January 20, 2004
MIT Mystery Hunt 2004 - Maps and Time Bandits
Well, I as usual had a great but exhausting time with this year's Mystery Hunt as a member of ecroForce/Palindromes. Kappa Sig/The French Armada put on a Pirates/Time Bandits themed hunt which had a lot going for it in terms of cool organization, not too much errata and amazingly nice maps and things, but in the end didn't really work for me.
They were first-time constructors mostly and it unfortunately showed. The hunt was way too long with 131 puzzles, almost all of them multi-stage affairs, and a ton of good puzzles but bad answers and with too many stages. A friend wisely said "With a good puzzle, you should never have to call in the answer - it should clearly be right." where here we would have 13 of 15 letters in a string which should be more than enough to figure it out, only to call in like 12 wrong answers before finally picking the, largely arbitrarily, 'right' one.
Congratulations to Setec for winning despite having a very small team of 20-25 and I confidently expect a great hunt from them based on past experience. Their 2002 Monopoly Hunt was definitely the best hunt I have participated in (I have done the last four on campus and one before lightly off-campus).
Our team ended up about 6th, solving 3 of the 7 meta-puzzles, but we definitely got a lot of help from hinting, although this was necessary here because of the bad answers and unreasonable leaps the designers often expected people to make. I was glad that every puzzle I worked on significantly got solved in the end and particularly glad when we finally finished Best Mate and the Yukon meta Private Diaries. No individual puzzles I absolutely loved this year, however. As with last year, I didn't solve a single puzzle (other than the trivial RummiKub playing activity one) on my own, but I'm not at all unhappy about that as the collaboration is really fun. I would have easily solved Snowfield on my own if I'd realized it was MineSweeper but there were so many puzzles I had only glanced at it for seconds. Once someone pointed it out as MineSweeper, I got the trick immediately and solved it in minutes, not surprisingly given I've written a clone.
Thinking towards next year, I think the main thing our team would need to move up is to have more of our top solvers there for more of the time. The committed core group who were there for the whole thing (excluding sleep time) was only about 15 so although we had 30 or so total, we really didn't have quite enough resources. Obviously having a couple more super-solvers would be a huge benefit too. Not sure either of these is that practical however. We could also organizationally do some things better although I didn't feel we were terrible on this other than our mediocre handling of our quite strong but small group of remote solvers, but this was our first year with significant remote solving (other than an individual calling a friend/relative for help on a particular puzzle which is always good and works well because there is a solid single coordination person in the room for each of these contacts).
Posted by aarondf at January 20, 2004 05:20 PM
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