2018 MIT Mystery Hunt Recap

Disclaimer 1: Yes I know it is nearly 3 months after Mystery Hunt. Just clearing out some drafts.

Disclaimer 2: this sounds a lot more like a log because I “stuck to the script” of the Activity Log a bit too much. I’m sorry about the decreased readability of this post. But I don’t really want to edit this post much (read: at all), so here you are.

Disclaimer 3: [] are puzzle titles. If I were less lazy, I’d replace them with links to the site. Initially this was to give them time to port it to their static site. But they’ve done that and… I’m still too lazy.

This year, instead of hunting with Galactic Trendsetters as is usual, I decided to hunt with an offshoot/splinter group, teammate. There were several reasons – the main one was that neither of us wanted to win the hunt. Also, several teammate members felt that they didn’t get to see enough puzzles (which wasn’t a complaint of mine since 2017 was definitely of outlier difficulty). Ultimately the group ended up being approximately the teammate core, plus CMU, plus Black Fedora Group (another team I frequently hunt with) and notably not including Floorpi (as they would remain on Galactic). As such, it was fairly logical to hunt with the periphery. As it turned out, our team size was pretty optimal, as we spent nearly the entirety of the time (something like 65 of 69 hours) to eventually complete the hunt as the 12th and final team to do so. (Galactic Trendsetters finished 5th.)

Since this year I was remoting from the West Coast, puzzles unlocked a little after 10AM. (Since it’s currently break, I tend to get up a bit later than this.) So I woke up at 10:18 or so and dive into the puzzles. (Henceforth all times will be in EST, just mentally subtract 3 hours for my local time.) The first puzzle I worked on was [Yeah, but It Didn’t Work!], solving some of the minipuzzles there. Eventually someone else found the ACME Did You Remember guide and I proposed the extraction method. Finished 13:28. I pitched in a few Jumbles for [Let’s Get Ready to Jumble]. We extracted at 13:42 but I think we didn’t get that it was an instruction to do something until an hour later, so it was physically done and submitted 15:25.

I pitched in some work for [AKA] but not significantly. At this time I get breakfast or something. When I get back, [A Learning Path] unlocks 14:11 and I help fill out some grids and we solve it at 14:29. This unlocks [Cross Words] for which I help fill out some words. It is solved at 14:42 and we unlock [Word Search]. Someone figures out the cryptogram nature and we call in GONORRHEA at 15:04. I think that the puzzle is solved (who wouldn’t?) but when it ends up being incorrect I decide to decrypt the word and call in NECESSARY at 15:07.

This unlocks [Just Keep Swiping] and I help data collect (it ends up being extracted at 15:41), but end up switching over to [Good Fences Make Sad and Disgusted Neighbors] (unlocked 15:26) and solve a few grids. It is solved at 16:00 due to some grid confusion. Next up is [Roadside America], solved 16:25. I propose the extraction fairly early on when it was clear that the locations didn’t correspond to letters themselves, but someone else apparently backsolved the puzzle later. At this point I think we start to look at some of the emotion metas as well. I probably get lunch around here.

When I get back, Disgust was solved at 16:38, unlocking [Games Club], a math puzzle so of course I jump on it. We solve it at 16:53. Then I go look at the various metas, and turn wheels for [Joy]. Shortly thereafter [That Time I Somehow Felt Incomplete] was unlocked, so I get to that. Also around this time we start backsolving some of the emotion puzzles. I hit upon the correct extraction for That Time… eventually and solve at 18:19, shortly after we get enough brainpower to unlock the first island (18:17).

…and with some other solves, we unlock the second island as well at 18:25. There is some discussion over which islands to open. We take the Sci-fi Island and the Shiny Island first.

I start doing a few grids of [Fuch-sia] but leave extraction for the others. I also did a grid of [Shoal Patrol] but also end up leaving before it was eventually extracted. Instead I decided to focus my efforts on the last remaining emotion meta, [Fear], reading out the answer (19:34) and subsequently backsolving [Jeopardy!] at 19:45. Anyway. We unlock the Emotion runaround at 19:44 which obviously I can’t do due to remoting. Both of those puzzles ended up being solved around 20:01 and 20:07 respectively, giving us several more puzzles.

I immediately spot almost everything what to do on [Cash Cab], but end up shelving it temporarily once I spot [Lest You Be] which is was personally funny in part I was almost certain who the author was, and deduced some of the rules. Went back to almost solo-solve Cash Cab (with some help) on 21:20, and Lest You Be was solved 21:29. Next I jumped on [Hashiwokakuro (Count your bridges)] which proved to be rather hard. I did one and a half of the puzzles plus the final spherical puzzle, Herman did two of the puzzles, and with some clever Nutrimaticking we get the answer. I get dinner during this puzzle though. But before then Shoal Patrol got solved 21:34 which got a lot of groans when we saw the evolved puzzle.

Anyway, Hashiwokakuro was solved at 22:59. It started getting late at the east coast, so I went and looked for some potentially soloable puzzles. There were: [Disorientation] got soloed after some fiddling on Saturday 00:23. Ended up being Nutrimatic support for [Self-Referential Mania] solved at 01:37, which helped us bypass a lot of the work, unlocking [The Next Generation] which I solo’ed as well, solved at 02:20. I’m actually a little excited about the [Space Sounds TV] puzzle because I recognized it as SSTV, but ultimately I backsolved that one – we got [Voltaik Bio-Electric Cell] at 04:12. I ran a polyomino dissection search and found two possible configurations, and solved the relatively obscure cluephrase which was apparently resistant to Google (but was findable with DuckDuckGo!). Anyway this lets us backsolve Space Sounds TV at 4:09.

Next I go fix up other peoples’ work on [Laratel WF-15 Fusion Reactor] and get a solve at 04:54, allowing for a backsolve on [Bloodroots] eventually at 06:54. In the meanwhile the Pokemon front got some pretty amazing meta solves, first taking out The Taxonomist on 06:22 with 3/7 answer and then, ridiculously, getting a solve on The Advertiser on 06:48 – with only one puzzle answer (of 5)! However I didn’t participate on these. I figure out the main mechanism of [Flags o1 6ur 10the15] and get that solved on 07:52 after writing a Python script. With that as well as another emotions puzzle backsolve, we unlocked our third island at 08:18.

This turns out to be the hacking island, and at this point I end up going to sleep.

I next wake up around 13:30. Apparently we forgot to go to one of the events, which probably slows down our Buzzy Buck production a bit (we also couldn’t solve one of the other event puzzles…). I look at what other puzzles there are. [Voter Fraud] needed extraction and I decide to index. Probably Al being 2 letters dissuaded the rest of the members from doing so (it needed to be expanded to Albert). Solved at 14:00. Cue lots of groaning when [The 10,000 Puzzle Tesseract] was unlocked (eventually backsolved). Breakfast time, and then lunch, with much staring done and not much progress. We stare at [It’s Not Easy] for a long time (I believe I found the reverse trick) before chaotic_iak stumbles upon the answer. We never noticed the connection to the Green Building though.

[Worldwide Contacts] is unlocked on 17:52 with the completion of No Context. I hop in later, but first I’m working on [It’s Not Normal]. Eventually once we reach various cluephrases like “DOWNRIGHT CROSS” I noted that in the previous puzzle we ultimately ended up extracting by taking letters that read down-right from the X, and since there were an unusual number of X’s in these grids perhaps something similar should be done. However we never really got the Stata Center aha (probably because we never got the Green Building aha) so we never end up getting it. Instead I go back to Worldwide Contacts and with enough letters anagram to the correct answer at 19:56, unlocking [Texts From Mom]. I pull the source code of the page and get a very rudimentary cryptogram solving using Notepad. It’s probably too rudimentary and caused more confusion than it helped. Nevertheless it was solved at 20:48.

Later on, [Mass Aid] was unlocked from finishing some live events. Perhaps I should’ve gotten more context elsewhere first…

Scout meta was solved at 22:17. Oh boy, the Build round contains physical puzzles… That can’t be good for this remote solver. (As it turns out, I actually lead the charge for a few of the puzzles!) Pictures are taken for various things, and I start working on [Is There a Draft in Here?]. Then, we apparently get the Sci-fi metameta at 22:19.

With the Scout meta solved, several backsolves happen. We backsolve so much that HQ tells us to stop backsolving and that they are clearing our queue at 22:24. I later go back and retry several answers and acquire one backsolve, on [The 10,000 Puzzle Tesseract] at 23:21. We unlock [Lycanroc] at 22:47 and get a WTF moment (but very inventive!) Eventually we decide to buy [Under Control] after getting stuck on extraction at 00:58, which lets us make progress in the Pokemon round. This unlocks [X Marks the Spot] which is math, so I jump on it and we get it solved at 01:49.

Unfortunately most of the puzzles open at this time are not very well-suited for remote solving, so I take a look at [Go!] and do some work. I try to backsolve [Floor Drawing 305] from the AllSpark meta, and deduce that the second word is probably MICROGRAPHY (it is) but am stuck on the other word. (The actual answer is called in later at 09:12.) Anyway I decided to sleep relatively early today.

I wake up to see that the fourth island was unlocked at 09:15 and 2 puzzles have been solved from that round. I take a look and see that [Don’t Look]’s picture has been posted, allowing for a pretty routine extraction (solved 14:05). Meanwhile just before, all of the Pokemon meta pieces fell down, and we completed that island at 14:22. The solve on Don’t Look was enough to get us past the Build meta at 14:46, and I looked at [Zelma & Frank], and later [Ode to the Greeks] without much contribution. (The former gets backsolved, I think, and the later is solved at 16:40) However I worked with chaotic_iak to get [Studies in Two-Factor Authentication] squared away by 17:19, and shortly after hopped over to the [Deploy] meta which was solved at 17:25. I also looked at [L is for Library] for a bit but I think this was also ultimately backsolved.

At 17:58 all of the puzzles were unlocked, which for us meant that we got something like 15 unlocks in the Games Island. I immediately jump on [Pestered], since I had significant Homestuck experience. I get the genetic code very quickly, but then floundered with the message, thinking that maybe I needed to index each dead panel number into the message’s entirety. (I did notice that each speaker died once with a dead panel, but oh well.) I shelve it for later and work on some other puzzles, getting some crosswording down at [All the Right Angles]. Meanwhile [The Desert] was solved at 1:44.

Eventually I figure out that you needed to extract two letters from every line, getting yet another message. Yet another extraction! And I definitely was stuck trying to reorder the message at one point. However, eventually I finally solve the puzzle at 05:36 and decided to call it a day. (Meanwhile [Flee] had been solved at 04:31.) In the end, we were trying to get [The Robber], and through buying [Death From Aslant] we managed to get the last metameta at 06:44. We would’ve been able to get the grand finale at 07:22.


Most of the puzzles I worked on ranged from good to amazing – the only puzzle (that I worked on) that really felt like it didn’t reach its potential was [Cash Cab], really. (The way you acquire A-numbers is pretty inelegant as well as being somewhat cheesable, although I did like the final extraction mechanism.)

As a remote solver again, I found that it was very difficult to coordinate meta-meta solving (probably for the better). For example, I think I did notice that there was a unique Eulerian path for the first Hack bulletin board but wasn’t really able to communicate that.

I went ahead and decided to subjectively rate my contributions for the puzzles that I looked at – I had 3 solo solves, called in 3.5 backsolves, and maybe 4-5 puzzles where I probably had a majority of the insight/work.

[Yeah, but it Didn’t Work!] 30%
[AKA] 10%
[A Learning Path] 30%
[Cross Words] 10%
[Word Search] 30%
[Just Keep Swiping] 15%
[Good Fences Make Sad and Disgusted Neighbors] 30%
[Roadside America] 20%
[Games Club] 15%
[Joy] 10%
[That Time I Somehow Felt Incomplete] 30%
[Fuch-sia] 20%
[Shoal Patrol] 10%
[Fear] 30%
[Jeopardy!] backsolve
[Cash Cab] 80%
[Lest You Be] 25%
[Hashiwokakuro (Count your bridges)] 50%
[Disorientation] 100%
[Self-Referential Mania] 40%
[The Next Generation] 100%
[Space Sounds TV] backsolve
[Voltaik Bio-Electric Cell] 40%
[Laratel WF-15 Fusion Reactor] 70%
[Bloodroots] backsolve
[Flags o1 6ur 10the15] 70%
[It’s Not Easy] 30%
[Worldwide Contacts] 30%
[It’s Not Normal] 10% (eventually backsolved away)
[Texts From Mom] 40%
[Mass Aid] 2% (no pun intended)
[Is There a Draft in Here?] 30%
[10,000 Puzzle Tesseract] backsolve
[X Marks the Spot] 30%
[Go!] 5%
[Floor Drawing 305] backsolve (50%)
[Don’t Look] 75%
[Zelma & Frank] 10% (eventually backsolved away)
[Studies in Two-Factor Authentication] 50%
[Pestered] 100%
[All the Right Angles] 10%


Random teammate solving stats:

147 total puzzles – we solved all but 7 of them: Feeling Cross, Marked Deck, GRATIA PLENA, Little Passages, Middle of the Road, and two event puzzles. One of the event puzzles we apparently couldn’t figure out how to extract and the other event puzzle we apparently forgot to go to. Whoops.

Fastest solves: Kingler, 53 seconds, followed by Persian and Shelgon.

Fastest actual solves (the blank Pokemon ones kind of don’t really count):

Cross Words, 12:37.

What The…, 12:47.

Games Club, 17:36.

Roadside America, 18:54.

A Learning Path, 19:51.

Fastest non-Emotions round solve:

Studies in Two-Factor Authentication, 33:27. [11th overall] (fastest Hacking round solve)

Joyful Songs, 34:50 [15th overall] (fastest Pokemon round solve)

Stretching and Calisthenics, 39:38 [18th overall] (fastest Event)

The Next Generation, 45:31. [21st overall] (fastest Sci-fi round solve)

Deployment Challenge, 48:52 [23rd overall]

X Marks the Spot, 51:51 [25th overall]

Walk Across Some Dungeons 2, 1:38:58 [49th overall] (fastest Games round solve)

Slowest solves:

Blue Sun 6V4-178-B31 Compression Block, 60:53:05 (well, we bought it)

Floor Drawing 305, 38:34:13 (well, we backsolved it)

On the A Line, 37:46:07 (I think we backsolved it as well)

The Scouts, 31:19:24 (Ok, we didn’t backsolve this, but it’s a meta)




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