# Puzzle hunts

## New to puzzle hunts?#

If you are totally new to puzzle hunts, betaveros has a nice introduction. (Small quibble: Alter Rivals actually took me a while to get.) You’ll probably also want a copy of a code reference sheet with you.

Nice beginner hunts:

Some good beginner puzzles from more difficult hunts:

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:

1. 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. (See also Microsoft’s common encoding list.)
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.”
5. Print out a code sheet of common encodings There are other charts like Puzzled Pint).
6. Use Nutrimatic to find phrases given only some of the letters.
7. 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. In particular, it’s extremely common for lists to be in alphabetical order if either order is irrelevant or the solver needs to re-order themselves.
8. Look at the puzzle title and flavor text for clues.

## Thoughts on puzzle-writing#

Two blog posts of mine:

Updated Tue 14 Mar 2023, 03:09:07 UTC by bc0948f7a00a