MIT Mystery Hunt 2015

This past weekend, I had a wonderful time hunting in MIT’s Mystery Hunt 2015 with ET Phone in Answers. This year’s hunt finished on Sunday, and the puzzles and solution have not yet been made public. But I wanted to share a bit of what I thought were the most fun/interesting/complicated/confusing/bang your head on the wall frustrating puzzles of this year’s hunt. To see other year’s hunts, the hunt archive page has a very comprehensive list of problems. This year’s hunt will most likely also be posted soon. To see reactions from other participants, check out Dr. Nautilus’s Tumblr page.

Fun Puzzles:

“Back on the Move”:

Puzzle makers had us chasing down people in top hats to try to get the secret message formed by the letters on their top hats. The people in top hats were updating a Twitter feed with pictures of their locations: #BackOnTheMove. Some of the pictures were very self-explanatory if you know the MIT campus:

Others are there just to taunt us:

But the most fun part of the puzzle is getting to see the strange and wonderful things around campus, like this:


“Practice in Theory”:

My amateur physics skills are nothing compared to the likes of this physics puzzle called:

Supposedly, this puzzle contains one physics question from every physics class offered at MIT. Try it yourself! But be warned, urban legend says that a team of PhD student physicists called headquarters saying they had trouble solving it.

This puzzle had many, many layers and stumped us for quite a bit of time until someone on our team figured out the key piece of insight:

“Wait, What Did You Say?”:

1:07:04 Edmund: And don’t forget to take some heliotypes of what you discover! You know my scientific illustration skills ways superior to yours.
1:08:04 Abraham: And yet, while we are proceeding on our journey day and night, you must still cater to the whims of Mother Nature. I’ll have you know we have enough fuel stocked to circumnavigate the globe if we must. Enough of this banter, how is your expedient collection going?
1:10:03 Abraham: And, before you ask, no I did not take any heliotypes of the pirates. I have no interest in studying them, and I was too busy organizing the definite expense effort to take one.
1:11:02 Abraham: Are you even there on the other end of this device? I say, if you are going to run into some calamari animosity, at least do me the service of sending a brief message.
1:13:08 Abraham: Can you even imagine! Pirates! In this day and age! In any case, I can proudly inarguably reform you that we fought them off in no time at all.
1:14:04 Abraham: Dear Edmund, you won’t believe what happened yesterday! We were convincingly bruising along, minding our own business, when we are accosted by pirates!
1:15:05 Edmund: Greetings Abraham! How has the first week of your voyage been? Do you still have that award, or did you shave it off? I really think you’d be better off without it!
1:17:01 Abraham: How exciting! I’ll bet the volcano must be some kind of sacred space for them. I’m sure that is why you were told to stay away. I do hope you are taking as determined sailed notes about the people as about the flora and fauna.
1:18:03 Abraham: Indeed, I heard the capricious chieftain calling everyone onto the deck. Shall we converse again in one week’s time?
1:20:01 Edmund: Oh, I’m sure that your men tell you that to your face, and laugh as soon as your back is turned! After you run out of curing your voyage, I certainly hope you won’t come crying to me for help. Even if we can communicate with these wireless telegraphs, I don’t think I’ll be able to find you in time to come to your rescue.
1:22:01 Edmund: On one of the islands, we were approached by what I can only assume is a representative from their tribe, whose position it is to deal with outsiders like us. He communicated to us (mostly with signs and gestures) that we could inspect most of the island, but that we were to stay away from the volcano. As if we wider venturing into an active volcano!
1:25:02 Edmund: Then we will spin in one week.
10:10:12 Abraham: We ended up leaving port a week early, so I’ll have you know that I have been at serious regatta for a full two weeks! And given that I am first mate on the most technologically advanced steamship to time, I’m sure we’ll catch up to you in no time. As for my goatee, my subordinates inform me that it makes me look quite dashing.
10:11:09 Edmund: We have stopped at a few islands so far. We initially thought we might have trouble with the natives, but they seem to avoid us during our excursions ashore. I have game specimens, but unfortunately none of the species I was looking for. I must keep my optimism, we have quite a few more islands to check.
10:12:06 Abraham: Well, I for one am not going to sit around all day waiting for your response. Send me a message when you get a champion deterrence so we can set up a new time to discuss our adventures.
10:15:01 Abraham: Well, keep up the good work! I’m sure that you’ll find what you’re looking for eventually. I’m curious, did you get any chance at all to intended attract with the natives?
11:01:06 Edmund: You know that among the two of us, you were more of the ethnographer. Very well, if I have time between collecting specimens, I’ll try and study the natives more. When we next meet, we’ll have to compare notes, and see who learned more! I suppose that if you get stuck and are in need of assistance, I would make an effort to get to you. It would appear I’ll need to return to warily, this ship won’t run itself.

“Welcome to Dead Waters”:

I am not a linguist, so I didn’t even attempt to solve the following puzzle. But according to the skilled linguists on our team, this puzzle was difficult.

O hoppy day!

ʃæd ɪæuf æa u lhfɑ lfəæ dzəoz ʃuz æa u jbælvuf drnuf æm əæfæʊ ɪhfa. æz ɪʒodzd u ɑftjt, fiʃuf ʃum kæat, erl lɛ zɛ ʃu gɛd uð məæzfulvum sid. (5)

ihr ʌhel hʊ e ʌlðfə bhɪ ied kbhɪʊ ŋleθ ie əjlo ea hunɪeəɔ. hd θbhzr tmr ea “ie sæə gəɔ vfəɪw” eʊ hdr rɪvfneə. (7)

jæɑ næbw æh jb vms-rpæð ðltɑr egeʊbvbw næbw æə bðɔwæob. jb nwɪəʌ uɪh ʊkhʌ ɪəbðbvh æə ɪʌŋbwrpæhæs: ovpæʌhʌɛæv umwɑɔh, jb ʌmi ɑezʌh ðboɔəha, ɪəʌ ɜmvrbw jb ɑoɜdwbv. (3,4)

mtɪ atðn tɜ ðk ðiʌntzðk andkə dkə irzɪ ðk tktzɪeʌkɪtp “aɑl ntaðk” pðnbtðsæ mðs tɜ ejeɛðɑðn ðihu vnaðk ŋteɪsðnɜ. (5)

sæw næʃi æɑ læoaʃəʃʊ. æv gɪə zɛrʃi mzɛʌʃi bəe nfiəd. gɪə ʃr ævw ʌhəd wʊzɛkʃəɑ æɑ “sʃ næʃi sbv ʌtæow sʃ etæɑ lʊðæ nðæ.” (3)

Metas! We were stuck on Metas for quite some time. In order to solve metas, we had to solve many of the puzzles in the same category. Our team spent quite a bit of time on the Coral Reef meta which I heard was a fun (but tedious) puzzle. The below is the Coral Reef Meta, but since Metas depend on solutions to other puzzles in the same category, I suggest looking online for the other Coral Reef puzzle questions before attempting this meta.

“Coral Reef Meta”:

At every stage you will produce a plausible puzzle answer word or phrase.

  1. Alphabetize your answers.
  2. Change the first letter of one entry to M.
  3. Change a cartoon character to the NCAA school that has a sports team exactly named as the color of that character’s clothing.
  4. Replace the US Navy Vessel with the first and namesake of its class.
  5. One entry is associated with ancient cultural sites in a Mediterranean country. Replace it with the present day name of that country.
  6. Find an entry containing a number, and another entry that’s a member of an ordered list. Switch their numbers.
  7. Take the first letter of the entry prominently featured in the Book of Exodus.
  8. Your list contains at least one double letter. Take the last one.
  9. One entry is a colored solid. Replace it with that color.
  10. Replace the last letter of an entry to form a word that describes Catwoman. Take the new letter.
  11. Replace a country with the longest river running through it. Then switch that entry and the entry that directly precedes it.
  12. Replace the entry with the lowest Scrabble score with its alphabetically first Scrabble legal anagram.
  13. Insert one string of letters into the middle of an entry to make a country. Take the first letter of the string you inserted.
  14. Replace the fifth entry with the longest substring that is a common word.
  15. One entry could have a word added to form the title of a popular rock movie. Replace it with the first name of the lead vocalist of the title song.
  16. Replace a one-word entry with a homophone, then take the fifth letter of the new word, wrapping if necessary.
  17. Remove the last 1/3 of an entry to get a word found in the dictionary.
  18. The entry that currently is second to last alphabetically could have a bigram changed to make something musical. Replace it with a new letter followed by the 5th, 4th, and 2nd letters of that entry.
  19. Shift the first consonant of an entry forward ten letters.
  20. Replace a multi-part name of a person with their first name.
  21. Replace one letter of an entry and anagram to produce something Pablo Picasso does. Take the letter you replaced.
  22. Replace a television show that aired new episodes this century with the network it debuted on.
  23. One entry has a consonant repeated 3 times, and its first 4 letters spell a common word. Replace it with the nth most popular male baby name in the US in 1981, where n is the length of that entry.
  24. Replace one letter in an entry to produce a tropical national capital. Take the new letter.
  25. Shift the first two letters of an entry forward one, then replace the rest with vowels to make a word of the same length.
  26. Delete an E to leave the last name of an American artist whose most famous works involve the use of balloons. Replace the entry with his or her legal first name.
  27. Replace one letter to turn an entry into a word you can play on a piano. Take the new letter.
  28. Replace a country with its capital city.
  29. The third entry in your list is a Hall of Famer. Replace it with the leading Hall of Fame vote getter in the year he made his Major League debut. Shift the first letter backward two places.
  30. One entry could have two letters prepended and its last letter changed, to form a Greek word that might malign a tragic hero. Take the last letter of that entry.
  31. Delete the first letter of one entry.
  32. One entry is the first name of a person that won an unshared Nobel Prize in Economics and holds a PhD from MIT. Replace it with the city that contains the school he or she received a degree from most recently, other than MIT.
  33. Replace the third entry with a new entry that associates with it in a phrase using “and”.
  34. Replace or delete a letter from an entry to make the longest river you can.
  35. Find the first entry chain in your list that you haven’t extracted anything from yet. Take all cardinal directions that don’t appear in the word.
  36. One of your entries appears in the title of a 1968 song. Replace it with the last name of the previous person referenced in that title.
  37. Take the second letter of the entry containing the last palindromic trigram in your list.
  38. Replace a major military victory for the British over the French with the TLD suffix of the country in which that site is currently located.
  39. Replace a playing card with the last word of the last corresponding puzzle title in last year’s Hunt. Take the first letter of that word.
  40. Shift the middle letter of an entry, rounded left if necessary, backward four places.
  41. Bombard one of your entries with two alpha particles. Take the chemical symbol of the result.
  42. Append one of the ten most common English words to produce something found on a menu.
  43. Take the first letter of the entry whose portrait appears closest to you.
  44. Take the last letter alphabetically of the entry that currently is first alphabetically.
  45. It’s time for dinner! An area in Boston has many restaurants serving one of your entries. Take the second letter of the far-left color on the flag of the country most associated with that area.


I’m always a huge fan of chess puzzles. The following is a cool version of chess puzzles with an especially interesting message at the end.

“Watch Me Blow This!”

  1.  chess1
  2. chess2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5



Some puzzles are just confusing because we seem not to know enough info. The following hashtag puzzle is confusing until you realize that all the info you need is given in the puzzle.




This is certainly one of the most confusing puzzles where the clue is literally the below picture:

Except without the black border. I kid you not.

Bang Your Head on the Wall Frustrating

There is only one puzzle who deserves this category in my book. This puzzle is “Say Cheese and Dive”. It’s a shame that it’s not up on the site yet, but once it is, you should check it out and be satisfied with hours of head banging. It has layers upon layers of intricacy and interesting topology…and, very annoying, muensters.

(Note that all puzzles are courtesy of Mystery Hunt 2015 and the organizers, One Fish, Two Fish, Random Fish, Blue Fish. Any opinions of hardness, complexity, banging your headness are my own and are in no reflection of my team’s or anyone else’s opinions.)

Feel free to post in the comments any thoughts on what I’ve written or ideas for solving the puzzles I listed!

Now, my favorite expression of the weekend was, “Is this (point at object) a puzzle?”

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