‘Beginner’s Luck’ Wins 63-Hour Mystery Hunt

CORRECTION TO THIS ARTICLE: The Jan. 21 article about the 2009 Mystery Hunt used the wrong sex for the captain of the fictional Brass Rat Spaceship. Captain Blastoid is female. That same article incorrectly described a tortuously complicated puzzle featuring a live duck as a “logic puzzle”; actually, that puzzle, the Duck Konundrum, has little in common with traditional logic puzzles.

The 2009 Mystery Hunt concluded, after 63 hours, when the team Beginner’s Luck uncovered the coin, the traditional goal of the hunt, in the Building 13 basement on Monday at 3:03 a.m.

This year’s hunt had 38 participants and was the third longest in Hunt history. Teams faced 112 puzzles and 7 metapuzzles, which prepared the way for the Hunt’s final runaround.

Two teams, S.C. Johnson: A Family Company and Codex Magliabechiano, had solved six of the seven metapuzzles at the Hunt’s completion and tied for second place.

In this year’s Hunt, participants were trapped (in spirit) in the fictional space region Zyzzlvaria. To escape from Zyzzlvaria, teams had to complete the Escape from Zyzzlvaria board game that would lead them to the Brass Rat Spaceship, its Captain Blastoid, and his Covertly Operational Inversion Node (COIN).

Escape from Zyzzlvaria is a Hunt inside joke, dating back to a 2002 Mystery Hunt puzzle featuring a live duck and an tortuously complicated series of rules encoding a logic puzzle whose eventual answer was “DES PLAINES.”

This year’s puzzles were written by The Evil Midnight Bombers What Bomb At Midnight, who earned the right to write this Hunt as victors of last year’s Mystery Hunt. That team also won the 2006 Mystery Hunt. The Evil Midnight Bombers has 26 members, consisting of MIT alumni and friends.

The winning team, Beginner’s Luck, is an offshoot of the Team Palindrome which won the 2007 Mystery Hunt.

Jennifer Braun ’02, head coordinator of the 2009 Hunt, said of the puzzles, “I think that the metas were particularly challenging, especially in Phase Two, and possibly more complicated than in previous years.”

“It seems like [the puzzles] get harder every year, but even so, these were well written,” said Laura Dean ‘00, a member of Team Unseen who has participated in ten Hunts.

The game ran smoothly, Braun said, and participants had a good time. “The teams seemed to enjoy [the Hunt], which is really the most important thing,” Braun said.

“It was amazing,” said Yuki G. Yamada ‘11. “It’s pretty much the best excuse to stay up for 65 hours. Looking from the outside, it may sound miserable, but it’s the best three days of the year.”

The Mystery Hunt was started by MIT student Brad Schaefer in 1980. Schaefer wrote the puzzles until he left MIT in 1983, when the tradition of the winning team writing the next Hunt began.