Cute Mage's Tower

My Puzzles Are So Gay

Okay, my puzzles are actually queer, trans, and sapphic, but that’s not as snappy of a title for a blog post.

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Are We There Yet?

It is not a novel criticism to say that the 2024 MIT Mystery Hunt went on too long. After all - any Mystery Hunt where the coin hasn’t been found by Sunday at 6PM has gone on too long. The easy criticism is to say that there were too many puzzles and that they could’ve cut a couple of rounds. However, there was another factor that played into the Hunt that left every team saying “Are We There Yet?”

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The Art Behind Puzzling

Poetry is words supercharged with meaning.

That’s a quote I learned from an English teacher in school. I don’t remember which one, and I don’t remember the context, but that quote has stuck with me for years. I remembered it because it explained why I was having trouble with writing poetry. I couldn’t quite figure out how to put that extra meaning in - but I also was having trouble expressing my emotions. I could write poetry that was humorous, but that’s about it.

Now that I’m older and I’m looking more into my emotions, I realize that the same is true with puzzles.

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Enigmarch 2024

Since 2022, a group of puzzle enthusiasts have created Enigmarch, aka “Inktober for puzzles”. The past two years, I have tried to make cool connected projects involving the Enigmarch prompts, but that’s not really what I should be doing. The idea behind the project is that you’re supposed to make a small puzzle each day. This year, I’m going to follow that. I have a loose meta to fill in, but otherwise I’m just going to try to make something bite-sized each day, but hopefully still interesting to puzzle enthusiasts.

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Solving Puzzled Pint

I missed Puzzled Pint this month, but I decided to record myself speed-solving this month’s set. I don’t know if I’m going to do other things like it, but hey, why not?

The video is after the jump.

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Things I Liked About the 2024 MIT Mystery Hunt

I’m loath to start traditions on this blog because it’s not meant to be any sort of regular content - it’s more here for when my brain decides to write 15 pages about a niche puzzle hunt topic. That being said, if there’s one tradition I’m happy to start, it’s a post talking about all the awesome stuff that I enjoyed from that year’s MIT Mystery Hunt.

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Crow Facts

Let me tell you a story about a MIT Mystery Hunt puzzle. The year is 2014. The round is Humpty Dumpty. A new puzzle unlocks with instructions to text a phone number. I take charge and start texting, not knowing that I was about to create a lifelong meme. This is the story of Crow Facts.

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First Day on the Job

I wrote an extravaganza! Are you ready for your First Day on the Job?

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How to How to Hunt

There are lots of puzzle hunts coming up this December, followed by the big one – the MIT Mystery Hunt – happening in January, which makes this the best time of year for learning how to solve hunt puzzles. This post is not for the people who are learning about solving puzzle hunt puzzles for the first time. This post is for the people teaching them.

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Vent Gas? Y/N

Puzzle hunts are incredibly emotional events. The feelings of the constructors shine through the puzzles, and the feelings of the solvers shine through the comments at the end. But how do we balance this when these emotions are seemingly at odds?

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AI: Jumping in the Wyrmhole

Astute readers will note that I have analyzed the other three AI rounds in descending order of how much I liked them. Conjuri’s Quest is my favorite, ABCDE was quite fun, and Ascent was good despite the metapuzzle and the overall hunt holding it back. Following this pattern, you probably have some guesses about how I feel about the Wyrm. It’s still worth looking into anyway.

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Just @ Me Next Time 17th Shard

This puzzle hunt retrospective is going to be a little bit different. I’m not going to pull this hunt apart, analyze the inner workings and tell you how awesome it is. I’m not going to go through and tell you all my favorite puzzles and some to skip. I’m not going to tell you about how my team did and what our status was throughout the weekend. I’m going to use this as an opportunity to tell you some stories. This hunt seemed perfectly constructed to be a nostalgia fest for me - and I spent the first weekend awash in my memory. Come join me on another trip through those stories.

It seems like an appropriate way to recap a puzzle hunt that is all about traversing an infinite library.

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Write More "Bad" Riddles!

Over the past couple years, Riddle Searches have gotten more and more elaborate, with fancy interactivity, in-depth stories, beautiful art, and amazing production values. Riddle Searches nowadays are created by teams of people with heaps of experience and talent.

But let’s remember - we don’t NEED all of that.

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AI: Straight Up

In a hobby with a ton of white cishet men, of course the round all about other cultures is the round that is solved by the least number of people.

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AI: Actually, Bootes Contains Deeper Enigmas, Friends. Go!

I will admit - I was fully not expecting there to be thirteen more puzzles and three more metas in this round. I was very shocked when I found out about the existence of Further Galaxies. But I guess that means that I need to follow up on my previous post.

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Spring 2023 Hunt Recap

A lot of puzzle hunts happened in the spring, and I keep trying to write full recaps for them. Then I remembered how much time I don’t have, so let’s do some shorter recaps instead and get this out.

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Jack Lance and the Harvard Riddle Search

Jack Lance died on May 1st, 2023. He was an absolutely brilliant man with an uncanny ability to just pull out puzzles from nowhere. I look up to him and admire him and he was taken from us too soon.

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AI: Admiral Bootes' Cosmic Definition Explanation

A fascinating idea
To take something oft ignored
And give it its own                     space.
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AI: Conjuri's Haystack

I love illegal puzzles, so I really loved the AI rounds, and I kinda want to dive into them. We’re going to start with Conjuri’s Quest. Not going to lie, this is my favorite of all four AIs. However, I’m also slightly biased because of my experience with this meta, which you’ll see at the end of the article.

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AI: Introduction

I have not been able to stop thinking about the AI rounds from the 2023 MIT Mystery Hunt. They were such a wonderful idea and we have so much to learn from them - both their successes and their failures.

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Things I Liked About the 2023 MIT Mystery Hunt

Back in January, I participated in the 2023 MIT Mystery Hunt, of which many gallons of digital ink have already been spilled. My big takeaway from the Hunt? If teammate had hit their editing targets, the 2023 Hunt would be talked about as one of the best MIT Mystery Hunts that had ever been written. That being said, this Hunt was still pretty freaking good, and I want to talk about the things I absolutely loved about this Hunt.

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Giving Feedback

Feedback is tricky to navigate in puzzle hunts. Theoretically, the idea of giving feedback is a good thing - even if the puzzle writer will never be writing puzzles in that context ever again, it still helps them grow their skills for the next time they write any puzzle. The problem is that most feedback given after a puzzle hunt is not useful.

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