Recapping MIT Mystery Hunt 2019, Part 3: My Puzzles

This is the final post in a series about MIT Mystery Hunt 2019. It is preceded by “Puzzlehunts: An Overview,” “Part 1: Story,” and “Part 2: Structure.”

This is the post that I’ve been waiting for so long to write: the one where I reveal to my friends and family the puzzles that I have been crafting for a year.

There is no correct way to engage with these. Some of you will want to solve the puzzles; for you folks, I am so grateful for your deep engagement with my creations. Other folks would prefer to look at the puzzle just long enough to understand what’s going on, and then read through the solution. That’s OK too.

I should set a few expectations for readers who might not be experienced with Hunt puzzles:

  1. Google is very, very permitted.
  2. You may solve alone or with a team. In my experience, friends make it more fun.
  3. I expect each puzzle to last you a couple hours.
  4. Your final answer should be a single word or short phrase.
  5. If you tell me that you tried to solve my puzzles, it will make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Finally, I could not created any of this beautiful art alone. I am deeply indebted to the co-authors, discussion editors, copy editors, layout editors, fact checkers, and artists who helped me turn a few sketchy ideas into what they are.

Without further ado, here are my puzzles! Blurbs are spoiler-free. Links to the solutions are in the top-right corner of each puzzle page.

Hunt puzzles that I wrote or co-wrote

Send Yourself Swanlumps: Teams were handed a real-life, physical book. I wish I could send each of my friends a copy. Click on the cover on the puzzle page in order to read the PDF.

Polyphony: Co-authored with my dear friend Kevin O’Toole, who is the real madman behind this.

Riding the Tube: This was one of the least-solved puzzles in Hunt, which brought me a strange joy.

Hunt puzzles to which I otherwise contributed

Delightful: Not a puzzle of my own authoring; full credit goes to the inimitable Ben Monreal. My official credit is “Willing Yoga Mannequin.” I think you’ll find the puzzle to be self-descriptive.

7 Little Dropquotes: This is Jesse Gelles’ puzzle, and John McLaren deserves to be recognized for his substantial work on the gorgeous and printer-friendly web layout. My contribution was writing a program which can combine a list of n-grams into words, à la 7 Little Words. Hit me up if, for some reason, you want to cheat at that game.

Puzzles of mine which didn’t make the final cut

Note: As of yet, these puzzles are not available online. At least one of them never will be.

Listomania involves a lot of pattern-completion, which (in my opinion) is a classic way to tickle a brain.

Anima Oratorio was the ludicrous Jesse Gelles’ brain-child, and may be the nerdiest thing I’ve ever attached my name to. It was a “flex puzzle”: if any Hunt puzzle was broken and had to be removed, this puzzle would be swapped in. Luckily, we had more flex puzzles than we needed.

Orientreeing (née How to Recognize Different Types of Trees from Quite a Long Way Away) was my “get the nerds outside” puzzle, co-authored with Kevin O’Toole. The premise was that teams would have to visit the idyllic Arnold Arboretum in order to solve the puzzle. We killed the puzzle due to logistical concerns, and because modern technology meant that we couldn’t actually force anyone to go outside.

My favorite puzzles written by other folks

This list comes with a disclaimer, which is that the 159 puzzles (plus metapuzzles) contained SO much brilliant content. So much more than would fit on this list. These baker’s-dozen puzzles just happened to jump out to me at the time of writing, but all 159 are uniquely laudable.

Parting Thoughts

I am incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to write Hunt puzzles this year, and to call such brilliant people my teammates and collaborators. It has been a whirlwind of an experience, filled with both consumption and creation of beautiful art. The individual work and teamwork involved have both been hallmarks of my growth over the past year. Puzzles may not save lives, but they sure do make the world a little more beautiful.

I am so looking forward to being done. Other hobbies, here I come! And I have a feeling I’ll be making more puzzles soon, too. But this time, it’ll be on my schedule.

Much love and gratitude to my teammates on Setec Astronomy for all of their passionate work and for endlessly supporting one another, every single day of the year. And much gratitude to the rest of the Hunt community, too, for loving each other’s art year after year. The occasion would not be what it is without the community’s dedication.

And most importantly, much love and gratitude to my loved ones, who showed bottomless patience and understanding when I was a grumpy ball of stress from spending too many hours scrutinizing maps of the London Underground. Thank you, thank you, a million times thank you.