Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Washington Post Hunt 2012

This past June, for the third year, Paul and I participated in the Washington Post Hunt (we also participated in 2008 and 2011). It was great timing, Paul was home on his R&R from South Sudan, and we got back the night before from our fantastic week in Antigua. It was a great day for the hunt, and as has been our past experience it was ridiculously hard but we tried our best!

The Post Hunt is a citywide brainteaser game created by the syndicated columnists Dave Barry and Gene Weingarten and the Washington Post editor Tom Shroder. We woke up that Sunday morning and grabbed the Washington Post Magazine and flipped through to find the Hunt information.

Here was our map of the city sized game board we were going to be playing on.

Arriving at Franklin Square Park we found our competition. We sized them up and figured we were definitely going to win this year.

So at noon, the hosts of the hunt come on stage and give everyone the five map coordinates that will lead us to the five clues of the hunt. We have 3 hours to solve the clues (each solution is a number) those clues will be part of the larger "end game" clue, which is typically a completely unsolvable, ridiculously hard puzzle that is impossible except for those few teams that happen to have super brains and win the game. So with that in mind we head out.

First puzzle: We find an auctioneer of the "CIVIC auction" selling off the most bizarre set of items: a race car, kayak, level, and a pile of poop. As the auctioneer does his thing he sells off the items for specific amounts. One amount is $26,062. Notice anything similar about all these? They are all palindromes! So the answer is 26062, which matches one of the answers in the Post Magazine. Puzzle #1, we got it!

Second puzzle: We headed to the second coordinate point in the city and found a huge crowd surrounding a large inflatable bowling ball with 3 red arrows pointing west. People at this clue were also handing out clue's with the following information: Your first roll was pretty good, But some you didn't smite, Now you have to find that wood, Because what's left is right. So if you look at the map above in the first picture you will notice a red triangle, the arrows near the bowling ball pointed towards that red triangle on the map. Ah ha, these must be the pins. According to the clues handed out the bowling ball didn't knock down all the pins, so we had to go find out which pins were still standing.

We walked over every inch of that triangle and discovered large 7 foot pins standing in the 2, 6, and 8 positions. In the Post magazine 268 was an answer. Whoo hoo, second answer for the Dawn and Paul team! Told you we were going to win this thing...

Third puzzle: The next coordinates led us to Marshall Park where we found a statue of two men playing chess and hunt volunteers handing out a black and white 8x8 checkerboard with one box labeled "start".  We flipped through the Post magazine and found a page with the same 8x8 checkerboard with random letters in each box. As we stared at the two clues trying to figure out what to do next we (well okay, Paul) realized that a song was playing on repeat very loudly in the background -  Bob Segar's "Night Moves". Since Paul actually knows how to play chess he figured this one out quite quickly and from the starting box moved around the grid with the letters like a knight would move and spelled out FIFTEEN (15). Another answer in the magazine. 3 for 3! We are on a roll!

Fourth puzzle: Back at the main stage we find skit with a chicken, a dog, and a fox holding a torch plus a mouse moving around a person in a chair cursing. When the mouse would push him in front of the fox he would say "click" and a person would come on stage with a sign saying "where do you go now?"

Yeah, where the heck do we go now? We puzzled over this one for a long time we figured out that the mouse was a computer mouse and the fox with the torch was Firefox, but from here we were stuck. Turns out we were supposed to go back to the map and notice the Web (for the world wide web of course) and we were supposed to head to that point on the map. Once there we would have found a billboard with a variety of browsers listed. Mozilla Firefox was labeled as version 6.2. In the magazine, 62 was the right answer. We didn't get this one, uh oh...

Fifth puzzle: At the fifth map site, outside the Spy Museum, we were handed the clue pictured below. We thought we were being really smart about this one and we thought the red number was the V from the cover of the post hunt and the "dreaded" part was the Hunger Games theme. Yeah, we were WAY off base on this one! Turns out on the map there was a cartoon of a dentist with dreadlocks in a red shirt giving someone an injection of novacain. That was the dreaded, red, and the number was the map coordinates. If we had gone to that map site we would have been given a handout with cutouts which if we had put over top the clue would have spelled out: A H UND RED TH IR TY ONE. 131. Yup we had no idea.

So with the five, or maybe not five, answers in everyone's possession all competitors returned to the stage by 3pm to get the final clue for the end game. So if you thought that the above was easy, this is where it gets hard.

The five correct answers and their associated clues were:

15: When you know where to look, it's as easy as 340th, 343rd, 612th, and 660th. The just follow the instructions.
62: You completed your W-2 b4 U8 6Ps.
131: Even though b=9 and i=7 and x+z = 3, it's still fun to Google "Santorum."
268: The nerve beneath the twelfth thoracic vertebra (T-12) is almost entirely used for sneezing.
26062: Quoting the Book of Epididymus Ch. 6, Vs 16: Yea, and Noah did behold the pregnant dinosaur. And she was 12 cubits long. If he took her, there'd be no room for dogs and cats!

The final clue was "You may want to look for it where the sun doesn't shine". At this point, Paul and I had no clue so we hung around and just waited for the super brainiacs that were running around the city to return and tell us how the heck they solved this! It took a lot longer this year than it had in the previous years we've participated, it was over an hour before the first team returned with the solution. The solution to the end game is quite complicated so instead of me trying to explain it, go to the End Game solution page to see how it was done!

Another year of the Post Hunt for us! Someday we'll win...

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