Comment: Puzzle Hunts

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Here are some comments which people sent in about Puzzle Hunts

My (Larry's) replies appear like this.
Jeff Phillips 2008 Apr 12 Midnight Madness Photos


Nice filename :-)


Hey, someone caught it!

El Atomico 2006 Dec 06 Puzzle Hunts are Everywhere, even Phinney Ridge

?Hola Larry Hosken!

Just a note to say "Hola" now that we each have links to each other. I actually remember sitting across from you on the train back from Hogwarts but I was a little too conked-out to make any friendly chit-chat. Regardless, our first Bay-area game was a lot of fun and it'd be cool to make it down there for another event, so perhaps we'll meet up again one of these days.

Also, just curious: how specifically did you know my neighborhood was called Phinney Ridge? Are you familiar with Seattle-area neighborhoods or...?

~El At?mico (a.k.a. Jeff)

?Viva Los Jefes!

Darcy Krasne 2006 Nov 10 Hogwarts writeup

I've been reading through your Hogwarts writeup -- ever so fun, as usual. A few things that I wanted to comment on:

Team Lowkey really does have a Real Graphic Designer. Jen, one of their members, is a Real Artist. Hence their awesome coat of arms. :)

You think we didn't find any appropriate Weasley fanfiction? Well, we were actually looking for fanart, and we found *lots* of it. But we decided at the last minute that it was just possible that some people might have more delicate sensibilities than the two of us, and then Ian also got worried about the fact that, technically, it might constitute child porn. Despite the fact that he'd plastered dour faces of Queen Victoria over all the naughty bits. So no calling cards. ;)

Err, there might be other things, but I need to go to sleep now instead of continuing to read.

You kids keep your pants on or someone might see your Victoriae!

Rich Bragg 2006 Nov 04 nice hogwarts writeup

Hi Larry,

I enjoyed your writeup on Hogwarts, nice work. Curious about this, though, in reference to us "a team to whom I was already in Karmic arrears."... Dare I ask what this refers to? :)

By the way, about the phone call, no worries about the delay. We were having a really hard time getting phone reception and were happy just to get any connection at all. :)


You'll get yours someday, Bragg.

Jonathan McCue 2006 Sep 03

Hi Larry,

I have only recently become aware of the Game and other puzzle hunt activities and am very anxious to make up for lost time. I was able to participate in the Shinteki: Decathlon II event (as Better Late Than Never) and in BANG 16: The Amazing BANG (as Total Perspective Vortex Survivors) however I was much too late to sign up for the upcoming Hogwarts Game.

In my search for all things Game-related, I came across your web site and have enjoyed many of your puzzle hunt stories but it was your first such tale that has sparked this email. In it, you described your own beginnings in puzzlehunting and how a fellow Gamer took pity on you and allowed you to join their team. In the spirit of karmic rebalancing, I was hoping that you might be willing to help me catch such a break.

I have subscribed to both the Orkut and Yahoo! Game groups but my membership is still pending and so I cannot read or send any messages. I realize that the Hogwarts Game starts in less than a week and that there is only the slimmest chance that a team will have an opening, much less be willing to chance a newbie, but it pains me to think that I am missing some opportunity. Has any team posted about having room? And do you have any advice on how I might best put out some feelers without being rude?

Thank you,

Jonathan McCue

Here's what I wrote back to Mr. McCue:

To answer your literal question: how to inquire about Hogwarts openings w/out being rude, I would suggest:
+ Posting something on the Orkut forum and
+ Using the Hogwarts "Contactus" form to ask Game Control if they know of any teams with openings.

I doubt that these will yield anything, though. The Hogwarts game is relatively small, and it's tight. Game Control accepted fewer-than-normal teams, and slapped on a maximum team size of six. Some teams didn't make it in--too late. And people on those late teams called up friends on other teams, asking to join up. So teams that did make it in probably don't have open slots. Mystic Fish didn't make it in to the Hogwarts Game-- and I don't think any of us schmoozed our way onto other teams, unless you count me--but I schmoozed my way onto a play-tester team.

I guess I'm saying that even if it turns out that you don't make it into the Hogwarts game, don't get discouraged. Most games are not this hard to get into. Even if you read my early stories of playing these games, you _won't_ see a story from me about the Genome Game. Why not? Well, that game was smaller than most. Even though I was a provisional member of Mystic Fish by then, I still had to sit out that game because there wasn't room for me. Subsequent games have been bigger, though. Uhm, except Hogwarts.

Anyhow, I think I'm drifting off-topic. It sounds like you're doing the right thing--you're playing BANGs, playing Shinteki. I suggest schmoozing with other teams, letting folks know that you're interested in playing in longer games, letting them see what a reasonable person you are--just the sort of person they'd want to spend 36 hours with in a van.

> I have subscribed to both the Orkut and Yahoo! Game groups

Are you sure that you joined the Orkut group? When I look at your profile, it doesn't show any groups. You might want to try that again.

Anyhow, good luck getting into the game! If you make it in, let me know. I'll be volunteering with GC, and I'll keep an eye out for you.

Curtis Chen 2006 Aug 17 Decathlon 2: Signs of the Times

JPT called this one "cobra milking," but I thought a better caption would have been "blowing the question."

Thanks for another great writeup!


There were a couple of kids playing in this game. Maybe the JPT organizers were trying to keep things clean.

Philip Dasler 2006 Aug 07 Austin Puzzle Hunt

Because he's a sweetie-pie Philip Dasler started by pointing out that I'd made a mistake: I'd talked about a treasure hunt "in Austin", but really it was in Auburn. Even better, he wrote about some puzzle hunts that really were in Austin:

There have been a few puzzle hunts run here in the past. Matt Stephens ran them as an initiation for his fraternity while he was at the University of Texas. After graduating, he began a company ( and ran a handful of Puzzle Hunts here, calling them Midnight Madness. He has not done one in over a year though, and I am unsure as to whether or not he plans on doing any in the future. I, on the other hand, am looking into putting one together. I would love to be able to create a puzzling community similar to the one you enjoy on the west coast.


Probably a good first step would be to convince Auburn's puzzling community to move to Austin. Then it would be easier to get "quorum" for puzzling events. And I wouldn't need to worry about mixing up the names of those cities anymore.

Jessica Lambert 2006 Aug 3 Smiley Seattle people

"Maybe this one Seattlite was so glad to escape the drizzle that they reacted to this heat with joy instead of lethargy."

Nah, we were busy escaping the 90+ degree heat up north. I think it was hot everywhere that weekend. But hey, free ice cream - who wouldn't react with joy?

It's weeks later as I write this, and I'm still so happy about that ice cream.

Ian Tullis 2006 Aug 2 Decathlon report

Hiya, Larry,

What I actually said at the Rose Garden was something like, "pay no attention to this time sheet", because I was sitting there recording arrival times. The Shinteki time sheet was highly inconsistent with my professed coincidental presence, so I thought I'd throw you off the trail, see.

I enjoyed the writeup, as always. I had even talked with Darcy about deliberately doing something wacky when you showed up, just so I would go down in the annals of Game history.

- Ian

Volunteering at a game is probably wacky enough to make it into one of my write-ups. That, and I need to know your name. Who was that guy at Indian Rock?

Ian Tullis 2006 Apr 18 how did it go?

Hey, Larry,

Thanks for forwarding the Mystic Fish e-mail, and for honoring us with one of your great write-ups. I was glad to see that my reference to you in the hints didn't weird you out or anything (apparently Wei-Hwa wasn't particularly amused by the existence of a Wei-Hwa module in the Sudoku puzzle), and that you weren't too spooked by the state of our house (we thought of putting a simple puzzle on the ducks on our shower curtain that would have resolved to "SORRY OUR BATHROOM IS JANKY".)

It's also hilarious that you were the one who ended up getting the one Palm that was displaying the end location. I had literally just finished programming the master Palm, and in my sleep-deprived state, I said, "OK, we're about ready to start handing out Palms", which Darcy reasonably took as a signal to actually start handing out the other Palms, many of which were blank or had been used in playtesting or contained a silly fake Game that I had been using to amuse Darcy. (It was one puzzle long, and the answer was "THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!", a reference to a Saturday Night Live skit that had been in vogue in our household. As we left that clue site, I was still worrying that some team might end up typing in AMBIDEXTROUSLY to no avail, give up in frustration, and then be told that the answer was actually "THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID!")

- Ian, for Get on a Ferry with Kerry (Darcy and I tried for like 10 minutes to come up with another one involving a real President, and our hat is off to you. I decided that it would have been too crass to invoke Get on a Steamer with Cleveland yet again.)

If you're wondering what their hat is off for: In some mail to the Taft on a Raft people, I called them the "Get on a Dahabia with Dubya" team. Uhm, a Dahabia is a kind of boat. It must be. I saw it on a page with other boat names like "Dandy" and "Djong" and "Dogbody" and "Dum". Do you think I could make those names up?

'Lene 2005 Sep 15 sparkling toilet contents

The Tidy Bowl Man would have loved this, if he ever had fantasies of being Liberace.


In the future when we all have personal jetpacks, everyone will have glitter in their toilet bowls. And we will all drink toilet cleanser to keep us regular. No, wait, that's a terrible idea.

Robert Abbott 2005 Aug 04 BANG 7 Registration Maze


Wei-Hwa Huang told me about your description of going through the Registration maze. I thought it was fantastic, so I added a pointer to it from my Bureaucratic Maze page.

By the way, your pointer to the Bureaucratic Maze is set up wrong. It should point here:


Bob Abbott

Thanks to this mail, I fixed up my broken link. Wait, does this mean I participated in a link exchange? Oh, I feel all dirty now.

James Sime 2004 Dec 10 Free Comic Book Day in SF


I just ran into your website and wanted to drop you a friendly line and extend my sincerest thanks for the very kind words about your visit to the Isotope for Free Comic Book Day 2004. So, "Thanks!" I'm glad you enjoyed my little piece of comic book heaven and found yourself some good books to read.

Also, I dug your write-up on the SFMOMA Video Walk, sounds like a surreal good time!

James Sime
Isotope - the comic book lounge
San Francisco

It was surreal to read this email while I was sitting in an internet cafe in New Zealand. I window-shopped a few comic book shops in New Zealand, but never found anything too promising. Then again, I didn't look very hard.

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