Mischief managed! – DASH 7 described

DASH-cardThis site makes no apology for a great deal of content about DASH as it’s one of the highlights of the year. If you couldn’t attend this year, here’s what you missed… and perhaps, just perhaps, it might make you interested in taking part in a future year.

Fair warning: now that DASH has finished, we’re into potential spoiler territory. Every previous DASH has had its puzzles posted online reasonably soon afterwards. If you didn’t play DASH, it would still be a lot of fun to get a group of your friends together and try the puzzles for yourself once they’re made available. This post is going to be fairly generic, avoiding the Aha! moments for each puzzle, but the comments may be more specific. Nevertheless, if you want to avoid spoilers altogether, best skip this post and definitely best skip the comments. However, if you played and want to relive the experience, if you played elsewhere and want to compare stories or if you know you’ll never play this year’s puzzles and just want to find out what you missed, then to get to the detail, click on the Portkey that is the “Continue Reading” button below. Continue reading

DASH 7th Heaven

DASH-trophy

DASH 7 London novice division winners’ trophy, care of Nights of the Square Table

I have been beaming with joy for hours since the conclusion of DASH 7 in London, which was pretty spectacularly great. It was a delight to meet so many lovely people. London sold all 25 spaces and had 24 teams show up in the end. The weather, happily, stayed dry all day. The puzzles were not what I was expecting, but in the best possible way: they were much more so.

If you’ve registered an account with Cluekeeper and have registered your account for this hunt, then once you’ve finished the hunt, you can go to the Cluekeeper web site, log in, go to “My Hunts”, click on DASH 7 and then look at a live snapshot of the results as they come in. (That said, maybe better not to hammer the server.) Obviously, at time of writing, only a few US teams have finished, mostly on the East Coast, and all the scores are very much prone to later revision. With that massive caveat, unless more West Coast superstars make themselves known very soon, it looks like STDP of Boston might, might, possibly provisionally be championsofthewoooooooorld – which, I believe, would be their third title.

Congratulations to Nights of the Square Table for winning London’s Novice division and to Misremembered Apple for winning London’s Experienced division – and, in global terms, for taking some pretty serious names. Not much is known about Misremembered Apple, other than some strong performances in online Australian hunts, leaving little evidence. The notion of the mysterious Wild West stranger who rolls into town, unexpectedly outdraws the sheriff and leaves without a trace is terribly romantic, but if you see this, don’t be a stranger! Our team may have been disabused of the notion that we might be competitive, but I bet I did the best Wronski Feint along the way!

Thank you to all the staff, volunteers and people behind the scenes worldwide. You’ve made a lot of people very, very happy. We’re looking forward to the next DASH already, more than ever before, though there’s the small matter of Puzzled Pint to look forward to every month!

It’s DASH-mas Eve

DASH kitAll packed and ready to go for DASH tomorrow in London. Do remember to pack scissors, as well as the other recommended implements. Charge up your phones overnight – and, if you were planning on bringing a spare battery for your phone (far from essential, but might ease some worries) then set that to charge as well.

I’ll be on a team called Motley Flöö, a thematic derivative of the Motley Clue team from Puzzled Pint in London last year. It’ll contain all three hosts of the London “Bubble” location for Puzzled Pint last month, plus our friend David, one of the members of Two Jesters, two Lesters last year. Recognise us by our discreet, topical badges, and please do say “hi”!

Many thanks to everyone involved around the world: the co-ordinators, the puzzle writers, the Game Control team, volunteers and other people behind the scenes; all the players appreciate your efforts. Remember that the London leg will start five hours before the US East Coast ones and eight hours before the US West Coast ones, so please embargo discussion of specifics that might contain spoilers overnight once the hunt is over. The suggested social media tag is #playdash. Oh, and don’t forget to look out for the mystery image. Set off early to allow for traffic, earlier than you think considering everything else that’s going on all day – and, if you’re going to be late, let the organisers know.

Phew! Last task: just try to get a good night’s sleep!

DASH 7 predictions

Crystal ballProfessor Trelawney has been divining again and this is what she has come up with regarding DASH 7 in London (and 15 cities across the US!) this Saturday:

  1. As the event gets closer, weather forecasts theoretically become more accurate. The BBC’s current prediction is for a dry day sandwiched between two showery ones, Metcheck’s latest prediction all but rules out rain with the morning being sunny and forecast.co.uk have revised their chance of rain down to 4%. In conclusion: double umbrellas.
  2. Apparently the ClueKeeper codes for the hunt have been released by e-mail, so make sure you have the latest version installed and practice with the tutorial and the demo hunt if you haven’t done so already. It’s not clear whether or not you’ll be able to see the live scores on the day as teams solve.
  3. Last year’s prediction that London will be overrepresented in the top third of the results table proved accurate, but just barely. Given that there are so many people with Puzzled Pint practice now, let’s make the same prediction again!
  4. The team from The Magpie crossword magazine have won both previous London events, so must surely be the favourites to do so again. Mark Goodliffe has won the Times Crossword Championship for seven years running, won the Times’ sudoku championship last year as well and has been in teams ripping up Puzzled Pint in London. On their day, if the puzzle styles suit, they’re a global threat as well.
  5. The event is being run by a team to whom much gratitude is due; one of them was among the most vocal critics of the standard of American-British cultural translation in last year’s hunt, so it stands to reason that this year particular attention will have been paid and we can all really look forward to the results.
  6. Given the theme, there’s one very logical location for the hunt to go, and the geographical information we’ve been given does point in that direction – but how close will the logistics permit the hunt to get?
  7. The tea-leaves point to a prediction that this event will be slightly shorter than that of last year, but again relatively construction-heavy. The overall time limit of eight hours will not be too onerous, though from experience it is possible to dawdle so much that despite solving the puzzles in under four hours it was a real struggle to fit puzzles, travel between locations, eating, drinking, taking selfies and wayyy too many overexcited loo breaks into the eight. Ahem.
  8. There will be a code sheet, it will contain two unusual codes (where the usual suspects are morse, semaphore, braille, binary, hexadecimal and the phonetic alphabet) with exactly one of the two proving relevant.
  9. At least one of the puzzles will have an answer that makes you think “Hmm, you could probably just guess that to be the answer from the flavourtext and the way the puzzle is written without actually going through the process of solving it” and that’s no bad thing at all. Taking guesses at puzzle answers in this way is to be considered an example of the Dark Arts, though not actually an Unforgiveable Curse.
  10. Don’t be a stranger and please do say “Hi”! My wife and I are the right-hand half of the picture in this post so you know what to look for, but I have a beard this year. It would be fun to catch up, either before the hunt, afterwards or both.
  11. Don’t forget to look out for this image along the way in the exclusive competition!

See you there!

Win DASH memorabilia!

DASH London telephone boxesThe DASH puzzle hunt is going to happen this Saturday. It’s going to happen in London, and it’s going to happen come rain or shine.

From the organising panel, we promise some cracking puzzles, and one or two diversions into bits of London you might not usually visit.

We also have a side contest, exclusive to Exit Games UK. It’s not scored, it’s strictly for fun. While on the playtest last month, our Media Magician took a picture.

Where is this?

A detailed sceneClick to expand

It’s to be found somewhere on the route between the start and the finish.

When you’ve found this distinctive artwork, note down where it is. The first four teams to report the location at the finish will win something entirely memorable.

To all teams, good luck. You’ll need it.

Looking forward to DASH in London on Saturday

DASH 7 logoDASH, standing for “Different Areas, Same Hunt”, is a live puzzle hunt where the same puzzles are played in different cities around the world. This time, there will be 15 locations in the US and one in London. DASH happens but once a year, so this blog gets very excited and goes into all-DASH-all-the-time mode when the event is in vogue; today is Tuesday, Saturday is DASH day this week.

If you’re going to be playing, this site recommends this DASH 5 preparation tips document by the Clavis Cryptica blog, where the advice is as good today as it was two years ago. Unless you know different, the state-of-the-art app is the free download Puzzle Sidekick for iOS – or, maybe, Puzzle Pal for Android.

If you want to get practice, the best starting-point would be Order of the Octothorpe, a completely accessible introduction to puzzle hunt conventions. After that, you might well want to look at previous year’s DASH puzzles – or, perhaps, the Training Day hunt recently posted by gemini6ice.

Look out for the weather forecasts; we’re now within medium-range weather forecast territory. The BBC’s current prediction is for a dry day except for possible showers around 4pm, Metcheck predict cloud in the afternoon and never higher than 30% chance of precipitation and forecast.co.uk go as high as a 39% chance of rain. So you might get wet; I’d be upset if it rained all day, but last year’s forecast was very similar to this and there turned out to be barely a few spots very briefly. (Just enough to make you worry about preparing for rain, though.)

The world is playing DASH on 30th May – no “wait another three weeks for the last city to finish” – so hopefully there will be discussion of the event shortly afterwards. (Not immediately, as London is eight time zones ahead of California and thus it may still be possible to spoil for a few hours – but perhaps one day would be a reasonable amount of time in which to catch your thoughts.) The lack of flexibility in this regard is perhaps not the most convenient for London, as the FA Cup final takes place that day, World Triathlon London weekend will be bunging up Hyde Park as well and there’s a big rehearsal for Trooping the Colour on Horse Guards’ Parade. Perhaps the best tip might be to allow more time than usual for travel – and more time than you think, taking this advice in mind. Worst case scenario, you’ll get there early and can meet up with your fellow puzzlers!

I’d like to say that I’ll announce my arrival on the day with a rebel yell and then go around giving high-fives like the introductions at the start of a basketball match, but the truth will very probably be far better behaved and very sedate. Who’ll be there this year?

Coming soon to Mansfield: Instinctive Escape Games

"Instinctive Escape Games" logoAfter news yesterday of a game coming to Nottingham, the next opening will be about 12 miles further north in the town of Mansfield. Instinctive Escape Games will open on June 1st, offering a single room, which has a 60-minute time limit and has been designed to be played by teams of two to five. The price depends on team size but teams of two are charged £36 and teams of five are charged £65.

In their Bon Voyage! game, “… you’re all set for your dream holiday. Your workload has been cleared (or at least back-heeled to a poor unsuspecting colleague!), your family are ready and excited and everything is good to go… actually it even looks like you might be at the airport a good hour ahead of schedule! What could possibly go wrong?” This site both wants to find out and yet dreads to think, at the same time.

The game uses a classic style by being “set in, what appears to be, an everyday living room! At first glance you will notice little difference but, as you begin to explore the room, you will uncover hidden drawers, cupoards, locks and more; each of which will take you one step closer to cracking the code on the safe that hides the key to your freedom!

Unusually, this game shares space with, and inherits its name from, the Instinctive Martial Arts & Fitness gym. This could be a case of mens sana in corpore sano in operation – or, at least, a rare way for both your mind and your body to get a good workout at the same place, if not quite at the same time.

Bookings are now open, so beat the rush!

Coming soon to Nottingham: Cryptology

cryptologyNottingham will shortly get its third exit game! Opening on the 8th of June, Cryptology will be situated in the city centre, between the Old Market and Lace Market tram stops. Locals will apparently know its location as “thirty seconds from the Left Lion” (oh, that explains it) – another way of putting it is “just down the road from the Five Guys“. The location will be opening with two exit games, both of which take teams of two to five players and have time limits of an hour.

One of the games is named Cypherdyne and concerns a fictional modern technology company of the same name. “You and your team are completing your first day at your new job at Cypherdyne. What seems like a normal induction takes an unexpected turn. Can you and your team pass the test to become an honorary employee?

If your heart races more for historical scenarios than modern-day ones, perhaps The Crypt is more for you. “Pharaoh Rameses has sent you and your peers to The Crypt where you will starve. Some of his minions are sympathisers and have given you the means to escape. Can you and your team unshackle and free yourselves before the guard comes to make their first inspection?” It is not yet clear how literally the word “unshackle” should be taken, but anything is possible!

As well as featuring two exit games, the site is also set to host Detective City Tours for groups. Here you can “Discover a different side of Nottingham with a Detective City Tour. Answer riddles, solve puzzles, track locations, map out the crime: discover Nottingham’s secrets. An interactive, clue-solving mystery based in and around Nottingham city centre. The tour will take between 2-3 hours to complete. Fancy yourself as Sherlock Holmes?” The link between exit games and detective tours has always seemed like an intuitive one to this site; Bath Escape have done something similar and it seems like a tie-up that would have a good crossover.

The exit games are charged at £40/team to £75/team depending on team size, the detective tours are a flat fee of £30/team. Lots more fun to be had in an increasingly busy city!

Birthdays and bonus news

Birthday cake with one candleThis site loves it when exit games post about their birthdays, not least because it provides more definitive dates with which to back-populate the Timeline of exit game openings. Happy first birthday for today to Breakout Manchester, for last Saturday to Escape of Edinburgh, and for last Tuesday to Tick Tock Unlock of Leeds, who have a particuarly fun-looking cake.

You may have seen it already, but a few days ago, Buzzfeed posted an amazing oral history of The Crystal Maze with contributions from Richard O’Brien himself, producer David G. Croft, production designer James Dillon, Medieval zone fortune-teller “Mumsy” actor Sandra Caron and first ever team captain Ken Day. Great work.

Here’s a different sort of entertainment, but nevertheless very interesting: Theme Park University reported on the shelving of a theme park project entitled Evermore in which “Instead of the traditional queueing for rides and shows, through wireless technology, guests would be paged via smart phone or other wireless devices to let them know their adventure was about to begin. (…) Each of Evermore’s experiences was to feature a small group that would live out individual adventures filled with live actors, special effects and even some rides along the way.

While this won’t be coming to fruition right now, it seems to have given birth to a mixed reality attraction (and pretty far along the mixed reality spectrum towards the virtual reality end) called The Void. Its trailer video is impressive. That says nothing, but that along with a first-hand report of playing various prototypes sounds extremely promising. Maybe it’s rather lighter on puzzles than would interest this site, but perhaps future games using the system may have more to offer.

Lastly, this site needs to eat some humble pie. You might have detected a little disbelief, or at least hints of sniffiness, that Inverness might support two exit games. This site has drastically underestimated the might and relevance of Inverness, and is delighted to have learned just how wrong it was.

No less a source than the Office of Network Statistics has revealed this data of travel trends for 2014. Take a look at dataset four – and, specifically, table 4.16 within it. It transpires that the ten UK cities that are the biggest destination for holidays specifically (i.e. excluding family visits, business trips and other reasons for visits) are – in descending order – London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Inverness and Liverpool tied for fifth, and only then followed by Brighton, York, Oxford and Birmingham. Even if all trips to the Scottish Highlands are categorised as Inverness, that’s still immensely different to what this site would have expected. While another table in the series suggests that visitors to Inverness skew relatively old, perhaps it’s more appropriate to consider Inverness in terms of its tourist destination profile than just its raw size. Maybe it’ll be able to sustain three or more exit games, not just two!

The fourth CUCaTS puzzle hunt: Cambridge, 12th-13th June

CuCATS fourth puzzle hunt logoThat handsome chap – a stylised cycloptic CuCATS cat at the centre of a Koch snowflake with a cheeky pangram about hir – is the logo of the Cambridge University Computing and Technology Society’s upcoming fourth annual puzzle hunt, set to run in Cambridge (our Cambridge, not the one with MIT and Harvard!) over a period 24 hours or so from 4pm on Friday 12th June. It’s going to be gloriously, unashamedly hardcore. It’s one of the most exciting things that this site has seen this year.

As a FAQ-like page explains, the puzzle hunt is “a team puzzle-solving and treasure-hunting competition. Your team will navigate its way through a mental and sometimes physical obstacle course of challenging and fun computational, mathematical and linguistic puzzles, seeking to cut its way through to the goal before everyone else. No preparation is necessary, just come along on the day!

One crucial thing to note is that “Teams may be made of up to three members. It is envisaged that most participants will be @cam.ac.uk (affectionately known as Camacuks) and it is encouraged that each team should have at least one Camacuk. However, teams not meeting this criterion may be allowed to compete by prior agreement (drop us an email). If you’re looking for more team members, hit us up and we’ll try to match you up!” It seems very likely that there would be ways for counterpart Oxacuks, Icacuks, Manacuks or even Lifeacuks to play as well, though the hunt will surely have just enough local flavour to keep things interesting.

To get a feel for the flavour of past form, the puzzles from the 2012 edition are online, along with worked solutions. It’s clear that the puzzles are set to challenge their intended audience, with no hesitation about setting the bar quite high. The puzzles from 2013 are also available. It’s striking how both years’ structures point to puzzles that nobody got around to trying, as well as got around to solving.

This site emphasises how accessible Puzzled Pint, DASH and Order of the Octothorpe are; by contrast, this site would only recommend this hunt to the most persistent, capable and (particularly technologically) resourceful – the calibre of which can be found at places including the country’s most celebrated universities. This site does not subscribe to an elitist viewpoint that harder is necessarily better or more interesting; instead, it celebrates a wide puzzle hobby where everybody can find the level of their choice.

However, this site is delighted that there is readier access than once there was to the highest of ceilings, and that those with sufficient skills can get a chance to play at as high a level as this hunt offers; it may be about as challenging as the decades-long tradition of hunts in the US and elsewhere. Those with experience of such games, who have missed having the opportunity to play in them, or those who aspire to reach the highest of global heights, will likely have the time of their lives. Many thanks to everyone at CUCaTS for putting it on and making it available; it’s surely likely to be spectacular!

(Now, does that logo contain some sort of pre-clue around the hexagonal face…?)