EPP7: Wrap-up

Well, as far as the perfect weather for Puzzle Parties and Hunts here in Auburn is concerned, on 5 April 2008, our luck finally ran out. During the night before and the day of the Party Auburn, Alabama received over two and a half inches of rain. Amazingly, however, this Puzzle Hunt turned out to be one of the best yet. True, the rain caused a few problems setting up some of the outdoor puzzles, but overall, there were really very few problems. The pacing of the Hunt and the level of difficulty of the puzzles seemed right on target for the participants, and in the end everyone seemed to have a really great time.

As usual, I forgot to take any pictures throughout the day, so if any of the two dozen players have photos, they are welcome to send them to me for inclusion on this webpage (I'd also encourage them to write-up accounts of their Puzzle-Day). Below I will summarize most of the puzzles and events of the day, but without further ado, some congratulations are in order...

The Winners: Red Team!

The winning team consisted of six players:
  1. Megan Grace
  2. Blane Hollingsworth
  3. Trent Kinnucan
  4. Joe Mantler
  5. Jenny Powell
  6. Andrew Thomas
Below is a breakdown of how the teams did on each puzzle. A score of 1-5 indicates what order they solved a puzzle (first team earned "1", second "2", and so on). If a puzzle was not completed, the team received 6 points. Lowest total score won. Hints (which were not paid off by bringing me a candy Cadbury Egg) added an additional point to the final score.

Black Blue Green Red White

Introduction 1 1 1 1 1
Alice Buys An Egg 2 4 3 1 6
An Egg-cellent Adventure 2 5 1 2 4
Coloring Easter Eggs 4 2 5 1 3
Decorated Eggs 3 4 5 1 2
Dozens of Eggs 1 5 3 2 4
Egg Roll and Soup 6 6 6 6 6
Egg-mazement 3 4 6 1 2
Eggses! Eggses It Is! 2 6 6 6 1
Great Egg-Spectations 5 1 2 4 3
Lego My Eggo 2 6 6 6 1
Scrambled Eggs 6 2 1 6 6
Splat! 2 4 3 1 6
Spoon & Egg Race 5 2 4 1 3
Sudoku-ku-cachoo 5 1 2 4 3
The After Easter Egg Hunt 3 4 6 1 2
(charged) HINTS 1 1 3 3 2
TOTAL 53 58 63 47 55

Mike H Tim H Katie H Andrew T Robert F

Kelly H Ed B Marsha G Jenny P Bill S

Tracy C Robert V Bob G Blane H Miller S

Mark B Scott R Danny B Megan G Sarah H

Meghan V

Joe M Scott B

Trent K

The Puzzles

The puzzles were set up roughly into four separate "threads", the first puzzle in each thread leading to the next, once solved, and so on. This allowed for puzzles to be solved both serially and in parallel, minimizing the chance that a team would ever feel completely "dead in the water". I will summarize the puzzles according to these threads.

Where possible, I will provide downloadable documentation so that readers may experience the puzzles themselves. I will include answers on this webpage by using "inviso-white-font-on-white-background" text, so highlight/select the text to read explanations.

Puzzle Thread 1

Dozens of Eggs

This was meant to be a pretty fast puzzle to get teams rolling right away. A little bit of wordplay, and a little bit of dictionary/web searching.

ANSWER: When the correct words are filled in according to the provided clues/definitions, the dotted eggs spell out the message, "GO TO CAMBRIDGE COFFEE" -- a local coffeeshop in town.

Great Eggs-Spectations

At the coffeeshop teams spotted two framed pictures hanging on the wall (shown side-by-side here as a single large JPG image). They also received an instruction sheet of sorts, but very little explanation was given. This puzzle actually stumped teams more than I thought it would. I anticipated that the hardest part would be spotting the differences between the two pictures, but it turns out that most teams had trouble figuring out what to do with that information once the differences were known.

ANSWER: The picture on the right has six eggs missing. Identify which six eggs from the left are absent, look at the icon above those eggs, and compare them to the instruction sheet. Following the six appropriate instructions leads one on a route to a room back at my house.

Sudoku-ku-cachoo, I Am The Eggman!

This was a physical sudoku puzzle. Instead of numbers to be filled in on a piece of paper, I built boards onto which players had to place colored wooden eggs (some initial wooden eggs were pre-placed and attached securely). For web readers, here is a PDF of the schemamtic.

ANSWER: Solve the sudoku normally, then use the color bar at the botom to read the letters off in order: first all of the letters in a space with Black eggs, then the Light Gray eggs, then Blue, and so forth. The revealed message directs the players to a particular tree at the local arboretum.

Scrambled Eggs

It's always a challenge to involve third-party businesses in Puzzle Hunts. You never know if the business people will "get" the idea of the Hunt, nor are you guaranteed that they will do the right things even if they are on board. I liked this puzzle because it basically used local businesses without really needing their direct involvement. Players in the Hunt were simply directed to this webpage. Anyone not in the Auburn/Opelika area will find this one hard to complete. Some teams half-guessed the answer knowing the overall theme of the day.

ANSWER: the correct word to enter is EGGSHELL.

Egg Roll And Soup

The heart of this puzzle was just a photograph I took. The rub is that I put the image on a 3.5" floppy disk, so teams had to find a computer that could actually read off that medium. This was the only puzzle which was not solved by at least one team during the day. Two teams got the floppy within the last five minutes of the day, and they did not have time to pursue the puzzle.

ANSWER: The "Lucky Numbers" compose a simple code which should be compared to the Chinese Zodiac (pictured beneath all of the items). The puzzle was made a bit more challenging by the fact that the names of the animals in such zodiacs often vary (for example "Cock" is often replaced with "Rooster", and "Goat" with "Ram"). The idea was to get players to go to this specific (and unsuspecting) Chinese restaurant in downtown Auburn.

As this was the final puzzle in the thread, players were not directed to another puzzle; rather, they were instructed by the cracked code to "BRING ERIC COOKIE" (I would have stated a FORTUNE COOKIE, but there was no F available in the animal names of the zodiac).

Oh, and I don't know if the Chinese characters on the left side actually translate correctly. I used Google translator to try to write out "Egg Roll and Soup".

Puzzle Thread 2

Coloring Easter Eggs

This was the hardest puzzle of the day, and every team ended up taking a hint after getting stuck at the same place (which I anticipated). The idea of this puzzle was not originally mine; I adapted it from a puzzle I worked on at a Vegas-themed Puzzle Hunt at Microsoft a few years ago.

Teams where given these three pages of instructions plus two pages of graphics. They also got a box of crayons and an unlabeled key.

ANSWER: Part One is solved by coloring in the associated cells of the eggs with the colors mentioned in the answers of the clues. Then, the cells of a particular color in each egg form a letter. The eight eggs spell out: EXCHANGE. Most teams got this far... but then were stumped.

Part Two is achieved by noting that the 120 answers to the clues actually formed 60 pairs of answers; pairs based on the non-color parts of the answers. For example, "Red Sox" and "White Sox" were two answers; as were "Yellow Jacket" and "Green Jacket." Players had to examine their colored eggs from Part One and exchange the colors in every pair of cells. Doing so created a new 8-letter phrase: PAK-MAIL (the name of a local shipping business). The keys provided went to private mailboxes at that business.

Decorated Eggs

In the mailboxes reached by the puzzle above, the teams found a large plastic egg which contained jigsaw puzzle pieces and a note. The note read:
Please note: you need to return the mailbox key to the clerk at Pak-Mail. When you do that, you may pick up your Certificate of Egg-cellence (for the "Coloring Easter Eggs" puzzle) from him or her as well. Your next challenge consists of these jigsaw pieces. As you are franticly trying to assemble the puzzle, you may ask yourself, "how are we doing compared to other teams?" Don't worry about that. Just work calmly and purposefully. Even if your team lags behind with some tasks, perseverance will surely pay off...

The assembled puzzle pieces formed this image.

ANSWER: The eggs are "decorated" by nautical flags (this is hinted at phonetically by the italicized substrings in the message above). The flag-code when deciphered and then anagrammed reveals the next location (my office on the Auburn University campus): 340 PARKER HALL.

Alice Buys An Egg

A very simple puzzle if the players remembered that they were given a particular transparency at the beginning of the day. Posted on my office door was this image.

ANSWER: By aligning the transparency with the poster so that the corner eggs spell EGGS, the following message appears: BUY AN EGG AT BEHIND THE GLASS ("Behind The Glass" is a local boutique in Auburn). At that store they needed to buy an egg for five pennies (a reference to Alice buying her eggs above). The eggs purchased had Braille code scribed on their shells which decoded to: CRACK ME. The eggs were hollow, and when cracked a small piece of paper fell out. The address of a friend's parents' house was on the paper.


This is the closest I came to a Pentomino-like puzzle for this Party. As it was the end of this puzzle thread, I wanted the players to bring me something, so they had to assemble and tape together a model egg built from these eight pieces.

ANSWER: nothing else.

Puzzle Thread 3

The After Easter Egg Hunt

This was the one puzzle that really was affected by the torrential rain. Originally all of the hidden eggs were to be in my backyard, but since it was raining continuously, I had to find an alternative. Fortunately, my assistant for the day, Emily, convinced a local music, video, and book store to allow us to hide all of the eggs therein. The eggs were not hidden terribly hard, and once in place, the teams were given these instructions.

Since the eggs were hidden in a busy store, however, some were disturbed by curious customers. The puzzle was designed so that not all of the 81 eggs needed to be found, but there was much confusion (probably enhanced by the fact that I did not tell the players how many eggs were available to be found). So, eventually I gave each team a complete list of all of the eggs and four letter words which they could have found. Of course, they still needed to know how to extract the clues from the Egg-nalysis webpage, and the teams which figured out the pattern by which the fifteen clues were doled out were at an advantage.

ANSWER: If a "set" of eggs is entered, then one of fifteen clues is given out. Which of the fifteen clues is determined in the following way: a set is based on the four qualities of the eggs (top color, bottom color, type of sticker, number of stickers). To form a set the qualities must either match or be completely different. So this sets up a binary state for each of the four qualities (either "matched" or "unmatched"). That provides 16 possible combinations (2-to-the-4th power). However a valid set cannot have all four qualities be matched (else you'd have three identical eggs), so that really leaves fifteen possibilities. The script behind the Egg-nalysis form examined the three entered eggs. If a valid set was entered, it determined which of the fifteen types of sets was entered, and spit back the associated clue.

The fifteen clues, when put in order, leads one to a particular book in the Auburn University library where the next puzzle was hidden (the red letters and numbers one might also note in the fifteen clues formed the call number of that book as an alternate way to find the destination).


I usually try to include a maze of some sort in each of my Parties. This one was a bit of a trick, though. The maze teams found in the library book looked pretty daunting.

ANSWER: Closer examination reveals that the "puzzle" is simply finding the letters hidden amongst the twisty maze paths. The following address can be found: 313C EAST GLENN.

Lego My Eggo!

Being known as the "LEGO-guy" as well as the "puzzle-guy" around these parts, I like to occasionally use LEGO bricks in my puzzles. This one was a doozy. It wasn't really much of a puzzle... more a task. Players were given a large bag of LEGO pieces and an audio CD. The CD had instructions about how to assemble a model egg using 447 (!) pieces. The CD booklet I created for the puzzle explained pretty much everything they needed to know.

Credit should be given to a friend-in-LEGO, Bill Vollbrecht, who designed this egg and sent me high-rez pics so I could duplicate it for this Party. Players actually really enjoyed this puzzle. I thought they'd wring my neck for creating such a monotonous task (just listening to the CD instructions straight through without pausing requred about 35 minutes). Several players said it was their favorite challenge of the day.

ANSWER: By correctly answering the five questions, the teams could then deduce a ten-digit telephone number to call. The voice mail at this number recited a simple riddle:

To find your next puzzle,
  I'm sure that's your wish.
Try having a picnic
  At a park named for a fish. 
Which led the players to SALMON PARK in Auburn.

Eggses! Eggses It Is!

This puzzle was suggested by Scott Ingram, a teammate of mine from the last Party (when we won). I did the final polishing of it. It was not meant to be terribly difficult, but references a riddle from a popular fantasy novel.

ANSWER: In the fifty-three squares of the blank egg, fill in the riddle/text from The Hobbit. Then decode the coordinates. The message at the bottom of the page reads: SING EMILY A SONG ABOUT AN EGG. This was the last puzzle in this thread, so when players sang a song to Emily (my assistant for the Party), she rewarded them with a Certificate.

Puzzle Thread 4

An Egg-cellent Adventure

A traditional scavenger hunt challenge.

Spoon & Egg Race

An "event" rather than a puzzle. A nice activity to break the mind-numbing challenges of all the puzzles.


I don't think the puzzles were quite as hard this time as at some of my past Parties, but like I stated above, the whole day was very well received. Not only did many players hang out afterwards to discuss the day and the fun it held, but no one seemed terribly exhausted. If I hadn't called "time" at 7PM, most players probably would have continued.

Another positive sign is that many, many players are now energized to organize their own Puzzle Parties/Hunts here in Auburn. I've only been able to "play" in one so far (from Fall 2007), but it looks like I may not be running one of my own, now, until 2009.

Stay tuned.


There was also a "meta-puzzle" entwined throughout all of the puzzles detailed above. Any team had a chance to crack the meta-puzzle and find a Trophy Egg which I had hidden in Auburn. If a team had done that during Party-Day, they would have been the automatic winner, regardless of the number of points they earned through awarded Certificates of Egg-cellence (i.e. their points earned by solving the puzzles).

I did not think any team would actualy solve the meta-puzzle during the day, and I was correct. However, the following day members from several teams continued solving all the puzzles from Saturday, and by 4PM the Trophy Egg was recovered by members of Black Team and Green Team.

I won't detail exactly what the meta-puzzle enatiled, but basically it involved a four-dimensional maze printed on the backs of all of the Certificates the teams tried to earn throughout the day.