Cute Mage's Tower

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.

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.

I love illegal puzzles. When Palindrome won the 2021 MIT Mystery Hunt, I knew that I wanted to create a round of illegal puzzles.1 The wonderful thing about the MIT Mystery Hunt is that you have the freedom to explore without going all in and dedicating your entire hunt towards the mechanic. This desire for illegal puzzles led to my [REDACTED] theme query, and eventually towards the creation of New You City2 in 2022.

I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them since January. They are the soul of the 2023 Hunt, they do so many good things, and they were so fun to solve. But since I did just spend a year as a metapuzzle editor and trying to tweak rounds as much as I could, I can’t just shut that part of my brain off. I kept trying to edit the AI rounds.

Normally, I keep my editing opinions to myself3, but 1) I have this website explicitly to share some of them because people find them interesting, and 2) there is so much we can learn from what the rounds did right and what they did wrong.

So let’s be clear about this now - I’m going to have a lot of say about each AI Round. Some of which is going to be positive, and some of which is going to be negative. People tend to remember the negative critique more than the positive, so I’m going to be very blatant and up-front with this.


While I am going to critique them, there’s a couple points to consider with the critique:

Despite all those caveats, I think that this will be a useful set of analyses. Since the Mystery Hunt is run by different teams each year, the way that individual people get better is by analyzing Hunts that other teams have run.

That being said, this is not a series to blindly agree with6. This is a series to provoke thought. Don’t just agree with me - go down these lines of thought yourself. Think about what you agree with and what you don’t. I’m sure that teammate will have their own opinions. I can’t wait to see the discussions that come out of this.

– Cute Mage

  1. I mean, we didn’t have the name “illegal puzzles” for them, but the idea was the same. 

  2. You can certainly make an argument about how “illegal” the New You City puzzles are. That’s totally fair. The initial proposal was much more illegal. Perhaps that should be the focus of another blog post. Or perhaps a podcast? wink 

  3. Okay, except for maybe late nights at puzzle conventions when I’m delirious from exhaustion and have much less of a filter. 

  4. No duh, considering their name. 

  5. You will also notice that some of the critiques that I make can be turned back on the 2022 MIT Mystery Hunt, where I was a meta editor. The catch is that I was one of three people doing that job, and there were decisions that were made that I did not agree with7. Mystery Hunt is a team effort, and no one person can control that much. 

  6. I mean, I feel like you probably should never blindly agree with me. I may think about puzzle hunts more than other people, but I certainly have my own views and opinions and other people have good reasons to disagree with me. 

  7. If you want to be an effective team member of a hunt writing team, understanding your team politics and being diplomatic are two very important skills. I feel like team politics decided a not-insignificant amount of what I did in 2021.