I love the MIT Mystery Hunt. I like the adrenalin rush when solving problems under pressure. Plus, I like the togetherness of doing problems with other people. During the hunt I usually do not have time to look at all the puzzles: some of them are solved by my teammates while I’m sleeping and others are solved before I get to see them.
I’ve never tried to go back and check out the puzzles I missed nor the puzzles from the previous hunts, probably because without the goal of winning and without my team, I might find them boring. Often the solving process involves tedious Internet browsing to identify the images of different people or objects. I would only be motivated if the puzzle were related to something I am very interested in, such as Ballroom dancing. But I’m not thrilled at the thought of browsing through all the problems in order to find one that is relevant to the Tango.
In short, I need an index to the puzzles. For example, it would be nice to direct the lovers of square dancing to the Do Sa Do puzzle, or fans of Star Trek to the Alien Species puzzle. I hope that nobody blames me for hinting that those aliens are from Star Trek. I’m convinced that Trekkies who only want to solve Star Trek-related puzzles would immediately recognize them anyway. I do believe that I am not revealing too much by saying that the Facebook puzzle will appeal to the aficionados of the television show “24″.
It would be extremely useful to humanity to at least mark the MIT Mystery Hunt puzzles that are self-consistent, and do not require activities. For example, some of the puzzles involve interaction with headquarters, so you can’t solve them after the hunt. Some of the puzzles might expire, as for example the puzzle with pictures of different announcements in the infinite corridor.
Unfortunately, such an index doesn’t exist, and I do not have the time or expertise to create one myself. But I can fill this void at least partially by presenting a guide to math puzzles from the previous four hunts. I can’t promise that my guide is complete, as navigating the MIT Mystery Hunt website is very tiresome.
Before going into the math puzzles, I would like to list Sergei’s favorite type of puzzle: Duck Konundrums. The first Duck Konundrum puzzle appeared in 2000. It was created by Dan Katz, which is why his initials are in the title. One really needs to follow the instructions for this puzzle. This is very unusual as traditionally hunt puzzles do not have instructions at all. Do not be relieved: the instructions are really very complicated. The next Duck Konundrum puzzle appeared in 2002 and was considered to be even more amusing. People loved it, and this type of puzzle became a tradition in subsequent hunts. Here is my list of Duck Konundrums:
- 2000 — 5.6: The Duck Konundrum.
- 2002 — D2: The Mighty Duck Konundrum.
- 2004 — D3: The Fellowship Of The Duck.
- 2006 — The Cock Conundrum — A combination of the Duck Konundrum and a cute boys’ puzzle.
- 2007 — D4: Ducks Playing Poker.
- 2008 — Mystery Rallye — A Duck Konundrum style puzzle without ducks.
- 2009 — The Amazing Juggling Troupe Of Duckkon Undrum V.
Many Mystery Hunt puzzles appeal to mathematicians. I have to warn you though. Puzzles often are divided into two stages. In the first stage, you need to solve a puzzle, like solving sudoku, a crossword or finding all the wedding dates of the people in the pictures. The second stage requires you to produce a word or a phrase that is the answer to the puzzle. The second stage might be as simple as listing the people in chronological order of their wedding dates and then taking the first letters of their last names. This second stage could also be quite difficult. Depending on your tastes one stage of the puzzle might be much more rewarding than the other. If you love solving sudokus, you might find it more fun to just stop with that solution, instead of continuing on to the second stage.
- Got Your Number — Some recognizable numbers at the second stage (my favorite for the year).
- Hey, Look, A Grid! — A bunch of numbers in a grid.
- Feel Your Way — A very frustrating minesweeper.
- Gross Solitaire — A tedious logic puzzle.
- All for One and One for All — The “26L. in the A.” type of puzzle with first-order logic notation.
- Fun with Formulae — Decipher recognizable formulae.
- Numeracy — A list of very big numbers.
783658 — Sudoku at the second stage.
- Clash of the Titans — A mixture of skyscraper type puzzles with logic.
- A Midterm Progress Report to the Enron Board of Directors, July 2000 — Many logic puzzles involving numbers.
- Captain Red Herring’s Buried Pirate Booty — A variation of battleship puzzles.
- The Joy of Accountancy — A kakuro variation.
- Splits and Mergers — A combination of mazes.
- Nur einzelne Zahlen erlaubt! — A sudoku-related puzzle.
- Transmogrifiers — Figure out unknown functions.
- Puzzle Editing — A real treat! You need to solve several Japanese puzzles: Fillomino, Nurikabe, Masyu, Light Up, Heyawake, Hitori and Edel.
- Man, I Hate These %#!&@ Sudokus! — You need the extra pdf file to solve these interrelated sudoku puzzles.
- I Only Get a Measly $200? — A logic puzzle related to the Monopoly games requires an extra pdf file.
- Knots and Crosswords — As it says: crosswords with some knots.
- Cursed — A kakuro variation.
- The Cult of Helios — First you have to figure out what this puzzle is about.
- Bad Beat Jackpot — Some poker math.
- Twisty Little Passages — Map the maze.
- Chimera — An interesting mixture.
- Trouble in Triplicate — Related to the game of Set.
- War Game — A logic puzzle.
- All Geared Up — You need to be good with arithmetic to count all rotations.
- Functions — This is my favorite of the year, especially good for sequence fans.
- Cloaked Battleships — A variation on battleship puzzles.
- Growth Involves Reconstructing Legos — A variation on skyscraper puzzles.
- Mos Eisley Spaceport — A graph-fitting puzzle.
- Malthusian Catastrophes — Requires a lot of calculations.
- Plan 4 From Outer Space — You need to solve a lot of equations.
- The Sexaholics of Truthteller Planet — A logic puzzle, my favorite for the year.
- Cross Something-Or-Others — Eight beautiful variations of kakuro. To get to the answer you need to use three more pages: first, second and third. This one was my second favorite of the year.
- Our Crew Is Replaceable. Your Package Isn’t. — Six river crossing puzzles.
- His Alien Barbarian Girl and Her Robot Dog — The puzzle is a colorful version of battleship puzzles. To get to the answer you need to combine this puzzle with its matching doctor puzzle.
- His Troubled Teen — A nice logic puzzle. To get to the answer you need to complement this with the matching doctor puzzle.
- His Investigative Journalist — Jigsaw sudokus, but you have to work to get to them. To get the answer you need to solve the matching doctor puzzle.
It would also be nice to have some ratings for puzzles. I am not sure how to persuade the webmasters of the MIT Mystery Hunt page to do the index and the rating. Feel free to send them an encouraging email.