Sunday, January 20 2019, A large fraction of team Left Out and team SETEC were crowded into a room in MIT's Stata Center. Team Left Out had just found the coin. Folks were milling around. Emotions were running high. Many of these Left Out people had been playing on the team for eight years or more, working up to this moment. At long last, they were seeing the payoff.
I wasn't milling around; I was staring into space, sketching plans. I was between jobs. As I had once before, I'd put off my job hunt with the excuse Maybe I'll be busy writing Mystery Hunt next year instead. This time, my procrastination had paid off. I was free to work on next year's hunt as much as I wanted. Now I wasn't so much staring out into space as looking around the room and shifting restlessly: I was ready to stop hugging, clean up our home base, and do some location scouting. I was ready to start on next year's hunt. We'd had four whole minutes to celebrate this culmination of years of effort; surely that was plenty? (It wasn't.)
The next day and the morning of the next-next day, I roamed the halls of MIT, taking pictures. (There was also an hour break in there for the wrap-up presentation… but mostly I was roaming and picture-ing.) In hindsight, this was not a great use of my time. I didn't really know my way around campus. I'd already roamed the halls taking pictures on Thursday. On Thursday, I had spotted and recorded all the places I'd end up using for puzzles in the upcoming hunt. On Monday and Tuesday, I spotted and recorded places that I failed to turn into puzzles. (In some cases, other folks on Left Out turned these places into lovely puzzles; but they did so without my help.)
In hindsight, I wish I'd asked my teammates about MIT sites they found interesting but didn't have ideas on how to puzzle-ify. I don't know if that would have led me to sites that I could have puzzle-ified. But it would have been better than my random Monday wandering, which found none.
I flew back to San Francisco. The team wasn't yet organized
enough for folks to start proposing and testing puzzles, but
there were things I could do on my own. I looked over my MIT
pictures, sketching out some mini-runaround ideas. I tested out
<canvas>-drawing ideas by
making a little RPG game, which I would later fail to turn into a
puzzle. But it wasn't useless: I learned enough about drawing
that did make it into the hunt,
Hmm, if I'm going to talk about what I did during 2019, I probably shouldn't just say "SPOILER REDACTED" when I want to talk about some puzzle I worked on. Here's a list of those puzzles. If you want to solve them before I spoil them, go ahead and solve them now. (If you don't care about spoilers, then continue to not-care and feel free to ignore this list.)
[SPOILER REDACTED]expert Shelly Manber)
When I say "The team wasn't yet organized enough for…" you might think we were starting from scratch; but that's not true. Some years before, the team had figured out the skeleton of the organization of a hunt-writing team. E.g., we'd already figured out that Corin "Corey" Anderson would be our fearless leader. So the good news was we didn't have to pick a leader in a hurry; we already had one. (The bad news was: Corey and wife Melinda had had a kid in the intervening years. So this was probably a strain on them. But for the rest of us, it was good news.) Skeptics might wonder: How much time did we really save by choosing a leader ahead of time? Keep in mind that we had plenty of detail-oriented nerds with opinions about different ways to run elections. (I count myself among those nerds.) Just picking the method to pick a leader could easily have taken us a month.
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