My Sixth annual "Birthday" Treasure Hunt was entitled "Treasure Hunt 2001: A Puzzling Odyssey" (see the official page here), and was held October 14th on the University of Washington Campus. If you do not know the history of my treasure hunts, you may wish to read the Treasure Hunt FAQ, or check out the recap from the 2000 Hunt "Who Stole the Tarts".
My Treasure Hunts seem to fall later and later in the year, and this year my Hunt wound up in mid-October. But, truth be told, I hadn't planned to have any Hunt whatsoever this year. I recently got married and changed jobs, so I simply felt that I had already had such a full year that the Treasure Hunt was unnecessary. More importantly, I had hoped to have the theme of this year's Hunt be "2001: A Space Odyssey" and have it coincided with the showing of said movie at the Seattle Cinerama Theater. The problem was that no matter how many times I called or wrote the Cinerama, they could never give me a date as to when they would be screening the film. Finally, by August, someone at the Cinerama told me that they would not be showing the film at all this year, and it was at that point that I simply abandoned any plans for a 2001 Hunt.
But then, one day in late September, I opened up my local newspaper and saw an ad in the "Arts and Entertainment" section proudly proclaiming that the Cinerama would be showing "2001" from October 5th to the 19th. Arrrrrggh! That meant that the latest Sunday I could schedule my Treasure Hunt would be October 14th, which gave me only three weeks to plan the event. Since past Hunts have taken me as long as six weeks to assemble, I was reluctant to go ahead with it. I finally decided that I would just caution everyone not to expect too much this year, and go ahead with the plan.
Planning this year actually went very smoothly, and three weeks turned out to be more than enough time. (I have done so many of these now that I am getting rather efficient in planning them). The only pitfall was that a Seahawks football game was being played in a nearby stadium at the same time as my Hunt, which made parking somewhat difficult. On the up side, the weather was quite nice: chilly, yes, but not rainy.
Around 40 people attended, and assembled into nine teams of four. I quickly ran over the rules of the Hunt, although most attendees have done one or more of these before. On my signal each team opened the envelope I had given them before the start of the Hunt. The envelopes were jet black and, when held vertically, looked just like the Monolith from the 2001 movie, but I'm not certain anyone "got" that. (Several people remarked after the fact that although they didn't catch the monolith symbolism , the black envelopes were sufficiently "cool looking" to pique people's interest). The envelope contained the first clue and a specially prepared map of the campus. The Map showed the entire campus, but only 25 of the buildings were given names, and teams were told beforehand that clues would only be hidden in or around buildings which were specifically named on this special map.
Clue 1, "The Dawn of Man": The first clue represented the first part of 2001, which focuses on a tribe of man-apes in the African Savannah. This clue showed a series of photos which I had altered with photoshop. (See clue one here.) Each was a composite image of a famous celebrity mixed in with features taken from photos to apes and gorillas. The end result was a series of photos in which instantly-recognizable celebrities were transformed into almost unrecognizable ape-men. The instructions read "Look at each of these man-apes and try and guess which celebrity descended from each." Below were a series of blanks, where Hunters could write in the names of the corresponding celebrities, and each name had one letter dropped down to a second series of blanks. This second series of blanks followed the statement "Go to the building where you would find this kind of person," and when filled the blanks spelled "Moon Watcher". A quick glance at the map would tell the Hunters that the only building that fit this description would be the Astronomy building, which was indeed where the second clue was hidden.
As an aside, the main ape-man in the first part of the novel "2001" is named "Moon-Watcher".
Clue Two, "Evolution": This clue represented the transition, in 2001, from the prehistoric man-apes to the dawn of the 21st century. (see clue two here.)It was also inspired by the long-standing urban legend that the computer in 2001, HAL, was named by taking the initials "IBM" and shifting each back one step in the alphabet. The first clue was quite easy; now I needed a tougher clue that would take the groups varying times to solve, which would spread the groups in preparation for the third clue. In this puzzle (see clue two here), players were given a series of words which they were told to "Evolve" into new words. A word was evolved by moving each of its letters forward in the alphabet, so the word "add," for instance, could be evolved into "bee" by moving each of its letters forward one step in the alphabet, and "box" could be evolved into "era" (b->c->d->e, o->p->q->r, x->y->z->a). From each Evolved word, one letter was dropped to a series of blanks at the bottom, which spelled out "DRIP PLUS NINE". This stumped some teams, but most soon figured out that this meant to take the word "Drip" and Evolve it nine steps to get a new word: "Mary". A look at the map would then tell teams that the next clue was hidden at "Mary [Gates] Hall".
Clue Three, "Excavation": The weakest themed clue, this was supposed to represent the digging up of the Monolith on the moon. To solve get the fourth clue, teams first had to go and compete against other teams at "Ricochet Robot". (To learn all about Ricochet Robot, go here; to purchase this fine game, go here). My friend Matt Olsen was moderating the game, and we made a few rule changes to expedite things (None of this will make any sense if you're not familiar with the game, so you may as well skip ahead to the next paragraph.). If only one team was there, they would compete against Matt; if two or more teams were there, they would compete against each other and Matt would just officiate. Also, we despensed with the minute-timer: as soon as a team spotted a solution -- any solution -- they could announce it and immediately get a chip. Once a team had collected two chips, Matt gave them the next clue.
I had hoped that the previous clue would spread the teams out enough so that they wouldn't all get bottlenecked here. Alas, the bottleneck occurred anyhow. Still, my trusty assistant Matt handled things well, and everyone eventually got through. If I had to do this Hunt again (which I don't, thank ye gods) I would eliminate this clue entirely or someone move it almost to the end of the Hunt. Many teams said this was the most frustrating part. On the other hand, many teams also said they wanted to buy a copy of the game! Ironically, often those who expressed the most irritation at the game were the ones who also wanted to pick up a copy for themselves (?).
Clue four, "Lip Reader": The fourth clue was based on the scene in the movie in which HAL learns that the crewmen plan to disconnect him. (See clue four here). Although Dave Bowman and Frank Poole take great pains to speak about HAL's disconnection in an environment where he cannot hear them, they forget that he could see them through his electronic eyes scattered throughout the ship, and he learns of their plans by reading their lips as they talk.
This puzzle was designed to be viewed and solved on one of the many Internet terminals through the UW libraries. When I first wrote this puzzle, I took lip-reading diagrams from a book and arranged them so that they "spelled" out the names of the nine planets in the solar system. Teams would figure them out, type them into the terminal, and, if correct, would then be told the location of the next clue.
There were a couple of problems with this clue, though. First off, it was too easy to just figure out a few of the planets and then just guess on the rest. Second, some folks pronounce Uranus differently -- yer-AY-nuss vs. YER-uh-nuss -- and so there were really two possible lip configurations for it. Worst of all, I was having to scan diagrams from this lip-reading book into my computer, and the resulting quality was too poor to make this really doable.
But then I lucked out and discovered that someone else had already written this puzzle for me! It turns out that a guy names "Scott Kim", who does a column for Discovery magazine called "Bogglers", and he had designed a puzzle based on this exact same premise: of HAL reading the lips of Dave and Frank. (see he original puzzle here) His puzzle was so much better than mine that I just ripped the entire thing off. Oh well -- the reason I publish these Treasure Hunt reports on my site is so that other folks can rip off *my* puzzles for their own Hunts, so I don't feel too bad about it.
Anyhoo, solving this clue brought you to a page that said "The next clue is hidden behind this". When you clicked on the link, you were brought to the UW library page for the novel "2001: A Space Odyssey". Sure enough, the next clue was hidden behind that book on the library shelves.
Clue Five, "Killing HAL": This puzzle was based on the scene where Dave pulls out HAL's memory cards, thereby disconnecting the homicidal computer. (See clue five here). The clue came complete with a brand new deck of cards, and players were instructed to deal these cards out into four rows. Then there were a series of "which of the following doesn't belong" questions, and for each item that didn't belong in a particular group the players would remove a corresponding card from the tableaux. After all the appropriate cards had been removed, the remaining cards spelled out "A R T". (If you're not sure how a bunch of cards can "spell out" a word, see the solution.)
This is the clue that gave teams the most trouble, mostly due to the way the dealt out the cards into the rows. Some dealt the rows out in reverse order (i.e. with row #1 at the bottom and row #4 on top), others layered the cards instead of putting them side-by-side. No one who playtested this puzzle for me had any problem, but so many of the actual teams did that there's no denying that my instructions were unfortunately vague. Even so, every team did eventually make it to the ART building (although one got there just by guessing).
Clue Six, "Through the Star Gate": Since there was really no way to structure a puzzle on the final half an hour of the movie, I just based this one on the line "Oh my God, it's full of stars". (See clue six here). For the curious: you do not actually hear Dave Bowman say this line in the movie, although this is what he says in the book just before he passes through the Star Gate. In the movie 2010 (the sequel to 2001), they refer to this as being the "last words of Dave Bowman."
Anyhow: word search! Can't go wrong with a word search. After finding all the indicated words, the remaining letters told the teams to go to a certain room in the Music Building.
Solving the final clue led teams to a darken room, in which "Thus Spake Zarathustra" was playing and a large image of the Planet Earth, as seen from space, was projected onto the wall. This was meant to represent the final scene in the move.
The winning Team this year was "Team Rock Star": Will Pross, Linda
Mitchell, Josh Davis and Gunilla Eriksson. In second place came Fuzzy
Wuzzy Fish Face: Rana Bonnice, Craig Chin, Craig Magaret and Kim
Wisecup. Special thanks go out to Matt Olsen (who did proofreading
and moderated the "Ricochet Robot" game), Riley Lynch (proofreading) and,
as always, my wife Denise Liguori just for putting up with me while I plan
these crazy things.