2012 Valentine’s Day Treasure/Puzzle Hunt



This is the third consecutive year I’ve done some sort of puzzle hunt for Nick (and the fourth year total).  Here are the hunts I’ve done for him in the past:

  • Internet hunt:  This was when we were in different places for Valentine’s Day one year.  The hunt sent him to different accounts of mine (YouTube, cosplay.com, etc.) where I had left coded messages.  The prize at the end was a drawing of us as ninjas!
  • Escape the Room:  I “locked” him in our bedroom (basically left a note that said he had to escape, and when he tried at first to open the door, I held it shut on the other end!), and he had to solve a series of puzzles and find key objects before finding a final password to text back to me for me to open the door.
  • Traditional wild goose chase:  Last year we were a bit homeless during Valentine’s Day, so since I didn’t have much time/resources I just did a traditional scrap paper wild goose chase with riddles leading from one clue to the next.
Now it’s become something of a tradition, so I had to make a puzzle/treasure hunt this year!  Nick’s work schedule is pretty wild right now, so I knew I couldn’t plan something too involved.  And I didn’t want to spend any money, so I kept things pretty simple overall and just used materials we had around the house.
The hunt was basically a series of 11 envelopes with puzzles and clues leading from one envelope to the next.  It was a little disjointed at times, but I had fun thinking of a few creative puzzles and clue types to throw in!  An since we both work from home, it was a challenge to put things together and hide clues without him noticing!
Clue envelopes
To kick off the hunt, I called Nick’s cell phone.  He followed the sound of the ringtone and found that his phone was locked in a box!  And envelope was on top of the box, explaining the situation and giving the first clue.
Clue #0:
“To find your first clue, take a moment to admire the view”
Nick actually first interpreted this to mean he should stand and look around the room, oops!  I really need to take the context of the clues more into account when I’m building puzzles!  Eventually he started checking the windows in the house and found the next clue.


The Clue #1 envelope was full of cut-out letters (which Nick dumped on the floor for a funny photo op, but I missed it!).  Nick spent some time trying to arrange the letters and came up with some interesting words!

Clue #1

Hmmm.. I don’t think the answer is “Love the Trout Sin Nine”, or anything to do with the word “Snort”!  This was my favorite part of the hunt, as Nick entertained me with lots of interesting words and phrases!  I was amazed at how many funny things he came up with with just those letters!  But I was getting frustrated that he seemed to be missing a key part of the puzzle.  “I actually think this is a pretty good puzzle,” I said.  With that simple statement, he instantly started arranging the letters by color.  I’m not sure what that says about my puzzle reputation!  He got most of the words quickly, but got stuck on the long one for several minutes.  At one point he even said out loud “Elevision”, which left me cracking up until he finally figured it out.

Clue #1:
“Turn on the television”

Clue #1 part two

This was probably my favorite clue.  When Nick turned on the TV, this is what he saw:

Clue #2

Clue #2:
“Go to the source.”

We recently got the laptop working through the TV, and I’ve been all excited about it.  It seemed like the perfect way to make a unique clue!  So the screen gave a text clue, and through the speakers a track from BBC’s Sherlock soundtrack was playing.  I’m glad this clue was so early in the hunt because we left the music on for the rest of the game and it really added to the experience!  Just try solving puzzles with this music playing and see if you don’t feel like Mr. Holmes himself!

I highly recommend using dramatic music in your next puzzle hunt! =)  This clue took Nick a while to solve because he couldn’t think of any Sherlock Holmes stuff we owned.  I told him he was wrong in that assumption, and once he walked himself through his thoughts again, he realized he had actually picked up something Sherlock-related earlier that day.

Clue #2

Sure enough, inside my Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics copy of The Complete Sherlock Holmes was Clue #3!

Clue #3:
“You’ll need photographic evidence to find the next clue!”

Nick picked up on this pretty quickly and found my small point-and-shoot camera which I had left out on my desk.  There was only one photo on the camera, an artsy-looking photo of Clue #4 in its hiding place.

Clue #3

Nick said this one was too easy, and quickly found Clue #4 in my stand-up mixer in the kitchen.

Clue #4:
“Follow your nose to find the next clue!”

Clue #4

I had sprayed it with generous amounts of perfume, hoping to lead Nick to an arrangement of my perfume bottles on top of the next clue.  Nick had a bit of trouble with this one.  Since he was in the kitchen, he assumed the scent part of the clue would be something food-related (and the clue card didn’t smell very strongly to him).  But once he got off the food track, he found it pretty quickly!  This clue might have been more effective with a more distinguishable scent, like cinnamon or pepper or something like that (although Nick did some great deduction by noticing that whatever left the scent was colorless, which lead him to perfume).

Clue #5:
“You followed your nose to find this clue.  The next clue has been under your nose all day long!”

After comically checking under his shirt, Nick made his way to his computer desk and started checking under the keyboard, mouse, etc., before finding the clue taped underneath his desk.

Clue #6:
Use your math skills to find the next clue!

Part two:
“To find the next clue, try checking all your _ _ _ _ _ _ _”

This clue included a trivia puzzle with seven questions.  Each question had something to do with our relationship (my birthday, the day we got married, etc.), and produced a number.  The seven numbers could be translated to letters, which filled in the blank of the hint for finding the next clue.

Clue #6

I don’t think Nick was a fan of this one!  Haha!  And he definitely skipped a few questions and just filled in the blanks once he had enough letters.  Tricky!  The missing word was POCKETS, and Nick found the next clue in his coat pocket downstairs.

Clue #7:
Now that you have your coat, why not go out for a drive?

Nick dutifully put on his coat and went out to the car where he found the next clue:

Clue #8:
Gentlemen, start your engines!

Clue #8

When he started the car, I had the stereo set up to play a CD I had put in earlier that day.  The only song on the CD was Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash” (I was takin’ a bath), which lead Nick back inside to find the next  clue taped to the wall of the shower.

Clue #9:
“Ask Wikipedia for help,  This cipher plays dirty!”

Part two:
“The next clue will be found inside
– – –  – – – –  – – – –
of 2011 “

The first card had a picture of Pigpen from Peanuts, and the blanks of the second card were symbols of the pigpen cipher.

Clue #9

Nick didn’t follow my instructions and found some other non-wikipedia images and websites with their own versions of the cipher.  Somehow, all the versions he found were consistent with each other, but different from the version on Wikipedia!  Arg!  I set him straight once he started trying to Caesar shift his answer, haha.  The code translated to “The Best Game”, so “The next clue will be found in the best game of 2011.”  That’s kind of subjective, but to Nick it could only mean one thing:  Dark Souls!

Clue #9 part two

I was surprised how fast Nick solved the next clue.

Clue #10:
“Almost done!  Go look in the only place that is as sweet as you!”


Clue #10

Sappy, I know, but it’s Valentine’s Day!  =)   The next clue was inside the sugar jar!  And it wasn’t a clue at all, it was the key to the locked box from the beginning.  Nick’s cell phone was free!

Last clue

Nick thought the game ended there, and it would have made the most sense logically (since the goal seemed to be to free his cell phone), but I reeeally liked the idea of having a clue be put on his cellphone early in the game, and for that clue to remain inaccessible until later on.  When I had first called his cellphone to initiate the game, I also left a voicemail message.  Nick checked the voicemail I had left, and it said:  “You’ve got mail!”  (Which apparently sounded creepy!)

The final clue was in our mailbox outside.  It said congratulations, and thanks for playing, and now let’s spend a fun Valentine’s evening together!  (Which we did, enjoying some Thai food and this week’s episode of Castle, though it was unfortunately not Valentine’s Day-related).

Nick had fun, and I had fun putting it together and watching him!  Although he did have lots of critiques, which is good =)  I think I want to step it up a bit next year and really work hard to design a good, cohesive experience.  I basically have my own personal puzzle guinea pig here, so I should take advantage of that and use him for practice!

Anyway, I hope the details of my Valentine’s Day help inspire you to do something similar next year, or for an upcoming birthday or anniversary.  Let me know in the comments if you did anything mysterious and puzzling (hopefully in a good way) for Valentine’s Day yesterday!


Photo layouts courtesy of Pugly Pixel

2 comments on 2012 Valentine’s Day Treasure/Puzzle Hunt

  • Jen

    I love this, seriously. You are so creative! And you did a great job of making sure he wouldn’t accidentally stumble upon a clue at the wrong time. Maybe one day I can pull something like this off for Greg…

    • clavicarius (author)

      Aw, thanks! Really I feel like every year I just throw it together at the last second, it doesn’t take too much planning! And it’s the kind of thing you can think about at work, in the shower, etc. and get good ideas =) The most important step I think is just writing things down so you can organize/rearrange each step, fill in the blanks, and get everything in a nice order.

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