devjoe (devjoe) wrote,

MIT Mystery Hunt 2019, Part 1

This year I stayed with The Team to Be Named Later, though we were now The Team Formerly Known as the Team to Be Named Later. I will just call us Later to avoid that mouthful. We came back with much of the team we had last year, and some former Team Luck members who played on other teams in recent years, a couple other veterans, and a bunch of new people from Caltech, Harvey Mudd, and other universities.

I saw earlier in the week that the 100th anniversary of the Boston Molasses Flood ocurred, and I joked to a co-worker that that was probably going to be the theme of Mystery Hunt. Of course, I was right! Well, sort of. The theme was that somebody decided to make a new holiday, Molasses Awareness Day, memorializing the event and focusing on increasing safety. The word safety was stressed, continuing the running joke prompted by MIT's required distribution of first aid kits to all teams from a few years ago. But the holiday wasn't registered, and it caused chaos when the new town suddenly appeared in the Holiday Forest, which we all just learned about. In particular, leaking (but not flooding) molasses caused residents of several holiday towns, who usually stayed in their own towns, to mingle with their neighbors, leading to various problems.

I didn't contribute significantly to solutions of any puzzles in Christmas Town. But I worked on some in Halloween Town:

  • Some other group had started on Haunted by the time I saw it, and they had identified the red circle and the title clued TED Talks. But they hadn't figured out the circle actually stood for TED in the answers, and were failing to match up lengths as a result. I got them on the right track and solved a bunch more clues.

  • There were too many of us who wanted to work on Lantern Festival, but we paired off veterans and new solvers each on one of the four grids, and I showed one guy (sorry, forgot who this was) some of the tricks to solving a Slither Link.

  • I did a bunch of the identifications in Some Kind of Monster. I only know Pokemon that have been released in Pokemon Go, but we had people to pick up the slack.

  • A bunch of us worked on Tales from the Crypt. Of course - it was a cryptic.

  • And I spent some time decoding the heraldic descriptions of flags in A Vexing Puzzle.

In Thanksgiving Town:

  • On Bitter Kittens Cross the Pond, I Googled up the reference for my teammates, but I wasn't very interested in the subject matter and moved on.

  • On You're Gonna Need a Bigger Gravy Boat I helped with the initial jigsaw assembly and reading of the answer from the flags. I pondered how to read semaphore from it a bit, but it was after I had moved on that my teammates got the aha to finish this.

  • HA <-> TH: I spent a lot of time this hunt working on metas, including this one, though in a lot of cases I didn't make any real progress, and I've omitted my flailing attempts on those. This was one of the earliest ones we worked on, and when I was working on it we had the idea we'd be doing ternary from blood types somehow, but some of the other answers that could have gone here also had A's, B's, and O's, so we tried some alternative mechanisms like using the numbers of each letter in the answer. Once we got more of the one-A, one-B, one-O answers the actual mechanism became clearer.

Valentine's Day Town:

  • When I was trying to solve Activities Midway, we figured out it was MIT clubs, solved most of the mashups, and even found that was the Judo club, but when we tried actually visiting that page (or others), it seemed the site was down and all such requests were getting redirected elsewhere. But we recorded all this in the spreadsheet and I assume teammates came along later when the site was working and solved it (or MIT people with another way of accessing the club numbers did).

  • On Be Mine, I contibuted the idea that the distribution of elements in the element grid looked more like the elements in real minerals than the elements that get used in puzzles where their symbols get used to spell words, thus steering this puzzle in the right direction.

  • I didn't really work on Caressing at all, but one of my teammates called it Car Essing (which is what it was) and mentioned how that reminded me of those old Celebrity Jeopardy skits on SNL where the Sean Connery character would intentionally misread categories like S Words and Therapists by adding or deleting a space.

  • On Invisible Walls I helped solve a couple of the nurikabe puzzles.

  • I spent quite a while working on A Mysterious Event - through the discovery that it was based on Sue Grafton's alphabet novels, and I made the discovery that you needed the next one rather than the one which appeared in each line. I didn't finish it, though. Even with the score checks, that is a tough grid to rebuild. I would have programmed it, but I was too tired at that point.

  • I did a bunch of the word combining (and some leftover picture IDs) in Shah Raids.

Presidents' Day Town:

  • I helped get some of the steps done on The Bill, getting the team started, but I think it took quite a while before people figured out the first step where you had to reuse an already used element.

  • I did a bunch of the logic on Compromised after one of the first two solvers to attempt it left to go to an event, having just entered the immediate eliminations from one pass through the clues and no inferences, carrying it all the way through to the end.

  • I helped find some of the hidden words on Insider Trading.

Your Birthday Town:
When I heard there was a Your Birthday town, and we had to request an interaction for it, I stepped up to say I wanted to do it since it was actually my birthday. I quickly learned I shared a birthday with Dr. Sudoku and a third member of our team. But we found that the interaction was coming to us and we could all participate. Sadly, it turned out to be a trick, and there was no Your Birthday Town.

New Year's Town:

  • On Art Tours I identified the tour guides as people having surnames matching chess pieces, but let teammates go find the art.

  • TH <-> NY: I made two critical breakthroughs on this one - the identification of the puzzle as a football pool with the 10 symbols as a numerical cipher, which helped get my team started, and the fact that you were supposed to enter the movies two letters per square, which let them fit in the spaces we knew we wanted to put them in, and still didn't immediately lead to the answer (since we hadn't yet figured out it was Thanksgiving Day Cowboys & Lions games and New Years' Day bowl games rather than Super Bowls, but that came soon after once we actually solved one of the New Years' puzzles that went in here.

Arbor Day Town:

  • On Engelsche, I tried some of the solving, but I was unfamiliar with the soure work and was making a pretty slow go of it, and I let others who were doing it faster take over.

  • On Mountains and Valleys, I commented early on that I thought the crease patterns looked like they were going to make letters. I had been thinking of a font by Erik Demaine, but it turned out to be original work.

  • I helped solve some of the trivia in Quaternary Structure.


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