Q: What is the Caltech Puzzle Hunt?
A: The Caltech Puzzle Hunt is an online puzzle hunt organized and run by a small group of recent Caltech graduates for the amusement of other Caltech alumni. We are puzzle enthusiasts who have participated in various puzzle hunts, but this is our first attempt at writing one. We hope you enjoy it!
Q: Hang on, what is a puzzle hunt? For that matter, what is a puzzle?
A: A puzzle hunt is a fun event where teams try to solve as many puzzles as they can, as quickly as they can. Puzzles come in various forms and flavors, ranging from standard crossword and sudoku puzzles you see in newspapers to decoding messages hidden inside pictures or interactive computer programs. Usually you are given some information to start, but how to use that information may not always be immediately obvious, and you must deduce how to proceed until ultimately a solution is reached.
In this hunt, the puzzles will be entirely self-contained in pdf documents, and you will solve for an answer in the form of a word or short phrase. The answers to these puzzles will then be used again to solve a final “metapuzzle”.
Q: What are the rules for this puzzle hunt?
A: Unlike traditional puzzles where you aren't allowed to use outside resources or collaborate with others, feel free to consult any resource (online or offline). In fact, we recommend using Google, Wikipedia, IMDB, Wolfram Alpha, anagram and crossword solvers, and other resources during the hunt.
The only rule for the puzzle hunt is that we ask you not to do anything that might spoil the enjoyment of others, such as posting spoilers or solutions online, repeatedly submitting random answers, or intentionally breaking website functionality. In general, the Honor Code applies.
Q: Do I need to have access to campus in order to do this hunt?
A: No, this hunt has been designed to be online only. (Though feel free to meet up with other alumni to work on the hunt to work on the hunt together in person!)
Q: Can I work on this puzzle hunt by myself, or should I work in a team?
A: Although you can solve all of these puzzles individually, we recommend working in a group of 2-6, with at least one member familiar with Caltech terminology and traditions.
Q: Help! Where can I find a team to work with?
A: If you're looking for a team to work with, feel free to ask non-Techers to join your group or contact us so we can pair you with others looking for a team.
Q: What should my team prepare before we get started?
A: Regardless of whether your team meets online or offline, we recommend that each participant bring a laptop that can access Google Docs. Working together on a shared doc can be extremely helpful in coordinating the puzzling effort. Scratch paper, printers, scissors, and glue may also be occasionally useful.
Q: My team is ready. How do I get started?
We ask that you register your team before you start so we can communicate with you and track the progress of participating teams. Simply fill out the New Team Registration form and get started!
About the Puzzles
Q: What puzzle should I start with?
A: Puzzles can be completed in any order, but you will need the answers to the regular puzzles in order to complete the final metapuzzle. We've arranged the puzzles in the anticipated order of difficulty, but your team's mileage may vary.
Q: This puzzle is impossible! Where do I even begin?
A: Have you tried re-reading the title and the italicized flavortext? There may be hints embedded in the intentional phrasing or word choices used. If you're still stuck, you can request a hint using the automated system.
Q: How do I submit my answer?
A: Please submit answers through the Submit links for each puzzle. We have set up an automated response system that will inform you via email whether an answer is correct or incorrect. If you submit a partial answer, the system may also inform you if you're on the right track.
Q: The submission form won't accept my answer!
A: Please make sure that you're submitting the answer on the correct puzzle submission link. In addition, your final answer should not contain any lowercase letter, numbers, punctuation, or spaces. Make sure you delete any hidden trailing ones!
Q: How long does it take for the auto-responder to respond?
A: In our tests, the auto-responder usually takes less than a minute to respond. You may want to check the spam folder. If you don't hear back after 15 minutes, please contact us.
Q: I think I'm on the right track, but there might be a typo/mistake in this puzzle?
A: We try very hard to avoid mistakes, but if something seems wrong, please contact us to let us know. Be sure to mention the specific puzzle in question!
Q: I've used up all the hints, but I'm still stuck! Help!
A: Contact us and we'll see what we can do.
Q: This was fun! Where can I find more puzzles?
A: Check out the Puzzle Hunt Calendar
for a list of upcoming events!