Puzzlehunts for the Sophisticated Quarantiner

If anybody’s reading this later than Spring 2020, hopefully most of us got through this. The world and the country are pretty terrifying right now, and the CDC just announced a recommendation to avoid public gatherings for at least two months.

If you’re cooped up at home but at least have internet access, most of the links on this blog’s sidebar have a metric ton of past puzzlehunts archived. (Heck, even BAPHL 21 is up now! When did that happen?) If you go into a cave and try to solo the last two or three MIT Mystery Hunts, hopefully by the time you emerge, we’ll have a COVID-19 vaccine, along with flying cars and a president who can spell. But most of my recent posts have been about MIT, so I wanted to take some time to talk about recent puzzlehunts I didn’t blog about, so that if you’re trying to kill time with interconnected puzzle collections, you know your options. I’m also going to throw in some plugs for some of my friends who sell puzzles professionally and have discounts up in some form or another to help you in this trying time.

Cryptex Hunt

The 2020 Cryptex Hunt has already been won (by a subgroup of team mate) but it’s still active, so you can still solve it by March 31 and have a chance to win a hella pretty and functional cryptex from Justin Nevins. This is the third Cryptex Hunt, and the general link between them seems to be that (a) you can win a cryptex, and (b) the format is “Look, this puzzlehunt is an X!” The values of X have been multi-user dungeon, magazine, and this year, a YA-style National Novel Writing Month novel written by Errol Elumir, which I haven’t had time to read yet but seems pretty nifty modulo the non-puzzle-content spelling errors (sorry, Errol). The puzzles I’ve solved so far (Chapters 1 through 6) have been a bit more “I squeezed some puzzles into my novel” than “the novel is a puzzlehunt,” but I suspect the endgame is much more deeply integrated.

P&A 83 (plus discounted Puzzle Boats)

The latest issue of Foggy Brume’s P&A was released this past Saturday. Jackie and I cruised through it (the metapuzzle is fairly short-circuitable if you start thinking about it early enough, and we speak fluent Foggymeta), but I went back and solved all of the puzzles, and some of them were particularly cool. Issue 83 is the fresh set (you can still get on the Completists list for next issue if you solve all fourteen puzzles and the meta), but if you haven’t solved all of Foggy’s Puzzle Boat megahunts, Puzzle Boat 2, 3, 4, and 5 are now on sale for only $15 each. That works out to less than a quarter a puzzle (in some cases, much less), and unlike manually skimming through the archives of most puzzlehunts, if you register a Puzzle Boat team, you get the whole solve-and-unlock interactive experience. Highly recommended.

P. I. Hunt

Jack Lance writes a puzzlehunt each year for Pi Day, and while I’ve heard of them before, I’m not sure I’ve ever solved one. Based on the quality of the puzzles we’ve solved so far in this year’s hunt (four out of ostensibly five), I’ve been missing out. They’ve been creative, mostly elegant (I had some issues with the last phase of Clowns), and in at least one case, mind-blowingly constrained from a construction perspective. The one puzzle I haven’t solved yet seems the most ambitious… there’s just a lot to do.

My Little Pony: Puzzles are Magic

I talked about MLP: PAM in passing during my MIT Hunt posts, but think of this as Galactic Puzzle Hunt Lite, falling somewhere between Puzzle Potluck and GPH on the difficulty scale (that’s a vast chasm) and feeling rather similar to both in terms of structure and website feel, with all the requisite twists and turns in plot and theme. I would caution that the FAQ’s reassurance that you don’t need to know about MLP is a bit misplaced… you will need to either know about or learn about a bunch of pony culture and fandom to complete this hunt. I found that aspect a bit tedious, but there are some lovely puzzles along the way, and I really liked how the whole thing tied up thematically in the end.

Squonkland Virtual Escape Rooms

An escape room is not exactly a puzzlehunt… though you do solve a bunch of puzzles that result in things that fit together to grant access to more puzzles… let’s debate this in a hypothetical future period where I’m willing to go into an escape room without a hazmat suit. (Seriously though, escape rooms are going to be hit very hard by this economic lull… if there’s a company you like with at least one room you haven’t played, consider keeping them in business by buying a gift card for later.)

In the meantime, Scott Weiss, engineer of the only three-way tie in Jeopardy! history, has been running a handful of original virtual escape rooms (in the vein of Escape This Podcast, on which one of them appeared) over various video chat platforms. These are, of course, still doable if you’re confined to your home, and Scott has reduced the cost to Pay What You Can to him or a charity, or simply agreeing to do something nice for your community during the COVID crisis. I can vouch that Jackie and I had a fun time questing for the purple unicorn, and Scott was very patient with my constant wiseass attempts to break his room.

The Maze of Games and Puzzlecraft (and other Lone Shark Games products)

The evil geniuses at Lone Shark Games have put pretty much their entire product line on sale to keep people sane during social distancing. Of the available swag, The Maze of Games is by far the most puzzlehunty (it’s the Kickstarted puzzlehunt/escape-room-in-a-book that predates all the other Kickstarted puzzlehunt/escape-room-in-a-books), although I will also put in a plug for Puzzlecraft, which is an incredible resource if you’d like to write puzzlehunts, since it’s one of the best sources of advice to learn how to construct almost any type of puzzle (apart from crosswords, for which I’d recommend Patrick Berry’s bible, because if you’re trying to learn to play basketball, why not take classes from LeBron James?). There are also a ton of example puzzles, so even if you’re not going to build things yourself, it’s worth the price of admission to solve everything yourself and idly read about how the pros do it. It also says nice things about my duck konundrums, but that’s not why I’m promoting it.

What’d I miss? There are hundreds of online puzzle suites and play-at-home quests in book and board game form, so I was trying to emphasize the options that are most recent, most accessible from home, and most familiar to me. If you want to second any of these recommendations or add your own, you know where the comments are. And I have a lot of work to do over the next couple of months attempting to teach calculus through a series of tubes, but I’m always happy to write about puzzles, so if you have requests for particular post topics, type them below or drop me a line.

Be safe, everyone.

5 thoughts on “Puzzlehunts for the Sophisticated Quarantiner

  1. I’m sure you’d agree that there is never a bad time to do Zebraboy’s Labor Day extravaganzas if you haven’t already (especially the amazing 2018 edition): http://www.markhalpin.com/puzzles/puzzles.html

    Not a full hunt, but I’ve been working my way through Ucaoimhu’s variety cryptics (http://www.math.uchicago.edu/~wald/misccryptics.html) as well as Cox and Rathvon’s WSJ variety cryptics that I didn’t know until recently were available online (http://chall.us/hex/hex_all_wsj.html).

    Liked by 3 people

  2. ClueKeeper (https://www.cluekeeper.com/find/#anywhere) (and full disclosure: my company) has a bunch of “play anywhere” hunts that you can play from home, created by outstanding creators around the world, and includes play-at-home version of the past 3 DASH puzzle hunts, among other things. We’re also donating 20% of our proceeds to COVID relief efforts, and specifically trying to help escape room owners build more of these kinds of hunts as a new avenue for income. Full announcement here: https://www.facebook.com/cluekeeperllc/posts/2633957336717090

    Like

  3. I’ll mention that for anyone who is ambitious enough to try this year’s MIT Mystery Hunt ( pennypark.fun ) but is worried they might get stuck on a puzzle with no way to progress, I (and some other volunteers) are still monitoring the hints@pennypark.fun email address and we are glad to still supply hints on any puzzles.

    Also, for those who want to experience the Safari Adventure round’s complicated unlocking structure, I wrote a small webpage that will manage unlocks for you: http://weihwa.com/~whuang/prog/mitmh2020/safari2/

    Liked by 1 person

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