First things first.If you are having trouble deciphering things, Chris Morse will give you the answer you seek. He's the puzzles champ around here!
A month ago, I didn't even understand the co-curricular. Two weeks ago I finally got around to stopping by the meetings. Last week I signed up for the competition on a lark, and yesterday, I traveled to Microsoft headquarters in the Cambridge area with four other Olin teams to test our mettle in a nationwide college puzzles competition.
We left out of here at 10 am and settled in there to begin the enterprise at noon. We returned long after midnight.
My team consisted of Trevor, me, and Paul (all '13), and Nat ('12).
We had jumped on a newly formed vacancy late-ish into the sign up process, in the middle of our 'puzzles' gathering. Our combined inexperience averaged around five sessions each, so we entitled ourselves "CannonFodder," below the others, "The Ultraviolet Catastrophe," "Drop Table Teams," "Ground Control," and "Captain Morgan." We named every individual in our team "Graham Hooton," but we each had our own e-mail addresses. Signing in on Saturday morning was a little awkward, but it made congratulating one another very easy.
At HQ, we settled in at the end of a spacious lounge-area with many
television monitors, studio spaces, and divans spread about. We noticed
our free tee shirts had a curious pattern printed on them. We decided
it was our first puzzle, so we set about solving it before the packets
were delivered. We were very quick on another, so the minute we were
able to submit, we managed to be the first team to submit two answers,
putting us first around the country very (very!) briefly.
innovative puzzle involved a change in the submission protocol on the
website. A new paragraph appeared in the rules: "It has come to our
attention that underhanded techniques are messing up the process.
Contestants shall note that it is strictly forbidden to bribe
the event co-ordinators." Guess where the hyperlinked word 'bribe'
sent us to! A hidden puzzle, entitled "DO AS YOU'RE TOLD." What could
we do? I ran out to Dunkin Donuts and bought them donut holes.
the end of the day, after our submissions of the correct answer to the
thirty challenge puzzles gradually unlocked sections of a video, we put
clues together to hypothesize that voice-acting legend, Don Lafontaine,
would be the final response. My teammate typed it in, but it wasn't
quite right. I then remembered that we were looking for 'some person's
catch phase' but instead of inputting "IN A WORLD WHERE", we moved on!
We could have had it! We got distracted from the final puzzle at the
... so, in fact these were not my experiences. My
better practiced fellow Oliners accomplished these feats - my stories
were similar, but I wasn't as quick or long-distance and I didn't quite
Despite being cannon fodder, however, my
wet-behind-the-ears team figured out a respectable number of puzzles
and wound up with a score that we found very satisfactory.
was all such a wonderful experience, and it couldn't have happened
without our co-curricular (official assembly of students instructed in
a professor's given extra curricular interest) leader and
puzzlesmaster, Chris Morse (also a chemistry professor). He prepared us
well for this event, training us in the weeks before, giving us packets
of past years' puzzles to get us into the right mindset. He sent us a
carefully planned document filled with codes and ciphers, lists and
resources. He also suggested a number of tools we should bring with us
including dice, dominoes, scrabble tiles, and scissors to help us in
Our groups worked in relative isolation for
twelve hours, chatting briefly while fetching snacks and drinks but
hurrying back to focus.Within the group, we got to know one another
very well, seeing a side of each other only hours of dictated
companionship brings to light. It's an experience I'm hoping to repeat,
and even improve upon, next year!
So, to all those involved, thank
you my very enjoyable saturday morning, afternoon, and evening, and
congratulations, all the puzzlers, Chris Morse, and Microsoft!
The puzzles can be found here.