2016 Mystery Hunt – A Midwinter Night’s Dream

4. The Trivial Pursuits of Walter Mitty

What a weekend it was. Sixty-four teams of who knows how many people each all in Cambridge to solve the hardest puzzles of the year. When you think about it, it’s pretty crazy that the thing ever gets solved at all.

While I was a part of Team Luck, the writing team for this year’s Hunt, I sadly had very little to do with the writing of the puzzles. I did testsolve several of the puzzles involved, and now I’m still learning more about the puzzles that were released.

As the author and creator of the USC Puzzle Hunt, I guessed I was surprised that not more people on the writing team knows more of the answers/structure of the Hunt than they do. In order to have people “untainted” by answers, only a handful of people knew how most of the answers went. Hell, even the website was largely unseen by most of the members of Team Luck until weekend itself. But that was a huge gift.

Here is the website: http://huntception.com/ This is certainly worth your time exploring and discovering all the puzzles that were published and all of the amazing digital graphics employed to make this Hunt work. Rip van Winkle actually moves! The shower in the Pam Ewing round is actually running!

The overall theme of the Hunt is “simple” enough. What begins as a dog showed-themed Hunt (the MIT MUTTstery Hunt), turns into a Hunt where everyone is sleeping and dreaming Inceptionally. Each round involves a sleeper who must be woken with a kick. Each round’s meta was that kick, so KISS AURORA WITH GUSTO would be a kick for Sleeping Beauty, and DO COCONUT HOOFBEATS would be a kick for King Arthur. Once the rounds are solved, you solve a Limbo round, which lead to a final phrase ROUSE THE SLEEPERS NOW USE KICKS AT EXACT SAME TIME. At this point, the teams go on a final runaround, where they must use all the kicks previously learned, take pictures of them, and submit back to HQ. Eventually, the teams were led to the Alchemist, a noted statue at MIT in front of their student union, where it’s revealed that he was the one sleeping during this Hunt. The coin was found inside, and Setec Astronomy won 6:53pm Sunday evening.


This year’s coin (or token) was designed by Mark Halpin, and is certainly a beaut. The dog show runaround led to small coin earned by many teams, with the hilarious caption “Top Dog”, and the actual Hunt coin is larger, with the first one found in gold in the center.


This year’s Hunt ended at 6:53 pm, which by my notes is the fourth longest of all time (with 2013, 2009, and 2008 taking 1st, 2nd, 3rd, respectively). HQ was worried for a while, but everyone on the writing team came to the single collective thought that this Hunt’s length was fine. If this is a weekend dedicated to puzzles and puzzle solving, why should a winning team finish up in the wee hours of Sunday morning? Honestly, I like this ideology, since a winning team ought to have the grit to last to Sunday afternoon. 48 hours of intensive solving seems like the right amount of time needed to win the Hunt.

It’s definitely worth it to look at the tweets with #mysteryhunt (you may have to scroll past some unrelated stuff). Someone at MIT noted that there’s never been a hashtag that used only 3 days a year, but it used SO MANY times in that 3 days that #mysteryhunt. There was some criticism about the Hunt / HQ on Twitter during the event, but those criticisms were certainly not a part of the majority, and were the exception to the event.

Since all answer submissions to this year’s Hunt were submitted through Google Docs, we have the entire collection of everyone’s guesses. I operated the phones for most of the entire event, even having a stretch of 9pm to 6am Saturday-Sunday where essentially only Jeremy Horwitz and I were making the phone calls. My favorite answer of the entire event must have been a meta answer that was supposed to be AUSLANDER DINGOES, but the team instead submitted ASSLICKER DINGOES. Genius.

Also, check out the blogs of teammates Joseph DeVincentis and friend-of-the-show Tyler Hinman, as they recap the Hunt is several ways I didn’t in this post.

I’ll end with some more pictures, but for all of you who participated in the Hunt this year, I sincerely hope you enjoyed it, and I look forward to solving again when Setec Astronomy puts on the 2017 Mystery Hunt, which will presumably include Duck Konundrum VII.

Also, USC Puzzle Hunt will kick off March 21st, so keep your eyes on that site for more updates!

puzzles solved by team size



3. Escape from Mars (crowd)


I hope to post more concept art later. It should certainly be noted that one of the letters in that last picture is not the image that was used on the final website.

Oh, and that was me in the very first picture, where I was running the Sports and Leisure event at the “Trivial Pursuits of Walter Mitty” event, where teams had to volley a ping pong ball by spelling one letter at a time the answer to a trivia question.

Thanks everyone, and I’ll see you on Sunday!



3 thoughts on “2016 Mystery Hunt – A Midwinter Night’s Dream

    • Yeah, I should have said “recent memory” as in 10 years. My data only went back to SPIES. Also, I am so excited that all the finishing time data is in one place. I’ve been looking for that collected data for so long, and was tired of going to Hunt splash pages to gather them. Thanks for referencing it!


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