That Puzzle Guy's Blog If you got a puzzle, yo, I'll solve it


I dreamed a dream

As you may have noticed, I've become pretty lazy in discussing my various doings in the puzzle world. I need to make the effort for the 2016 MIT Mystery Hunt, however, because my team ran it. You can get plenty of perspectives elsewhere from competitors and my teammates alike, and I don't want to put another retread here. I'll just share what I was involved in and share a few personal thoughts.

I was pleased to have my fingers in more puzzles in this Hunt than I did in 2008 and 2010 combined. Try them out yourself, or just click Solution in the upper right if you just want to see how it worked. The list:

  • Always Amusing: I was pleased to make a puzzle on this subject, but I wish I'd attached more importance to the information being hard to find. I edited a wiki just before the event, but I'm not sure it helped.
  • It's So Obvious!: I wanted to do a puzzle about Wheel of Fortune gaffes, and it got blended nicely with an idea from Joe DeVincentis. Joe did most of the legwork on it.
  • The Sound of Silence: A simple idea that I think I put in a tidy package.
  • 1, 2, 3: Another fairly simple one for Dreamtime.
  • Boxes™: This tested much harder than I thought it would; hopefully we made changes to achieve the right level of difficulty.
  • A League of Their Own: Co-authored with Jeremy Horwitz, from an idea by Nathan Fung, at 5 AM Saturday morning. Yes, really. Hopefully you couldn't tell.
  • One Starry Night: Probably my most favorably reviewed puzzle of the Hunt. Funny and relatively easy; I hope it provided a breather at the late stages.
  • Gravitational Pull: Mike Sylvia's idea; I executed the grid. Pretty pleased with how it turned out considering the additional difficult Limbo constraint.
  • Trivial Mathematics: I had the idea to bring back the classic Calculatrivia from GAMES Magazine; Jeremy Horwitz and Wil Zambole did the hard work.
  • Time Suck: I'm not sorry.

I want to address the tech issues we experienced just as the event was about to start; the fallout from it was undoubtedly a major complaint. I don't have all the details, but as you might suspect, it caused no small amount of distress at Hunt HQ. Fortunately, several brilliant minds on our team worked together a good back-up plan, and we had it in place for the Hunt to start a mere hour behind schedule. It obviously was not ideal and not the system we had in mind; checking answers was a bit more chaotic, and our puzzle-unlocking mechanism reverted to releasing entire rounds at once. Overall, I think it went very well; when you get right down to it, I don't believe the issues dramatically affected players' enjoyment of the puzzles themselves. We took a potential Hunt-destroying catastrophe and turned it into a mere pain in the ass. I think that's a credit to us. I've heard insinuations that we didn't have our tech straight because were focused on other less necessary tasks, like the T-shirt sales. I find that a huge insult to the people who poured hours upon hours into the extremely tricky job of getting the website up and running. Fault our execution if you must; it didn't work out the way any of us would have liked. But I will not put up with disparagement of our effort.

I think many of us Hunt participants are losing sight of the fact that that this wonderful weekend of puzzling is the result of hundreds and hundreds of person-hours of unpaid labor over the course of a whole year. I think I did to an extent; it doesn't really hit home until one helps to write a Hunt. Some criticism is fair, of course, but some is not (see above), and comments in the latter category might dissuade people from lending their minds to the construction effort again. That can only be bad for the future of this fantastic event. I resolve going forward to be more appreciative of the Mystery Hunts I play and to be careful and measured with any problems I voice. I hope others can do the same, whether they've helped to make one happen or not.

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