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.

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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.

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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.

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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 nutrimatic.org 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.