Posted by: ppernick | February 13, 2007


This past weekend was Puzzlehunt.  36 hours of puzzle-solving where the first part is to figure out what the puzzle is (i.e. here’s a deck of cards, send in your answer).

Ari managed to join a team a number of years ago – I think I was still living in Renton.  I got a phone call asking me a television question.  He then suggested I drive up to Microsoft, have some dinner and help them out.

The next couple years, we formed a team with a bunch of friends.  Unfortunately, that didn’t last.  I think the biggest issue was that only 3 or 4 people were willing to commit their entire weekend.  15-18 hours into it most of the team had called it quits for the night and we were never sure just how many would show up again the next morning.

A couple years ago (when the home security system salesperson was pulling out all the stops in hopes of making a sale) Ari was called by somebody from TLA, a Puzzlehunt team that generally places in the top 5.  Not having enough friends interested in forming a team of our own that year, Ari had listed us on the ‘Looking for a team’ DL.  He accepted their invitation for both of us. 

The first thing that struck me was how organized they were ahead of time.  They had cheatsheets for all different types of encryptions (morse code, semaphores, braille).  They decided ahead of time what restaurants we’d order from and had everybody choose their meal by Friday.  They made a grocery store run and brought in a fridge so we didn’t even need to run to the kitchen down the hall.

Then there was the level of committment.  There were people who had to leave for a couple hours here and there.  And people took naps at night when they couldn’t go on.  But there were never less than 9 or 10 people working on puzzles at any given time.  Anybody not walking distance from the building slept in another room. There was no question that there would be 11 or 12 people working when our hunt was done.

In the past, our team had never even had a chance to figure out clues to the meta puzzle.  With TLA we solved all but 3 or 4 puzzles before completing the meta puzzle around 8am or 9am.

This year, we received another invitation and we quickly accepted – having missed last year (a 3 week-old baby boy, who shall remain nameless, prevented us from participating).  

While the team didn’t place as well this year as in year’s past, I am extremely happy with my personal contributions.  Last time I left feeling quite useless.  I even wondered if my invite this year was purely for need of a 12th person and as a tag-a-long with Ari.  While I can’t remember anything specific that I did last time, I definitely pulled my own weight this time around.

Having missed the first couple hours taking Simeon to D&J’s house, I started off by joining puzzles already in progress and offering a fresh point of view.  A number of times I popped my head in just in time to provide that last bit of insight needed to solve the puzzle.  Eventually, I had the nerve to work on a fresh puzzle – a very different paint by numbers puzzle.  Managed to see that one (as well as two others) from start to finish.  I even managed to get a breakthrough on a puzzle that had stumped a number of us throughout the night.  Another 15 minutes and we would have solved it.  Instead, the team managed to break the meta puzzle answer without it and we finished in 7th out of 75 teams.

All-in-all I really enjoyed this year’s puzzlehunt and can’t wait for next year’s.


  1. that sounds like a lot of fun! wish I knew people in KC who were into things like that.

  2. I think "invited" is a strong word, I believe I either joined the "Looking for a team" DL or they sent out an email looking for more people.

  3. Updated the wording a bit and explained it a bit better. Though I still consider it (and refer to it as) an invitation.

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