As usual, let me start by thanking everyone who has contributed to the successful Singapore Puzzle Hunt 2017, including Puzzlesmith members who had dropped out after the initial brainstorming. In particular, we greatly appreciate the participation of all the hunt teams. You are all our puzzle friends, without which a fun hunt would definitely not be possible. We would love to interact with and hear your experience and post-hunt feedback on our Facebook page. Please do share your thoughts with us there, including on any of the points covered below.
A few months ago, I had an engaging discourse with one of our participants about the elegance and appreciation of constrained puzzles. Therein lies one of the many unwritten ideals about the construction of Mystery Hunt style puzzles - that while the puzzle idea does not need to be fancy, all the parts should preferably come together perfectly without any extraneous information. There is a reason and need for the presence of, and even nuancing of, each and every piece of information provided in a puzzle. And the confluence of all these requirements typically make for a tightly constrained puzzle.
The Singapore Puzzle Hunt is unique in that beyond the constraints of having Mystery Hunt style puzzles, there is also a thematic link between the puzzles to each hunt round’s theme, which fit the overall hunt theme. Hence the puzzles feel less out of place and complement the hunt theme and story, rather than the common scenario of a hunt being just a smorgasbord of unrelated puzzles. This was a challenge I set for the hunt construction, and have demonstrated over these past three hunts that it is something achievable, even though these constraints caused much difficulty for the writing team.
We did however, consciously deviate from the ideal of constraints in the context of information required to solve each puzzle this year. Beyond flavortext and title clues, there was often more redundancy provided in the puzzle information to overcome the limitations of our hunt duration. So while some elegance and difficulty was sacrificed, we hope this allowed more teams to reasonably complete more puzzles and even the entire hunt, unlike the last two years. More time was also allocated after test-solving by simulated teams in the US, to further adjust puzzles and the expected hunt duration.
We followed the successful hunt structure last year, but there were two notable changes in the hunt this year:
We skipped going through puzzle solutions during the debrief. I realised the debrief was too rushed to do proper justice to the solutions, and there were many puzzles that participants barely looked at and could still enjoy solving later. The complete solutions were uploaded online almost immediately after the hunt anyway. We now get to interact with teams instead during the debrief.
The prelude puzzle included an interactive element where teams needed to email us with the correct answer, and were then given additional tasks to earn more credits for hints. This allowed us to track and recognise who solved the prelude answer, and particularly those who were game enough to join in the other fun non-puzzle activities characteristic of Mystery Hunt, like dressing up and making a team video/image. This was also in-lieu of the usual event puzzle which was dropped in consideration of the hunt duration.
Lastly, do join the SG Puzzlers Facebook group to keep in touch, and post your post-hunt comments on our Facebook page. We will share information on other international puzzle hunts throughout the year, and organise teams to take part in together for the larger ones like Mystery Hunt. These are good opportunities to gain more puzzle hunt exposure and to practise and improve your skills by solving in teams with other experienced hunters. See you at next year’s hunt! In the meantime, here is the usual collection of memorable snippets from this year’s hunt. Enjoy!
Ong Kah Kien
11.30am - Hunt HQ and Baker Street 221B all set up and ready to welcome our teams of detectives.
11.45am - Teams start to arrive and get a group photo before they prepare to set up. Here's Keep Calm and Just Tikam, who also took part in the hunt last year, posing in theme.
12.05pm - With teams being more prepared for the hunt and using more laptops, there was an unexpected delay when the high current intake tripped the power supply to the hall, causing two consecutive blackouts and a delay to the start of hunt as the technical fault was resolved. We finally managed to get the power back and start the hunt at 12.30pm. The facilities manager though warned that "their UPS cannot take it and that the whole building might shutdown", so teams had to rotate their laptop charging to avoid any risk of another blackout.
12.46pm - Sarah from Mish Mash submits the first correct hunt answer for the Day 7 - A Soft Scarf puzzle!
1.14pm - Good to see some familiar teams from previous hunts like Appun, TEA Time, Anyhow Hantam, and Hee-ho, having fun solving puzzles, and with a mix of some new faces this time.
1.33pm - Masterchefs becomes the first of only five teams to solve the Day 6 - A Typewritten Board puzzle, well done! They also solved the Prelude puzzle first. It is always nice to see teams collaborating well and working on their puzzles together during the hunt. Other first-timer teams like Kaya/d and Big Whoop also did very well, congrats!
2.05pm - Random Invaders, who had led the pack initially, hit a patch and contemplates recruiting the Baker Street Irregulars early to help with the Evidence Meta so that they can skip the Evidence puzzles they are currently stuck at. However, they don't have any theories yet on the meta either, so could not provide a direction for Wiggins to assist. The team ended up not using the service, and still managed to complete the hunt in second place.
2.12pm - SGoats becomes the first team to clear the Evidence Meta with just four answers! They later admitted to backsolving the Day 1 - An Element of Music puzzle from the meta, although they did get the puzzle mechanic already. So no team actually solved that particular puzzle during the hunt.
2.18pm - Furrowed Brows, with half their team collaborating remotely from the US (during an unearthly timing there), clears the Evidence Meta with only three answers, just minutes after SGoats. The lead this year changed hands several times, and six teams unlocked the Suspects Round early and were in close contention till the end.
2.27pm - Team White Maria clears the Evidence Meta, after a spurt that sees them solve four Evidence puzzles in the span of an hour. Their three Suspects Round solves followed a similar pattern, and only came late in the hunt, and ended with an entertaining last ditch guess of SANDWICH for the killer's motive and Suspects Meta answer.
3.34pm - Teams solving their puzzles in ernest. Regardless of the progress, teams were giving it their all and having a good time cracking their heads over the puzzles with their friends.
4.45pm - ROUS, who had been joint leaders for much of the hunt, is stuck on their Suspect Meta with only four answers. They try to enlist the help of the Baker Street Irregulars, but unfortunately do not have enough to pay Wiggins!
5.04pm - Team Tricky was held up at the Evidence Meta for over half an hour despite having six answers, and only solved it at 2.46pm. But they blazed through the Suspects Round, solving five puzzles by 4:48pm and soon after the meta. After solving the final Endgame puzzle and figuring out the mystery, Team Tricky joined Dr Watson and Sherlock on the Runaround and completed the hunt at 5.12pm to receive their souvenir books.
Thank you all solvers, well done to everyone! Hope you had a fun time and see you again next year!