New to puzzle hunts?#
If you are totally new to puzzle hunts, betaveros has a nice introduction.
You can find a index of all past mystery hunt puzzles and it’s great fun to just pick a random past puzzle to work through.
Evan’s advice for puzzle solving#
In descending order of importance for new solvers:
- Read betaveros’s post if you haven’t already so you are familiar with all “standard” techniques since many hunts will assume familiarity with no further comment.
- Always make a spreadsheet whenever you are working on a puzzle.
(Trying to do a puzzle without a spreadsheet is
analogous to not bringing scratch paper to the USAMO.
It’s literally impossible.)
Google spreadsheet works well if you are working in teams.
- If using Google spreadsheets, there are some annoying tasks you might like to automate such as A=1 to Z=26, indexing with spaces deleted, etc. There’s a library for this.
- Use multiple screens (e.g. extra monitor, old laptop, tablet, smart TV, etc.). Being able to view both a spreadsheet and the puzzle at the same time is tremendously useful. Also, if you have a printer or pencil/paper, having hard copies of relevant information can be similarly helpful.
- Check your work! (Better yet, have teammates help you check your work.) Quote from Allen Rabinovich’s advice: “A good friend of mine once said that if he were to write a guide on how to solve puzzles, that’s all he would say.”
- Print out a code sheet of common encodings (e.g. Puzzled Pint).
- Use Nutrimatic to find phrases given only some of the letters.
- Always ask what information is not used yet.
In a well designed puzzle,
there will rarely be any superfluous information
(much like in USAMO, usually there are no extraneous conditions on problems).
Good puzzle writers will tend to “destroy” information if it’s not relevant, e.g. if the order of a list is irrelevant, it tends to be in alphabetical order.
- Look at the puzzle title and flavor text for clues.
My favorite puzzles I wrote, in roughly ascending order of length:
- Nutrition Facts
- Blind Calculation
- A Bit of Light
- Le chiffre indéchiffrable
- Divided Is Us
- Escape From Life
- The IMO Shortlist
Thoughts on puzzle-writing#
Two blog posts of mine: