I'm going to break from the usual format and talk about what I did this weekend in DC. My spouse and I braved the cold and rainy day and participated in the First Annual Washington Post Hunt. This event can best be described as an intellectual scavenger hunt of sorts. This event has also been going on for 20 years down in Miami, and its creators decided to bring it to Washington. Its creators of course are Gene Weingarten, Dave Barry (Pulitzer Prize winning journalists) and Tom Schroder, editor of the Washington Post Magazine.
I was already somewhat familiar with the game only because I saw the movie "Midnight Madness" when I was in high school. I thought, how fun that would be to do something like that. Well, I finally got my chance.
The game starts with a series of 5 questions that appear in the Washington Post magazine. The answers to the questions were always preceded by a Roman Numeral. At the event, you were then given a list of 5 cardinal numbers. It was easy to figure out that the numbers related to grid coordinates on a map provided in the centerfold of the Magazine. At each location there was a puzzle. Every puzzle has an answer and the answer is always a number. There are two pages of possible answers, 70-some to be exact in the Magazine.
The first puzzle we went to involved the library. One clue given was that the answer was a three digit number and you were pointed to the Magazine's Second Glance feature as another clue. It wasn't very long before I figured out that the Vs that were etched in stone (the title of the Second Glance) had been turned into Us in both photos. This told me that the answer was 555. (I was pretty pleased to find out that this was actually one of the harder puzzles, but I am an AVID reader of Second Glance, so it paid off.)
We went on to a second puzzle where there was a "race" between the National's "President" mascots and a "male hoofed ruminant". In each race, the ruminant won and coming in second and third was Washington and then Lincoln. The announcer kept saying that the race was titled "a Time For Change." Eventually we figured out that Washington represented a quarter and Lincoln a penny. But we assumed the ruminant was there for no reason since the announcer kept saying "we don't know why, we don't know how he is here". So instead of coming up with 126, which is "a buck" and change", or 1.26, we came up with 26 which was only part of the answer, but a possible answer nevertheless.
The third puzzle we came to involved opening a fortune cookie and reading the fortune inside. The fortune on one side mentioned those "that have discerning taste will have success." The other side had the chinese words for movie theater. We thought this was a reference to the old movie theater at 1101 New York Avenue which led us to 4 ethic restaurants. So we thought the answer was 4 (a possible answer). But we were way off on that one. One thing that we didn't do was pour over the Washington Post magazine the day before. If we had done this we would have found a movie theater ad that listed a feature called "Coconuts" showing at 11:00. The answer was 11. How? Because the fortune cookie that I didn't eat tasted like coconuts. My husband recalled the taste and even thought "hmm, coconut" to himself as he was nom, nom, noming on it, but it didn't register to either of us.
The next puzzle took us to Chinatown. We were handed a sheet of Chinese characters and were told to look at the "whole thing". Of course the three characters on the Chinatown gate were "translated" on the sheet as "too small, think vastly bigger". We found a bunch of other numbers on the sheet too, large numbers. So we figured if we added them up the number would be over 1000. This led us to believe that the answer was 1989, which again, was on the list. A nagging feeling told us that this couldn't be that easy, but we went with it. We were getting tired and hungry. We would find out later that the answer was 12. The gate itself was depicted on the sheet as a character and the "translation" was "angry men", hence, the number 12.
We had one final clue to find, and it was back at the beginning. By the time we got there, they were already announcing the final clue. Gene Weingarten constructed a pair of crossed cardboard sabres. So we only had 4 answers and then the final clue. After some debate over how many clues there were and whether or not the final clue was the fifth answer, we got the final answer from some hippie-looking kids who told us that there were three comedians (labeling themselves "comics"), who for a couple of hours talked about crocodiles, elementary school janitors and penguins. And there was a large stack of comics that were being handed out by staff. Apparently, Pearls Before Swine, Frazz, and Opus had numbers hidden in their panels. Still wanting to play, we followed some fast-moving people to see where they were going, but our trail went cold. We did find an end game clue though-- a sign that read "Think like a Roman" and a group of folks sprinting north on 7th street. We knew they had the answer. It was at that point that we gave up. We were in over our heads by the fortune cookies. We headed back to center stage to find out who won.
When we got there, Gene and Dave and Tom were announcing what the clues were and how you got to win. We also found the numbers hidden in the comic strips, which were 6, 8, and 9. or 689. The order of the "comics" on stage, gave you the order of the numbers.
In order to solve the Endgame, you had to look up your solution numbers in the Magazine and the secondary clues next to them. So you had crossed swords (not sabres) and the following clues:
11-All you need to do is remove eds from the middle and the solution is right in front of you
12- The answer for you begins for me
126 - The first letter is the 14th letter and the third letter is the 13th letter
555 - Seek letters that end with a PS
689 - If second comes after first, what comes after third?
The Solution: 11 tells you to remove "eds" from crossed swords, that led you to "crosswords" or the crossword puzzle. The rest of the clues are words in the crossword puzzle that form a phrase. The first word would be FORMER (begins "for me"), the second word was NAME (N is 13th and M is 14th letter), the third was CAPS, and the last was HOME.
So you had FORMER NAME CAPS HOME, which would lead you to the MCI Center, or the Verizon Center. That's where we saw the "Think like a Roman" sign. MCI, of course in Roman numerals is 1101. Meanwhile, back on the map, in the centerfold, there was one building that was labeled 1101, and that was 1101 K Street. So the people we saw sprinting were headed there.
Once they got there, a sign told them "For Opportunities in the District, Call TODAY. And a phone number was given. If players dialed the number shown, they got a message that said, "no, we said call TODAY". And "today" of course was 5-18-2008, or 202-518-2008. At that point, the message on the phone was to go to the corner of ELM and MAPLE and deliver something (a sheet of paper with your name, your cell phone #, and the Roman numerals that led you there- MCI) to a man in a Red Sox cap. Of course there is no Elm or Maple in DC, but there were ELM and MAPLE answers in the puzzle. And the "intersection" of those two words is the letter "L". Meanwhile, back on the map, there was a letter "L" not so conspicously hiding near F and 14th Streets. There the man with the cap was, and there did three teams deliver to the man the correct item and thus win the Hunt.
The first team did it in 22 minutes from the time the final clue was given. Congratulations to Jack Reda, Todd Etter (members of a local comedy troupe), Chris Guthrie, and David Forrest, who won the Post Hunt yesterday! I can't wait until next year.