Monday, January 19, 2015

MIT Mystery Hunt 2015: Let's Hear it for Random Hall!

(Note: Links may temporarily not work without a login. I will update them as the situation changes.)

Readers, I have to admit that my wonderful fiancé has a life-altering addiction.

To puzzles.

He wakes up in the morning and does five crosswords, usually in five minutes each; is never caught without a copy of The Enigma; plays puzzle games when he comes home; and, over dinner, tells me about the latest puzzles he solved. He also participates in a minimum of 10 puzzlehunts a year with his MIT puzzlehunting buddies. I generally stay out of his way for the online ones, but there's no physically avoiding the MIT Mystery Hunt. So off I was dragged.

Let me admit: I was expecting to play a supporting role, making sure my dude gets enough food and sleep. I was not expecting to personally crack several puzzles, including 2 metas. Guess what happened.

As everyone on my team agreed, this year's puzzlehunt was particularly well-constructed! This year's theme was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and was presented by One Fish, Two Fish, Random Fish, Blue Fish. The short format of many of the puzzles made it possible for individuals to solve puzzles alone, which is a great confidence boost for newer puzzlers such as myself; and the way in which the puzzles were released (solving puzzles gave more Deep, which revealed puzzles hiding in the ocean) made it possible to work around roadblocks, eliminating the frustration of being stuck on everything. Feeling Bluefin was probably the team favorite, and a lot of people liked Nautilus's Duplicated Quest as well. I could not believe there was a Dresden Codak puzzle* released so early---we love Aaron Diaz here! Mad props!

There are always a couple puzzles that require special knowledge, which is great if you spent the last 5 years listening to showtunes instead of doing puzzles. I definitely enjoyed the auditory (directly or otherwise) puzzles such as the theater one*, Nina and Topsy-Turvy. Someone in Random Hall has pipes! The best 'esoteric knowledge' moment came when one of the puzzles required reading a diving chart*---apparently one of the members of our team was an experienced diver all along.

My fiancé, being a long-time language puzzle master, enjoyed everything from Flat Containers to The Curse of The Atlantean's Tomb, both of which he made me help with. Representative Characters (math!) was also a nice surprise (math!) because it required understanding his field (math!) in order to solve. Although our team concentrated on solving earlier metas rather than the Atlantean puzzles towards the end, he also glanced at Practice in Theory (physics!) and enthused at me about it for an hour.

Other than Feeling Bluefin, the puzzles with the cutest premises were Follow the Bees!, Montages and MIT Mystery Hunt. So adorable.

Our team enjoyed all of the physical puzzles (even the meta!). We had people solving cubes, picking locks, cracking the gelt puzzle so we could eat it; I decoded the knitted square, and one girl with INFINITE PATIENCE sat on the floor for hours putting together the paper jigsaw that had scared off everyone else. Seriously, I was amazed by her persistence.

This was a very different experience from last year's hunt: for me, personally, most of the change in experience quality was due to being on a smaller team. Fewer people means having more opportunity to get an 'aha!' moment and a higher fun-to-automation ratio. The large number of easy puzzles (School of Fish round) also made the hunt continuously accessible to new puzzlers, but I found myself avoiding them in preference of harder puzzles as time went on.

It didn't hurt that everyone on our team was awesome and cracked jokes the entire time! Even my fiancé, who is normally reserved and academic, was dropping the sass left and right. Highlights include giving Ariel a bottle of hair dye when she asked for us to give her a soul (she's a ginger) and the phrase 'Chocolate Rain' being used to describe makin' it rain with gelt. Nevertheless, Puzzfeed has outdone us all.

If you're new to the puzzle scene, get on a smaller team (10-30 people) with some experienced puzzlers and some MIT/Boston residents. You can also look at any of the puzzles listed above for at least an entire year (and Random Fish plans to publish a fancy book of the School of Fish puzzles.) I'm not even going to preface that with 'if you want to'. GET ON A TEAM. IT IS FUN.

Now for some flats before bed...

*(not linked due to spoilers)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your feedback! I'm glad your fiancé enjoyed Flat Containers--that was one of mine. :)

    I'd just like to add that you can check out over three decades' worth of past MIT Mystery Hunts at

    Happy hunting!