MIT Mystery Hunt 2015 Recap – Part 3


Treasure Chest! This box was so exciting, the GC that delivered it to us stuck around because they wanted to see what was inside. The box was secured with some chain and a bunch of different locks, but GC said we could open it however we wanted. Someone quickly produced a screwdriver and removed the hinges for the lid, then slid the lid right out from under the chain! I was impressed.

IMAG0654 IMAG0656

The box was filled with fun physical puzzles! Hooray! Everybody seemed to grab a puzzle and just go for it! There was a puzzle using dice with different interesting properties (a lot like a mini version of the beloved Xbox puzzle from The Famine Game), a 3D wood-cut puzzle that revealed a word when assembled, a Rubik’s Cube I know nothing about, a knit square puzzle, a map of the MIT campus made of ropes, and even a country identification puzzle using 72 custom-stamped gold foil chocolate coins! (Apparently you can just have those made, such a brilliant idea!)

Summer, Shelly, and I grabbed the slightly more tame paper jigsaw puzzle and took it to the breakout room. We dumped everything out on the floor and started organizing. I was extremely happy that I had decided to give the full sweep/mop treatment to the breakout room, since we spent the next couple of hours sitting and picking up tiny pieces of paper from the previously nasty floor.


The jigsaw turned out to be pretty tricky. It was made up entirely of triangle shapes, and all of the triangles were some shade of blue or purple with subtle patterns to distinguish them. We categorized them and just started playing around with how to connect the pieces. Things weren’t really working out until somebody realized that the pieces could connect at various angles to make an arrow, and then a fish shape. I ended up going back to the main room and grabbing a roll of scotch tape for each of us to speed up the process, and caught the humorous scene of Dan standing about a foot away from the corkboard and dictating the rows of the knitting puzzle to another teammate.

"...knit, purl, knit, purl, knit..."

“…knit, purl, knit, purl, knit…”


Phil, Chris G, and Nick joined in at some point and helped us create a fleet of fishes, but we were still stuck for a while on how they would fit together. We finally figured out how to add in the white pieces in the empty spaces and began fitting our squares together. Very exciting! In the end, the wavy patterns on our finished “quilt” sectioned off letters that spelled different types of fabric with one missing letter, which spelled out our answer.


It was past 2am by the time we solved the jigsaw. Summer called it a night shortly after, and I worked on Rectangles, Striptease, Night of the Living Kraken, Cthulu, and The Curse of the Atlantean’s Tomb for the next hour or two. I also went on my first (and only) go-see for the hunt, which was visiting Dory to help her find Nemo. This involved a goofy search-the-room for the places a little orange paper fish had been hidden. The challenge was trivial, but the funny GC made it enjoyable.

The night turned to morning and our team numbers started dropping pretty rapidly. Finally, it was just me and Melinda on the East coast. The puzzle pickings felt pretty slim, so we teamed up on the dropquote puzzle Stay Out of the Trench. It was slow goings at first until we figured out that the quotes were all famous poems about war. Then once we found a good rhythm of Melinda using to solve for words and me Googling the poems, we were unstoppable! Mike and Corey arrived in the morning and joined in to help with the quotes, but we were so efficient we even ended up solving some of theirs. The final extraction was a bit more thorny (and I was mostly out of it by then), but eventually the puzzle fell. This year’s hunt so far had felt a bit light in comparison to my previous two hunts, so it was exciting to see a tough one from start to finish!

With more and more teammates arriving back at the classroom, and my brain getting foggier and foggier, it was my time to get some sleep. Phil and Summer were still asleep when I got to our hotel room, but I don’t really remember hearing them leave after I fell asleep. I had planned on trying to get a pretty solid 6-7 hours of sleep since I hadn’t slept well the previous two nights and I was really starting to feel it. Unfortunately, my sleep plans were cut short about 3 hours early when our hotel room phone rang inexplicably (and so LOUDLY). By the time I could figure out what was going on, I had missed the call. I tried to go back to sleep, but had no luck. I ended up calling Nick for my annual Emotional Hunt Rant to try and get in a better mood, which worked as usual.

I took my time getting ready and headed back to MIT at about the same time I had planned on anyway. I started getting anxious reading the hangout chat. We had discovered what looked like the end of the world map, which was a mysterious trench at the bottom of Atlantis. It sounded like the Runaround could be close! I anxiously waited for the crazy slow Marriott elevators (apparently, half of them were out of order) and then booked it over to MIT. Summer let me know that some teammates were getting food over at the student center, so I met them there, hot and out of breath from speed-walking. The situation wasn’t quite as serious as I had feared, so I calmed down, got my food, and went back to our HQ with the others.

While I ate, I sat in on Summer and the others in the breakout room working on a nonogram from hell called Foamy, and caught myself up on the current structure of the hunt. We had discovered Atlantis, which included four different towers, each with its own meta, and an Atlantis meta meta at the very bottom. With just a few puzzles left (which were already being handled) and a couple of metas, the next several hours felt slow and weird. It felt strange to just jump in on a meta (this is the first hunt where I’ve even attempted to understand any of the metas), but otherwise there really wasn’t anything to do! I’ve never felt so laid back at a hunt! After Foamy was solved, the breakout room decided to put our heads together and try to understand the Spotted Tower Meta. We started our own tab to play around in and made about as much progress as the other groups on the team had. Finally, the last a-ha was discovered by either West or the main room. Not long after, a key realization was made in the group chat about the nature of the meta meta, and the time felt right for us to re-join the main room.

Many an impressive spreadsheet was engineered to crack the meta meta, which involved paths and transposing and lots of other things I didn’t quite follow. This allowed us to see what is surely one of the greatest unintentional red herrings in hunt history, the message “I NEED A COIN” in the final meta of the hunt! GC let us know that this was not the intended answer for the puzzle. The intentional solution to the meta meta instead gave us an instruction to visit the top of the tallest tower at MIT (how dramatic!), so we drew straws for an away team to do just that.IMAG0677

Our team returned with a not-a-puzzle treasure map and a GC guide, it was time for the Runaround! But by then it had become Sunday so I’ll save it for the next post.


MIT Mystery Hunt 2015 Recap – Part 2

Boston in the morning


On Friday morning, I got up early to continue what is now my tradition of helping prep our team headquarters for the hunt. I met Dan at the Kendall and we talked escape games for a bit before we drove over to MIT with a carload of snacks and supplies that Dan had bought the day before. (I also got a sneak peek at a fun surprise — Dan had made awesome custom buttons for everyone on the team to use as name tags!)

Mike, Ben, and Will were the other early birds in the room, and I sent Ben and Will on car unloading duty while I got started cleaning the room. This year I decided to try a simple broom and dustpan instead of a Swiffer, but Dan went ahead and got me a micro-fiber kind of mop as well! Luckily, none of the tables and chairs had been brought into the room yet, so I could sweep the whole place without having to drag the tables around. Sweeping first was definitely the way to go! Ben helped me mop, and then I decided to go ahead and do the same treatment on our breakout room as well since it sounded like we were going to try to use it more this year.

Right as I was finishing up, Phil, Summer, Todd, Matt, and Chris arrived. Matt finished the mopping for me, then we all went to the student center to grab drinks and breakfast. I got a breakfast sandwich and a Naked juice, figuring that a big enough breakfast meant I could just skip lunch.

Back in the room, we got all of the tables and arm-less chairs we needed (thanks to a generous donation from Grand Unified Theory of Love down the hall) and got everything cleaned and situated. I was seated at the “Todd pod,” which included me, Summer, Phil, Matt, Chris, and Todd. We didn’t have too long to get settled before it was time to head out for the kickoff.

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MIT Mystery Hunt 2015 Recap – Part 1

It’s been a week since the 2015 MIT Mystery Hunt ended, so now it’s recap time!


This year’s Hunt trip started on Wednesday for me. I had been wanting to play 5 Wits Adventures out in Foxboro since I heard about it a few years ago, but it’s far enough out from the Boston/Cambridge area that I’d have to get a rental car to make it out to play. Luckily, I’ve been working on developing a company (which doesn’t quite merit its own blog post yet) over the past year with a couple of puzzling friends and Mystery Hunt teammates, Summer and Phil, and the three of us visiting 5 Wits for research purposes seemed worthy of an early flight and a rental car this year.

Summer and I couldn’t get in from the West coast until evening, so we all planned on arriving in Boston on Wednesday and scheduled our 5 Wits trip for Thursday afternoon. We also roped Todd, Chris, and Matt into our plans and the six of us were reunited at a hotel by the airport by Wednesday evening. Originally we had also scheduled a room escape game for Wednesday night, but a heating problem at the facility meant we had to reschedule for Thursday. That left us with no plans for Wednesday, so we decided to make a night of it. Summer had found an intriguing bar and restaurant downtown near the room escape, so I drove us all over in the large minivan with only one close call with another vehicle and zero run-ins with pedestrians (despite their best efforts).

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The Genius: Black Garnet, Coming Soon!


I’m breaking my long bout of blogging laziness to bring you important news: The Genius is coming back for Season 3 on October 1st. That’s next week!

The subtitle for this season is “Black Garnet,” which conjures up all sorts of thoughts about potential betrayal and trickery. Will there be some new type of garnet introduced that has a negative effect, so players will be trying to get rid of it? Could it be some sort of hot potato for Death Match candidates? I’m glad the mechanic of the black garnet (assuming there will be one) hasn’t been revealed yet, and I’m looking forward to finding out what it is.

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Skirmos: Open Source Laser Tag

I was Googling “laser tag” the other day, trying to find somewhere local to play, and the link for something called Skirmos: Open Source Laser Tag came up in the results.  It turned out to be a Kickstarter-funded, Arduino-based laser tag gun, and it looks pretty sweet!


The gun has lots of cool features, including:

  • Glowing LED lights inside
  • LCD screen that shows important info and stats
  • Rumble vibration
  • MP3/Wave sound card

And the open source part means that you can program the guns however you like, making your own play modes, setting certain constraints, and probably a whole bunch of other stuff. I don’t know much about Arduino, but I would assume that the options are pretty much limitless for creative gameplay incorporating other Arduino devices. This photo on the Skirmos Flickr stream of a player capturing an objective from an object in the environment seems to confirm that idea.

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MIT Mystery Hunt 2014 Recap – Part 4

At long (LONG) last, here is the final installment of my 2014 MIT Mystery Hunt Recap. Keeping in mind that I only have the 2013 hunt to compare to, let me list some of my pros/cons about 2014.

Things I particularly liked about this year’s Mystery Hunt:

  • Smoothness – Everything seemed to be run extremely smoothly. The event started promptly (almost too promptly!), and there seemed to be very few hiccups.
  • Quality of Puzzles – I’m not the best judge of puzzle quality, but they seemed pretty darned good.
  • Funny Puzzles – I was crying laughing as we worked through The Most Dangerous Night.
  • Go-sees – There were so many puzzles that sent us around campus doing things. I did as many as possible and had a great time. For events like this, I’m of the opinion that the more stuff there is that requires you to be there in person, the better.
  • Pre-Kickoff – I never experienced kickoff in Lobby 7, so I’m free from all nostalgia bias. I really liked the atmosphere in the auditorium before the kickoff started. It was nice that there seemed to be plenty of space outside the auditorium to mingle with friends from other teams, and the music playing in the auditorium made it feel exciting somehow.
  • Pretty much everything!

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MIT Mystery Hunt 2014 Recap – Part 3

I woke up from my One Big Sleep at around 6pm on Saturday evening. I saw that I had missed a call from Todd, but a quick look through the Hangout chat seemed to indicate that I hadn’t missed out on anything too important (like, say, a Runaround). I got cleaned up, and used Hangout again (so convenient!) to check on the dinner situation, then headed back over to campus.

I’m reminded as I write this that when I had left for the hotel that morning, it had been pouring down rain. (My socks and shoes were soaked by the time I got to our hotel room.) When I headed back to campus that evening, I saw that the rain had changed over to snow and left an inch or so while I had slept. That was kind of fun, and sure made it seem like I had slept longer!

I got back to headquarters and found everyone pretty occupied by their current puzzles. Todd said he had called to tell me there was a puzzle about Japanese bands. I took a quick glance at it, but it seemed like the West coast had made most of the progress on it already. I kind of floundered around for a bit, trying to find something else to work on, but I was having trouble jumping into anything. Eventually, I ended up back on that Japanese puzzle, called 1! 2! 3! 4! 4649!

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MIT Mystery Hunt 2014 Recap – Part 2

In my last recap post, I had spent most of my Mystery Hunt so far running around campus investigating strange images, verifying data, and solving location-based clues. As Friday night became Saturday morning, my work got a bit more puzzle-centric.

It’s hard to remember exactly what happened when during those long hours of the night. We tackled a lot of different puzzles, and I’m mostly just referencing our Team Log to see what was released and when we solved it.

Solving Common Bonds opened up a few new puzzles, including one called Monster Potatoes. We figured out the first a-ha and started collecting data, but that was about as far as we got. (Little did we know that this would end up being the last puzzle our team would solve in the entire Hunt!)

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MIT Mystery Hunt 2014 Recap – Part 1

It’s that time of the year again, time for my multi-part MIT Mystery Hunt Recap Extravaganza!  I was thinking it wouldn’t be as long this year, but since this was a much more action-packed Hunt, it will probably be just as long, or longer than last year.  As usual, this is a play-by-play account of my personal hunt experience, meant more for my own future reference than any sort of reporting or entertainment.



I was really looking forward to returning to Boston this year with all of the knowledge I had gained from last year.  This included being more familiar with the structure of the Hunt, as well as being more comfortable with my teammates.  I was even more excited when I found out that two more people I knew would be joining the team — Phil Dasler and Summer Stevens.  I worked closely with Phil over the course of the Famine Game creation process and got to play with his team for Wartron Boston, and Summer was a part of my favorite Famine Game team, The Hunger Dames.  More friends means more fun!

I didn’t feel the need to do as much preparation this year, but I did skim over our team’s internal documents on roles/responsibilities and using our in-house puzzle cataloging system.

When we first started getting flavory e-mails from [atlas shrugged], I started to get a little bit nervous.  The theme was some sort of science conference, with lots of unfamiliar terms technical jargon.  I felt mostly sure that the “joke” was that it was all incomprehensible, but I did worry that maybe it was just going over my head.

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Puzzle Break #1: Escape from Studio D

I was pretty excited to hear that Seattle was getting its own live action escape-the-room game, called Puzzle Break, in November.  We decided to give them a few weeks to work the kinks out, and after hearing lots of rave reviews from fellow puzzlers, Nick and I bought our tickets for last Saturday.  We invited a friend whose puzzling experience was limited to one Puzzled Pint.

We picked up our friend on Saturday and found street parking about a block away from the studio where the game was being held.  Our friend told us this was a pretty hip part of town, and a good location for this type of event, in his opinion (lots of young people in Capitol Hill, and people who live downtown tend not to like to leave their neighborhood to go do stuff).

There wasn’t any signage for the event outside, and there were a lot of Studio D’s on that block.  Luckily, Nick had read an e-mail at work that said to be sure to enter the door with the right street number above it, and at that door we found a hand-written sign to wait in the lobby for Puzzle Break.  We were the first of our 12-person team to get there, but the others started to arrive pretty soon.

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