Mystery Hunter? But I hardly know 'er! January 17, 2011 2:05 PM   Subscribe

Are there any MeFites out there who participate in the MIT Mystery Hunt?

There tends to be a fair amount of overlap among people who share my interests, but usually the Internet is involved in some fashion. This year, I was on the organizing team for the MIT Mystery Hunt, and looking out over the massive crowd at kickoff, it occurred to me that many of the faces out there might also hang around Metafilter, but I have no idea who because there's no central online hangout for Mystery Hunt. But it still got me wondering, is there some kind of secret puzzle cabal on Metafilter that I don't know about?
posted by Diagonalize to MetaFilter-Related at 2:05 PM (42 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

Mystery hunt is the kind of thing I am fond of doing. Basically any adventure that involves solving puzzles. I have not done the mystery hunt but have done similar; if there is a secret puzzle cabal then I suspect I should like to be a part of it.

It might make retaining anonymity a little more difficult but I expect I would cross that bridge when I come to it.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:07 PM on January 17, 2011

The team I sometimes played on actually won this year. However, I was not playing. The winners got these completely awesome little things.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:14 PM on January 17, 2011

I didn't know you hunted with them sometimes, jessamyn! Way cool, and I'm sorry you weren't around this year. We had a great time hanging with the winners at the victory dinner. They seem like cool folks, and it would've been fun seeing you there.
posted by Diagonalize at 2:19 PM on January 17, 2011

I played this year. Props on the kick-off, I thought it was really neat. As were the cubes Jessamyn linked.

I know of no puzzle cabal, but if there was one, I would join it. Secretly.
posted by shaun uh at 2:21 PM on January 17, 2011

I...I want that Prince box.

I want it.

I didn't even realize what I was looking at, at first. That makes it even better.

I need to get on this mystery hunt thing, I suppose. I know the prize would be different, but still.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 2:21 PM on January 17, 2011

Well here's the deal. Since the people who win get to make the puzzle next year, they're prevented from winning two years in a row. It's always a close match between a few teams [I know Codex was maybe second or third the last two times I was with them] and it will be neat to see hwo wins with Codex running the thing next year. It might be worth getting a MeFi team together, though there has to be some MIT representing, so we'd have to figure that part out.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:30 PM on January 17, 2011

It might be worth getting a MeFi team together, though there has to be some MIT representing, so we'd have to figure that part out.

Would be up for that.
posted by Miko at 2:36 PM on January 17, 2011

I've been on the Central Services team the last three years. I am not part of any puzzle-solving cabal, I just have friends who went to MIT who enjoy this sort of thing. I'm happy being on that team--good people, and the focus is on in-person solving, minimal remote work, and having fun. :-) So unfortunately I don't think I'd be interested in a Mefi-specific team.

I was impressed with how well-run the hunt was this year. Everything seemed to go according to plan, and I was really happy that they could release the solutions pretty much immediately.

Nice reference to the Stuff Nerd People Like puzzle. :-)
posted by A dead Quaker at 3:34 PM on January 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

That block thing is so awesome. I don't know if I'm the mystery-hunting type, though. Are there baby mystery hunts?

I'm not hunting anything in mid-January, though, what with all the damn ice on the ground.
posted by Metroid Baby at 3:49 PM on January 17, 2011

Metroid Baby - if you're curious about what the puzzles are like and whether you'd enjoy trying to solve them, you can always go to the hunt archives. Misses the social factor, obviously, but I find them fun to poke around in.
posted by shaun uh at 4:06 PM on January 17, 2011

Almost all of Hunt takes place online, so the ice usually isn't a problem. Occasionally you'll run into a puzzle or event with an outdoor component, but that's generally pretty rare. Most teams just hunker down in an MIT classroom all weekend with a ton of laptops, and I did Mystery Hunt for years from California. Of course, you do need somebody on the team to be there in person, but lots of teams have remote solvers as well.

As for baby Mystery Hunts, there are definitely smaller scale in-person puzzle events, like BANG (Bay Area Night Games) or the similarly-formatted DASH (Different Area; Same Hunt), which usually only take an afternoon, but they pop up a little erratically, and, of course, you have to have someone running one where you are. There are also puzzle hunts that take place entirely online, like Mark Halpin's Labor Day puzzles, and you can always poke around the Hunt archives as shaun uh suggested. If you just want to get your feet wet, most Mystery Hunt puzzles don't ever require anything but a computer with Internet access.
posted by Diagonalize at 4:28 PM on January 17, 2011

I've been doing the Mystery Hunt w/ Project Electric Mayhem (and its many precursor teams, from back when 6 people could do the Hunt and win) for 15 years. This was my lightest participation in years (apparently I now have a child) but from what I saw it was a really well-run hunt. (In particular, Meta Testing was just way too much fun.)

The best news here is that because Codex won this year I will go at least 2 years before I have to solve another of what are formally referred to as "God. Damned. Duck. Konundrums.")
posted by range at 4:44 PM on January 17, 2011

...the ice usually isn't a problem.

I know you said "usually," but I'm still feeling scarred by the clue that was etched into a brick in Faneuil Hall and, on the weekend of the Hunt, sat under approximately 2 inches of ice and 6 inches of show. (This had to be at least 10 years ago.)
posted by range at 4:49 PM on January 17, 2011

I've hunted with Sages the last few years! This year sadly I was off-site, but I got to work on a few puzzles -- I don't know who your cryptic constructors were (I haven't looked at the answers page yet), but they should know I love them in the most earnest and not-creepy puzzle-appropriate way possible.

Congrats on putting together an awesome hunt.
posted by dorque at 6:00 PM on January 17, 2011

I used to be on the (now defunct) team unwanted pregnancy. I'm a senior now though so I probably won't be in Boston for the hunt next year.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 6:26 PM on January 17, 2011

I don't understand this at all, but that block prize is totally cool and it sounds like a whole lot of fun! I feel like the slightly stupid kid at the party who is laughing at all the jokes a minute late.
posted by TooFewShoes at 6:27 PM on January 17, 2011

I'm on Metaphysical Plant. :)

My puzzles:
posted by saizai at 6:52 PM on January 17, 2011

I feel like the slightly stupid kid at the party who is laughing at all the jokes a minute late.

Lest people think I'm brilliant or something, my job when I played locally was to coordinate the massive group wiki where we kept all our answers. For people not famiiair with it, the whole thing is puzzles leading to other puzzles; groups of puzzles have their own answers and then the answers combine to form a meta-answer. So you have to keep track of all your answers and who has solved what and who is working on what [especially for large teams that may have a lot of people working off-site]. So me and a few other people were basically mission control where we'd call in answers, write them down, keep track of who was working on what and stay awake and cheery while other people were... not. I don't think I ever solved a single puzzle though I helped on some of them, a little.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:02 PM on January 17, 2011

I remote solve whenever I can with Project Electric Mayhem. I think we placed twelfth this year, and ninth last? We're not that big, though, and usually get massively hung up on metas. :(
posted by flatluigi at 7:05 PM on January 17, 2011

I love duck konundrums. I see no need to hit them with sticks. But then, I am hardly an advanced puzzler, so I'm always happy that there's something I can contribute to. (This year, my only help was to go to the costume party/insult duel, which I had tons of fun at. The only other puzzle I came close to solving this year was Soooo Cute - but I ran out of time Sunday at LAR_E_R_B_R__S)

Heh, hi there, Quaker. I was on Central Services too. So not only did I fail to learn if other MeFites were in the Hunt, I failed to determine that they were on my team.
posted by maryr at 8:15 PM on January 17, 2011

I did back when I was a student there, and tried to remotely for a few years afterwards with various team (first my dormitory floor's team which didn't really hold up that well, then Mayhem). But I find remote solving frustrating, so I don't do it any more.
posted by madcaptenor at 8:35 PM on January 17, 2011

So not only did I fail to learn if other MeFites were in the Hunt, I failed to determine that they were on my team.
Evidently so did I. Didn't know you were also a mefite, saizai. (I'm also a Plant person-- and curious which costume maryr was in at the Insult event- I was checking people in and out so I must have seen you! glad to hear you had fun!)
posted by nat at 8:42 PM on January 17, 2011

Hey flatluigi! I recognize your handle from puzztube... it was fun hunting with you this year.

I know some people on this year's winning team, too, and I'm super jealous of their getting to plan next year's hunt and also the awesome wooden blocks, but to be honest, I kind of like being on teams without much of a shot. It means that when a puzzle gets really frustrating I can just go eat a sandwich instead of banging my head against it in blind panic.
posted by shaun uh at 8:49 PM on January 17, 2011

Oh, I know who you are then, nat. You had a nice dress, IIRC.

I was the Final Fantasy cat. I had accidentally left my intended weapon, glitter aka MAGIC! in my team room. My teammate was the Minecraft creeper.
posted by maryr at 8:52 PM on January 17, 2011

Ha! Hi, maryr. You and Jonah both had good costumes. I can't think of anything that would distinguish me--I mostly spent all of Saturday staring at my laptop in frustration and bemusement, sometimes with others. I didn't have any a-ha moments but I sort of helped some people with their puzzles.

This thread is interesting though. I'm friends with Jessica and C. Scott from Codex, and also Cally from Metaphysical Plant, and of course Marc and others from Central Services, all from the MIT square dance club. But I'm not aware of other mefites who square dance, which would close the loop for me. I may have to do a post on that subject.
posted by A dead Quaker at 10:08 PM on January 17, 2011

MeFi's own dayan is a Codex member. AND A HELL OF A NICE GUY.
posted by norm at 10:28 PM on January 17, 2011

Yes, Dayan is an awfully fine chap.
posted by Neale at 3:13 AM on January 18, 2011

It's true! (The Codex member part, anyway.)

This was my third straight year, all with Codex, and the first one in which I felt I really made meaningful contributions across the board - finally getting to go on the runaround (and actually winning!) felt great.

The puzzle I enjoyed most was The Sport of Princesses (combining My Little Pony doll identification with...well, you'll see), largely since it required the solvers - me and 2-3 other fairly rugged-looking dudes - to try to discern the difference between Star Dazzle and Stardancer and hammer My Little Pony fansites for a couple hours, as everyone within earshot struggled to keep a straight face.

Just a super fun weekend, and a really well-written hunt. Fantastic job, Metaphysical Plant MeFites.
posted by dayan at 6:24 AM on January 18, 2011

I really enjoy puzzles, and I know a number of people who do this every year. Despite repeated hints (more like "hey, I want to do that next year, can I join you guys, let me know when it's coming up") for years that I want to be invited to be part of a team, I never find out about it until like the day before or sometimes the week after.

So fuck them. I'd join a Metafilter team, as long as it focused on IRL puzzling.
posted by Plutor at 6:41 AM on January 18, 2011

I do the Lawrence Triviathon off and on, but this sounds like it would be more up my alley. Please count me in next time :)
posted by Madamina at 7:28 AM on January 18, 2011

Most large teams are pretty welcoming to newcomers, actually! In the weeks leading up to the hunt, there's always a list of unaffiliated puzzlers on the main hunt site, and I think they all manage to catch on with somebody. Some are MIT affiliates, but many aren't.
posted by dayan at 7:56 AM on January 18, 2011

Foggy Brume's Puzzle Island is an all-online series of puzzles, meta-puzzles, and a meta-meta-puzzle that I presume captures some of the feel of the Mystery Hunt. (He was a member of the Evil Midnight Bombers What Bomb at Midnight, who I believe were the puzzlewriters for the 2009 Hunt.)
posted by snarkout at 8:21 AM on January 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

So is there a MeFi Puzzle Cabal, and if not, what are we going to do about that?
posted by Quietgal at 10:17 AM on January 18, 2011

There is no cabal, etc., etc.
posted by norm at 11:04 AM on January 18, 2011

I knew about nat being a Mefite, but I also didn't know saizai was here. Nice to see some more Metafilter representation amongst the Metaphysical Fungus Event Planners! I was also at the Costume Ball, in pirate dueling regalia and a limp, so I definitely ran into maryr repeatedly. The cat costume was fab!

I'm really tickled that Sport of Princesses got so much love, because it was one of my favorites too. The guy who wrote it is also a sufficiently dudely-looking dude big into cryptics and math, and not at all the kind of person you'd associate with My Little Pony.

If a Metafilter team doesn't end up coming together (a lot can happen in a year!), then I would definitely encourage interested parties to try to hook up with a team anyway, per dayan's suggestion. Just be careful, puzzles can be a helluva drug!
posted by Diagonalize at 12:10 PM on January 18, 2011

The Bay Area puzzlers team (team Leftout) was full so I was left out. Instead I went to a party and worked on Panda Magazine, which is a bimonthly PDF magazine by Foggy, the same guy who did the Puzzle Boat snarkout mentioned. It's not free ($5/issue), and the puzzles can get really hard sometimes, but not harder than mystery hunt puzzles, certainly! If you haven't done the Puzzle Boat yet, do that first, since it's the same sort of stuff, by the same guy, but free.

Real life events are kind of slow in the winter usually, even in the not-snowy and puzzle-happy San Francisco Bay Area.

This only helps some of you, but there's lots of puzzle stuff going on around the Bay Area. The 2-tone game is a pretty fun asynchronous hunt - you can just solve it whenever you want.

On April 30 the third DASH game will happen. DASH is a relatively casual and beginner-friendly hunt that happens simultaneously in a number of cities. It's up to 15 cities this year. More information will be available sometime at

I've hosted some games before. If I ever figure out a way to have enough capacity that it doesn't fill up within 5 minutes of registration opening, I'll it post to IRL.
posted by aubilenon at 12:11 PM on January 18, 2011

Oh, and I would totally love doing next year's hunt with a MetaFilter team, as long as we don't win.
posted by aubilenon at 12:12 PM on January 18, 2011

as long as we don't win.

This is a condition on my part too. I sort of think the reason I wasn't playing this year is because I suspected my team might actually get around to winning one of these days.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:24 PM on January 18, 2011

Another Codexian coming out, one who actually prefers the remote solving experience. Easier access to showers, food, and quality sleep. I'd normally send people to Codex to join a team, and this year I know there'll be fewer (but still cool) people. I won't be able to directly invite the non-hunters here, but maybe I can nudge one of the puzzlers next year to try!
posted by persona at 2:52 PM on January 18, 2011

nat - I was remote (Chicago), so you probably didn't see me. I was with the Berkeley remote team during 2010's Hunt. Might come down to MIT for 2012. ;-)
posted by saizai at 6:03 AM on January 19, 2011

Also re "as long as we don't win": you can always just hold off on the final final part, and let another team do it.

So: lame excuse. JOIN US. You know you want to.
posted by saizai at 6:10 AM on January 19, 2011

I was there this year (for the past three years I've been a member of the team this year known as Luck, Luck, Goose).
posted by dalryaug at 11:33 AM on January 20, 2011

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