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Take the Blue Pill, Wake Up in Bed; Take the Red Pill, Stay in 2003 Hunt

By Marissa Vogt


I think I got too much sleep this past weekend.

Four hours a night, it seems, was way above the norm for most participants in the annual IAP Mystery Hunt. This isn’t surprising, though, as this year's hunt was the longest (and probably the hardest) on record.

The hunt kicked off in Lobby 7 on Friday at noon, with the rather dramatic assassination of Mr. Adelphia, CEO of Acme Corp., the fictional organization created by Hunt organizers. The teams were told that to find out who killed Mr. Adelphia, they had to solve certain puzzles.

My team consisted of a small group of our friends and roommates, and was almost entirely made up of freshmen. We soon discovered that we were in way over our heads, as new puzzles were released before we had made any respectable progress on the first ones. Surely our small group of 10 would not be able to contend with the large teams representing groups like Random Hall (a team called Blatantly Obscene) or East Campus’ Third East (a team called Kappa Sig, this year’s winning team).

Teams told to “take the red pill”

By Friday afternoon most teams had found the pieces to an important clue hidden within the first-round puzzles. The clue, “take the red pill,” hinted at a Matrix-inspired second world of puzzles.

Our team spent Friday night on vain attempts at solving rounds 1 and 2, and reading through the many bits of spam sent to each team from Acme Corp.. We established our team headquarters in Baker House and worked on the first few rounds until early on Saturday. I managed to solve an entire puzzle before finally nodding off.


We woke up on Saturday morning after dreaming of puzzles, and started right in on another one, this time trying to assemble a document that had been shredded into tiny pieces. Later, as we grew more and more frustrated, the team decided to split up so that we could work on as many individual puzzles as possible.

Emily Proctor and I went shopping for our secret ingredient from puzzle 2.1, “A Company Picnic.” Our task was to prepare a whole meal -- appetizer, main course, and dessert -- that obviously tasted like our secret ingredient: limes. After spending four hours making lime-flavored quesadillas, lime-flavored chicken, and key lime pie, I don’t ever want to see another lime again.

Late Saturday night Danielle and I went looking for different bathrooms across campus. One puzzle, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” had pictures of bathrooms from across campus, and it was our task to find a connection between them.

Teams start getting desperate

Desperation took over our team early Sunday morning, and we decided to spam various mailing lists in an attempt to gather some of the items for the scavenger hunt. Finding items like “A newsprint copy of the Tech” seemed simple enough, until you looked closer and realized that they wanted one that is not from 2002 or 2003.

Acme released more and more hints as time passed, and the hunt broke records for length.

Later in the afternoon we met up with the members of the AEPi team, and we decided to combine our efforts and share some of the solutions we had found. We made some further progress, but nonetheless decided to retreat to bed early, in the hopes that some other team would find the coin before morning and the madness would all end.

‘Kappa Sig’ finds the coin

We woke to the news that Kappa Sig, the team representing Third East, had found the coin at 7:26 am. The coin had been hidden in Jofish’s (Joseph N. Kaye’s ’98) pants, on the top of some pipes in the basement of building 16. Their team consisted of mostly undergraduates, whereas many past winners have been teams of alumni or professional puzzlers.

Finally, the coin had been found, and we could rest without being haunted by puzzles. After we all got some sleep on Monday, the puzzle organizers and hunters from all of the teams gathered in 4-370 to award prizes, share amusing stories of puzzle experiences, and explain solutions to some of the puzzles.

When all was said and done, I walked away from the hunt feeling tired yet accomplished, and amazed at the complexity of some of the puzzles. All of the teams who participated have earned my undying respect, especially those who came close to finding the coin. I am already looking forward to next year’s hunt, which Kappa Sig, this year’s winning team, will organize.