When you're a puzzle maker, you're in a constant battle with the solver. However, it's a battle that the puzzle maker is expected to lose. Every time. Without fail. If that's not the case, then it's a flawed puzzle. The solving experience should always make the solver feel clever about successfully navigating the challenges laid out by the puzzle maker. It should never be an outlet to make the puzzle maker feel good about himself for making something uncrackable. Sure, some of my puzzles are hard. But I hope that, eventually, with a lot of determination, educated guesses, perhaps even some Googling, you can figure them out.This past weekend MIT held its annual Mystery Hunt, a round the clock puzzle solving scavenger hunt designed for only the super elite solvers. I have done it in the past, but I have since "retired" from the experience. Oh don't get me wrong, I don't mind solving the obtuse puzzle now and then. The MIT Hunt excels at them, forcing solvers to test their deep knowledge of animal husbandry, Japanese anime, Klingon, the Merovingian dynasty, and theoretical physics, oftentimes in the same puzzle. And some of the MIT Hunt puzzles have been of the "wished I'd thought of that one" variety. But most of them are just, well, brutal.
Here's the solution to one of the puzzles from this past weekend's Hunt. It has all the hallmarks of an MIT Hunt puzzle. It is overambitious. It is many layers deep. It requires knowledge that most would deem esoteric. I would argue that the target answer has a nice satisfying feel to it. It is, also, completely unsolvable. However, the near John Nash-levels of finding something out of nothing and leaps of faith into Who-The-Fuck-Knowsville that is required to crack the puzzle is, in a word, absurd. The whole solution page reads like a deranged piece of performance art. I enjoyed this immensely, however, for the all the wrong reasons.
Share the puzzle. New one on Monday.