This is going to be a weird write-up because this was kind of a weird Mystery Hunt weekend. As most of you know already, Hunt "ended" at 4:30am Saturday when Death and Mayhem found the coin, making it the shortest hunt in history, and even the team I was playing on finished on Saturday evening, leaving us with an extra day in Boston to fill.

But anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself.

This year I decided to switch Hunt teams for a few reasons, and I think for the sake of everybody it would be better if I don't go into a discussion of it here. The upshot is that after the dust settled I ended up joining Metaphysical Plant, which I guess is a move most people expected to happen at some point anyway after I married Chris. Plus, half the team was involved in my wedding anyway (even some of whom weren't there in person, because we asked people not to give us gifts and instead to write us puzzles for our wedding, Iron Puzzler style, and had a board games and puzzle hunt party the night before the wedding, so that we could have pinball machines at the actual wedding, but that is another story and shall be told another time).

Many people on Plant this year greeted me like "So you finally decided to join us," and I'd reply, "Yeah, now that Chris and I are married, it seemed like I could finally make this kind of commitment..."

(It was funny the first few times, at least. I pointed out that he'd brought me home to meet his Mystery Hunt team waaaaay before I actually met his dad or any other relatives.)

As always, this is going to be long. )

Also, I feel like this would be an appropriate time to put in a plug for Francis Heaney's Progress for Puzzlers, if you haven't seen it yet (make a donation to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the ACLU and such, and get puzzles)

And on a less political note, Palindrome's practice hunt that they wrote is available online as well, if you have a Panda Magazine account.

And on a non-puzzle note, I'm going to hopefully get my act in gear and move over to Dreamwidth one of these days.  Maybe I'll even start writing more than once every 2-3 months again, who knows.
dr4b: (pop'n'music space dog)
ERMAHGERD! MERSTERY HERNT! MAH FRAVIT TERPIC!

Just kidding, I don't think that even factored into this year's hunt. But that said, I wonder if I'll outdo last year's entry on length. Probably not, since we didn't finish this year.

If I was going to sum up this year's hunt with a meme, it would be more like...

yunoanswer

DOG DOG HUNT ENTRY DOG DOG DOG WARNED! )

I should probably edit this entry down, but it's already taken me bits and pieces of almost a week to write it, so I think I'll just post now and worry about coherency later.
A writeup! Only 3 days after hunt!

There are spoilers within. Random asked us to refrain from them since the hunt is going to stay online and be playable for a year, plus they are going to publish a book with the puzzle from one of the rounds. I can't spoil that round, since I saw very little of it, but the overall hunt... let's just say, if you are thinking of playing the hunt on your own, PLEASE DO NOT READ THIS ENTRY IF YOU DO NOT WANT SPOILERS.

Also on that note, a warning: This entry is EXTREMELY LONG. I started writing it on the flight home and continued braindumping for a few days. I enjoy reading people's long hunt stories so I hope you enjoy mine.

Okay, I warned you. On several axes. )
(written in bits and pieces over a week or so)

I never wrote an entry about MIT Mystery Hunt when it happened, and that may or may not be a good thing.  I kind of do want to capture a little bit about this year since I rarely write up puzzle events anymore (either because they'll be rerun and there's not supposed to be spoilers, or because I just get lazy, or especially last year, because I've been staffing way more than playing lately).  I'm on team Up Late, if you don't know; got hooked up with them while I was still living in Seattle, bizarrely enough.

This year, thanks to last year being The Hunt That Would Not End, rather than scheduling a flight back on Sunday night, I scheduled one back on Monday afternoon.  (And after talking to people, I clearly wasn't the only person that did that.)  I also went and got a hotel room, figuring that whatever, I work at Google now, I can afford it even if I don't split it with anyone.  (Of course, in the end I split the room with Matt, Kendra and Jess for the first 2 nights and Kenny for the last night.)  This time, I'd even been to Boston inbetween hunts and met up with a lot of the core members of my Mystery Hunt team when I was there last summer, so it wasn't like an entire year and coming back like "wait who are you guys again?"

Anyway, so I showed up on a redeye Friday morning super-early, and realized that the best thing I should do was to go to the Google Cambridge office, which is across the street from MIT.  Found a cafe, got some breakfast, charged my phone and laptop, and even actually did some work for a bit.  After an hour or two I realized I should go visit friends in the office and I had coffee with David Rochberg, who I hadn't seen in YEEEEEEEEEAAAARRRSSS so that was really cool.  After that it was time to go to campus and help unload the cars, so I did that.  (You'd think we were moving into a dorm if you saw us unload for hunt -- people bringing in sleeping bags, a fridge, a computer and printer, tons of food, etc etc.)  Went to visit Left Out across the hall from us since I have a lot of friends on that team.  All the normal pre-hunt stuff, really.

Kickoff was in the Kresge Theater I guess (we have a few other CMU alumni on our team although it's largely MIT, obviously, but we were like "does EVERY college have a Kresge Theater?") and I spent a while going around saying hi to all my friends there, which took a REALLY LONG TIME although I couldn't find Sarah and Ross until right before the presentation started!  And I apparently missed a whole bunch of people too, evidenced by getting emails afterwards by one or two like "I saw you at kickoff but you were too far away to talk to".  I know that people joke about MIT Mystery Hunt being the Burning Man of the puzzle hunt scene, but it really is in a lot of ways.  All the teams are the different camps and you're all in weird numbered areas and planning to keep weird sleeping hours for several days and... well, at least I'm pretty sure there's less drugs at MITMH unless you count caffeine.  Sarah's team even had an entire room full of tents and beds and sleeping bags despite the warning at the beginning how "you really shouldn't PLAN to sleep on campus".

So anyway, kickoff starts as this presentation from John Galt on how there shouldn't be puzzles anymore.  And then he gets interrupted by the Cheshire Cat, who explains that Wonderland has invaded MIT and we have to go solve puzzles to fix the holes between the two worlds, and then the reveal of their actual team name this time -- Alice Shrugged, which is probably the most perfect pun in puzzle hunt history, aside from my own amusement at having come full circle since my first ever puzzle hunt was the Microsoft Puzzle Hunt 7, which was ALSO Alice in Wonderland themed.

My team had decided beforehand that we were going to get a photo with Tim the MIT mascot, so we went to do that first... it was pretty funny since there were all these people in singles or doubles getting photos and then we run in with like 15 people.

Up Late Meets Tim

Good times.

So we grab some lunch from the student center, get back, and miraculously, the hunt has actually begun on time!  Whoa.  There were 3 puzzles to start, which we finished pretty quickly, and got some more, and we finished some more of those, and I was mostly just kinda helping out (I mean, with like 5 puzzles and 30 people that's how it goes).  Then a puzzle was unveiled called "Upstairs, Downstairs" which we realized was a runaround.  Despite that I didn't actually go to MIT, I love doing runarounds, because I figure, well, I flew to Boston, why the hell would I want to sit in a room the whole weekend?  So me, Ryan, Noah, and David set off to start looking around at some of these places, especially because we're in building 1 and some of them are nearby.  We very quickly realize that these descriptions are all a little bit... off.  That is, the first one we did was around the corner from us, and it said "An Athena printer can be found in Building 1 in an alcove directly across from Dr. Schuhmann's office", except that the printer is actually across from some other guy's office down the hall.  We take note of that and also notice there's a staircase between them and write down the number, and the first few we check out are all kind of like that -- two places with a staircase inbetween them.  (Which we only were caring about because the title was Upstairs Downstairs, which turned out not to matter at all.)  Off we go (minus David) on a campus-wide wander to find all the locations.  Some were definitely easier than others -- like some refer to distinct places like "as I go across the bridge from 16 to 56..." where others were just like, "does anyone know where there's an alcove with laserdiscs?"  (The answer: Building 16, 6th floor.  Someone on our team said "I think it's in 16, but I dunno where", so we started at the top and worked our way down.)  Actually the laserdiscs is notable because that was where we actually broke the puzzle mechanism.spoiler )
Armed with that insight, we plan a route around campus to go to a few more places and to try to get the 2-3 letters we think will break the answer string for us, and sure enough, we solve the puzzle a little while later.

By this point it's around 4pm and our team has solved a good chunk of the MIT round puzzles (which we found out later were purposefully supposed to be fairly easy).  Around then we received a puzzle called Black and White -- you had to go to HQ to get this because it was a huge sheet of letters and a tiny sheet of letters.  So I'm watching people go "hey, look, there's this passage from Alice in Wonderland but there are some other words in there too," I Google the other words and find out that it's a Taylor Swift song.  So we're highlighting the Alice stuff and the Taylor Swift stuff in green and red (happen to be the markers we pick up) and about 7-8 lines in I'm like "OMG THIS IS GOING TO BE A QR CODE" and everyone's like "naaahhhh" and I'm like "yeeeaaaahhhh" and then having had the insights to solve the puzzle I really didn't feel like going through more Taylor Swift lyrics :)  So I helped David enlarge the smaller one by taking a photo with my camera and gimping it up big and print out so he could do the same thing, since it was another combination of lyrics and another QR code.

A Swift QR code

I was signed up to do "Auditions" at 6pm anyway, so I left for that with Kenny and Kendra.  It had said to send "musical members of your team".  So what happened is, we got redistributed into 8 tables, and every table had a bunch of notes on it -- musical notes -- with little notations to clue you to where the next note may be.  The "puzzle" part of this was putting the notes together and figuring out what song it was.  A lot of other tables were singing Disney music so we figured it was a disney song, but... we somehow got stuck with Following the Leader, from Peter Pan, while EVERY other table got easier things like "When You Wish Upon A Star" or whatever.

Then we got sheet music to the song we were doing, and we were told to do the audition "Wonderland-style" which meant that every person would sing one word of the song, in order.  Of course, our song was ridiculous and we had this discussion of whether "teedle-ee-dee" was one word or three, but figured it didn't REALLY matter.  We choreographed it in such that the guy who actually figured out what song it was was the "leader" and he would just do various things like march or pump his fists and we would also all do that.  So every team got up and performed their song in their own fashion.  In the end, it turned out there was no puzzle to be solved by the songs themselves -- each group had one person get a "callback" and those people each got one word and we got a phrase as the "answer" for the entire activity.  This, as it turns out, was also to set the stage for the entire weekend of events that were not supposed to be stupid or frustrating although possibly embarrassing.

Notes puzzle

Audition

(Other events during the weekend that I did not go to involved Cards Against Wonderland, and the one I regret missing, Wonderwang, a word-based version of the British comedy gameshow parody Numberwang.)

Ian and I were originally supposed to sneak out for dinner on Friday night to a nice place, but I think since Lokie was sick and wasn't there, and a few other suspects that'd normally do that, we just got dinner from the student center instead.  Doh.  I decided to take that opportunity to run off and check into the hotel, too, since they didn't have rooms ready that morning.  I also took a 2-hour nap or so.  Matt texted me to let me know that 1) Kendra and Jess wanted to get into the hotel room and 2) we were ready to do another runaround.

See, during the original runaround, we had come across several QR codes with playing cards.  When we tried to do anything with them originally, we got a "sorry, your team can't access this yet" error and didn't think much of it.  Well, these were the runarounds for the MIT round.  We were told to split into 3 groups -- a Spades, Diamonds, and Clubs team, and to start in 3 separate places.

So I came back and gave Kendra a hotel key, and then we grouped up for this runaround.  Matt and I decided to take Spades, Ryan and Zach took Diamonds, Jeff and Dave took Clubs.

Spades was pretty reasonable.  We had to solve a bunch of riddles mostly.  There was one that required you to look through a spaceship photo and find some words, another had you sorting through faces on the staircase outside Lobby 7 (we came back to our room to finish that), another wanted you to find certain words on the sides of the buildings in Killian Court (it was nighttime so we just googled them), then we had to go up to Stata and find one by the Digi-Comp.  Let me stop there for a second because several things happened at that point:

1) We found Ryan and Zach looking TOTALLY FUCKING CONFUSED in part of Stata.  There was this thing on the wall with a satellite dish and some words and they were like "we're just not getting anything out of this".  We tried to help them for a bit and were then like "...sorry but we've got our own puzzle to find."
2) Bizarrely, we had a bit of a misadventure finding our puzzle.  See...
2a) we found this "Digi-Comp" thing which was like a pinball machine with pool balls showing you how mathematic operations work.  It was cool.  We played with it.  We took photos.  Etc.
2b) then we realized we had no fucking clue where to find our puzzle.  We thought it was in the Gates Tower, so we went up stairs.
2c) We found Nerd Crossing!  But no puzzle.
2d) but get this, the QR code was actually RIGHT NEXT TO THE DIGI-COMP AND WE JUST HADN'T SEEN IT.  I had even taken a photo of it.  Sheesh.
3) So we found the QR code at the same time as these other undergrad-looking kids, and all of us set out to figure it out.

Digi-Comp

Nerd Crossing

Eventually it turned out to be a list of donors at the front of the building.  Yay.  We went onwards to our next puzzle, checking back in the lobby, and Ryan and Zach were gone, so we figured, yay, they solved it.  We went up to a hall in Building 26, where first we had to double back to find our QR code, and also, those same undergrad kids were there.  We found it and found the thing it was referring to (cosmic ray chandeliers) and then went onwards to the Humanities building, where again, we pretty much walked there with the undergrad kids.

HOWEVER what happened there was pretty funny.  There was this weird poem that made absolutely no sense and it said something like to enter the major name over a "being that emerges from a poem".  We found an oyster, and on a whim I entered the department over it (I think it was Philosophy) and it was CORRECT?!  The undergrad kids, and Matt, were still wandering back and forth going WTF, so I called Matt over as subtly as I could to show him that we had the right answer and were leaving and to be quiet.  So we snuck out, never to see those poor undergrad kids again.  Ha ha.

Well, except really, the joke was on us.  I forget, I am skipping one of the puzzles as there were 8 total, but anyway, we ended up outside the Green Building and had to read a QR code outside it and use a plaque INSIDE it, only we couldn't get inside, AND it was FREEZING outside by then, so I took some cellphone shots of the plaque and we ran for cover in the nearest building we could find to solve the puzzle.  Which we did, and it was the final one!  Yay!  We were about to head back when...

...we ran into Jeff and Dave and the Clubs team.  Who were also apparently kinda stuck.

So we all regrouped back at Team HQ, where we found Ryan and Zach, and they ALSO were stuck and hadn't finished their runaround.  Doh!

Well, being as I am Queen of Runarounds and all, I was like NO THAT IS NOT ACCEPTABLE WE ARE HEADING BACK OUT.  So I joined the Clubs group, while meanwhile Rena solved the Diamonds puzzle (turned out you had to index into the word from the beginning, not from where the lines pointed to the word).

So our Clubs puzzles from there involved, let's see.  There was a bunch of little hero figures in a hallway and you had to figure out how many weeks it had been since they'd been there, and I'm like "look up the hacks page!"  Then there was a thing where we had to find these stickers on a door... in a hallway that Ryan and I had already gone to for the Upstairs Downstairs runaround, so I knew exactly where they were.  Then we had this really weird thing in Building 13 involving a bunch of professor's names.  This one was kinda clever -- they had 5 names but 6 spaces for the answer.  We were stuck on this for a bit because we had failed to notice that one guy was "W. Craig" instead of just Craig, and we thought we had the string "Lecin" as the answer.  We tried anagramming it, entering words like "Nicely", etc.  But with the W, I had the string "Lewin".  So while the other two were looking around for other ideas, I googled "MIT Professor Lewin" and found out there was a guy named Walter Lewin, entered "Walter", and it was correct!  BAM.  Our last puzzle involved a bunch of rhymes to clue things in the historical posters in the "150 Years of MIT Engineering" hallway in Building 1, and the Diamonds guys had finished so they joined up with us and we all solved it together.

Having solved the three runarounds we got invited to come to 26-100's basement at like 3:30am, so we went there, unlocked a big case using the three words as the combinations (That was cool), and got out a vorpal sword so we could defeat the Jabberwock.  Only thing is, when we met the Jabberwock he was like "DON'T FIGHT ME!  EEEEK!  I AM NOT THE BAD GUY, YOU NEED TO SOLVE THIS PUZZLE TO FIGURE OUT WHO THE REAL EVIL PERSON IS", and we received a Jabberwock deck of cards, which was essentially the overall MIT round meta, and what we find out is that "The Beast Is Ms Alice Liddell"... which meant from this point onwards the hunt was going to be in Wonderland, and we were going to be figuring out how to defeat Alice.  Whee.

I stayed up until around 6-7am and then went to the hotel to sleep for real, waking up around noon, grabbing lunch at Chipotle, and I guess I got back to the room between 1-2pm.  I helped out on some random puzzles and then we saw one called Oyster Card!  It was a London Underground puzzle combined with a Masyu!

Well, several things made me imminently qualified to do this puzzle:
1) TRAINS!
2) Masyu!
3) I had JUST GOTTEN BACK FROM LONDON and infact still had a Tube map in my bag.

Oyster card!

As it turns out, unlike every other team in the hunt, not only did we have the CORRECT Tube map -- from May 2013 -- BUT since I had just been there, I even knew exactly what the various errata were.  "Oh, yeah.  They're fixing the escalators at Embankment station as of January 8th, so that no longer transfers to Northern and Bakerloo."

Don't get me wrong, the masyu was still not that easy even armed with all that, but we still had a much easier time than many other teams from what I can tell.  Matt and Jess and I hammered out 2 of the 3 masyu puzzles and then we got the final answer by just kind of anagram-bitching the heck out of the trinary.  Woohoo.

Also, it was snowing that day, so I went out to frolic in the snow for a little.  It was actually a surprisingly warm mystery hunt, all things considered.

After we finished Oyster Card, someone said "Hey, there's a Japanese subway puzzle too, have you seen it, Deanna?"

LITTLE DID THEY KNOW THAT THIS WAS MY INTRODUCTION INTO THE MOST IN-MY-WHEELHOUSE PUZZLE I HAVE EVER ENCOUNTERED IN MY PAST 10+ YEARS OF PUZZLE HUNTING.

So this puzzle was called 1!2!3!4! 4649! which I immediately recognized 4649 as the word "yoroshiku" and the title as a song title, and as the solution even says, "This puzzle involves 3 things: (1) some massive and massively popular Japanese pop idol groups based in three Japanese cities; (2) the subway systems in those cities; and (3) a numeral encoding that links them together."

Yes, it was an AKB48 puzzle combined with a Japanese subway puzzle combined with goroawase.  Seriously.  I heavily doubt there was ANYONE else at Mystery Hunt this year who has as indepth knowledge as I do of all three of those things off the top of their head.

(If you are somehow reading this entry and don't know me, you have to understand that I taught junior high school English in Japan for several years, that I am a GIGANTIC TRAIN NERD, that I have been to 46 out of 47 prefectures in Japan by taking the trains, and that I'm pretty much fluent in Japanese, as long as you either like baseball or are a teenager.  Not that I like AKB48 that much on my own, but you have to understand that I was teaching JHS the year that they really exploded to fame, and so I heard SO MUCH ABOUT THEM from my 13-15-year-old students that I seriously can probably name almost the entire original team A lineup and recognize most of the popular ones by face.)

Seriously the only way this puzzle could have been MORE in my wheelhouse was if the people part of it was Japanese baseball players instead of teenage girl idol popstars.

So I sit down and distill out the entire puzzle before anyone else even really gets a look at it.  Immediately knowing it's AKB48, SKE48, and NMB48, I identify all the people, and quickly fill out the numbers for all the letters in the grid (I mean, every single 5884 is a Kobayashi for crying out loud), and then I get to translating back the subway stations from letters to numbers, and I quickly even see that "usv" is 758 or "Nagoya", which I know off the top of my head is H-08, Higashiyama line.  I got almost all the train stations and got stuck on maybe 2 -- especially Yaominami because I was convinced that 80373 should have been "yama minami" somewhere but couldn't find such a station.  So I call in Ian (who is Taiwanese but also speaks Japanese to some extent and we both have "kanji" listed under our "special skills" on our team website), and he double-checks my work, also gets a little confused with the subway stops, but we basically manage to figure out the answer to the puzzle and then I back-get the subway stops.  Entire puzzle done in less than an hour.

It's funny because a few people were later like "...yeah... that puzzle took us quite a while... we thought of you because of the Japanese baseball teams..." and I'm like "but it wasn't even baseball related!"

I can't really remember exactly where the next few hours went.  I think I spent a few more cycles on the IAP puzzle (THIS PISSED ME OFF TO NO END BUT MAYBE I SHOULD WRITE A PARAGRAPH ABOUT IT LATER) and helping identify songs for Compose Yourself, and things like that.  I do remember that I went off to grab food after doing the AKB48 puzzle, and there was some kinda pizza thing going on later on, and our team was in the midst of the Duck Konundrum at that point, and... the next thing I remember doing for sure was going to the Ice Cream Social that was being held between Illegal, Immoral, and Fattening and Left As An Exercise For The Reader.  This was Saturday night at midnight in Building 26.  Bizarrely, I was one of the only people there who wasn't on either of those teams or also in their hallway.  We found out that this was because a lot of the teams where we had friends were in the midst of getting to the final runaround then.  (Like we called a friend of ours on Death and Mayhem and were like "WE HAVE ICE CREAM" and he was like "THAT'S NICE BUT WE'RE UH... BUSY")

But on the other hand it was nice to take a break and see people and eat ice cream.  I hadn't seen a lot of the people on those teams up to that point so I could hang out with Sarah and Julia and Mark and Ross and Helene and everyone for a while and that was good.  And it gave me an excuse to get out and walk around again (since we hadn't had any runarounds in a while at that point).

Ice cream social

Ice cream social

I also used this opportunity, since I was in building 26, to go downstairs to the 2nd floor and visit the Rage of the Quebecois team, aka "the half of Manic Sages that I actually was friends with".  So I saw Sean, and Mr. Wright, and Glenn, and various other people that at this point look familiar even if I can't remember their names.  Seems I missed Dave&Jill and Darby and all but that's okay.

Also on the way there (or way back?  I forget) I saw where they had set up part of the final maze in the lobby of building 7, a thing where Alice and the Rabbit would be moving around with various objects.  Ankur was there with it so I took that opportunity to say hi and to complain that he wasn't around for Berkeley Mystery Hunt this year.  It's a very weird thing in that I know he recognizes me as someone he should know from puzzling but I dunno if he remembers that I was his computer science TA at Governor's School :)  Many of my PGSS students have been involved in MITMH in one way or the other (Keith STILL goes back every year with the Simmons team) and it's very cool.

So, back in the room.  We apparently had a puzzle called "Obsessive-Compulsive Dickishness" where they wanted us to call HQ to get it, so we do, and Dave and I go off to building 13, where we meet Zoz and another guy I don't know.  They show us a series of papers -- I immediately recognize it as The Oatmeal comic strip about Sriracha and make a comment as such ("It looks like spicy oatmeal") -- and then put it through a paper shredder right in front of us.  Since Jeff had apparently asked for "extra dickishness", they also threw it out of the paper shredder onto the floor, kicked the strips around, and then ran out of the room, throwing a freezer bag at us on their way out.  So we gather the strips up into the bag and come back to the room like "Well, at least it's not that fucking jigsaw puzzle", and then Jeff and Kenny and I and whoever else were around spend a while reassembling the comics.  There were XXXXXXXX's all over it instead of the real text, and every now and then a number (like "XXXX3XXX X12X"), so you had to find out the real text and get the real letters, all 30-something of them.  At that point it spelled out something like "juicy cock sauce that sounds like cocovan", which we read out to the other room and Ian immediately is like "dude, the answer is Coq au Vin" and we're like "ohhhhhhhh."

Jeff displayed intense OCD by completely taping together the final comic page, which was the "I love you.  -- the Oatmeal" in the real one but said "I love you.  --Alice Shrugged" in our version.

Dickishness

Reassembled oatmeal

Now let's see if I can remember all the crazy stuff that led up to me taking a nap around 6-7am.

So we finished that (and later on Zoz visited us and was like "nicely done.  send us a pic of that and maybe we'll include you in our wrapup slides.") and then I helped with some other puzzles, like some insight into Mashed Potatoes or whatever the mashup puzzle was called, and helping people fill out a crossword in Korean, and more attempts at putting together songs in Compose Yourself, and then... it got into those hours of the morning when only 10 or so of us are still there.  And we decided to tackle the Tea Party meta, since we had something like 9-10 of the 12 answers going in after I helped break mashups.

At this point we'd figured out that like, some of the things were part of 12 days of christmas, and some were Chinese zodiac, and some were full moons, and I'm like "wait, then we could totally backsolve some of this.  Like look, we're missing 7, that's "swans a swimming, right?  It's totally going to be Natalie Portman or something like that."

The phone rings 5 minutes later as we're still trying to get letters out of the proper places and it's like "Natalie Portman is correct for a Rose by Any Other... Deanna did you backsolve that?"

No, it turned out someone in Seattle who didn't even hear me say that had actually front solved it.  Ha!

So while we're still banging our heads on this thing and marvelling over my HILARIOUS BACKSOLVE, the phone rings another 5 minutes later and Mat or whoever the hunt manager was then says "uhh... thanks?" hangs up, and is like "guys, WHO THE FUCK SOLVED THE TEA PARTY META?  YOUR ANSWER OF GIVE HIM A HAND IS CORRECT"

Turns out it was Rena.  Sitting over on the other side of the room listening to us but ostensibly solving something else, she just kinda looked at the letters and at a 12-letter phrase and decided that the best way to help the hatter happened to be to give him a hand.

WHAT THE HELL.

Still, that epic guess pretty much eclipsed every single other epic guess during this hunt.  Seriously.

I should probably mention that it was our third or fourth meta at this point?  So we're like "OMG WE MIGHT ACTUALLY FINISH THE HUNT?"

Now, keep in mind that we were in building 1 and the final runaround went right past our classroom.  So like, Random actually went by while we were still finishing the Oatmeal puzzle, and I stuck my head out to hear the noise.  An hour or whatever it was after that I stuck my head out and saw Nick Baxter, and I was like "WTF!  what team?" and he's like "Luck!" and I'm like "congrats!"

And around then our buddies across the hall Left Out also went to do the final runaround (Dan and Corey told me that's what they were up to as they went off -- and I think we even passed by them when we went out to meet the Mad Hatter at 5am, they were still doing the final maze.  There was a lot more backstory behind that, that I found out the next week when I had lunch with them back at Google -- apparently they were asked to step aside and let Codex play through part of the final runaround because Left Out explicitly did not want to win the hunt but Codex might).

We saw Codex go by as well.  What a huge team.

Anyway, the Left Out guys got back around 6am and so Todd looked at our solved status for me since I was like "I want to take a nap but I'm worried we might actually be somewhat close to the end?"  We'd even had some GC visit us and tell us that we were doing well for a non-winning team and all.  But Todd said "you guys have several more hours -- go to sleep, you look super tired."  So I did, though I helped Left Out clean up and they gave us some of their snacks and stuff.  Rena and I both wrote our phone numbers on the board like "going to sleep, call us if the final runaround happens".

...for the record, no, we did not finish the hunt.  A whole lot of people didn't come back on Sunday once the coin was found.  Shrug.

So I slept until 1pm?  I came back, ate some bagels that were going to go stale, and then said "I want to see what's up with the vinyl record we got from the White Queen", so I went to the MIT Music Library in building 14, where they have record players.  It turned out that you really only had to listen to the record for the final runaround, which we didn't know.  The librarian was all like "Are you an MIT student?  You are totally not supposed to be here," but I explained Mystery Hunt to her and gave her my driver's license in return for headphones and a music machine password.  The record was just some words forwards and some words backwards.  I figured out how to record it to an mp3 file, emailed that to my team, and went back to HQ.

Did I mention that there was this IAP puzzle that I thought was a runaround but people told me it probably wasn't due to nothing being in the rooms mentioned on it?  I had an idea on my way back to the room when I saw an MTG poster, since we had picked up a clue from the puzzle of "put shows in chronological order" and just didn't know what shows.  So we went and looked at that... but yeah, that was wrong.  It really was an epic runaround, which is what I found out the next day at wrapup.  So sad.  I can't believe I didn't go check the classrooms myself.

Anyway, so hunt ended not with a bang but with a whisper.  We packed up the room and put stuff into people's cars, and then 10 of us retreated to John Hancock's for dinner, and the Patriots had already lost and we got to see the 49ers lose too.  Hooray?  Went back to the hotel, and Kenny was splitting the room with me that night, and we played through something like 15 levels of a puzzle called Walk Across Some Dungeons before deciding we were too tired and went to sleep.

I could write more about wrap-up, but that's online somewhere.  I did get my Legal Sea Foods fix beforehand, and the funny part was my flight was at 3:35pm and wrap-up ended at 1:45pm.  I RAN to the Kendall T stop (with Eric, kinda) and I did manage to make my flight, which Nick and Darby were also on.

I know it's already been said by a lot of people, but this really was a great hunt all around, definitely in terms of people having fun, which you would think would be the biggest requirement.  I don't feel like I was necessarily as productive as I have been in past years, but I also don't think I ever got to spend 18 hours straight doing runarounds, and I think that's actually pretty awesome.

July 2017

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