Following the success of the inaugural Singapore Puzzle Hunt 2015, I am glad that we are able to continue this event and bring everyone the Singapore Puzzle Hunt again this year. Despite the challenge of not having any funding this year, we were still able to organise the event at the same scale, while maintaining the same nominal entry fees as last year to cover the event costs and break even. This is a non-profit event put together by the Puzzlesmiths, and I thank the other team members, in particular Janice, for volunteering their valuable time again over the past five months to make the event possible.
In our first year, we worked in a black box, without a good sense of the puzzle experience of potential solvers. The result was a hunt which ended up being too long/hard for the available time duration. While we had intentionally included a mix of "easier" puzzles, most teams were unfamiliar with the hunt puzzle style and extraction mechanisms. We felt teams were a little demoralised by not making much progress for most of the time, or solving only 2-3 puzzles by the end of the hunt.
With the experience and feedback from last year, we made several adjustments which we hoped improved the hunt experience for everyone this year. For example, I counter-intuitively expanded the number of puzzles from 13 to 18, and made the hunt comprise two Rounds. This is to introduce the Round meta and release structure to solvers who are new to puzzle hunts. Like the MIT Mystery Hunt format, this year’s Round 1 is essentially a mini-hunt, which we planned that all teams could complete within the time as a milestone achievement (and which all eventually did, very well done everyone!). The puzzles are slightly easier and with shorter/fewer steps, and the thematic puzzle titles all hid clues to the puzzle aha. Round 2 included a few easy and short puzzles too, but also harder ones to give the lead teams more challenge. Pure metas are used this year, to introduce to solvers how puzzles could be hidden just within the common reference of a set of answers. The metas were also intentionally written with straightforward acrostic extractions and solvable with around half the answers once teams have got the aha. This provded redundancy in case solvers got stuck at certain puzzles, and made it easier for teams to complete the hunt within the limited time. It is a pity that no team solved the Round 2 meta this year since we had to cut-off by a fixed time. It is always a challenge for us to simulate the run-time of a hunt under variable team solving conditions, but we will strive to fine-tune this next year, while maintaining the standard of a great hunt experience for everyone.
Having all the teams in a common hall this year is a budget-constraint decision, but this, together with the new online submission system, also allowed us more time to visit and interact with solvers during the hunt. The engagement opportunity is something we valued very much, as we regard everyone in the puzzle community as our friends, and see the puzzle hunt as also a fun gathering for fellow puzzle enthusiasts. For teams who were really stuck at puzzles, we were also able to better understand where they went wrong, and give prompts to guide them along where necessary, rather than short-changing solvers with direct hints.
We know of a few lone puzzle hunt enthusiasts whose usual puzzle game team members are not as keen on this genre, hence they find difficulty forming a team to take part. We would encourage everyone to share about the Singapore Puzzle Hunt on social media with your friends and people who might be interested, even if you already have a regular team. You will never know who else amongst them might also be keen on puzzle hunts after knowing about it, and it is always more fun to know more friends with the same interests. We hope more people in Singapore will slowly get to know about and develop an interest in puzzle hunts. So do help us to spread the news about puzzle hunts after the event!
Also, if you know of any teachers who might be interested to introduce puzzle hunts to their school or students, or corporations which might be keen to be involved in a partnership or sponsorship, do put us in touch. We are all part of the puzzle community and need everyone’s help and involvement to build and grow this local community together.
To end off, we hope you enjoyed your hunt experience. Do keep in touch with the rest of the puzzle hunt community by joining the SG Puzzlers Facebook group to receive newsfeed alerts to our postings. There are about 5 international online puzzle hunts each year, for which we will help to organise teams to take part in together. These are good opportunities to gain more puzzle hunt exposure and improve your skills by solving in teams with other experienced hunters. We look forward to seeing you again at next year’s hunt, and having many more puzzle adventures together from now till then! In the meantime, we are again sharing some of our own memorable snippets from the hunt below. Do also visit our Facebook page to leave a comment or share your favourite hunt anecdote!
Ong Kah Kien
11.00am - Hunt HQ all set up and the House Heads getting ready to welcome the students.
11.15am - Our first team Purple Cows arrive early! And they are dressed in full theme woohoo! :) We like! We found out apparently both Hunt HQ and Purple Cows had the same concern - that no one else would come dressed in theme. Big shout-out too to all the other teams who solved the Prelude puzzle and gamely came dressed in theme (some featured above) - Furro Bro, Keep Calm, Chao Ta Sunflower, VworpVworp, Is me really cookie monster? and CatchNoBall.
11.45am - Teams being sorted into their Houses by our Sorting Hat.
12.10pm - Harry asks teams to solve the puzzles to prove their worth and be inducted into the Order of the Puzzle.
12.31pm - Boon Leong from Anyhow Hantam submits the first correct hunt answer! To Hunt HQ's surprise, it is for the relatively challenging Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus puzzle, rather than the first puzzle in the Round. Before the team gathered, Boon Leong had also told the others that if they don't see him, it is only because he is wearing an invisibility cloak...
12.45pm - House Slytherin battles Gryffindor in the N.E.W.T. puzzle duelling event. And no surprises that Slytherin representative Gael from Oink cunningly casts Protego instead of the declared Stupefy charm to win the duel!
12.52pm - Team White Maria submits the answer 'AUNG SAN SUU KYI' for the Ministry of Magic puzzle. Hunt HQ has no idea where that wild answer came from and has a good laugh. Hunt HQ thinks Team White Maria is pranking us hard this early and pays them a visit, though the team captain Sean is somehow convinced it was a good attempt. They solve the puzzle 10 minutes later. But it was only 10 minutes after that, when another team also submitted 'AUNG SAN SUU KYI', that Hunt HQ found out this was the hit they got from doing a Google search using the actual puzzle answer! Good idea, but always try submitting the answer you got first if it sounds like an answer.
1.41pm - Hunt HQ gets excited seeing ROUS submit 'J K ROWLING' for the Round 1 meta answer. But after a quick verification, we realised it was only an educated guess from the book title answers and number of meta answer letters. Nonetheless, 5 minutes later, they do manage to figure out the meta and become the first team to solve the Round 1 meta, and be inducted into the Order of the Puzzle. Well done!
2.15pm - Chao Ta Sunflower submits 'GABRIELLE' as their Round 1 meta answer. We don't know who she is, but really nice try guys! :)
2.34pm - Furro Bro submits the answer 'DELETE LAST NAME' for the Fred and George Weasley puzzle. This is followed quickly by the submission 'DELETE LOST NAME'. Hunt HQ visits them and highlights, "That does not sound like a puzzle answer?!" Half an hour later, they resubmit 'DELETE LAST NAME', followed quickly by 'DELETE LAST NAMES'. Hunt HQ wonders how long they plan to keep this up. We don't hint them as they are already the leading team in Round 2. It is a good 45 minutes later that they finally solve this puzzle, but they were still the first team to do so at 3.43pm.
2.43pm - Hunt HQ nearly falls off their chairs when they see Random Invaders submit 'JESUS LIVES IN INDIA' for the Gringotts Wizarding Bank puzzle. The explanation we received was true to their team name, much random. Apparently, someone had noticed that the India and Christ the Redeemer pictures had the same branch code, did a Google search on both terms and that book title came up as the hit.
2.48pm - UHM becomes the first team (and eventually one out of only two teams) to solve the King's Cross Station puzzle, two and a half hours into the hunt. This puzzle was deemed by the test solvers (who don't play chess) as the hardest Round 1 puzzle. So it was comforting to the puzzle writer that it was finally solved by a team. Incidentally, UHM is also the first team (and eventually one out of only four teams) to solve the Double Trouble puzzle. This is another Round 1 puzzle constructed by the same writer which was also deemed challenging by the test solvers.
4.00pm - Teams solving their unlocked Round 2 puzzles to figure out the Round 2 meta. Furro Bro, ROUS, Anyhow Hantam and saeot came closest with 3-4 Round 2 answers eventually. It was unfortunate that none of the teams were able to spot the meta aha in time - if they had been able to, the partial letters they had should have been sufficient for them to guess the full meta answer.
5.30pm - saeot came to Hunt HQ right before the end and tried submitting the Round 2 meta answer, "We would like to request a PRINTER from the Room of Requirement." Pity we did not have one for them, nor would it have come in very useful in a battle with the Dark Lord...
Thank you all hunters, hope you had a fun time and see you again next year!