Some puzzlehuntists at work had gotten to talking, and then yesterday I noticed a tweet:
May's Mastermind Pub Hunt is tomorrow night! We'll be exploring the Hayes Valley/Civic Center area of SF. Please... fb.me/HQBKiGvv— Mastermind Hunts (@Mastermindhunts) May 13, 2013
Wow, a chance to try one of their games, two blocks from the office. Co-worker Tiffany was game to try it and her friend Andrea was going to visit to play board games... but we wheedled her into puzzlehunting instead.
This was not so difficult. Andrea's a puzzlehuntist. (Her husband proposed to her via a puzzlehunt, something which I've stopped thinking of as super-unusual, but rather as sweet. As someone wise once said, a hunt with an audience of one isn't a totally new idea.)
And so we trundled over to Civic Center plaza with its many flags. The Masterminds, Rob and, uhm, the guy who I didn't talk to as much as Rob told us the deal. They were going to give us a sheet of paper with four puzzles and a meta. Each of the regular puzzles solved to a location and had instructions on data to gather from that location.
They told us that usually the end location was a pub; whichever team finished first had a round on GC. This time, the end location wasn't a pub, but they thought we might like it anyhow.
They gave us puzzlesheets. They loaned us clipboards and pencils. And the frenzy was upon us.
I did some anagram-and-add-a-letters to get a street intersection; or rather the first three letters of each of the two streets. We Googled to get some trivia that turned out to be about Fulton; our instructions told us an address to go on that street. I wasn't involved with the other two puzzles: some tricky wordplay that would only work for the right street intersection; so you had to look over the neighborhood map to figure out streets that would fit the constraints. And, given three crosswordish clues, guess three rhyming words; cross them out of a big string of letters to reveal a location in the remaining letters.
The first location we went to was a photography exhibit in the library basement. This turned out to be lucky: the data we gathered here was about half of what fed into the meta.
I should explain the meta. This was important. This was like a wordsearch, except you found words bogglewise. The leftover letters would spell out our end location.
Andrea figured out our end location based on the half of the data we'd got from the library. This meant we could be smart when we picked out our route for the next locations: we knew where we wanted to end up.
(Did I mention that over the weekend I did Mastermind's Riddles of Pier 39 Treasure Hunt? Except I didn't go to Pier 39. Instead, I backsolved from the metapuzzle with the aid of the puzz wordsearch solver. I was kind of glad that the Hayes Valley hunt was handed to us instead of downloaded; it forced us to get out and about.)
Andrea's meta-solving didn't just get us moving in the right direction, it also got us moving faster. We were suddenly rather motivated: the end location was Smitten Ice Cream. At least two of us weren't drinkers, and ice cream sounded a lot better than some pub. We actually wanted to win now. After all Smitten was special, a place to drag visiting out-of-towner ice cream fans.
So we were back in the frenzy, walking fast, trying to figure out when traffic would let us cross busy streets. Hustle, hustle. Get to the spot, find the data, cross it out in the grid. Hustle, hustle. Do it for ice cream.
Reader, we came in first. It had taken us about 45 minutes. (Thus, while it was fun, I was glad that none of us had, say, driven an hour from south bay just for this; if you're going to travel from a distance, probably want to plan to have dinner in the neighborhood or something so you don't feel like you're spending all your time traveling. Tell your SF friends that they should take you out to dinner or something.)
We had a chance to chat with the organizers as we ate our hard-hustled-for ice cream. I asked about corporate team-building hunts. Did companies ever want any psychological team-building stuff? Any specific team-ish things to concentrate on? (I was remembering playtesting a Dr Clue activity which was supposed to point out the value of some particular aspect of teamwork.) But no, most teams just wanted an excuse to get out of the office for a few hours.