This weekend was Puzzle Hunt 8 at Microsoft-- a weekend of puzzle-solving debauchery shared by 57 teams of 12 people each. The event started at 10 AM Saturday and ended at 5:30 PM Sunday.
A couple of years ago my team ran Puzzle Hunt 6 which was, by most accounts, the best hunt ever. This one was better.
My hopes were high going into the hunt, since Games Magazine contributors Mike Selinker and Mark Gottlieb were both on the organizing team. I'd played in a 3-hour hunt they created for a National Puzzlers League convention a few years ago, and it was top-notch. This hunt ran flawlessly. We required no hints for any puzzles. None. And I don't mean just hints released to the general population-- we didn't get any kind of assistance from the organizers at any time during the hunt. No verification of partial answers, no reinforcement that we were on the right track, nothing. It wasn't necessary. The puzzles were sensible, well-designed and executed, and required no superhuman leaps of intuition to solve.
The first round was particularly elegant, consisting entirely of a Las Vegas travel brochure that, at first glance, didn't appear to contain any puzzles at all. In fact it contained seven, plus the most brilliant meta-puzzle I've ever seen. Each puzzle resolved to an instruction. Following all seven instructions resulted in cutting out parts of the brochure, folding them into rectangular tubes, cutting holes in them, and shining a light on them to cause them to cast a shadow in the shape of a 5-digit phone extension. A thing of beauty.
My team won hunts 2 and 5, ran hunts 3 and 6, and lost hunts 4 and 7. Given that pattern, we "expected" to win this hunt. We got the first solve a few minutes into the hunt, securing a lead we never lost. We were on fire, solving almost half the puzzles before any other team and ultimately finishing the hunt at 5 AM, 19 hours in. The next team finished three hours later. On one level it was a bit disappointing to finish so early (we WAY overbought on the food front, expecting another twelve hours of puzzling), but they say it's always better to leave 'em wanting more. The hunt never wore out its welcome, and we finished exhilirated and satisfied.
I pity the team that has to follow this act. Because it's us.