Every year I review MIT mystery hunt from a mathematician’s point of view. I am way behind. The year is 2020, but I still didn’t post my review of 2019 hunt. Here we go.
Every year I review MIT mystery hunt from a mathematician’s point of
view. I am way behind. The year is 2020, but I still didn’t post my
review of 2019 hunt. Here we go.
Many puzzles in 2019 used two data sets. Here is the recipe for
constructing such a puzzle. Pick two of your favorite topics: Star Trek
and ice cream flavors. Remember that Deanna Troi loves chocolate sundae.
Incorporate Deanna Troi into your puzzle to justify the use of two data
On one hand, two data sets guarantee that the puzzle is new and fresh.
On the other hand, often the connection between two topics was forced.
Not to mention that puzzle solving dynamic is suboptimal. For example,
you start working on a puzzle because you recognize Star Trek. But then
you have to deal with ice cream which you hate. Nonetheless, you are
already invested in the puzzle so you finish it, enjoying only one half
Overall, it was a great hunt. But the reason I love the MIT mystery hunt
is because there are a lot of advanced sciency puzzles that can only
appear there. For example, there was a puzzle on Feynman diagrams, or on
characters of representations. This year only one puzzle, Deeply Confused, felt like AHA, this is the MIT Mystery hunt.
Before discussing mathy puzzles I have to mention that my team laughed at Uncommon Bonds.
I will group the puzzles into categories, where the categories are obvious.
Here are some logic puzzles, in a sense that Sudoku is a logic puzzle.
- Lantern festival—A cool mixture of Slitherlinks and Galaxies.
- Invisible Walls.
- Place Settings.
- Middle School of Mines—Minesweeper.
- Moral Ambiguity—Nonograms with a twist.
- Connect Four—Mastermind.
There was a strong hint that the extraction step was also mastermind.
My team spent some time trying to mastermind the ending, until we
backsolved. The extraction step was not mastermind. The final grid in
the puzzle had the word CODE written in red. It corresponded to letters
CDEO found at that location. Given that the letters were not in
alphabetical order, it gave the ordering, which didn’t exist in the
puzzle. Anyway, you can see that I have a grudge against this puzzle.
This could have been a great puzzle. But it wasn’t.
- Schematics—Tons of Nikoli puzzles of different types.
Now we have logic puzzles or another type, where you need to draw a grid. These are puzzles of the type: Who lives in the White House?
Now we have logic puzzles or yet another type, where you need to figure out which statements are true and which are false.
Now some cryptography.
And some programming.