On mystery hunt, and doing things you really quite like

I got a chance to join the MIT Mystery Hunt with a friend’s team this past weekend. This is one of the biggest puzzle-hunt events, open to anyone and drawing in a crowd of a couple thousand to Boston every January. I was a little worried that I couldn’t hack it; looking at a couple puzzles last year, I solved zero of them. I was also worried about the group coordination - I get kinda nervous when I’m trying to solve a thing with other people all at once. (Pair programming, for example, I find pretty challenging.) I was excited because, well, when puzzling is good, it’s great.

And this was great! I met a few new friends (the 4 of us who represented the team out here in SF), and mostly sat around in a room puzzling all day. It feels like, I think, if you’re a runner and you go for a nice long run, or if you’re a real strongman and you go weightlifting. (ok, maybe not quite that good. (audio NSFW.)) Time really melts away, and you’re just there trying to think about this weird thing from 12 different angles, until finally you get it, and then you feel like pumping your fist and dancing around like Coach.

I solved, I think, wholly or partially, 6 puzzles. I hesitate to even say this because:
- count of trophies is kinda not the point
- wouldn’t really want this to become even a friendly competition
- don’t want to dissuade anyone reading this who can’t solve even one
But I like to have it out there as a metric to measure myself against, I think. In the same way that runners track their PRs, I can track my progress in terms of Mystery Hunt puzzles solved.

The puzzles, too, were great. Mystery Hunt puzzles seem to be a notch above puzzles in e.g. the Microsoft College Puzzle Challenge. Like, stack 3 MSCPC puzzles together, and you get one Mystery Hunt puzzle. Before I thought I was just too dumb to solve MH puzzles; turns out you just have to stick with them longer.

Coordination turned out to be great. I could mostly grab a puzzle and go into my little world, which I like. Sometimes I’d get stuck on a thing and then I could ask my 3 fellow puzzlers, and we’d brainstorm together for a minute. Sometimes I’d get really stuck and then I’d just abandon the puzzle; with our sweet Google Docs synchronization, someone else could pick it up.

Anyway, I think it’s valuable to do things you really like. I’m happy to have found a way to do a new one, and am looking forward to continuing to puzzle more.


Daniel -

I appreciate your YouTube links :)

Todd -


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