is a puzzlehunt answer-checker app. Game Control tells the
app about the hunt's answers and hints. Players run the app. They can
use it to check answers. The app does time-release hints. If you're
running a hunt, you can
At GC Summit,
Rich got hauled up to give an update on ClueKeeper.
He mostly announced things
that have, in the months between the talk and this write-up, already come
- Reduced rates for labor-of-love games. Regular pricing
is aimed at professional hunt runners.
But folks Cluekeeper's authors play in (and love and want to help)
DASHes, etc., that don't charge so much.
Running a game like that? Talk to Cluekeeper folks before you
decide you can't afford it.
- It's not just for one-time events. Cluekeeper knows about some
"permanent" puzzlehunts you can play.
If you're going to, say, Philadelphia, you can check the
list of hunts,
buy the Philadelphia one, then spend a few hours wandering around
and solving. Or if you're a puzzle constructor, you can
write a hunt in your hometown and let Cluekeeper handle
Still, there are some things you can learn by
- Bob Schaffer described how ClueKeeper made his life easier for running
Elevate Tutoring puzzlehunts:
Instead of worrying about logistics of scoring, he can concentrate on
- Todd Etter asked if ClueKeeper might be a way to "archive" past hunts
that used locations. And the answer is: yeah, with the caveat that
(so far, mid-2014) ClueKeeper's doesn't deliver those gnarly multi-media
puzzles. But if you have folks print out materials ahead of time,
that could still work… But is that the best experience? Dunno,
it's new ground.
Hunt Q&A", an unplanned Q&A session with
captain of the team that ran the
Alice Shrugged MIT Mystery Hunt
This here is my notes. [My rambling asides are in italics] and I take some pretty egregious summarize|rephrase|totally-change-meaning liberties with other folks' words, too.
at this here link.
- Q: (Melinda Owens) In case not everyone read your
Mystery Hunt Design Philosophy blog post,
could you summarize it?
- OK, so the Mystery Hunt isn't a west-coast-style puzzlehunt
- The players aren't only those 100+-person teams you keep hearing about.
Many teams are of the form "8 freshmen in a dorm who don't know
what a puzzle is"
- We made a conscious decision to optimize for small teams.
Recent hunt escalations have concentrated on keeping 100-person-teams
fully occupied. One sad side effect of that: half of the teams, these
small teams, don't even solve one meta. [MIT Mystery Hunts tend to
be organized in rounds of puzzles, with a meta at the end of each round.]
- We set up our first round of puzzles to be new-team-accessible.
Huge experienced teams blew through it Friday afternoon.
Small new teams spent most of the weekend on it—but probably
got through it.
- It's the MIT Mystery Hunt. [few minutes' pause as the video
conference link breaks and folks debug. around the 5:00 mark, we're
talking even though the link's not back, but the subject's changed]
- Yeah, so we had this lobster quadrille event
- (Melinda) Did people respond positively to that? The folks our team
sent to that came back saying it wasn't even a puzzle.
- camera jostles (Linda) We're not having any technical problems.
- You know, back in the day, puzzlehunts had mixer events. They were just for hanging out. But then
folks made it an easy puzzle. And you know how the Mystery Hunt
- (Melinda) It would have been nice to know it was going to be social
instead of puzzl-y. Like, to say "send the funlovers, not the
- (Jasters) It's weird that Mystery Hunt always has to be so mysterious.
It would be great to give that guidance, but it would break tradition.
- I don't know why that is.
- (beardy Manic Sage MIT Mystery Hunter who I think maybe said his name once
but now I've forgotten) You kind of want to make people attend the
event. So if you want to make sure they attend and pay attention,
you have to either have them solve the puzzle right there or else
make darned sure they have the information they need to solve the
puzzle back at their headquarters.
- Maybe it's because our team hearkens back to the
events-aren't-tough-important-puzzle days, but we generally send our
freshmen to events. "Someone has to go to this event. You, you in the
corner. You go."
- (someone) (indistinct) worked well. Everyone was collaborating on
one puzzle. But everyone who didn't want to work on the puzzle
could just eat breakfast.
- (12:05 mark: the video conference is working again. much rejoicing)
- As long as we finally have Portland and Seattle back, any questions from
- (voice) Seattle humbly points out you could use
- Q: (someone remote) It wasn't just the hunt itself that was run
so well. There was also all this stuff around the hunt. Like surveys
to rate the puzzles. And a tumblr went up right after. All these things
the running team kinda wants to do, y'all actually got them done.
What kind of planning did that require?
- The tumblr was Laura. Jamie made our answer-checker software, and he
thought the surveys would be a good idea, so he added them.
- It's too bad you have to write so much software from scratch for each
hunt. There's puzzletron at the core, sure. But there's so much
game logic to deal with, you have to code it up.
- Q: (Todd Etter) What was the sequence of steps for making a puzzle and
mixing it into this beast.
- First a month of deciding on the theme.
- Then figuring out the structure of puzzle rounds
- Write the metapuzzles. [It's the MIT Mystery Hunt, there will be metas]
The metapuzzles lock down what the answers to the "regular" puzzles
- Now ready for puzzles. So solicit puzzle ideas.
- Each nascent puzzle is assigned some editors to shepherd it through the
- If a puzzle idea gels into something solid, Erin gave them an
answer-message. (there's some back-and-forth. if the puzzle's
baseball-themed and there's an unclaimed baseball-themed answer)
- Q: (Melinda Owens) What fraction of the folks who were on your
2013 winning team slunk away from helping run the 2014 game?
- Let's see. In 2013, our team mailing list had 150 people. But on
2013 game day, only 120 people logged into the wiki, so figure 30
of those didn't even show up to play.
- 102 people piped up saying that they wanted to help write the 2014 hunt.
80 people either wrote something, testsolved something, and/or showed
up on hunt weekend.
- There was a core of 30-40 people who were active all year: making
stuff, editing stuff, testing stuff.
- Back in 2004, we'd experienced that attrition; also we'd been warned
to look out for it by the Manic Sages. A lot of people, emerging from
the hunt in January think "That was fun, I'm gonna write eight
puzzles! But in February, they've figured out "This is hard!
Well, see ya next January."
- Q: (Wei-Hwa Huang) It seemed like this hunt tried to
reverse the recent Mystery Hunt more-more-more-puzzles escalation.
It felt like instead of pushing the envelope of quantity and wackiness,
this hunt went for solid robustness. Was that a conscious choice?
- Our goal was to make a hunt that was fun, not frustrating.
- For this, we relied on testsolvers: if they didn't like a puzzle,
it had to change. So an idea so wacky that testsolvers couldn't
get a toehold would change.
- Q: (Linda Holman) Did anyone help write this hunt that wasn't
part of the 2013 winning team?
- It was all people from the winning team. You earn your right
to run the game by winning the previous year's game.
- [aw dang. I don't like the sit-and-solve hunts so much, but I do enjoy
- (beardy Manic Sage MIT Mystery Hunter who I think maybe said his name once
but now I've forgotten) Manic Sages let some folks help out who weren't
part of of the winning team—but only if they were "team regulars"
who just happened to miss that year.
I picked up this anthology of essays because it showed up in an author search for Michael Anti. Thus, I expected to have my pro-free-speech views reinforced. It turns out that Anti wrote just one essay in the collection; and there's a variety. Thus I learned some things. Including…
- I read about the case of Wu Ying, who entrepeneur-ishly raised money for a business venture. But in China's waffling-between-Communist-and-Capitalist situation, she found investors, but then got sentenced to death for finding them. That death penalty was overturned.
- I read "A New Approach for Stability Preservation," by Pan Ying. This essay makes the case for cracking down on people who post on the internet to point out corruption. It wasn't convincing, but it's always interesting to see how the other side frames the argument.
Behold, it is my write-up of Shinteki Decathlon 9! Read them to gain great insight into puzzlehunting a la "Oh man I wish the Army Corps of Engineers would install air conditioning in the Bay Model." Uhm, and there are some bits that don't sound quite so whiny as that.
It's Martin Gardner's autobiography. It's about his life. It's not about logic puzzles, tricks with matchsticks, or computer simulations. Those are things he wrote about. His autobiography is about the life that happened in between writing articles. There's academic politics, writing some not-so-interesting articles before stumbling into recreational mathematics, meeting magicians and others which would eventually lead to material. Through it all, Gardner's curiosity shines through, along with his ability to find a diamond of interesting-ness in a rough of noise.
Posting this just in case it shows up later as a Shinteki puzzle site, you know?
It's a book about how to make crossword puzzles (and other word puzzles) from 1995, a revision of a book first written in 1981. It's about how to make (and edit and market…)
crossword puzzles by hand. Back in 1995, that's how you made crossword puzzles. There were just barely some computer programs coming along that would help you figure out which words you could use to fill in that □□Z□□E□□K□□ in your grid.
Why read this book now? Nowadays, when I want to make a crossword puzzle, I load up Crossword Compiler, click a button, and let the computer fill in my grid with answers that, y'know, cross. (OK, I'm exaggerating the ease. Since I work on puzzlehunts, I make puzzlehunt-ish crosswords, by which I mean "gimmick crosswords". To make the gimmick work, I probably need to do some prep. Like if the gimmick is something numeric such that LONDONENGLAND should be written in the grid as LOND1NGLAD and FORTWORTH as FOR2RTH, I have to start by constructing a word list so that Crossword Compiler understands that, for this puzzle, LOND1NGLAD is a valid answer.) This book has plenty of advice that I won't use. E.g., when fitting answers into a crossword puzzle by hand, favor answers that alternate vowel/consonant, since these tend to fit into crosswords better. That's a good rule of thumb when you're working by hand and using your brain; but when a computer can try all the possible "crossings" in a minute, it's less useful. And yet, this book's still useful today.
Crossword puzzle fans will point out a flaw in my reasoning above, and in so doing point out the first useful thing I learned from this book. Crossword puzzle fans will point out: The best crossword puzzles are hand-constructed. So the whole premise of saying that the book might not be useful since it concentrates on by-hand puzzle construction must be wrong. Well… yes and no. I make crosswords that will be used in puzzlehunts. People don't complete these crosswords. They fill in a third of the answers, someone sees F□□R■N□M□D■S□□P in the diagonal, figures out that's FOUR-NAMED SOAP, and folks set aside the grid, figure out DAYS O4 LIVES and… Darned few folks will go back, look at that grid, fill the rest in, and tut-tut over mediocre word choices. I can get away with some things that I couldn't if I were a professional puzzle constructor trying to sell stand-on-their-own-merits crosswords to Will Shortz. And this book told me something I didn't know about making crosswords by hand: even if I were to get good at it, it would still take a really long time to make one puzzle. The book doesn't really point this out explicitly, but you can't help but notice the word "hours" popping up. Hours for this stage of construction; hours for that stage.
With practice, crossword construction gets easier, but it doesn't get easy. Good to know. If you don't plan to make enough crosswords in the future to justify training up, need a high-quality grid, and you value your time, maybe you should hire a pro.
But even if you're just jockeying a computer, this book will help. It has advice on what to do if you get partway through constructing a puzzle and it's just not coming together. This happens on the computer, too; it's just faster. Sometimes you choose a grid, lay in your theme answers, press the "fill" button and… the computer gives up. Or it generates something that's bad even by my low standards. Maybe you can salvage your idea by tweaking the grid: when you laid your theme answers into that arbitrarily-chosen grid, did that mean the computer was going to have to choose a word ending in J? Maybe you should figure out a grid layout that puts that J at the start of a word instead. (Crossword Compiler does a great job of "trying all the words" to find those that will fit into a grid; it doesn't have a notion of "trying all the grid layouts" to find one that will work best with a set of theme answers.)
This book talks about the core of puzzle construction; even though I skimp on the details of exquisite puzzling, there was stuff in here I could use. And if you're a by-hand puzzle constructor (or if this book inspires you to become one), there's even more good advice.
"I'll keep this simple. One of you is a real human cop—and one of you is a robot. Only we don't know which is which!"
THIS every-state-in-continental-USA driving route is even MORE optimal (if you're optimizing for Scrabble).
Just started reading this GC Writeup from Wartron Boston