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MIT Mystery Hunt

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Title: MIT Mystery Hunt  
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MIT Mystery Hunt

The MIT Mystery Hunt is an annual puzzlehunt competition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. As one of the oldest and most complex puzzlehunts in the world, it attracts roughly 40 teams and 2,000 contestants annually, in teams of 5 to 200 people. It has inspired similar competitions at Microsoft, Stanford University,[1] Melbourne University,[2] University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Aveiro (Portugal) as well as in the Seattle, San Francisco, Miami, Washington, DC, Indianapolis and Columbus, Ohio metropolitan areas.[3][4] Because the puzzle solutions require knowledge of esoteric and eclectic topics, the hunt is often fused with popular stereotypes of MIT students.[5][6]

The hunt begins at noon on the Friday before metapuzzles. Recent hunts have also revolved around themes introduced as a skit by organizers at the opening ceremony.

Contents

  • Structure 1
  • History 2
    • Past Mystery Hunt themes 2.1
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Structure

Many teams hunt in rooms with chalkboards, projectors, computers, and food. (Shown: Codex in 2007)

The objective of the hunt is to solve a set of puzzles in order to locate a coin hidden on the MIT campus. Participants can organize into teams of any size and are not required to be physically present.[7] In recent years, team sizes have grown to around 200 solvers for the largest teams. The proportion of hunters who participate remotely has grown over time, as well.

The hunt and the puzzles comprising it are organized and created by the team that won the event the previous year, ensuring that no hunt will be run (or won) consecutively by the same people; each year's writers are free to change any aspects of the internal structure of the Hunt.[7] At noon on the Friday before

  • Official Mystery Hunt website
  • "Quiz Show". Available online.  
  • Brown, Sasha (January 24, 2005). "Sleepless in Cambridge, they hunt the mystery coin". MIT News Office. Retrieved 2007-09-04. 
  • Short Radio Piece About the Hunt on Weekend America
  • Short video piece about the 2009 Hunt on G4's Attack of the Show!

External links

  1. ^ "Stanford Puzzle Hunt". SUMO. Retrieved 19 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "Melbourne University Mathematics and Statistics Society: Puzzle Hunt". Retrieved 2013-06-04. 
  3. ^ a b Miliard, Mike (January 14, 2005). "Flex your head". Boston Phoenix. Retrieved 2007-01-17. 
  4. ^ Dowling, Claudia Glenn (June 5, 2005). "MIT Nerds". Discover Magazine. Retrieved 2007-08-17. 
  5. ^ Bridges, Mary (2005-01-23). "Her Mystery achievement: to boldly scavenge at MIT". Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-01-16. 
  6. ^ a b c d "MIT IAP Mystery Hunt: Introduction". MIT Mystery Hunt. Retrieved 2007-09-04. 
  7. ^ "2006 Mystery Hunt". Retrieved 2007-09-04. 
  8. ^ a b "2001 Mystery Hunt". Retrieved 2007-09-04. 
  9. ^ "2006 Mystery Hunt:Sacred and Profane". Retrieved 2007-09-04. 
  10. ^ "2004 Mystery Hunt". Retrieved 2007-09-04. 
  11. ^ "2004 Mystery Hunt". Retrieved 2007-09-04. 
  12. ^ Marcott, Amy. "Happy 30…er…29th Birthday, Mystery Hunt!". Slice of MIT. MIT Alumni. Retrieved 23 January 2012. 
  13. ^ a b Albert, Eric (July 1991). "The Great Annual MIT Mystery Hunt". Games. Retrieved 2007-08-16. 
  14. ^ "MIT Mystery Hunt 2014 Puzzle Overview". http://web.mit.edu/puzzle/www/2014/overview.html. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  15. ^ "2006 MIT Mystery Hunt: Kuala Lumpur ante solution". Web.mit.edu. Retrieved 2012-04-17. 
  16. ^ The name "Escape from Zyzzlvaria" was introduced in a puzzle in the 2002 hunt
  17. ^ Gottlieb, Mark (1998). 

References

See also

Past Mystery Hunt themes

Though metapuzzles have existed in some form for many Mystery Hunts, the structure regarding how the puzzles combine into metapuzzles and how puzzles are released varies. For example, in the 2006 Hunt, "antepuzzles" provided access to new rounds, whose answers were derived from pieces of information attached to the round puzzles, but otherwise irrelevant to them (for example, the colors in which the puzzle titles were printed[16]); in the 2009 Hunt, apart from the shorter introductory rounds, each main round had a unique structure and way of releasing new puzzles. In some Hunts, such as 1999's and 2008's, solvers are not told which sets of puzzles must be combined to create metapuzzles; figuring out the correct groupings is part of the puzzle.

Over the next several years the hunt became longer and more involved as the number of participants increased. The earliest recorded theme is Captain Red Herring's Mystery Island in 1992. The 1984 Hunt had 22 clues, and the 1987 Hunt had 19 clues and a final runaround. The Mystery Hunt has continued to grow, with the 2014 Hunt containing 115 puzzles, 10 metapuzzles, 5 events, a 24-puzzle mid-hunt runaround, and a 5-puzzle final runaround.[15]

[14] The Mystery Hunt was started in 1981 by then-graduate student

The 2007 hunt concludes with a wrap-up session in the large 26-100 lecture hall.

History

The mystery hunt employs a wide range of puzzles including crosswords, cryptic crosswords, logic puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, anagrams, connect-the-dots, ciphers, riddles, paint by numbers, sudokus, and word searches. Solutions to these classic puzzles are further complicated by employing arcane or esoteric topics like quantum computing,[8] stereoisomers, ancient Greek,[9] Klingon,[9] Bach cantatas,[10] coinage of Africa,[11] and Barbie dolls.[12] Puzzles might also employ pictures, audio files, video games, physical objects, locations within MIT or the Boston area.[4] The hunt also assumes extensive familiarity with MIT's campus, culture, and lore.

This coin was found by the winning team in 2013, after the longest hunt on record.

While the puzzles comprising the early hunts were either linear (after solving one puzzle, a new puzzle would be revealed) or released en masse, since 1998 the puzzles have been released in rounds. Successive rounds can be released at predetermined times, based upon completing a requisite number of puzzles in a previous round, or another metric entirely. The distinguishing feature of the present-day Mystery Hunt is employing the solutions to all the puzzles in a round to solve a metapuzzle, usually lacking any instructions. Once a team has solved all the metapuzzles, it may begin the "runaround" phase to find the hidden coin: the team follows a series of clues or puzzles that leads them from one location on the MIT campus to another until reaching the location where the coin is hidden. The entire hunt usually lasts approximately 48 hours, although the 2003 hunt required 63 hours,[7] and the 2013 hunt took a record 75 hours. Although the hidden prize is always called "the coin", in recent years a greater variety of items have been used as the "coin", including a compact disc, a fragment of a meteorite, a snowglobe, a lump of charcoal, and a wooden cube.

A photo of the "coin" used by the creators of the 2011 hunt

Some teams make extensive use of remote solvers—puzzle aficionados who are unable to be on-campus at MIT but devote their holiday weekend anyhow. After the Hunt concludes, the organizers typically hold a wrap-up meeting at which the solutions to all the metapuzzles and the overall structure of the Hunt are revealed. Since 2009, hunts have been run for a fixed duration regardless of when the coin is first found, allowing more than one team to complete it. [7]

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