In the Details

When the MIT Mystery Hunt was about to end, I asked my son Sergei, who was competing with the team “Death from Above,” what his favorite puzzle was. I asked the same question to a random guy from team “Palindrome” whom I ran into in the corridor. Surprisingly, out of 150 puzzles they chose the same one as their favorite. They even used similar words to describe it. Calling it a very difficult and awesome puzzle, they both wondered how it was possible to construct such a puzzle.

The puzzle they were referring to is “In the Details” by Derek Kisman, which you can see below.

TWELEVELTWONSHELMUMUOERAIYRANL
QAPIUNPIQAYDPEPIRPRPKVOYESOYOR
ELRATFDTELDTTFDTBWNLMUTFONYDWJ
PIOYJMHAPIHAJMHAAOORRPJMYDANFC
MUOZCGTFBWIRYDHIRAIRTFNCUENCUE
RPVQUHJMAOHKANJUOYHKJMZKBNZKBN
IRONSHOZGOTFUEELTFOEELUEYDOETF
HKYDPEVQDNJMBNPIJMKVPIBNANKVJM
BWIYNLTFSHHIELTWGOYDONDTYDHIOE
AOESORJMPEJUPIQADNANYDHAANJUKV
SHDTYDRPBWUEBWIYTWTWTFYDMUELMU
PEHAANAJAOBNAOESQAQAJMANRPPIRP
ONTWELBWLMSHELTFUEBWBWLMOZEVHI
YDQAPIAOGIPEPIJMBNAOAOGIVQUNJU
DTCGUEYDRPEVNCIREVIRTWUEUETWON
HAUHBNANAJUNZKHKUNHKQABNBNQAYD
IRUERAMUTFELTWONTFOEOEEYDTNLYD
HKBNOYRPJMPIQAYDJMKVKVHWHAORAN
ELGORPNCTFDTYDSHYDELPKTFOZRACG
PIDNAJZKJMHAANPEANPIDFJMVQOYUH
DTMUWJOETFYDELMUMUGORAONIRDTCG
HARPFCKVJMANPIRPRPDNOYYDHKHAUH

BOUNDARY HENON LEVY DRAGON SCALING
BROWNIAN HILBERT LYAPUNOV SPACE
CAUCHY HURRICANE MANDELBROT STRANGE
CURLICUE ITERATE NEURON TAKAGI
DE RHAM JULIA NURNIE TECTONICS
DIMENSION LEIBNIZ POWER LAW T-SQUARE
ESCAPE LEVEL ONE RAUZY WIENER
HAUSDORFF LEVEL TWO RIVER YO DAWG

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The puzzle looks like a word search, but I can tell you up-front: you can’t find all the words in the grid. You can only find six words there. So there is something else to this puzzle. I will discuss the solution later. Meanwhile I will ask you very pointed questions:

  • Where are the other words?
  • What is the meaning of LEVEL TWO staring at us from the first row?
  • Where is LEVEL ONE?
  • What do these very non-random words have in common?

Share/Save/Bookmark

12 Comments

  1. fibonicci:

    I found the word “YES” which is in second row(at the last), the word “MAN” in last row(starting from 10 letter).

  2. Leon Steed:

    Great puzzle - thanks for posting it! I have found 18 of the missing words - I won’t describe how I found them in case it spoils it for other people - I’m currently stuck working out what to do with the 8 words still unaccounted for!

  3. Tanya Khovanova:

    Great job Leon: you found level one! What’s next?

  4. Leon Steed:

    Thanks for the hint: as there didn’t seem to be a way down to the basement, I instead retraced my steps to level two and continued on to level three, where I found three more of the missing words. I decided an elevator was necessary to reach level four but when I reached it I only found one of the words there and it was well hidden. I was actually expecting to find a long word I can get to very quickly from only VGI, but surprisingly it’s one of the four words I haven’t found.

  5. Tanya Khovanova:

    Yes, level 3 has 3 words, level 4 has one word. But when you find all of them, what would you do next?

  6. Leon Steed:

    Good question, presumably I need to find an eight-letter word to put in the space at the bottom of the puzzle. I am new to these kinds of puzzles so am muddling through a bit - I have had a number of wrong guesses so far. First I thought I would be left with one word of eight letters after level one; instead I was left with eight words. My second guess was that I needed to extract a letter from each of those eight words and rearrange to form a relevant eight-letter word; I have since found half of those words on other levels (and none of the remaining four words has eight letters, so there’s no hope of being left with one eight-letter word at the end).

    My current guess is that the remaining four words will be found on four different levels so that in total all the words will be found across eight different levels and that I will need to extract one letter from each of those levels or make use of them in some other way. I hope something jumps out at me when I find the remaining words, but it’s probably too much to hope for that the word will jump out at me from the grid on the final level in as obvious a way as “LEVELTWO” did at the start!

  7. Tanya Khovanova:

    In a good puzzle the answer can’t be one of the given words. Otherwise, everyone would submit given words just in case.

  8. Leon Steed:

    I have now found the remaining four words after writing a computer program to work backwards through all the possibilities. It’s interesting that although each level increases the possibilities, every random word of length six letters or more I have tried other than the 32 listed words can never be found no matter how high the level — it’s not a case of some of the words appearing on the higher levels due to luck.

    I have also uncovered a secret message, but I haven’t yet discovered what it is asking me to do. This puzzle has so many parts to it: it’s really good value!

  9. Tanya Khovanova:

    Eight blanks at the end of the puzzle mean that the answer is 8-letter word. The message tells you the level, and hint at the location and the shape of the answer.

  10. Leon Steed:

    Aha! I had the level and the position, just hadn’t thought of looking for the shape - Humphrey!

  11. Tanya Khovanova:

    Leon, Yes!

  12. Tanya Khovanova’s Math Blog » Blog Archive » Solving In the Details:

    […] posted the puzzle In the Details two weeks ago. This is the most talked-about puzzle of the 2013 MIT Mystery Hunt. The author Derek […]

Leave a comment