Spread some seasonal mirth
December 2, 2012 12:17 PM   Subscribe

My sister and I have an annual Christmas tradition of making an elaborate treasure hunt, puzzle or game for our family. Need some help brainstorming this year's edition.

The idea is we make a puzzle for our parents and they need to complete it successfully to receive their gift. Past ideas have been:

• A treasure hunt where a series of clues hidden around the house finally leads to a gift
• A personalized cryptic crossword which reveals location of gift once completed
• Miniature versions of game shows (Price is Right, Family Feud, Sale of the Century) during which they win $ to "buy" their gift
• Personalised logic grid puzzle
• Personalised jigsaw puzzle (keep planning to do this but never remember in time)

We are stuck this year, any ideas?
posted by dontjumplarry to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
What about some kind of Dan Brown esque "figure out the answer to each of these puzzles and then at the end you reveal the gift" sort of wild goose chase? Or is that the kind of Treasure Hunt you already did?

Did you play the Hot And Cold game as a kid? That might be fun.
posted by Sara C. at 12:23 PM on December 2, 2012

Response by poster: (Yeah we sort of did that treasure hunt, but it was the first year so the clues were really basic, we could definitely revamp it with some hardcore Dan Brownesque codes/enigmas).
posted by dontjumplarry at 12:27 PM on December 2, 2012

It's hard to separate the degree to which these activities ultimately benefit the puzzler vs. the puzzlee. But that would be where I would start -- what do the subjects of your hunt enjoy doing? That's your best first step. I could tell you stories.
posted by blueshammer at 12:46 PM on December 2, 2012

How about family trivia to win puzzle pieces or uncover a rebus (Classic Concentration-style) the shows the location of the gift?

(And the puzzle can be a really simple 8 or 12 piece version)
posted by chiefthe at 12:59 PM on December 2, 2012

Target shooting with a nerf gun or something to get presents?

Chocolate liquors where you must guess the liquor to get your present, or other eating-type challenges?
posted by smoke at 1:21 PM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ooooh, I like smoke's idea. What about a blind taste test? Nothing mean, though. More like "which is red wine and which is white?" or "taste these three herbs/cheeses/spices and say what they are".
posted by Sara C. at 1:25 PM on December 2, 2012

Or, going with the target shooting thing, but also with more Hunger Games-esque stuff? Plant identification (don't eat the poison one!), knot-tying...more stuff I can't think of?
posted by itsamermaid at 1:31 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

It isn't too late to order a personalized jigsaw puzzle. You could take a photo of the gift, or take a photo of a note that has directions on how to find the gift and have that photo made into a puzzle. Here is just one of many, many places you could have that done.

Then they'd always have the puzzle to work again, too.

Also, I like smoke's idea of target shooting with a nerf gun. That sounds like a fun time for all.

On preview the knot tying sounds cool, too!
posted by Brody's chum at 1:34 PM on December 2, 2012

Instead of "don't eat the poison" maybe "don't eat the one that is obviously going to taste disgusting?" It shouldn't be too hard to throw a weed out of the garden into a pile of mint, thyme, dill, etc. Maybe throw in one edible weed (purslane or dandelion or something) and one not-edible-but-not-poisonous one?
posted by Sara C. at 1:35 PM on December 2, 2012

Whatever the activity, you can have great fun but including some home-made scratch tickets made with scratch off labels.
posted by alms at 7:39 PM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

How much do you want it to be fun, verses difficult and entertaining for everyone else watching? If torture is what you're after, I've got just the thing for you (assuming you have a few tools handy).

Get one of those screwdrivers that has multiple removable heads that are stored in the handle (this is the important part). Take a piece of paper with the clue as to what they should do next, and fold it up inside the handle of the screwdriver.

Next, make a note that says "look inside the screwdriver handle". Put that in between 2 pieces of wood, and screw the two pieces of wood together with 10-20 screws. Make sure that the head on the front of the screwdriver is the same as the screws.

Now, on christmas morning you hand them the boards screwed together and the screwdriver, telling them that the clue to their present is inside. After they spend 5-10 minutes unscrewing all of the screws, they will find out that their clue was in the screwdriver the entire time. Much laughing/cursing/giggling/eye rolling will follow.

Something similar to this was done in my family about 15 years ago, and we still talk about it.
posted by markblasco at 9:30 PM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Lots of cupcakes, and the next clue is in one of them. But you can only get a new one if you eat the one you have.

Find the marble in the big vat of oatmeal (thanks, Weird Al!) to get your next clue.

Or how about taking some challenges from "10 Bets You Will Never Lose" (on YouTube) and they just have to win ONE challenge to get the next clue... Of course, you end up giving them the clue after proving they can't win any of them.

My kids would *love* stupid stunts like these ones.
posted by tacodave at 3:49 PM on December 3, 2012

How agile are they? Because spider webs are fun.
posted by kjs4 at 6:32 PM on December 3, 2012

Penn and Teller had a trick where the 3 of Clubs (I think) was baked into a pizza that was delivered as the surprise finale of the trick. Bribe the manager at the pizza joint. Christmas morning might be an odd time to order a pizza but it'd be memorable.

Put a clue in the bottom of their cocoa mug. On a clue the outside so everyone is in on the game. But put an adjustment to the outside clue on the inside of the mug so they have to finish their cocoa before it makes sense. Indiana Jones and the Lost Ark did this.

You could make a quick movie and burn it to a DVD with clues on it. Alternately you could use a commercial movie DVD and they have to check at a certain point in the movie to for a clue; ala demons in the refrigerator in Ghostbusters movie.

If you want to do a jigsaw puzzle I think most instant printing places can print a photo on a simple puzzle. Similar vein, you could get 2013 calendars printed up for the family with clues in the photos and text you pick. Everyone gets to appreciate the fun for the entire year.

If the actual gift could be delivered in pieces they'd have to find each piece.

You could play some kind of group game like Psychiatrist where the answer is a clue; "Mortal Fear of the Refrigerator" leads to a clue in the refrigerator.

Do they play minecraft? You could build an entire Christmas puzzle palace full of mazes, clues and dead ends in the virtual game world.
posted by deanj at 2:59 PM on December 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

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