2015 MIT Mystery Hunt

Well, it’s been over a week, which is a long time for blog posts to be delayed after the event they’re documenting in probably all of the world except my blog. So.

I guess this post should start with a bit of background. I’ve been puzzlehunting for… wow, three and a half years now. I was introduced to puzzlehunts from AoPS, when some fellow members got together a team for CiSRA 2011, and I think I’ve participated to some degree in every known internet Australian puzzlehunt since.

But as for my experience with the MIT Mystery Hunt in particular, I sort of hunted with a decidedly uncompetitive AoPS team in 2012 (I think we solved one puzzle exactly), but my serious hunting career began when dzaefn recruited me into the Random team (then Random Thymes) for the 2013 hunt (and I did blog obliquely about it). We didn’t win (and I actually didn’t participate that much because I was traveling with family) but the next year (as One Fish Two Fish Random Fish Blue Fish (1f-2f-17f-255f (I am evidently in a parentheses mood today because as you’ve probably noticed, the amount and depth of parentheses in this sentence are positively alarming (lol)))) we won.

And I do have a half-written post about that which will never get posted (and I also didn’t participate that much, because my family was moving that weekend) but okay, let’s just drop any semblance of chronological coherence on this blog and dump a short version of the list of puzzles and parts towards which I contributed solving, as I wrote them down one year ago:

  • 2013
    • A Set of Words (a measly one-fourth of the aha!)
    • Portals (some co-solving by proxy with chaotic)
    • Numbers (aha! of first stage, although it turns out that led to a second, more significant stage to be obtained physically, and also it didn’t matter since if I remember correctly we dropped that meta after the wincon nerf)
    • Agricultural Operations (aha! and, if I remember correctly, after the team was stuck for a long time! That reminds me, I should go back and solve this puzzle by myself)
  • 2014

One year late — woo!!!

But as per tradition, this meant we had to write the 2015 hunt.

Blessed with Suck: Congratulations! You won the Hunt! Now design next year’s Hunt!

(In particular, for some inexplicable reason, I seem to have unwittingly become Master PHP Wrangler for the team, but that’s another non-puzzly story.)

(Yes, I most absolutely positively definitely am in a parentheses mood today.)

Okay, backing up just in case some readers are puzzled (haha) about this whole puzzlehunt thing: What is a puzzlehunt?

I have no experience trying to explain this in-depth to people and I expect most of the people who are still reading to be part of those readers who are already familiar with puzzlehunts, but: in general, what makes a puzzlehunt puzzle special is that there are no instructions and figuring out what to do is part of the puzzle. In an average newspaper Sudoku or crossword or other logic puzzle, you go in knowing you have to fill in the numbers or letters according to the clues; if you see a normal-looking logic puzzle in a puzzlehunt, you can guess that there is some twist that isn’t spelled out (e.g. Blackout (2012 MIT) or Agricultural Operations from 2013 as linked above)

Of course, there are exceptions, e.g. most Duck Konundra (a primarily Mystery Hunt–centric tradition involving following lots and lots of detailed explicit instructions instead of having to guess them) or the occasional logic puzzle whose innovativeness or sheer bizarreness makes it hunt-worthy, e.g. Portals from 2013 as linked above.

Anyway, as a super-remote writing team member I don’t have any exciting stories about runarounds, but here are a sample of notable, relatively easy puzzles from this year:

Other notable puzzles:

Anyway, I wrote three and a quarter puzzles.

This is the spoiler-free post (I hope nobody is concerned about being spoiled purely about the existence of puzzles with certain titles or explicit types). edit: Spoilery comments are below. Cool, I can keep everything in one post now.

(note: the commenting setup here is experimental and I may not check my comments often; if you want to tell me something instead of the world, email me!)