Monday, May 19, 2008

The Washington Post Hunt 2008

Today Paul and I participated in the first ever Washington Post Hunt. The Hunt is a citywide brainteaser game created by the syndicated columnists Dave Barry and Gene Weingarten and the Washington Post editor Tom Shroder. These hunts have been going on in South Florida for the past 20 years and they finally brought one up to us.

The hunt is hard to explain, but the gist of it is that there are 5 puzzles out in the city, for which the answer to each is a number and each number is a clue to the final “end game” puzzle. Here’s an example from the Herald Hunt in 2006:

“Hunt staffers in golf attire handed out golf tees, notable only because they had the word “Fore!” printed on them. It was a “fore tee.” Looking on the clue list, Hunters saw that 40 was not a possible answer. But if they went to map coordinates 4-T, they discovered a leader board for a fictional Hunt golf tournament. The solution to the Puzzle was the score — 288 — of the only golfer with four Ts in his name: Eliott Tarantino.” For lots more example of past puzzles go to this website.

Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. So there are five puzzles like that around the city, then comes the endgame which is an elaborate second hunt that ultimately delivers a message that tells you what you have to do to win the whole contest. The endgame always begins with the 5 clues obtained from the 5 puzzles, for which they make no sense by themselves until the final clue is delivered 3 hours after the start of the game at the main stage. After that you have 30 minutes to solve a whole new and RIDICULOUSLY hard new set of puzzles.

People actually do solve them. We did not. Our game started out with our Washington Post Weekly Magazine, in which we found our game map and figured out the first part of each of the 5 map coordinates we were going to need. At noon we were given the second part of each of the coordinates and the game began.

Today’s puzzles were:
• Figuring out how to find numbers in a puzzle involving the Carnegie Library Building and the “Second Glance” puzzle in the Post Magazine.
• Translating Chinese characters related to the China Town Gate and figuring out the associated number.
• Linking a live comedy show with the Weekend Comics from the newspaper and finding the hidden numbers.
• Eating a fortune cookie and deciphering the fortune, flavor and then figuring out the number based on those facts.
• Watching the Nationals Presidential Bobble Heads plus a Buck run a race every 5 minutes and figuring out the number based on the results.

So we headed into the endgame thinking we had 5 correct answers with 5 correct but random clues (in reality we had 3 correct answers and 3 correct clues) and awaited the final clue to bring them all together. That clue was a prop of two large crossed swords on the stage. Paul got that one right away “Cross Words”. So for the next 30 minutes we tried to figure out what it all meant. Ha! We accidentally got near another endgame clue but didn’t understand it since we were working with the wrong clues, although even if we had the correct clues I don’t think we would have figured out all the remaining requirements since I can’t even begin to explain how to solve the last puzzle, even after it’s been explained to us. To see what the whole day was about and see the actual puzzles you’ll have to go to the Hunt website.

In the end, it was a very fun day and we think the people who actually won, cheated.

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