MIT Mystery Hunt 2015 Recap – Part 4


Our runaround began with a guide from Atlantis taking us across campus to meet the Kraken. We explained to the Kraken that we wanted some nautilodestones, and she went on to tell us all the reasons we weren’t worthy of taking anything from the sea, which was full of creatures way more awesome than us. In particular, the Kraken felt we were lacking in communication, perception, knowledge, friendship, and teamwork. If we could prove ourselves in each of these areas, we might be allowed to have a nautilodestone.


The Kraken had quite a costume!
The Kraken had quite a costume!


Our first challenge would be in communication. The very large rectangle of paper laid out on the floor of the room was revealed to be a giant word search!


Team Left Out didn’t exactly prove its communication skills on this challenge. There was a lot of shouting and confusion as we tried to figure out what was going on and get things organized. We discovered that the words in the search were all answers from puzzles we had solved during the hunt (with lots of tricky similar-sounding red herrings strewn about), but we couldn’t quickly agree on a way to access and cross-reference the answer list and log the words we had found. When decisions were made on how to proceed, those decisions weren’t effectively shared and other people were still preoccupied with solving those problems. I was kind of surprised at how obviously lacking our team was in strategy and coordination for this type of challenge. I think it caught us off-guard and revealed some much-needed improvements for Left Out.

Only so many people could gather around the word search, so I took a photo of one section with my phone and sat back to search for words with Phil and Chris. This method turned out to be fairly effective, and I think I found at least three words on my own. It got even easier when the rest of the team determined that each word would intersect with another word to make semaphore lines.


After what felt like way too long, we finally produced the clue phrase and then an answer and were sent off to our next challenge which took place in a dark (and maybe a little too relaxing) auditorium.

Our host explained that this activity would test our perception of the hunt so far. We would have to identify the names of puzzles from the hunt based on small visual elements taken from those puzzles. Skipping a puzzle would add to the quota of puzzles we needed to identify. This turned out to be another moment where we felt rather uncoordinated. We ended up skipping a lot of puzzles that could have been quickly identified if we had assigned each person with a laptop a chunk of puzzles to search through. Still, the activity was an interesting idea and it was fun to recognize puzzles you had worked on.


Next up was the knowledge challenge, in the form of ocean-themed Family Feud. This was probably my least favorite activity of the runaround since it wasn’t much of a challenge and it wasn’t very interesting. We guessed the top answers for categories like “fish names that start with the letter S” and “names of ships.”

Things picked back up with the friendship challenge. We were told that a number of fish friends were hidden throughout the building we were in, and we needed to take and upload selfies with 200 different fish in order to advance. At first, the task sounded completely tedious. Will, Todd, and I took one half of a floor and set to work only to find that the fish stickers were hidden in outrageous places like underneath shelves, behind pipes, or up in the ceiling. It was a challenge to get both the fish and your face in the photo, and we ended up on the floor or twisted around in an awkward position for a lot of the photos. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and had the additional benefit of producing 200 hilarious photos of our teammates (including a few creative entries from the West team).

IMAG0697 IMAG0693 IMAG0694


Phish Fish
Phish Fish
West Fish
West Fish

The big finale (thanks to the luck of the draw) was the teamwork challenge — human pictionary in Lobby 7. I was pleased to see another creative Hunt use of the balconies looking down onto Lobby 7  (following the Thomas Crown Affair event in 2013 and the Alice in Wonderland maze game from 2014). Part of our team would stay on the ground and create images to be seen from above by teammates on the balcony who would guess the word being depicted. I volunteered to lead the ground team due to my combination of drawing skills, extensive marching band drum major/drill instructor experience, and personal opinion of my own expertise in online pictionary.

This activity was fun, but definitely a challenge! At first, I would draw what I was envisioning for the picture, my teammates would chime in, we would come to an agreement, and then I would start executing the design by calling people to make the different pieces.  With 10 pictures to complete, it became clear after the first few rounds that we needed to speed up the production process (especially after the divisive “shipwreck” design). By the end, we were making decisions about the design more quickly and I was starting the execution as soon as we had the basic idea and delegating the next parts to the rest of the group. It still took a long time to get through all 10, but it did feel like we became more efficient.


The words themselves were quite challenging. We saw quick success with “seahorse” and “stingray,” but had a bit more trouble with less recognizable words like “shipwreck” and “pirate’s treasure,” and tough-to-execute ideas like “Dr. Nautilus,” and “fish and chips.” And we were nearly undone by “sealab!” But we enjoyed a hilarious big finish when the final word turned out to be “coin.” Some members of the team previously agreed that if one of the words was “coin,” we would just present a blank floor as our image. It was, and we did, and the balcony team solved it immediately. Hooray!

My favorite thing about this challenge was that it exemplified the enthusiasm tunnel-vision that Hunt can give you. We must have started the pictionary game at around 5:00 or 6:00am. We were exhausted from the weekend, the day, and from the previous four challenges. My first thoughts when we heard the challenge were that I was tired and that I didn’t want to lay on the heavily used floor of Lobby 7. Next thing I knew, I was enthusiastically directing the activity and dropping to the floor without a second thought, and continuing to do those things for about an hour straight. That’s just the way the Mystery Hunt is!

After we completed the teamwork challenge, we were lead to the Kraken’s lair through some extremely effective crepe paper seaweed decorations. We used our swordfish to hack through the seaweed blocking the door and met the Kraken who congratulated us and allowed us to use our magnetonometer to choose the real nautilodestone out of five possibilities. We succeeded, and with that, at almost 7:00am, our runaround was over.

IMAG0705 IMAG0709


Back at our room, we managed to get basically everything cleaned up before heading back to our hotels to get some sleep. Later that day, we had our post-hunt team meeting to discuss how the various features of our online tool had fared, what new features were needed, the state of our roles and responsibilities, the size of the team, and many other exciting topics. After the meeting, a very large number of us walked over to a local brewhouse for a fun team dinner. I also got to see the exciting conclusion to the Seattle/Green Bay NFC Championship game!


After dinner, we went back to the Marriott for some board games. Summer and I teamed up again for a win in 7 Wonders and had a few fun rounds of the new-to-me game Concept before it was time for bed.

IMAG0713 IMAG0714 IMAG0715

On Monday, Phil, Summer, and I made it over to the wrap-up, which I was very excited to attend for the first time. Random Fish kept it short and sweet and shared lots of fun hunt tidbits, as well as their Tumblr full of photos and stories from throughout the hunt (I love this new GC tradition!). After the wrap-up we talked to Corey and Melinda for a while and then got our belated seafood fix at Legal Seafoods for lunch. It was great to get to spend some time with just Phil and Summer since we’ve been working together remotely for the past several months.

All of our flights were around the same time on Monday evening, so we all traveled to the airport together. One long flight later, I was back in Seattle and MIT Mystery Hunt 2015 was over.

Tune in next time for Thoughts and Feelings about this year’s hunt!