NATIONAL DENTURE: BRIDGE TO THE PAST
Teams are sent on a quest to find the lost wooden teeth of George Washington. Each team starts with a map with locations marked as brands of candy. Puzzle answers suggest the candy locations and help teams navigate a trail. Solving the all of the puzzles yields a clue to a final location, where teams can discover the missing dentures as well as a deep dark secret about the Father of Our Country.
* * *
National Denture was played by the Operations staff of my then employer Dex Media in November 2009. Management learned of my interest in puzzles and commissioned me to create a puzzle hunt as a Halloween team-building event. The hunt was designed to use locations around our office building, with the false teeth hidden in a box in the third-floor library. Participation in the hunt was not mandatory and the response was weak during the initial sign-up phase. But management cajoled employees into participating and offered mp3 players as prizes. Ten four-person teams ultimately competed.
I chose subject matter for the puzzles based on topics that I thought coworkers would enjoy such as popular culture and sports, while minimizing wordplay challenges. I also emphasized that I would be willing to confirm answers and give hints in a generous manner. A puzzle involving U.S. presidential trivia prompted the most hint requests. The top team, which prophetically gave themselves the nickname at the outset “The Winners,” recovered the false teeth in about 20 minutes without a single hint. The lower-ranking teams were put in a raffle for bonus prizes, and everyone received Halloween candy and souvenir teeth.