Puzzle Hunts: DASH 9 Fremont

Once again, I traveled to be a site-monitor volunteer for DASH, that puzzlehunt that takes place in many many cities on the same day. This year, I didn't travel so far: I crossed San Francisco Bay to Fremont. Things went pretty smoothly! The Fremont captain, Jennifer Chen, was on the ball.


We set up. We had some pretty snazzy equipment. Jennifer works in city government. For our opening skit, we wanted shovels as props: and we had shovels as props, gold ones, such as you might see in a groundbreaking ceremony. We had a battery-powered amp+wireless microphone set. We just had to flip some switches and suddenly had a pretty good P.A. system. Teams must have been pleased to actually be able to hear what GC had to say at the briefing.

Rich Bragg, of team Pretty Pretty Pandas and also of the ClueKeeper puzzlehunt-managing app showed me a new app feature for us folks watching clue sites: There was a new Live Status view that showed a nice view of just one puzzle at a time. So if you were monitoring a puzzle and wanted to know "which teams haven't picked up their puzzle yet?", it was now super-easy to figure out. I'd use this a lot over the course of the day.

The briefing had the usual announcements. But also a speech from Chris Willmore, this year's international DASH organizer. Teams then bravely put up with an introductory skit performed by Sean Gugler and me. This turned out OK because Sean has actual acting chops. So even though I'd only memorized the gist of my lines and wasn't delivering the exact cues Sean was waiting for, he adjusted smoothly

And then the ravening horde of teams rushed to pick up the first puzzle…

Puzzle 1

Jennifer delivered GC site monitors to sites by driving us. There was so much game equipment in her car that she couldn't take many of us at a time. Thus, while she delivered the puzzle-2 monitors, us puzzle-3 monitors had some free time to watch teams solving the first puzzle.

Puzzle 3

Jennifer delivered Sean and me and the puzzle to our puzzle site: A shiny piece of public art called "Unity". In the story of the game, this was apparently a radio telescope.

Sean kindly showed me how the puzzle worked. (This year, I hadn't had a chance to see the puzzles ahead of time; I was flying blind.)

The first team to show up was Red'oh. This was partly because they were smart at solving puzzles. But also partly because they'd brought scooters. Thus, they took less time to get between puzzles than other solvers. They showed up, solved, and left before other teams arrived.

Then the other teams came in waves. Sean and I handed out puzzles by the armful.

By the time things calmed down, Team Red'oh was getting close to another site. Sean scrambled off to be there to hand out puzzles for them.

Jennifer drove up to leave Puzzle 8 with me. According to the plan, I was supposed to help monitor Puzzle 7. But Jennifer wasn't goofing up here. She was staying one step ahead. She drove off.

I'd given out my last puzzle at this station, but many teams were still here solving. Normally, I'd stick around to help some newbie teams get un-stuck. But… Red'oh was solving Puzzle 7. Oh man, those scooters. I hurriedly shoved all of my equipment into bags, loaded up, and scurried over to the site of Puzzle 8.

Anyhow, if you're wondering why so few photos from Puzzle 3: I didn't have much opportunity to just hang around and snap pictures, sorry.

Puzzle 8

The site for Puzzle 8 was a pretty awesome wavy-roof pavillion. Eventually, I'd have a chance to appreciate it. But when I first arrived, I was frantically hauling stuff out of bags, arranging puzzles, and failing to find a team sign-in sheet. A message came in via group text: Team Red'oh had finished Puzzle 7 and was on their way over. I took time to compose a joke-y reply: "In a few seconds, I will be red'y." Auto-correct didn't like "red'y" so I wrestled with that a bit, pressed Send and… Red'oh were walking up. I didn't have a few seconds. Those scooters.

I gave up on finding a clean team sign-in sheet and just made a new column on the Puzzle 3 sheet. Soon Red'oh were solving. I watched them solve so I could learn how the puzzle worked. They scooted off. I texted the group: was anyone at the last clue site to give Red'oh their last clue? Somewhere, Jennifer was hopping into her car to drive there. All of GC was now "locked" in place until teams at some early clue sites finished up.

I sat and solved the puzzle. (By watching Red'oh, I'd seen how the puzzle worked overall, but I didn't know the details.) Partway through, Team Burninators showed up. So I tried not to listen as they solved. Though I had a head start and knew how the puzzle worked, they still solved it faster than I did: Dan Egnor figured out a shortcut. So I sat and solved. And they sat a while and finished filling in their puzzle, figuring out what they'd missed by shortcutting. They wandered along to the last puzzle.

Over the course of the afternoon, more teams showed up. But they'd spread out. They didn't show up in big waves, just one at a time, occasionally. So I had time to wander around, snapping photos.

Towards the end, I helped un-stuck some rookie teams who didn't know much about SPOILER REDACTED. (There were instructions in the puzzle specifically to help such rookie teams. But SPOILER REDACTED are so complex that those instructions were a lot to hold in mind.)


And then the last team was done. I packed up and headed to the last location. There were congratulations. Nothing had caught fire. Chris' phone had run out of battery a few hours ago, but until then the only thing that had gone wrong is that London had received Enschede's instructions, and game control had fixed that quickly. Sean would stick around at the last location in case any of the still-solving Fremont teams got stuck. Everything was under control.

Getting away was complicated by some BART rail repairs, but was still easier than, y'know, dealing with modern-day USA airports. Soon I was home.


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