2nd Puzzle Hunt kicks off

Competitor: Last year’s challenges were ‘grueling’

The second annual USC Puzzle Hunt kicked off Monday, with 18 teams of students competing to solve nine “metapuzzles” based on a colonial America theme.

Second-year mathematics student Chris King created the Puzzle Hunt on his own last year and worked with a team of other students to construct this year’s puzzles.

“I have been a fan of puzzles and games all my life, and sometime in high school, I discovered the MIT Mystery Hunt, which is THE puzzle hunt,” King wrote in an email. “After being wowed by the amazing work they do every year, I knew that I wanted to create this for USC.”

Three metapuzzles were released on the Puzzle Hunt’s website Monday, and three more will be released Wednesday and Friday. Each metapuzzle consists of smaller puzzles whose answers unite to solve a larger puzzle. King said there are about 55 puzzles in all.

An example of the challenges facing this year’s competitors is the “New York City” puzzle, which consists of sub-puzzles like the “Ice Cream a la Mode” quandary. That puzzle lists a dozen ice cream flavors with several literary characters listed beside each of them with no instruction other than, “As it turns out, literary characters have ice cream preferences of their own.”

Fourth-year mathematics student George Helman competed in the Puzzle Hunt last year and called it a “grueling” experience.

“It was very time demanding. The puzzles were very intense, very difficult. We never finished,” Helman said. “Hopefully, the Puzzle Hunt will be more reasonable this year.”

Helman said last year’s puzzles were “the type of puzzles that stare into your soul.” One puzzle had him and his teammates watching “Legends of the Hidden Temple” for five straight hours to try to discern a secret message, he said.

Helman is working with a team of about 20 people this year.
“We’re going to win this time. We’re determined,” Helman said.
More information and all the puzzles can be found at uscpuzzlehunt.com.

Editor’s note: Paula Novacki contributed reporting.


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