Here’s my annual recap of the MIT Mystery Hunt. This year we hunted as “The Team Your Team Could Smell Like,” which may be one of our most brilliant team names ever. While we did manage to find the coin, we were the third team to do so. Thus, the brilliant hunt theme harveyj and I are planning will have to wait until 2013.
This year, the theme was Mario — he was finally going to marry Princess Peach, but Bowser kidnapped her at the wrap up and, what do you know, the wedding is in another chapel! No wait… it turns out it was all masterminded by GLaDOS from Portal through a convoluted chain of video game villains all controlling each other in a hierarchy. (I’d be lying if I said I knew who GLaDOS was before hunt, but there were members of my team who guessed the Mario theme with a tinge of Portal just based on the invitation we received before the hunt to a wedding between M&P where cake was promised.)
While the theme was perhaps not up my alley, though well done, there were a number of puzzles I did like.
- Good Vibrations — Yes, this puzzle is about that Good Vibrations. I cracked it off of “Rubber Duckie.” I am not embarrassed that I knew that and it was hilarious to solve once we figured it all out.
- Walkthrough — This led to one of my favorite reasons for the a-ha moment. When the puzzle first came out, a bunch of undergrads, convinced it was a runaround, asked me to join them on the trek to Kresge so that someone experienced was with them. (Plus, I had asked for an excuse to leave HQ.) So, off we trekked, but when we got there, nothing seemed to match the second step. I read the rest of the puzzle and decided that we probably weren’t going to find an island of Chinese pirates on MIT’s campus and directed us back to HQ, brainstorming along the way about what the puzzle might actually be. First we called HQ to let them know we were on our way back and asked them to check the page source for any clues we may have missed — nothing. Then James, a sophomore, noticed all of the Wikipedia signs around campus for the 10 year Wikipedia anniversary and suggested that maybe it was a “Wikipedia runaround” of sorts… which of course, it was. It was the sort of brilliant serendipity that I approve of — if I had read the whole puzzle first, I would have talked us out of going to Kresge and James probably wouldn’t have seen the signs that led us to the actual solution. Plus, it was fun to solve.
- Flat Head — I completely forgot this puzzle existed until thedan reminded me that I solved a bunch of it. Hurray for NPL flats… and Canada.
- The Word — Okay, to be fair we only solved one of the three puzzles in this one, but we solved it fast. This made it somewhat disappointing when we realized that there were two other puzzles embedded in it.
- Drafting Table — It’s not that this puzzle was particularly amazing, but it is the only one in which I was the first person to look at it (with a few others… amittai, dwilson, and mehtank, I think) and we solved it without needing any additional fresh eyes.
- Soooo Cute — I didn’t actually solve this because too many people jumped on it right away, but it worked basically the way I expected it too. Plus, ZooBorns is one of my favorite blogs.
- The Mega Man Meta — Again, I didn’t solve it, but it is one of the most beautifully constructed things I’ve ever seen.
And a few additional honors go to…
- Crowd’s Chant — I really want this to be my favorite puzzle ever, but I think it needs a slight tweak in the flavortext to be a good clean solve. That, and I need to remember from now on that the cheap toy keyboard I have is a half-step flat. ‘Cause that screwed us up for awhile. But still, a puzzle about music theory and baseball? What’s not to love (besides the actual execution)!
- Fascinating Kids — This wins the WTF award. Just read that solution and tell me it is at all a reasonable thing to do. “Near-integer grade level”? From an obscure metric that is clued only by its initials? Yeah, no.
In the end, GLaDOS was defeated and we found the companion cube… well, what was left of it after Codex got there first. Next year, we’re prepared to be that much faster!