Players are told of a bug infestation in their current location. They must search the location to find 16 puzzles to solve; the solution to each puzzle is the name of a bug. Players must write these bug names on blanks on a provided answer sheet. Letters in highlighted blanks spell a special instruction, and after completing the instruction players can discover what they need to get rid of all the bugs.
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My game parties of the early 2000s were modeled after evening programs at a National Puzzlers’ League convention: three short group games featuring some combination of trivia, wordplay, or groupthink. In 2007 I decided to try a puzzle hunt, inspired by similar hunts I’d played at NPL Conventions and other places. I chose to host the hunt in my condo so I could serve my usual buffet and cocktails and also have the option of presenting a bonus group game if the hunt finished quickly. The condo setting made me think of domestic hunt themes, eventually leading to the appealing image of players in the roles of amateur exterminators. I chose SWAT TEAM as the final answer phrase and created a meta in which players would use a hole punch to remove red bugs from the answer sheet, overlay the answer sheet on the instruction sheet, and read the answer in the holes. The instruction phrase HOLE PUNCH RED BUGS contains 16 letters so I made a list of 16 bugs containing the necessary letters and set about making a puzzle to go with each bug.
Because many of the party guests were beginning puzzlers I made many of the puzzles easy, such as a letter maze spelling the answer LOUSE or a simple picture clue of a Volkswagen BEETLE. My iPod contained directed players to a song clip from “High Hopes” (ANT) and a business card labeled EXTERMINATE included my cell number with a voice-mail message telling callers to delete four letters from the card. Many puzzles were placed in appropriate places of the condo: a GRASSHOPPER recipe on the bar, a MOTH ball scent-identification puzzle in the clothes closet, and a picture of a ukulele set on top of a large dictionary open to the page with the definition (and etymology) of the word “ukulele.” Some of the puzzles were a bit more challenging but I was liberal with hints and teams were able to deduce the meta instruction with a few missing bug names. The difficulty was pitched at a proper level and players all enjoyed trying a variation on the traditional party game format.