(This is a recap/review of the 2018 MIT Mystery Hunt, which happened this month. Puzzles and solutions can currently be found here. This recap will contain spoilers on some puzzles.)
I’m in danger of dropping the ball on a Part 4 post for the second time in under a year, so let me close out my Mystery Hunt posting by chiming in on some non-metapuzzles I solved or helped solve that I have opinions about.
Let’s Get Ready to Jumble: Scott Purdy and I looked at this at the same time… I was drawn to the picture of The Undertaker and immediately noticed the feeder entries were all names of pro wrestlers, whereas across the table Scott figured out the answer to the first pun without doing any of the anagrams. (“They’re all wrestlers!” “Linear B is a wrestler?”) We teamed up and made short work of the puzzle, and then filmed our heel turn together, which was aided by the fact that I was already wearing a Marty Scurll Villain Club T-shirt. I suspect we were one of the earliest solves, because there were technical difficulties with the upload… Whatever our solve time appears to be if a log comes out, subtract about a delay of about 40 minutes that came between sending our video and receiving an answer.
Temperance: The aha on this came from someone else; I jumped in for the extraction phase. I just wanted to mention that I think the title is cute, and that I cannot promise a third puzzle in the streak of puzzles about TV characters nicknamed Bones.
Good Fences Make Sad and Disgusted Neighbors, Hashiwakakuro, A Learning Path: I solved a bunch of abstract logic puzzles in this Hunt that I really enjoyed, and I appreciated that most of them had a bunch of separate grids, so that those of who like logic puzzles could split them up. Roger Barkan, Dave Savitt, and I had a lot of fun with Good Fences, though we made it much harder than intended before Roger re-read the flavortext and realized that the shadedness of a hex determined which type of clue it was; we were solving a much more open-ended variant. I was not involved in the Shoal Patrol/Submarine Patrol solve, but I heard good things.
You Know What’s Missing, Mass Aid: We never even considered urinating on the urine puzzle… We tried putting it in water and nothing seemed to happen, and then managed to read the clues with the aid of a flashlight. We thought they would somehow tell us the pH of the material we needed to put them in, and then somebody came up with the P deletions and we realized what we were “supposed” to do to get to where we already were. We also then regarded the evolved puzzle with fear, appropriately. It was gross. Boo.
A Tribute: 2010-2017: I solved this almost entirely by knowing about puzzles I’d written or co-written. I knew the extraction mechanisms from Heirplay and Magic Mushrooms, someone else had worked out another one, and from those three letters I guessed the thematic answer.
The Year’s Hardest Crossword: Once we knew we had to solve the Listener, a half dozen of our best cryptic solvers worked together to do so. It took hours. British cryptics are not my cup of English Breakfast tea.
Flattery Will Get You Nowhere: Solved this with Guy Jacobson and some others helping via spreadsheet. Figuring out that the answers were all synonyms for FLAT was a nice aha, and figuring out that they were all different definitions was even cooler (the link to 11C was much appreciated).
Cash Cab: Speaking of nice ahas, figuring out that this was about Ramanujan was one of those moments where a whole lot of random decoration on the puzzle suddenly comes into focus and makes sense. Once we figured out we should be looking for 1729 in the sequences based on the theme, we were able to get enough of these to guess the answer. I wrote down the Death Cab songs immediately but never thought to look at their lyrics.
Flags o1 6ur 10the15: I did almost none of the solving for this… But I’m pleased with myself that when Steve Peters explained the mechanism and asked if I had any ideas for Set W (the last one they were missing), I came up with Wheel of Time despite never having read any of the books.
No Context: LOVED this puzzle. It was the sort of puzzle where we immediately knew what we were expected to do, but it looked completely impossible… but then we made a little headway, and the farther we got, the easier it was to make additional progress. Just the right difficulty for a group solve, and possibly my favorite regular puzzle in the Hunt.
Voter Fraud, Arts and Crafts: Didn’t solve either of these… I’d just like to complain that we unlocked (and solved) the MLS puzzle while I was sleeping and Jackie was still en route from California, and that we did the same with Voter Fraud before she arrived (when she’s teaching a Math & Politics course this semester that covers voting methods. On the other hand, I was fortunate to be around for the wrestling puzzle mentioned above, and Jackie absolutely crushed Studies in Two-Factor Authentication (she’s also teaching number theory, and looked at the puzzle and immediately said, “Are these Gaussian primes?”).
Murder at the Asylum: I talked about this in an earlier post. The assignment of sanities and honesties required a ton of concentration but was very satisfying. I never worked out a scenario that made sense for the murder itself… The solution revealed something I didn’t consider, and while it’s fair, it also reminded me why I don’t like when logic puzzles have “rules” that aren’t completely clear. Everything up to there was awesome.
Zelma & Frank: As we broke into this, our data (gathered mostly by Street View) was coming out a bit inconsistently, I pointed out that it was going to be very unpleasant if we had to try to fill a crisscross without a fully reliable wordlist. It was. (The fact that there were only three answer lengths was very nice for discarding incorrect answers, but unspeakably cruel when filling the grid.
Hey, there are three bonus backup puzzles posted at the bottom of the List of Puzzles! I didn’t notice them until now and am off to check them out.