There's a lot more stuff that I enjoyed, but it's all less accessible, and I'll probably need to talk about them more spoilerily to do them justice. These are just ones I think more people would get a kick out of.

If you think I've listed too many, then here are my top three fun, accessible puzzles: Toad's List, Inventory Quest, and Plotlines. Go do those.

Also, here are some puzzles that I didn't work on but are on my list to try. No descriptions because I haven't spent any time working on them.

(Anonymous) 2011-01-20 04:04 am (UTC)(link)
E Pluribus Unum is actually a really interesting story. Originally it had a clue which clued all the across answers directly, and a clue for the down entry. That was too easy, so we made the clues harder and didn't tell people which clues went with which sets. That was still too easy, but we were planning on putting it into the hunt anyway, when suddenly David said: "I wonder whether this puzzle could be solved without clues at all."

As it turns out, it can!

--Noah Snyder
ertchin: (Default)

[personal profile] ertchin 2011-01-23 11:28 am (UTC)(link)
One of my proudest moments this Hunt was confirming how E Pluribus Unum worked about three seconds after I opened it. "I wonder if ... yep, that'll fit there!"

After we got the final answer to that one, I felt it was appropriate to the title/theme of the puzzle. But I don't know if that was intended, or just my poetical soul talking at 2 AM.
dr_whom: (Default)

[personal profile] dr_whom 2011-01-23 04:16 pm (UTC)(link)
Hm, I'm not sure what you mean about appropriateness of the answer to the title on this one. Originally I had suggested as a title or other clue "What Comes Down", which would have referred both to the manner of extracting the answer from each grid and to the final answer of the puzzle; but obviously we didn't end up using it.
ertchin: (Default)

[personal profile] ertchin 2011-01-24 02:12 am (UTC)(link)
I guess I was thinking "out of many envaqebcf, one sybbq" or something similar. It was definitely a stretch.
entwashian: maurissa tancharoen is a sexbot who has injured herself, thus rendering herself useless. (Default)

[personal profile] entwashian 2011-01-20 06:34 am (UTC)(link)
Cool beans!