January 18, 2005

This has been a lull. In the event of an actual hiatus, you would have been informed where to go for blog content.

Hello again. In case youve been wondering about the lack of posts, it's because since last Thursday night I've been either (a) in Boston at the MIT Mystery Hunt or (b) on my couch, recuperating from a cold. (Apparently, getting four hours of sleep a night and staying in close quarters with 25 other people for an entire weekend doesn't do wonders for one's immune system. Who knew?)

The Mystery Hunt was largely excellent, although the final puzzle was a frustrating one. Once we found the solution, it seemed ridiculous that we hadn't figured it out sooner -- although our feelings of idiocy were eased somewhat by the knowledge that no other teams had figured it out either. Basically, for at least 8 hours, any of about five teams could have won the Hunt by solving said puzzle; the handful of puzzles that followed were not especially difficult. All of us failed to accomplish this. Our team was the only team to eventually solve the puzzle without a hint; unfortunately, we did so about an hour after a previous team had been given a hint. (Because of everyone's seemingly endless stymiedness, Hunt HQ decided, not unreasonably, to release hints based on the times that teams had reached the point of having everything but the troublemaking puzzle solved.) Although we solved quickly enough to make up some of the lost time, it wasn't enough, and we ended up finishing a close second.

So that sort of sucked, but the Hunt itself, until the point where we got stalled, was quite good. My favorite bit was not a paper-and-pencil puzzle (although there were many excellent examples of those), but a runaround. Now, "runaround" is a sort of Mystery-Hunt-specific term, indicating a puzzle in which one receives a set of cryptic instructions that lead one on a path around campus, generally acquiring information along the way that will lead to an answer. This runaround was slightly different, in that it involved actual running. Around.

My teammate Jenn and I were met by a member of the team running the Hunt (Todd Radford, a onetime teammate of mine), playing the part of a tour guide. (The Hunt was set in "Normalville", and our job was to clean up the debris from a meteor shower that had struck Normalville and wreaked all kinds of havoc.) He began (I paraphrase, of course), in an outrageous Canadian accent, "Okay, hello, I'm from the Normalville Tourism Bureau, and I'll be your tour guide today. Now, I get a big bonus if I get 30 tour groups through today, so we might go a little fast, but just try to keep up, okay? Okay let's go!" And off he went. He would run, we would chase, and he would periodically slow down long enough to say things like, "On your left you'll notice a fascinating sculpture. You'll want to pay special attention to the last letter of the artist's first name okay let's go!" We almost lost him at one point, in a part of campus that was particularly filled with doorways and halls and turns (it was like a classic movie chase scene, where I'd open a door in time to see him turn down a hallway, and get to the hallway just in time to see him cut through a door), but caught up with him and survived to the end of the tour, though we needed to catch our breath at the end, and rewrite my notes so they would be legible on our trip back through campus to get the info we had no time to gather on our first loop. Jenn marveled at the fact that my "neat" handwriting was just as inscrutable to her as the things I'd scrawled when under time pressure.

Anyway, next year I will try to take more of my anti-stupidity medication, otherwise known as "sleep". Maybe that will help.

(Read more about the Hunt here.)

Posted by Francis at 05:20 PM | TrackBack

I'm so glad I didn't go on that Runaround puzzle. I'd never have made it.

Sorry to hear you got a cold, but I guess it's not too surprising. Hope you had fun, anyway.

Posted by: Kath at January 18, 2005 07:47 PM