Tag → puzzlehunt

2020 MIT Mystery Hunt

Fifth year with ✈✈✈ Galactic Trendsetters ✈✈✈ (previously: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016; writing with Random in 2015).

We won!

But apparently I’m still really busy, so I’ll probably just focus on a few highlights of things I personally experienced and get this post out the door.

The theme in a few sentences: As suggested by the invitation sent out to teams, there was a wedding. It turned out to actually be a real wedding between two prolific puzzle writers on Left Out, the organizing team. To the surprise of everybody who expected either one, three, or maybe five subversions of this announcement, the wedding actually succeeded (a COIN that would prevent all love in the universe was briefly reported missing, but then immediately found by the bride). Instead, we joined the newlyweds on a trip to an amusement park called Penny Park, which we learned was struggling and closing this weekend. It was up to help its regain its popularity and stay open by solving puzzles. The Mystery Hunt subreddit has lots of other cool links and discussions, including this animated bar chart, so I won’t spend more time here.

I’m pretty sure the best story I personally experienced was how we solved the metameta, the biggest puzzle that stood between us and winning hunt, and the moment at which we went, holy smokes we might have won Mystery Hunt! We got all the pennies required for the final metameta at Sunday 5:48:09am, and it took us until 12:47:30pm, just under seven hours later, to solve it…

Introduction to Puzzlehunts

not part of the ongoing series, but you can almost pretend it is. This sentence and the one before it are not a puzzle.

Imagine a word search.

Now imagine you aren’t told what words to look for.

Now imagine you aren’t told it’s a word search.

Now imagine it isn’t a word search.

This post aims to be a fairly comprehensive introduction to puzzlehunts and their puzzles, a single post where I can just point people. I erred towards comprehensiveness in this post because I am not aware of any similar resources, especially for puzzlers interested in trying harder puzzlehunts who might not know any more experienced puzzlers to solve with. It’s possible to start solving some puzzles after reading much shorter guides, e.g. Puzzled Pint’s “Puzzling Basics” (PDF), so feel free to skip around, stop reading midway through, or bookmark this to read only after you’ve spent more time solving.

What is a Puzzlehunt?

A puzzlehunt1 is an event where people, usually in teams, solve a series of puzzles.

This is not a very useful definition. The more interesting question is, what is the kind of “puzzle”2 that appears in a puzzlehunt? The concept of a puzzlehunt puzzle is fuzzy and difficult to define precisely. Just about any hard rule one might try to state will be broken by some puzzle, sometimes deliberately. Still, here are some common features of puzzlehunt puzzles:

2019 MIT Mystery Hunt

(this post is sketchily backdated from February 2020)

Fourth year with ✈✈✈ Galactic Trendsetters ✈✈✈. Past: 2018, 2017, 2016, writing with Random in 2015). Evidently I was unable to find the time or motivation to blog about this, and I can’t remember any particularly good stories, so let me just slip this backdated list post in the archives.

The theme in a few sentences: The hunt organizers declare a new Molasses Awareness Day, but because they didn’t follow the proper procedure, throwing the world of Holidays into chaos, where “chaos” means molasses. This resulted in lots of puzzle-to-meta matching, since puzzles were in Holiday towns but metas were at lampposts between two towns.

Highlights of puzzles I solved:

  • A Good Walk Spoiled (Holi): Happens to be about a topic I know well and find interesting. Fun steps. Justified use of substitution ciphers; the pasting into quipqiup was worth it.
  • State Machine (President’s): A one-aha! one-step puzzle. Maybe more unfortunate because apparently this was not the only puzzle to use a specific aspect of a specific source material, but I didn’t know about that other puzzle so it’s fine.
  • Clued Connections (Pi): I went to sleep near the end of this puzzle, so I didn’t see it through, but Floorpi was collectively called out by it.
  • I Can’t Deal with These Endless Numbers (Patriot’s): Incredible.
  • Loaded (Arbor): Simple and self-contained enough.

2018 MIT Mystery Hunt

My third MIT Mystery Hunt with ✈✈✈ Galactic Trendsetters ✈✈✈ (also see: 2017 and 2016, writing with Random in 2015). It was a good hunt with a fun theme, solid puzzles, and extraordinary production quality, marred only by a fickle unlock structure and a handful of unnecessarily involved extractions.

Since we had been told the hunt would be smaller than past years’ (now a controversial statement since the coin was not found particularly early) and we didn’t particularly want to win (yet), part of our team temporarily split off this year to hunt as Teammate. Based on our Discord channel, ✈✈✈ Galactic Trendsetters ✈✈✈ had 75 people this year, including remote solvers and people who dropped in and out.

A short description of the hunt structure: This year’s hunt theme was Inside Out, the Disney movie about anthropomorphized emotions. This was revealed through a kickoff that demonstrated the hunt’s extraordinary production quality, in which we watched the unveiling of the Health & Safety hunt, first directly, then in the Control Room with the emotions of a distraught hunter (Miss Terry Hunter) and a lot of beautiful memory orbs and scenery. After Terry’s emotions became overwhelmed in response to the theme, we had to help her emotions to allow her to complete the Health & Safety hunt. The intro round took place in the Control Room; we had to solve 34 regular puzzles and five metapuzzles (somewhat overlapping, with some regular puzzles belonging to more than one metapuzzle) to help each of the five emotions get back to the Control Room. The rest of the hunt consisted of recovering memory orbs from each of four Islands of Personality, each of which had its own theme and meta structure, and which we could choose the unlock order of.

I guess January is puzzles month

And it’s not even January any more.

(Thing negative two: Thing zero, which is at the bottom of this post, contains two puzzles by me. Skip there if that sounds interesting and text walls don’t.)

Thing negative one: I abandoned this blog (again). The last month has been a mess and much of it is political stuff of the sort that I’m the worst/slowest at writing about.


Thing one: I was on-site for a second MIT Mystery Hunt.

whoosh

I finally did it.

I was on-site for the 2016 MIT Mystery Hunt. I even solved a metapuzzle. This year I hunted with ✈✈✈ Galactic Trendsetters ✈✈✈, the team primarily but not overwhelmingly formed from floorpi, my dorm floor. (Perhaps somewhat regrettably, I didn’t contribute to any events or runarounds or things given to HQ, unless you count attending a “recitation” for Student Simulator (round King Arthur, second from left).)

(Also, I made this post. Has it been two weeks already? Okay, that’s not an unusual timeframe.)

But wow, I got to touch so many puzzles.

Non-spoilery comments on particularly memorable puzzles I did, which are disproportionately programming-related, if anybody wants to look at them (I am describing how to get to the puzzle from the round instead of linking because I’m lazy and links might rot but the instructions will hopefully survive archival (although turns out there’s actually a table of contents so I don’t know what I’m doing)):

Anticron

Unfortunately, I did not get this successfully testsolved, although, for whatever comfort it may provide, I did engage in several interactive rounds of nerfing it.

As usual, you can check your answers here. Text above this horizontal rule is not part of the puzzle.

Solvers:

A Signature Puzzle

As usual, there had to be something here. In fact, this year, there are several somethings. Hype!

This is based on an idea by chaotic_iak. You can check your answers here. Text above this horizontal rule is not part of the puzzle.

ETA 11/17 16:15 UTC−5: Adjusted spacing between the bottom numbers after feedback. The puzzle is otherwise the same, and solving should not be significantly impacted.

Solvers (in my local UTC−5 because I’m lazy):

  1. Yoshiap @ 11-17 18:28:34