The Mystery Hunt I Myst
Here’s why: Ever since I’ve been unemployed, I’ve felt that this is my long-awaited opportunity to really put a stake through the heart of this book proposal, which has been far too long in the making. Anything that distracts from that, I’m discovering, feels almost like a threat. And while I would have loved to hang out with my friends this weekend, it meant essentially giving up five solid days of work on the book—four to do the Hunt (Thursday through Sunday), and one to recover from the sleeplessness. I love the MIT Mystery Hunt, but I’m afraid it’s not quite worth five days of work. It’s too much like vacation, and I only have so much time free before my money starts dwindling and I need an actual job again. This is my chance to write. It would be criminal to squander it.
I didn't know unemployment would affect me like this, but now I know. It's like a form of relentless guilt, only with hope at the end.
So I can take breaks to do posts like this—it turns out a whole book, or even a book proposal, is something you really need a breather from now and then—but five days was asking too much, and in the end it was simply easier not to go. I’m sorry to everyone on the team. I really should have called Toonhead! or Sue++ or Trip or someone. My apologies. I’m fine. I’m just being selfish.
This is, however, the time to own up. I wrote five puzzles for this Hunt, aided immensely by the indefatigable Trip Payne. (As well as a few other people I’m bad at keeping track of. So sorry! My memory has always kind of sucked.) The puzzles were, if I’m getting the names correct:
God of Cartoons (a bunch of cartoons about famous historical figures)
The Deadly Hobby of Murder (a sample final chapter from an Encyclopedia Brown-type mystery novel)
Department Store (a fairly standard find-the-organizing-theme grid puzzle with a few twists)
Chinese Menu (a Chinese menu)
Notes on a Century of English, According to Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary (a list of ten words)
Trip was particularly helpful on “Notes on a Century…” and “Department Store,” and he seems to have a staggering memory for Hunt puzzles. Thanks, Trip! I was happiest with God of Cartoons, and in general I’m hopeful that in a Hunt that turned out to be harder than anticipated, my own puzzles were all on the easy side. It would be sad to make a puzzle if no one solved it. So far, all I know is that one team found the Chinese Menu sort of broken (it did okay in the test-solving!), and one blogger found God of Cartoons at least memorable enough to mention. I’d be interested in more feedback, though with any luck I’ll never be on a winning Mystery Hunt team again where I’ll have to apply my learning.
I’d just like to thank all the other members of Palindrome, especially our computer people (man, you all are geniuses!) and the Trip/Halprin/Purdy puzzle-vetting triumvirate. And we would have been literally nowhere without the amazing work of Eric Berlin, who deserves to not have to move a muscle for the next two years.