Puzzle Hunts: BANG 13

On October 29 2005, the team Whack-o-Lanterns had a fun time playing a treasure-hunt game. It was BANG 13, the 13th incarnation of the Bay Area Night Game. Team Get on a Raft with Taft ran it, mustering up an impressively fun set of puzzles and an impressively large volunteer labor force.

Team Whack-o-Lanterns consisted of Tom Lester, his sweetie Annie, our "ringer" Andrea Frome, her sweetie Pete, and me. Tom, Andrea, and I had all worked together back at Blue Mug, a now-defunct software development company. I'd played with Tom in Shinteki Untamed. I'd heard about Andrea's team's triumph in the inaugural Google Intern Scavenger Hunt. I'd met Annie before, but hadn't met Pete at all--and this was not the best venue for socializing, because we were working pretty intently for the next few hours.

Note to self: for the trivia puzzles, I should have had someone read the questions out loud so that anyone could bark out the answer. That's a way to get everyone participating together; and still a reasonably quick way to bring lots of disparate brains together to crunch down trivia. Might be faster just to have two-three people work on it. But faster isn't always funnest.

Perhaps the greatest personal triumph of this game: my pocketknife came in handy. Like, it was actually more useful than scissors. We had to carve pumpkins, and game control gave us one of those child-safe pumpkin carving sets. Safe, but slow. With the knife, I made some quick cuts. (Quick, but sloppy--the judges made us do a better job of rounding out our circles, and for that, we used the high-safety kit. Still, I think the knife helped us.) So now I don't feel like such a dork for carrying that thing around all the time (even if my cousin hadn't told me about the time she used one to free herself from a sealed-shut seatbelt).

Andrea was a puzzle-solving machine. Pete had some key insights--he kept saying strange words out of the blue, which turned out to be solutions. Tom and Annie huddled together over puzzles, cranking out solutions. I was useful for "rapid prototype" pumpkin carving.

The organizers tried out a new price structure for hints: free! Teams weren't penalized for taking hints. Andrea wasn't keen on the system--a team could win by just reading all of the hints. I liked the system--our team wouldn't feel obliged to struggle with any too-hard puzzles; and if some team surged ahead of us by taking lots of hints, that was fine with me.

Anyhow, I'm not going to write up a blow-by-blow of each puzzle; Taft-Raft honcho Ian Tullis is making noises about uploading the puzzles somewhere. (December 2005 update: he followed through!)

Dave Loftesness, chief team booster, took these photos at Yerba Buena Gardens:

[Photo: Team Whack-o-Lanterns is Ready to Roll. L to R, that's Pete, Andrea, me, Tom, and Annie] [Photo: Tom!] [Photo: Annie!] [Photo: Reading some Instructions]

I took some photos at Union Square:
[Photo: Pete Andrea and Annie @ Union Square] [Photo: Solvers] [Photo: Clue Hub]

Tom took some photos:
[Photo: at the Old Mint] [Photo: Team Whack-o-Lanterns at the Old Mint] [Photo: at the Metreon food court]


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