Cute Mage's Tower

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.

This is part of a multi-part series analyzing the various AI rounds from the 2023 MIT Mystery Hunt and seeing what they can teach us about writing puzzle hunts in general.

They Did WHAT in the Middle of Hunt?

There are a lot of ups and downs from the 2023 MIT Mystery Hunt, but the place where teammate really earns my respect was the hard decisions and actions that they took during the Hunt. Having to make the decision on cutting a bunch of puzzles in the middle of the Hunt is really hard, both from a technological point-of-view and from an emotional point-of-view. They basically had to redo a lot of different settings for one round which is a ton of work - especially since they had to do a different map, which can be very finicky to make work. In addition, some of the finale had to be rewritten to reference different puzzles. That is a lot of tasks to accomplish in the middle of the Hunt, while still making sure that you are appropriately staffed for the rest of the Hunt. I’m not sure that Palindrome would have been able to do the same thing.1

Apparently the choice was between cutting the AI rounds entirely and cutting just these puzzles. I think I agree with the choices they made, but I can definitely see the argument for cutting the AI rounds and I wouldn’t have blamed them.

Killing your darlings is hard. Killing them after all the work has been done in them is harder. Killing them hours before they’re supposed to be released is even harder. Congrats to teammate for being able to do it.



First things first: DIGITTWODIGITZERODIGITZERODIGITONECOLONSPACEASPACESPACESPACEODYSSEY is absolutely hilarious. I will never be able to think about this title without “SPACE SPACE SPACE ODYSSEY’. Also, excuse me while I cross off “acrostic on Unicode” from my puzzle document.

Looking back at my definition of closeness from the previous ABCDE post2, I would describe ship as being closer than Space Modules. The thing that made it closer in my mind was the transformation that you had to do on the answers first - this really made it feel like the answers themselves were important and that you couldn’t just do any old answers to make it work..

Of course, closeness is not the only thing that determines how good or bad a metapuzzle is. To me, more important than that is how fun the puzzle is, and this puzzle is incredibly funny. Learning about the actual Unicode names of symbols was cool, and the strings that we got out were funny to say. In addition, extracting to the table flip emoji was very hilarious, especially since my team submitted it to something else during the hunt. Not every metapuzzle needs to be super hard or super artistic. Sometimes you just need comedy relief, and that definitely happened here.3

Space Place

A disclaimer before going into this - I don’t like logic puzzle metas. I generally find them annoying to partially solve and not an interesting use of the answers.

That being said, this meta seemed okay. There was some interesting logic here, but I also was solving it with all the answers. I would love to hear how people did it with not all of the answers.


This is a really cool metameta. The more I think about it the more I recognize how everything comes together. The first part references the arrow round, the second part references the ASCII art round, and the third part references the Unicode round. It’s a nice combination of all the weird parts of the previous rounds. It serves as a nice closure for the world, and the fact that it used the awesome ASCII art map elevates it.

Wrapping It Up

I kept expecting to have huge things to say about this round, but honestly, it lived up to the expectations that the ASCII art part set for it, and was pretty funny. Does this shoot it up past Conjuri’s Quest? No. But it was still pretty awesome.

I guess not everything has to teach us deep lessons about puzzle creation. Sometimes things are just cool.

Back to my Ascent!

– Cute Mage

  1. It was nontrivial to replace a broken puzzle in the middle of the hunt. Someday the original version of “I Don’t Have a Clue” will see the light of day. 

  2. I spend a lot of time thinking round and decide to use it to introduce a really important topic that was really important to me, and then teammate just releases thirteen more puzzles out of nowhere making some of what I said completely out of date. :dismay:4 

  3. The perfect example of this was the Graveyard meta from the 2015 MIT Mystery Hunt. It wasn’t the hardest meta, but it was hilarious when we figured out what was going on. 

  4. I’m not actually that mad, but it’s funny to pretend to be.