mystery hunt 2024

hunt itself

i felt like i didn't do that much during hunt this year, partially since the early rounds felt quite lacking in logic puzzles, and i didn't feel like doing the research puzzles when someone else could do them much more easily.

that's a pretty big difference in the dynamics of small and large teams. when i work in a smaller team, i'm more willing to do research puzzles, since there are fewer teammates to do them for me, and they're also less likely to prefer to be the one doing them.

i was also kinda touch starved all of mystery hunt. next time i need to either bring some plushies to teammate's hq or find someone i can cuddle while doing puzzles (such as by pulling my gf onto teammate).

puzzles i worked on, spoilers for all of these

i jumped on this pretty quickly. i don't normally do number placement, but this was interesting enough (and the only logic puzzle available) that i solved the entire kakuro, and then i let my teammates extract for me since i didn't feel like processing the 11-12 length strings that i ended up with.

the logic puzzle was quite hard, because it was hard to see all the possibilities of how the letters could be divided into roman numerals, but that made any insights i made more fun.

of course, my favorite puzzle in the entire hunt because of its theme. i also learned how to use structure blocks just for this puzzle.

i didn't make the extraction aha, but i corrected the work that my teammate did with extraction by noticing that two lamps had redstone torches and not dusts on top of them.

the initial aha was hard, but after figuring out how to get 3 single-digit numbers to multiply to 181, the rest of the puzzle became doable and quite fun, despite being composed of number placement genres. i enjoyed writing letters instead of numbers in the boxes. i did the entire thing in snipping tool, without needing to assemble anything.

as someone who studies complexity theory, pushing blocks and sokoban is something i've had a lot of exposure to, and i understood what was going on pretty quickly, though i didn't quite feel like calculating the minimum number of moves for a solution myself, so i let a teammate do it. i had fun with the part at the end, designing the 20x20 puzzle that needed more than 1000 moves to complete. it was good that the beginning of the puzzle primed us for that part.

i worked on this with a teammate. annoyingly, the website sometimes stopped working when both of us were working on it at the same time, so we instead just used my computer to see what the letters did and his to do the actual puzzle. we did the first 4 rows together, and then he ended up finishing the puzzle because we figured out all the rules at like midnight and i wanted to sleep.

putting stuff together with a teammate was quite fun, and my initial insight into how the puzzle worked was the tile with the phi^-4. we had fun figuring out how the tesselations worked, including just drawing diagonal lines where there weren't any, and finding out where the 3 in the diagonal square went.

this puzzle took up like all of sunday, since there were so many parts. after assembling it, i did about 60% of the slitherlink and didn't have the necessary analysis background/fractals knowledge to finish.

nurikabe too hard

the year before that

so this is roughly what the timeline of a mystery hunt looks like. bold text will be stuff that can only be done by mit puzzle club. bold italicized stuff must be done either by an mit student on the writing team who is also on puzzle club, or by spoiling someone on puzzle club.

this is by no means exhaustive and will depend on the people on both puzzle club and the writing team.

  • a couple days after mystery hunt: the writing and winning teams meet together with mit puzzle club to pass on knowledge
  • before february: figure out who on the team will actually be writing, also elect important leadership positions such as benevolent dictators, editors-in-chief, story/art directors, etc.
  • mid-february: decide on a theme
  • late february: book kresge for kickoff and rooms in the student center for events. the bookings are for specific days, so past this point the days that mystery hunt happens on cannot be moved.
  • some point early in the year: figure out how to get sponsors
  • i'm not actually sure when, maybe march-ish?: have the metas completed and make feeder answers exist
  • sometime in the spring: puzzle club leadership changes
  • april-august (and also later): write and testsolve puzzles
  • late august: make sure you're back in contact with mit puzzle club, and the new leadership
  • late august: make sure you're back in contact with the writing team
  • sometime in september: reserve the bush room, to use as hunt hq. i don't remember when this can be done, but we should try to do this earlier so there's less of a chance of the bush room being reserved at a time overlapping hunt (though i do think there are some groups that get priority, such as any admin meetings). the bush room is like the canonical hq for organizing teams, as it's in a very centralized place on main campus.
  • mid-september: hotel block stuff that i don't fully understand but basically get the nearby hotels to offer discounted rooms for people staying over for mystery hunt
  • late september: figure out what you want the minors policy at mystery hunt to be. then you may need to talk to the student organization, leadership, and engagement office about it depending on what the policy is, the more closely accompanied minors are, the less you have to talk.
  • late october: make sure events are fully planned, then meet with campus activities complex and emergency medical services to make sure that the events don't cause problems
  • late october: release the hunt registration website. it'd be very funny if this was done at the exact same time cmu hunt releases their hunt registration website (i'm not saying you should try to do this, i'm just saying that it would be funny that one time it did happen)
  • november 1: most puzzles should be drafted by now
  • all of november: factcheck puzzles
  • early november: establish a point of contact to reserve classrooms from both the main group of buildings and from individual departments these are the important mit people that are the least stressful to talk to, they also respond pretty quickly. we want basically as many non-lecture hall classrooms as possible, plus 26-100 (the largest lecture hall) on monday for wrapup. we also want a room for the how to hunt workshop and also rooms for any writing team meetings on campus right before hunt.
  • late november: register events on atlas so they can be approved and tim tickets can exist. registering events on atlas requires them to have a location set, so this should be done after classrooms are reserved
  • late november: finalize coin design
  • december 1: most puzzles should be factchecked by now
  • the first half of december: postprod puzzles
  • mid december: talk to e33 (lighting services), mit video productions, and mit audiovisual services to assist with technological stuff for kickoff and wrapup. e33 may also be useful for events and/or runarounds if you want special lighting for them.
  • also mid december: make sure all planned purchases are finalized, then buy everything (physical puzzles, event props, etc) that needs to be bought using puzzle club's money. this includes stuff you give to teams like first aid kits and nametags
  • late december: make sure rooms and attached hunters are assigned to teams (things can still be changed after this point, but make sure there's a preliminary assignment)
  • late december: in a perfect universe, a full-hunt testsolve, though this is very difficult to facilitate
  • 1-2 weeks before hunt: advertise the how to hunt workshop
  • 1-2 weeks before hunt: talk to custodial services about what kind of cleaning of the classrooms you want them to do during hunt. importantly, we don't want them erasing chalkboards.
  • 1 week before hunt: set up tim tickets
  • a couple days before hunt: set up the hunt phones
  • day of hunt: hunt!

of course, stuff will always get delayed, because nobody will be perfect. so a lot of stuff will get pushed to the week before hunt, making that week especially hectic.

the year after that

once hunt ends, there's still a few things that need to be done. puzzle club and the writing team need to compile some stuff for the winning team. we pass down stuff like budgets, timelines, classroom lists, and advice, and invite the winning team to ask us questions in a handoff meeting.

if you were like teammate and cut puzzles from hunt, you should release them at some point. you can do this either as a hunt on their own or with a hunt re-written around them. these were the two options that teammate had with abcdefg (tbh we should just have more hunts with the difficulty of abcdefg)

the last thing the writing team needs to do is host the how to hunt workshop for next year's mystery hunt, which is generally done in the week before hunt.

supposedly there's also an advisory board, composed of representatives from the last 5-ish writing teams, but i don't think i've been maintaining it well enough.

and now, for the most controversial part of this post:

i'm not gonna say anything just in case people mistake it for an official statement