Tuesday, July 03, 2007

puzzling

Yesterday I looked up and realized the year was half over. I can't quite decide if I'm depressed because time is passing so quickly, or whether it's a good thing that I've made it through half the craziness of this year without having collapsed of exhaustion.

Two weekends ago I joined a puzzle hunt with a bunch of my coworkers. It was the first annual company puzzle hunt, and it ended up being really fun; more fun that I had remembered from YABA treasure hunts in the city, probably because it involved more puzzling and less walking.

We started Saturday morning at 9am, and officially the hunt ended Sunday evening at 6pm, but unfortunately I had to leave around midnight on Saturday, so I could go to a morning wedding on Sunday without looking like I had just stayed up all night.

One of the first puzzles involved eighteen short written chapters, and the following description: "I hear there's a lot of overlap between authors and the characters they write, no matter how different they may seem." It turned out that we had to read through each passage and analyze the content and the style. The content described a particular character, and the style suggested a similarly named author. For example, one text was written in the style of Homer's Odyssey, and described Homer Simpson. Another chapter described Eliot Ness and was strongly reminiscent of T.S. Eliot's poetry. Once we had puzzled out all of the authors and characters, it wasn't too hard to find the final solution word.

Other puzzle, entitled "Geologist", was hidden inside a fake rock, buried in a sand volleyball court. Inside the rock were 15 words printed on small scraps of paper, and a fake gem attached to a date: 1/29/1773. We determined the date was the birthdate of Friedrich Mohs, inventor of the Mohs hardness scale for gems. From there, we were able to piece together the 15 words into 5 phrases, each of which described a phrase that included a gem name. For instance, "Falkinburg's ring name" was "Diamond Dallas Page". After some frustration, we were able to find an anagram of the answer word using the Mohs hardness of each gem as an index into the gemstone phrase.

I was pretty actively involved in solving the above two puzzles, as well as another involving RNA sequences, amino acids, and codon tables, and one which required folding twenty pieces of paper in a certain configuration to create a polyhedron, but I was completely clueless on several others. In particular, one puzzle required that we listen to 9 tracks of music and determine the meter of each, in order to find a number sequence. Luckily, one of our team members had a background in music and was quickly able to solve that part of the puzzle for us.

In the end, we finished 5th or 6th out of 21 teams, which wasn't bad considering most of our team members weren't experienced puzzle hunters. It's very likely that I'll be reserving the whole weekend next time, for the second annual puzzle hunt.

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