MIT Mystery Hunt

January 22, 2010

This past weekend, I participated in my first ever MIT Mystery Hunt.

Mystery Hunt is an annual MIT tradition. Every year, about a thousand people split over some 40-or-so teams descend on MIT to solve some wickedly hard puzzles over the course of a weekend. And by weekend, I mean the whole weekend. None of that “sleep” stuff.

I got to Team Codex headquarters on Friday morning. The main room reminded me of Alfred Hitchcock’s Birds – literally every surface was covered with someone’s computer. I eventually found enough space for me to squat awkwardly in a chair with my laptop before we were off.

I started out on a puzzle that had me identifying bridges over the Charles River. It was plenty of fun, and between Google Street View (super-useful, even though it can be kind of sketchy too) and my somewhat patchy knowledge of Cambridge, I managed to identify a bunch of them.

Over the coming hours, I worked on trying to brute-force a particularly nasty constraints problem using Ruby (the humans beat me to it), attempting a puzzle involving frisbees and numbers that nobody ever figured out, and finding a word that corresponded to the clue “gambling top” (“teetotum,” in case you’re wondering), as well as miscellaneous legwork for other puzzles.

All in all, it was a great weekend, and I can’t wait until next year’s hunt.