Treasure hunt. No pirates allowed.
March 19, 2010 12:49 PM   Subscribe

TreasureHuntFilter: looking for devilishly puzzling clues for a grown-up birthday treasure hunt.

As a kid, birthday parties always featured a treasure hunt. Clues were simple- "If treasure is what you're looking for, look near the basement ____" - and we would all shout "DOOR" and dash off to look for the next clue. This was totally a highlight of birthdays for a solid decade, and now I am a grown-up, having a big-deal birthday next weekend, and I was hoping the hive mind had some advice about planning a treasure hunt of supreme excellence.

In my head, we will have three or four mini-hunts, that would each take ~ an hour, each of which would lead to a mini-treasure. So far, prize ideas include liquid nitrogen and ice cream ingredients, miracle berries, and balloons. I anticipate ten to fifteen hunters.

I am crazy in love with the idea of the puzzle house, and I deeply love the Westing Game, but both of those are laid out in months-and-years-for-solving rather than ten-to-fifteen minutes.

I looking for ideas for suffiently-challenging but solvable-fun puzzles for clues. A hundred piece jigsaw puzzle with a photo of the location of the next clue? Good. A locked box with instructions on how to unlock it written in binary? Excellent. But what ELSE?
posted by aint broke to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Check out these puzzles for ideas -- they all solve to a single word, and maybe you could adapt some of them (instead of writing new ones, which is really hard).
posted by brainmouse at 12:55 PM on March 19, 2010

You mentioned a clue written in binary? So can we assume treasure-hunters will have access to the internet for research/decoding while the game is afoot?
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 12:56 PM on March 19, 2010

[for the record, on those clues above, you do not have access to the internet, but you do have access to a piece of paper that has a bunch of different codes (i think we had binary, trinary, semaphore... and a few others) on it]
posted by brainmouse at 12:57 PM on March 19, 2010

Whatever you do, make sure to put one clue in a pool or something else which will require them to do something silly ;)

GAMES Magazine does/did a hidden contest each month, in which something associated with one of the normal puzzles (something hidden in the graphics, the leftover letters in a word search, the long answers in a crossword) would indicate the directions to another hidden contest, which was not mentioned anywhere else in the magazine.
posted by Madamina at 1:05 PM on March 19, 2010

Can you read this stereogram? You could generate one, print it out and put it in a box. Devilish. There are also 3-D filters and generators with which you could do the same if you provide the glasses.
posted by iconomy at 1:08 PM on March 19, 2010

iconomy, how do you generate one? I love those...
posted by widdershins at 1:28 PM on March 19, 2010

Best answer: Go here, click one of the 3 circles to generate the pen size/thickness of the letters, write something in the black area, and click 'done'. You can go back and do it again if you see that you need to make the words smaller or larger or what have you. Try to use decent ink and paper to print it out so that it can be read easily.
posted by iconomy at 1:37 PM on March 19, 2010 [2 favorites]

Thx! Will try it from home later.
posted by widdershins at 1:41 PM on March 19, 2010

Sounds a bit like some escape-the-room games, in the sense that you need to solve puzzles in sequence to get the final key/code. Maybe have a look at games tagged with "escape" on Jay Is Games for some puzzle/clue ideas. The walkthroughs should give you the gist if you don't want to actually play the games.
posted by Quietgal at 2:31 PM on March 19, 2010

Best answer: You could use a crossword puzzle. Use a simple one - maybe a NYT Monday - and circle some of the letters. The circled letters are an anagram of the puzzle clue.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:04 PM on March 19, 2010

Best answer: 1. Morse code, either written on paper or an audio file.
2. A flash drive with a file (text? HTML? PDF?) on it that contains a clue.
3. A clue in a tree branch, far out of reach.
4. Seconding a clue at the bottom of a body of water.
posted by exphysicist345 at 5:56 PM on March 19, 2010

Response by poster: Your ideas are all excellent! (muah ha HA) and I will report back on how feindish guests found the puzzles.
posted by aint broke at 8:13 PM on March 20, 2010

Response by poster: Post party follow up: Stupid mother nature, and her thwarting ways. (We were rained out after the first treasure hunt.) I can speak to the excellence of:

1) NYT crossword puzzle. We did a Wednesday one as a group of twelve people and found it challenging but not impossible.
2) Jigsaw puzzle of next clue location. Made more challenging by the fact that we hid the puzzle in fifteen different Easter eggs.
3) A stereogram, at the tip of a very tall branch. Man, did people hate that one.
4) Morse code. We hid an alphabet, the clue and a twenty-six letter red herring. This was much easier to figure out than anticipated, as our group had two people who mostly knew Morse code. (Nerds.)

At the end of this we discovered the ingredients to make liquid nitrogen ice cream, and it was good. I highly recommend all of the above, with a caveat to check the weather before committing to outdoor locations.
posted by aint broke at 10:20 PM on April 7, 2010

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