Tag Archives: MIT Mystery Hunt

Mystery Hunts of Yore

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The Dan was recently requesting topics for “Top Five” lists, and I suggested that he list his favorite mystery hunt puzzles of all time. He counter requested that others post their lists, so in anticipation of the 2006 hunt, I made my own list, including one from each of the five hunts I’ve done. (As a warning, these are mostly sentimental favorites — just because I had a memorable solving experience with these puzzles doesn’t mean that others will.)
5. Hum a Few Bars (2002; Brian Tivol) — My first two hunts both involved me spending far too much time on a song puzzle. Kay Sullivan and I took this puzzle to a practice room and made a recording of all the tunes. We went through soap opera themes, Beatles songs, nursery rhymes, and played them all repeatedly for everyone in the room before that wonderful moment when I looked at jrandall and sang “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!” After that, it took about fifteen minutes to get to the solution.
4. We Have Enough Twists, Thank You (2001; Andy Latto and Cally Perry) — It’s not that this was a particularly brilliant puzzle, but it was the one that really hooked me into mystery hunt (and caused my first hunt all-nighter, as I refused to sleep until it was solved). I broke into by looking up where a more famous Highway 101 than the one near my parents’ house might be. “San Jose? *hums*Do you know the way to…*hums* Oh! They’re all questions from songs!” It was a really satisfying moment for me. This puzzle also introduced me to the song “How Can You Believe Me When I Say I Love You When You Know I’ve Been A Liar All My Life?” which became a cult favorite on putz. The great irony is that I never actually solved this puzzle — Zoz backsolved the answer, just as we were getting close.
3. Sneakers (2003; Jennie Hango and Rebecca Christianson) — My favorite runaround ever (and the only one I’ve ever actually done). Galen, cposs, jjhu, and I wandered all around main campus while listening intently to the audio track, trying to avoid the VILE agent who seemed to be following us. Of course, we made it more fun because we sent Galen out onto the roof at the end, before we realized that we were supposed to index into the NO TRESPASSING sign. He found a pair of frozen socks out there, so we called that in before discovering that the actual answer was (coincidently) ARGYLE.
2. Quagmire (2004; Mark Feldmeier) — I test solved this one with jrandall in front of Mark during the final push before the hunt started. After spending over an hour solving the maze, we quickly recognized the hands. When I realized what they spelled, I looked at Mark in complete and utter disbelief. It’s the best puzzle answer ever.
1. Take Me Out (2005; Greg Pliska and Chris Morse) — Is it that surprising that my favorite from last year is a baseball puzzle? This was also the cause of one of my favorite hunt memories: playing “baseball” with amittai and jcbarret using scraps of paper, complete with color commentary. The Microsoft Puzzle Challenge included a very similar puzzle, which I also listed as one of my favorites from that competition.

Mystery Hunt

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The MIT Mystery Hunt was this weekend, and as such, I spent my entire weekend on campus, most of it in 56-154. While it was a good clean hunt (no hinting required) and I got to see friends from out of town, this may have been the least amount of fun I have had during the actual hunt itself, due in large part to the fact that we had grossly overestimated our team’s ability. Well over half of our team members were first or second time hunters, an artifact of running the hunt for a year — freshman and most sophomores had never hunted before and the juniors had only hunted once and that was two years ago. A common complaint amongst those of us with lots of experience was that we were being stretched too thin — too many people wanted our help on too many puzzles at once. And as a result, I think we did a poor job of teaching the newer hunters good techniques. Had I realized before the hunt that we would have been so non-competitive, I might have focused more of my energy on being somewhat social and having fun, rather than spending all of Sunday angry about having to start the cross-sum over.
That being said, Setec wrote a good hunt and there were a number of puzzles that I really enjoyed working on.

  • Take Me Out – A baseball puzzle that I would have solved faster had I not thought that the 19th letter of the alphabet was R. But the end result was jcbarret, Amittai, and I playing out a baseball game with pieces of paper in order to calculate RBIs. This was quite possibly my favorite moment of the hunt.
  • Track 12 – This was mostly cposs, me, and someone I can’t remember. We managed to identify nearly all of the songs without using google and I very quickly noted that they were on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 songs of all time. And any puzzle that uses the song “Imagine” gets my vote.
  • Heavenly Hash – Just a nice clean word puzzle. I saw the method quickly and breezed through most of it, although lizd took over the last step, as I failed to notice the alphabetical order of the words.
  • Concerto Delle Oche VolantiAnand, frosh-liz, and I solved this one. I may have liked it primarily because I was the one who broke into it, and that’s always a good feeling.
  • The Red Meta – Again, I liked this one because I solved it on my own five minutes after I woke up on Saturday (very early) morning. That doesn’t usually happen with metas.

Despite the stress (note to self: remember to eat during the hunt), I am looking forward to next year with the great hope that Phys Plant doesn’t fall into the same traps that we ran into.

Forgive Bless Me, Father

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While in the process of applying to graduate schools, I read a lot of papers (okay, mostly abstracts) relating to natural language processing. Including this one, which suggests that using search engines is a good way to determine how popular a given phrase is — the more hits, the more popular. With the amount of material out on the Internet these days, that seems more than reasonable, and I have in fact used that technique. But, unsurprisingly, it turns out not to be entirely failsafe.
When brainstorming names for our MIT Mystery Hunt team this year, someone suggested “Forgive Me Father, It Has Been Two Years Since My Last Mystery Hunt.” However, someone (possibly even Matt) suggested to me that that was the incorrect phrase and that Catholics say “Bless me, Father.” And so we did a quick comparison with Google, and determined that “forgive me father” was more popular, and thus correct. And then our team opted to not select my favorite suggestion, “Guillotined Priapism,” and “Forgive me, Father” became our name. But Matt McGann actually looked at Google’s results and it turns out that Catholic’s do say “Bless me”.
So… Bless us, Father, for we have sinned. We’re still going to be called “Forgive me, Father” anyway.