2019 MIT Mystery Hunt


I don’t have much personal commentary on the Mystery Hunt presented last weekend in Massachusetts. My participation in the content development was next to nil and I was two time zones away while my teammates on Setec Astronomy were answering phones, delivering puzzles, and staging dramatic interactions for the solving teams. I did manage to watch a live stream of the opening skit, in which my teammates declared Molasses Awareness Day to mark the centenary of the Great Molasses Flood in Boston’s North End. The new holiday caused havoc as waves of molasses flooded the other holiday towns, represented by figures from The Nightmare Before Christmas. The solving teams spent the weekend resolving conflicts between neighboring holidays, cleaning up molasses, and searching for a coin-like metal cover that would prevent more molasses from pouring out of the industrial portal of the newly formed Molasses Awareness Day Town.

Throughout the weekend I checked the progress screen to see how teams were doing. By Saturday morning, Left Out and Palindrome were the clear front runners with nearly identical counts of solved puzzles and metas. The horse race continued until Sunday afternoon when Left Out submitted correct answers to every puzzles and, in short time, solved the final meta resolving a dispute between New Years Town and Patriots’ Day Town. Forty-five minutes later, Left Out found the coin and saved the Holiday forest.

My brilliant teammates created an excellent set of puzzles, metas, events, and interactions, which can be accessed here. I want to single out one element of the Hunt for special praise. The holidays featured in the Hunt led to lighthearted puzzling and punny answers, but Setec Astronomy also noted that the weekend of the Hunt coincides with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Setec designed an event around MLK day but substituted the whimsy of the other Hunt holidays with a theme of service. Participants from the solving teams joined members of Boston’s Science Club for Girls to work on a science project in which they built foldscopes. I was very proud of this inclusion of service in the Mystery Hunt and hope that future organizing teams follow suit.

Congratulations to the amazing solvers on Team Left Out. Best wishes to you on the construction of the 2020 Hunt.