SNAP 2: Fools Rush In


April 1 marked the start of puzzle season and the beginning of what will hopefully become a new recurring puzzle event in Seattle, SNAP (Seattle and Neighboring Areas in Puzzling). This debut outing, SNAP 2: Fools Rush In, took place in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood, the self-proclaimed center of the universe, from 1 to 6 PM. Twenty-five teams of four players each traveled throughout the area on foot, solving twelve puzzles before arriving at the finish. Three hint envelopes were provided with each puzzle; each opened envelope cost a team points. No electronic devices or reference materials were allowed other than the code sheet provided by the organizers.

Despite the event's title, our team decided not to rush. Our goal was simply to finish all the puzzles within the time allotted without taking any hints. We succeeded and even finished in third place behind two other hintless (but hardly clueless) teams, having a great time in the process.

The puzzles were all of appropriate difficulty for the event and most were conducive to team solving. The notable exception was the cleverly titled "Fool's Russian"-- a cryptogram utilizing Cyrillic-looking characters obtained at Fremont's bronze Lenin statue-- which (like all cryptograms) was difficult for more than two to work at once. I particularly liked a puzzle at the sundial atop the hill at Gasworks Park consisting of a dozen letters posted around the sundial and a dozen photos of different views from the sundial. When the most obvious approach-- face the same as each photo and read the letter you point toward-- failed, discovering the correct solution was a very satisfying process of utilizing all the information contained within the puzzle. A puzzle involving braided strands bound by rings was also elegant, with a satisfying "aha" upon realizing the datastream was encoded with each strand, rather than each ring. I also liked the Center of the Universe puzzle involving chains of compound words and phrases, which is one of my favorite puzzle paradigms. BRAIN _____ PROOF stumped us, but happily the puzzle was designed so that we could work around such a roadblock.

A "count the number of words before the word FOOL in these song fragments" puzzle suffered from its outdoor location, where it was hard to distinguish syllables from words. The puzzle would have been more successful in a more controlled environment, or with headphones. I heard a number of teams complain about a data collection puzzle utilizing a local mosaic, but our team had no complaints. In fact, since the data to be gathered was distributed on twelve strips of paper, I liked that the work could be split among the team and all of us could contribute. Only 3-4 teams were there when we arrived, however, and since the mosaic was on the ground I can understand how it might have been a nightmare if it got more crowded.

I have no idea how effective the hint system was, since we used none, but preparing three clue envelopes for each team for each puzzle must have been a bit of a pain. Since each site was staffed, the effort could have been avoided and the system streamlined by having the staffer hold one copy of each hint and a checklist for each team. A team requesting help would be shown a hint and checked off on the staffer's list.

Snap 2 was a great inaugural effort-- Shark Bait put together a solid, fun event. I hope we SNAP again soon. Next up this weekend... The Apprentice: Zorg.


When a SZ reader inquired about a SNAP recap, I was puzzled since I thought I'd already posted one. I wrote this a couple of days after SNAP, but not in a single sitting. When I finished, I forgot to publish it. D'oh!

Agreed that Shark Bait did a great job and created a very enjoyable event. Also worth noting that they seemed to get the timing of the event exactly right, with a good number of teams finishing quickly, finishing at all, and not finishing. This is no small feat.

Also worth noting was the elegance of the word search puzzle, where the organizers handed out snacks, including skittles, before you started, and then the puzzle ended up looping back to the skittles package. I think it was the most easily solved puzzle in the hunt, it was easily backsolvable, etc., but I'm always impressed with clever moments like this - kudos to the author.

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