S.P.I.E.S.

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I just returned from Boston/Cambridge/Somerville for the annual MIT Mystery Hunt, this year run by Phys Plant (aka Random Hall), which was won by the Midnight Bombers What Bomb at Midnight (aka The Dan’s team). This year, we hunted as “Big Jimmy’s Secret Sex Fantasy,” a fitting tribute to our beloved nightwatchman who died shortly after last year’s hunt. I was anticipating a long hunt, possibly with a lot of snags in it, so I was surprised when it was actually too short. The hunt ended at about midnight Saturday/Sunday… my ideal length is to have the hunt go into Sunday afternoon. As Anand said to me, we were still having fun and we were neither frustrated nor worn out. A few teams even kept hunting for a few hours — I kind of wish we had done that. Unlike last year, we didn’t set unreasonable goals or try to follow unreasonable rules, and as result we both had more fun and solved more puzzles. However, I did puke for the fourth year in a row.
The hunt started with formal dress in Lobby 7. (And yes, Jeff, that was my only formal dress.) There we were told that we were recent graduates of S.P.I.E.S. and how wonderful and — Oh no! The Evil Dr. Moriarty has a plan (described through his power point presentation) and we’re going to have to find spies around the world to help foil him! Well, it wouldn’t be mystery hunt if there wasn’t something to do. The layout of the hunt was very elegant with maps indicating the rounds and puzzles (somewhat reminiscent of our hunt, but computer graphics instead of hand drawn Feldmeier originals). At each new city, solving the meta allowed us to meet spies at various locations around campus, such as Ethan Hunt (Mission Impossible), James Bond, Dana Scully, and… the Swedish Chef? I didn’t quite understand why he was a spy, but his skit was amusing. (“You take-a de flip-flip!”)
And now for my favorite puzzles of the weekend (solutions not yet available):

  • 783658 — A combination diagramless crossword and sudoku puzzle using phone spell.
  • Mysterious Cry; Quiet Habit — A picture cryptic that I solved with Zoz et al at 3 AM. The clue for TABASCO was particularly clever (can you find it?).
  • Second Time’s the Charm — Fairly straightforward for a Mystery Hunt crossword, but still fun.
  • Blue Steel — I was asleep when we solved this, but from what I heard it was awesome. Headquarters gave us a 3-inch floppy and Quinn and Josh deduced that a) there was no reason for them to give us data on a floppy when everything else is on the web and b) there were allusions to Zoolander, which implied that maybe we should tear the disk open. So we did, without bothering to solve the puzzle on the disk (though we did back it up). Sure enough, on the inside of the disk was a piece of paper with “The Answer is…” written on it.
  • Grid With a Hole in the Middle — What can I say… I like (good) cryptics.
  • Hollow Man — The opening part of this puzzle was kind of weak (make links to Kevin Bacon and then index into the names), but the second part (MAKE A SPY MOVIE FOR HQ) was a lot of fun. (That’s me ducking out of the way after I hand Big Jimmy to Matt.)
  • Land That I Love — The actual puzzle is kind of uninspiring, but the “A ha!” step more than makes up for it. And there’s something about a puzzle that legitimately causes you to think that the answer is “FUCK.” (It was actually “PAT BUCHANAN.”)
  • The Cock Conundrum or the Greatest Joke Ever Told — This had the potential to be really fun, but we ran out of time. (We really need to get more people who can identify cute boys. Laura Lopez, where are you?)
  • Sacred and Profane — I had a love-hate relationship with this puzzle, because we didn’t actually solve it. But I was told later that we did everything we were supposed to, but we were two letters off and failed to see the word… and we triple and quadruple checked our work too.
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