The History of Puzzle Hunts

Puzzle Hunts

What are Puzzle Hunts?

Puzzle Hunts are family-friendly games in which participants contest to answer a series of puzzles on a specific site, on various sites, or across the Internet. In a puzzle hunt, individuals, but more commonly teams of puzzlers or ‘puzzlists’ groups race to solve creative riddles, mini-games and puzzles that are connected and fit together through an intuitive meta-puzzle, leading to answers gathered in the last set of solutions.

Often these puzzles come with no actual instructions – and participants must attempt to figure out (half the challenge) what to do in a similar way as solving a new mathematical problem or mechanical puzzle. This may involve识别、逻辑思考、创造性或abstractly to find seemingly patternless data, make connections, interpret the clues using different approaches in order to obtain the treasured “Aha!” or lightbulb moment. This is often in the form of a single word, number or short phrase that provides the affirmation to move to the next step and fits within the overall theme.

Ameta-puzzleis a type of puzzle that unites and incorporates answers from a range of puzzles that are fed into it, for example, a puzzle consisting of four puzzles with the answer JACK, GALLEON, TREASURE and SPARROW would lead to the metapuzzle answer PIRATE, from the film ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’. Alternatively, four answers such as PILLAR, CLASSIFICATION, DELICATES, LOCATES, would lead to the metapuzzle answer CAT, which is contained within all of those words to make new words and phrases. Metapuzzles can be far more complex than this and are a good example of how they work.

Metapuzzles and more complicated ‘Meta-Meta‘ Puzzles are often used inPuzzle Huntsto unite several meta puzzles. For example, if five answers of five separate metapuzzles were CAT, HAT, QUEEN, DODO, EAGLET, the meta-meta answer would be ALICE, the main character and title of the book in which all of the answers were found.

All puzzle hunt games are entertaining co-operative events that can last a couple of hours, or as long as a month, or more. Many often require travel from one location to another, others can be played from the pleasure of your own home.

Each puzzle hunt is always unique and lovingly-crafted bypuzzlers,recreational mathemagicianswith a specific one-of-a-kind theme or story. Puzzles are then assigned to participants at intervals upon discovery of the next puzzle and so on. Moreover, many common puzzles often contain a meta-puzzle, in which teams need to solve fiendishly cryptic challenges such as codes or ciphers, wordplay, cryptic crosswords, word searches, etc as a way to unlock the next clue. Many of these puzzles are not the same as you find in newspapers.

Because they’re so familiar by almost everyone, puzzle hunts have evolved to offer more creative methods that are unique, novel, and without instruction.Sometimes it demands solvers to combine solutions using lateral thinking to understand. For example, tasking a solver to combine objects, shuffle words or letters, cut things out and rearrange them, fold an item into geometric origami shape, complete a word search to use and decipher the leftover letters, unencode and extract ciphers and codes, combine and build an item, draw lines on things, sort things into groups and lots more.

A Brief History Of Puzzle Hunts

The concept oftreasure huntingis as ancient as antiquity, in which Treasure Island is reasonably influential in spreading the idea and setting the structure. It has changes related to the theme. If there are a lot of things to look for, then this game may be more strictly considered a scavenger hunt. Puzzle hunts are different in that they are a game with its own unique history.

Frequently, the gossip columnist Elsa Maxwell is referred to as the mother of puzzle hunts after adapting treasure hunts into a party game. Attendees at her parties slowly led to the transformation of the treasure hunt into the puzzle hunt genre. In 1980, Walt Disney Productions released a film called Midnight Madness, which was the subject of a fictional puzzle. The author recognised Los Angeles graphic designer Don Luskin game as a motivation for the theory, even though they never played themselves.

In 1981, Brad Schaefer, launched theMIT Mystery Huntwhich has ever since been heavily influential in the rise of many university mystery puzzle hunts worldwide. The MIT Mystery Hunt is organised by the previous year’s winning team and generally consists of a number of puzzles which, when solved, usually unlock more puzzles.

Alternately, in 1985, many fans and admirers of puzzles were inspired by the ‘Midnight Madness’ film to explore and then create ‘The Game’.

After the Games’ success and media spotlight, similar, bigger-scale single-day games such as Bang, SNAP, and BAPL, in the Bay Area, Seattle, and Boston, as well as those run by companies such as Shinteki gradually appeared. This led to an even wider spread of similar games such asDASHandPUZZLE PINT!

Ten popular worldwide Puzzle Hunts

1-MIT Mystery Hunt

The MIT Mystery Hunt is perhaps the oldest and largest yearly puzzle hunt race situated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA. Held annually at MIT over the Martin Luther King Day weekend it fascinates thousands of participants and hundreds of teams annually. The same contests at Microsoft, Stanford University, Melbourne University, and the University of South Carolina were encouraged by this event.

2- VT Hunt

The VT Hunt, with the symbol ᚖᚌᚖ, is an annual puzzle hunt at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The competition usually involves hundreds to thousands of participants, with the 2019 Hunt appealing about 1,800 people on 550 teams.

3- Microsoft Puzzle Hunt

Microsoft Puzzle Hunt is a quasi-annual weekend-long Microsoft tradition that began in 1999. This puzzle hunt is in the same style as MIT Mystery Hunt. Microsoft puzzle hunt is a team puzzle contest that challenges each team to solve numerous different types of real puzzles. The solutions, while used in conjunction with metapuzzle, refers to a hidden treasure anywhere on Microsoft’s campus. Teams devote weekends to solve real and unique puzzles, typically prepared by the team that won the last Hunt.

4-Singapore Puzzle Hunt

TheSingapore Puzzle Huntis an annual on-site puzzle hunt modelled after the MIT Mystery Hunt which is held June/July.

5- Herald Hunt

The Herald Hunt, or the Tropic Hunt, is an annual puzzle hunt held in Miami, Florida. Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry co-produced this Hunt with Tropic editors Gene Weingarten and Tom Shroder.


TMOUis reasoning, technical, team, collaborative, outdoor and night puzzle hunt in Brno, Czech Republic. It is held every year in early November. Two hundred teams of more than five take part in each. The period of the game is between 17 and 20 hours that usually starts on Friday evening and ends on Saturday afternoon.

Some other popular Worldwide puzzle events are:

The Gen Con Puzzle Hunt
Galactic Puzzle Hunt
The Great Puzzle Hunt
College Puzzle Challenge
Palantir’s Puzzle Challenge

How a puzzle hunt features a chain or series of puzzles?

Many Puzzle hunts follow a standard convention to ensure participants solve puzzle logically and utilise special puzzles known as metapuzzles or metas. Puzzle hunt puzzles can consist of a vast array of different puzzles types and the content can range from simple anagrams, crosswords and word search to complex cryptic puzzles involving encoded letters, music files, old documents, interactive games, and more.

After solving different puzzles, there may be a series of answers. A meta is a type of puzzle that uses these answers to get new answers. For instance, if you have “Movie Review,” “Background Noise,” “Adams Apple,” “Dead Weight,” “Computer Science,” and “Evil Eye,” you can chain them to get the answer.

A large puzzle hunt as Mystery Hunt usually involves different rounds, each with multiple metas, each chaining answers to numerous puzzles. Sometimes, these metas are also used together to make an answer to the meta-meta puzzle. Once a team has solved the meta-meta, the Mystery Hunt ends with one last puzzle known as run around. It consists of wandering around campus to find the place of the hidden coin.

A puzzle hunt features a series of puzzles, usually grouped together by an over-arching theme or story. Numerous puzzle hunts are events held in a particular area, and puzzles guide the solver from one physical place to another. The second puzzle hunts can be played entirely online. Some puzzle hunts with archives of their past puzzles that players can solve and love are given below:

2-Tone Game
Singapore Puzzle Hunt
Berkeley Mystery Hunt
• CiSRA Puzzle Competition
• College Puzzle Challenge
Cryptex (Prexcyt) Quest
• DASH (Different Area, Same Hunt)
The Famine Game
• Galactic Puzzle Hunt
• Herald Hunt/Tropic Hunt

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Dave Holt

Dave Holt is a metagrobologist based in England. He revels in the thrill of the aha! whether it is a mechanical puzzle, escape room or puzzle hunt.

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