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.

This year’s theme was the capital-W Wizarding World, drawn from a well-known series of books and films, though it was impressive to see there was no mention of many of the most well-known specific intellectual properties at any point, particularly the H- and P- names. It was clear that the intention was that people unfamiliar with the canon would not suffer a disadvantage; from a fan’s perspective, there may have been one or two incidental references that might not reasonably be considered general pop-cultural knowledge. It would certainly be interesting to get the perspective of someone who played despite being hostile to the series and seeing whether they struggled.

As last year, there was an unscored icebreaker puzzle that required teams to co-operated with each other, eight regular puzzles and a metapuzzle with which to conclude. One slight difference is that this year, the metapuzzle was notified as being “extra credit” and teams could choose to skip it and solve it, unscored, in their own time – but, in practice, it was compulsory for competitive teams. The overall time limit for the hunt was extended, at extremely late notice, from eight hours to ten; on the Experienced track, using early data, the solving time for a typical team rose from 5:10 in DASH 6 to a projected 6:55 in DASH 7. (Technically, that’s the median time of the nine median-scoring teams. A general sense of “about a third longer than last year” feels about right.) More thoughts about the length and difficulty of the hunt some other day.

The icebreaker puzzle, Entering Your Name Into The Cup, provided teams with four identical copies of one of four double-sided sheets. Teams would swap them with other teams in order to end up with one of each (made more confusing by the double-sided nature of the sheets!) and invited them to assemble them into a book in a sensible order. The extraction to produce the answer required two different methods, always a cheeky twist. In London, this was played in a park… as a small but increasingly noisy carnival was being established at the other end. It was cute to see a hog roast stand being set up, which felt as thematic this year as the real-life lemonade stand encountered on last year’s DASH route did at the time.

The scored puzzles, in the order in which they were encountered on the Experienced track in London, were as follows:

  1. In Weighing of the Wands, played in the same park, picture clues were resolved, using three different methods, to types of wood from which wands might be made. These were placed in different locations on a picture of a set of scales to make the torque/moment they exerted balance, which clued three extractions. Can’t remember what the link from the extractions to the answer was.
  2. Off to the real life King’s Cross station – or, more specifically, the plaza outside it – for an Interview with Rita Skeeter, a puzzle with two elements. One element was some very cute wordplay to generate alliterative phrases and order them in a list. The second element was an unusual and fairly tough grid logic puzzle which generated a list of numbers that clued the extraction from the list. Happily, it was possible to backsolve from the partially completed phrase to the logic puzzle.
    At this point there was a cute logistics stumble in London. The instructions for getting to the next puzzle charmingly suggested that magic-users should enter Platform 9¾ by the usual route and go to the Lemonade and Stuff stand, a charming callback to last year, whereas muggles should make their way on foot to the actual next location. However, this was done using a colouring coincidence that inspired teams on the Experienced track to assume that they were in fact magic-users and should be starting to look around the real life Platform 9¾ attraction at the station for their next activity. A lot of teams managed to forget that they couldn’t, in fact, use magic in real life. This wasn’t a deliberate Game Control gag at teams’ expense, just a rare instance where some thematic chrome got in the way of practicality.
  3. Next was the “Quidditch Pitch” erected in another London park – good job that the weather stayed dry – where the London version of the pre-puzzle thematic activity invited one team member to climb on a broomstick and retrieve a (happily dormant) Golden Snitch. The Quidditch puzzle itself (a favourite!) was a delightful and reasonably gentle wordsearch variant with clues to the hidden words – apparently Brit-picked, for the trapper-keeper is not known here – and a sweet twist on the “unused letters” trope for the extraction.
  4. Granary Square was the next destination for Tea for Two, a picture puzzle in a bed of letters; identify the images, make the connections, extract the message, modify according to graphics encountered along the way and extract the answer. This had the name of a brand not known in the UK as an answer, but this had been explicitly hinted at in the introduction at the start of the day. (Apparently not.) My team derped away half a dozen bonus points or so by managing to completely miss one of the seven pairs in the extraction and thus trying to look for a six-letter word – which, as a name, wouldn’t make sense.
  5. On to King’s Place (home of the Guardian and the Observer offices and more) for Potions and Sabotage, preceded by a Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Bean-tasting activity. My poor wife ended up with a “vomit”-flavour bean, which makes the stereotypical “Alas! Earwax.” seem rather mild. Being aware of what “delights” might lie in store, and being a coward, I decided against either biting or swallowing but still got slightly more of a taste of artificial earthworm than I would have liked. The puzzle was much more sweet; cut out cardboard triangles, assemble them into tetrahedra linked by common wordplay traits, roll them about a grid according to their common rule, identify the remaining words in the grid, order them and extract. The extraction was one of the trickiest of the day and a hugely impressive spot by my teammate Jason. Satisfying and admirable design.
  6. The same location also saw House Elves Help, another wordplay puzzle. We were given a grid (which turned out to be two-sided; it took us a little too long to spot that, and other teams much longer still…) and square tiles with names on each edge. Making compound phrases aligned the grid of square tiles, common letters clued each tile with a single letter, the letters spiraled out to form a phrase, then – turning the tiles and grid over – the letters on the back of the ordered tiles formed anagrams, with the grid giving the extraction. We derped a few more points away by mirroring the order of the tiles when we flipped them so while the horizontal extractions worked fine, the vertical extractions applied to the wrong rows and made no sense. Good puzzle, though.
  7. Lastly to The Star of Kings, a rare pub not showing the FA Cup final or participating in a distributed rock festival. The first puzzle, Monsters, followed a fun monster-cartooning activity with a set of three parallel logic puzzles. These were Nurikabe variants, the twist being that the sizes of the cells were encoded in pictures and had to be deduced. The extraction here was a little strange; once we had the technique, it was definitely possible to backsolve at least one of the clue words without solving the Nurikabe in full, which was just as well for us.
  8. At the same location, the final main puzzle, Regarding the Cup, was a collection of mini-puzzles! After a largely code-free day (only a shift cipher in Tea for Two?) these mini-puzzles were often pretty direct applications of a familiar cipher. The variety and ingenuity were a great deal of fun, and mini-puzzles definitely have their time and place. At the same time, they were really just a palate-cleanser for…
  9. …the meta-puzzle, Regarding the Cup, Part II. This was a real work of craftsmanship. What looked like a bundle of flavourtext turned out to contain a working manual by which you could teach yourself the Goblin language Gobbledegook, in conjunction with the vocabulary list of a Gobbledegook-to-English translator embedded within Cluekeeper. (Bonus points for facilitating it on the web site as well – very player-friendly when Cluekeeper accepts input from only one player per team.)
    From there, the metapuzzle’s story went a little meta itself by suggesting that entering answers into Cluekeeper performed magic itself; to reverse the transfiguration performed on the titular Triwizard Cup, you had to perform the counter-spells to the answers to the earlier puzzles that you’ve entered along the way, which you deduce either from the context of some of the mini-puzzles or from relevant parts of the flavourtext of the puzzles earlier in the day.
    Perhaps the extent to which this puzzle was successful depends upon the extent to which you were prepared to engage with the flavourtext and the theme. There was a lot more working out what you had to do from the story running through the flavourtext, as opposed to from the puzzle itself which had been the case in previous years; I can see how this might be more love-hate than most metapuzzles of the past. Our Potter-friendly team lapped it up; this was the one puzzle where we got the second best performance in London!

A very, very full day; so much to admire and for which to be grateful, and so many to whom to be grateful.

Lastly, it’s always fun to look at team names from round the world and to see how much fun people had with the theme. One which made me giggle was “I Can’t Believe it’s not Butter Beer“, though it’s hard to imagine a team name that can ever be better for this event than “DASH I love you, but we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth“. Gordon’s alive!


  1. A couple of quick reactions, though I’m still processing my own feelings about a day that was partly fun, and partly tremendously annoying.

    As you know, I’m perhaps one of the most extreme non-fans of the theme, to the extent of never having read any of the books or seen any of the films, and having therefore picked up what little I know only through osmosis from people such as your good self. It was a chronic disadvantage yesterday, and actually quite spoiled the experience for me: there were many times when I found myself wondering whether something was just a reference to the theme (especially in introductory text), was an as-yet not understood clue, or just made no sense; and many of the answers could be much more quickly guessed when mechanically working them out through knowledge of the theme. In addition, the theme was utterly all pervasive this year: the physical challenges from GCs were just a bloody nuisance for me, as quite a lot of them were just pointless and arbitrary (and time-wasting – see below) rather than charming if you didn’t understand what they were referencing. I’m just glad we were sufficiently slow to avoid the pointless theme-related screw-up at Platform 9¾, and didn’t get to try the meta-puzzle in the end.

    When you say the overall time limit was extended at extremely late notice, that in our case was actually after we finished by the previously announced time limit – despite our having expressed concern to several GCs along the way about the time remaining. We really could have taken more time and enjoyed matters more (and indeed not skipped one puzzle when struggling) if we hadn’t been hurtling to finish to make sure we at least saw all the puzzles. Also, no-one actually explained about the optional part being the metapuzzle: the Cluekeeper practice last year was to have a different code, so we were pacing ourselves so as to try to have time for all remaining puzzles shown on the screen.

    I’m really glad that people put themselves out to run this, especially Mr W, and I’m glad we came back for another go – but the whole thing felt like it was very much aimed at the top 20% of teams and people who know and like the theme, both of which left me feeling pretty excluded. Shame, really.

    • Entirely fair comment and one well and truly worth taking into consideration when reviewing and learning lessons for future years; thank you for sharing your thoughts in such detail. (Further negative and mixed comments are just as welcome as unambiguously positive ones!)

      Those considering taking part for the first time in future years might very well bear this in mind as much as my incredibly positive thoughts about the day – after all, no point in being effusive to the point to encourage people to take part in an event that they won’t enjoy. However, it would be reasonable to point out that the critcisms you raise would not have applied to previous year’s events, which were somewhat less strongly thematic.

      I’m glad that your first year was fun enough for you to come back this year and hopefully this year won’t have put you off thinking about taking part in future – and hopefully future events will provide information in advance about the degree to which the theme is used to set people’s expectations appropriately and help them accurately decide whether that year’s event would be fun for them.

      • Oh, entirely: our participation last year was supposed to be a one-off experiment of transplanting an ex-quizzer to an unfamiliar environment, yet we enjoyed it enough to come back for more (and brought some novices of our own with us, which is what’s made me all the more annoyed). If DASH8 is like DASH6, we’ll probably be back. If it’s more like DASH7, or even more so, in thematic nature, difficulty or indeed ‘experience’-type fluff (noting comments on your previous post), we probably won’t be back (even if the theme is one we love: we come for puzzles, not participatory theatre). And if the direction of travel isn’t made clear at the time of booking, it’ll probably have to be an absence by default, as it’s a hell of a long way and a long day not to enjoy it.

        (PS It bears repeating: none of this is a slight against the DASH London team, to whom I remain grateful for their efforts. Over 95% of what’s produced a slow, simmering irritation on my part seems from Twitter to have been centrally mandated from Over There.)

        • Again, totally fair. In an ideal world there would be a choice of events on the calendar and the choice would be which event is right for you; in the real world… well, it’s already not so far from this ideal, as there is at least the CUCaTS puzzle hunt, in apparently a rather different style, coming up next month, as discussed just over a week ago.

          The DASH style has been not to release too much information about the emphases of the upcoming puzzle hunt in advance and it may well be useful to marginal potential participants to get more information in advance in future years, to see if it’s going to be right for them. It’s all about setting people’s expectations.

  2. Had great fun, no complaints at all here. Our team of two just managed to finish in the (original) time limit – no idea about an extension but wouldn’t have helped anyway as we had trains booked! Did find the lack of a meta puzzle odd, only reading here did I discover here was one on the experienced track- the hunt didn’t feel incomplete without it though.

    I had no clue about the theme, but the other half of my team is a HP obsessive so it worked out okay!

    • Another very fair point as to why more is not necessarily better – or, at least, unexpectedly more is not necessarily better. Delighted that you had a great day all the same, and fingers crossed that I’ll actually get to bump into you at some point!

    • I hope you take a look at the meta anyway – cluekeeper should give you a link to a PDF you can download. Actually you already have all the materials you need. It will hurt your brain, but in a great way – I hope. It’s a meta that truly deserves the “meta” moniker.

  3. There is a something of a coitus interruptus feeling about my DASH experience this year. It’s not that I didn’t have a good time, I just didn’t finish and that’s frustrating.

    Last year, it seemed like people who didn’t finish in time were being denied the opportunity to access the puzzles and clues, so we really were taking the 8hr time limit seriously. The straight up puzzle times were 5h 45min. This left us with a scant 2h 15min for the rest of it assuming we ran to par for all challenges. This is fucking tight timing, especially when you include the practice puzzle at the start, the walking around and the mini-challenges. Plus, having lunch. Very important, as I am prone to tears when not fed properly.

    As anyone who has ever been given a test to do that, with their abilities, they would be hard pushed to complete in the time available, we adopted a strategy of ‘move on to something we can do, quickly, and try to pick up the points there’. We felt that we would be wasting time to sit working through things, when we had so much to do and so little time to do it in. We became ruthless in our time management and were very hard on ourselves for not making par. Every minute past par was very worrying because we had so few, and we didn’t know where we’d have to get to next. We didn’t feel like we were trundling along, doing just fine, we felt like we were a long way behind all day.

    This is my main problem. I really want to be told ‘take as long as you need’, rather than, ‘we have a hard cut off time at 6pm’. If there is a hard cut off time at 6pm, by god you’d better fucking cut off the timer at 6pm.

    Teal t-shirts may be tasteful and rewearable, but they don’t make Game Controllers easy to see. (Neither to black capes, black doesn’t stand out in a group.)

    I’m typically a bigger Harry Potter fan than the next person, but whilst I generally appreciated some of the jokes and references in the games, other times I just found it a little bit over the top. Last year the theme felt like a framework to hang puzzles from, this year it felt like a HP fan event with a puzzling element. I think they could do with it scaling back. If the event is going to be immersively pop-cultural, then I am far less likely to go unless I identify with the pop-culture reference. If there are going to be physical challenges, then we need to make sure that we a) expect it and b) nominate a member of the team who is A-OK with that, otherwise it’s fun for precisely no one.

    Arriving at the pub at the end, feeling incredibly rushed, like we hadn’t done ourselves credit because of the time limits, annoyed with ourselves for not having just turned over the fucking board in the elf-tiles one, giving up (because of the time limit!) and then having to sit out in the cold, with bugs all over us, just didn’t make it all better.

    It was sort of enjoyable, but it just wasn’t satisfying to me. I would still do it again, but I wish I could have felt that sense of ‘YEAH! We did it!’ that I felt last year. I definitely appreciate the efforts of the game controllers, I am very grateful for their efforts and don’t mean to besmirch them, I just had a bit of a let down. 🙁

    Unrelated: If I print out old Puzzled Pint puzzles and take them to the pub to show one of my friends who is curious, does it count as starting a new Puzzled Pint? 😉

    • All sorts of people are making fair and perceptive comments about one of my favourite things in the world and I love it!

      The tone has been well and truly set which it comes to discussions of timing and difficulty; a ten-hour hunt can be too much when people are expecting an eight-hour one and, due to real-life pressures as well as transport cost pressures, have definite requirements about the timings of the day. (If DASH were to start, say, an hour late some year then that would also cause a problem. Waiting for a no-show team this year and running through the briefing were fine for us, though perhaps someone will suggest that they had a problem.) We also had similar discussions over timing our meals, expecting an eight-hour deadline, and I don’t think either of us were alone. (On the other hand, there was a cracking ice cream van just after Granary Place – a cone of very good, very soft, slightly custard-y Mr. Whippy, a Flake and a squidge of lime sauce for £1.50, which is really not much more than Northern pricing these days.)

      All your later comments are completely valid and worthy of consideration for future years; to a certain point, the issue could be summarised that you didn’t get what you were expecting based on last year’s experience – more content, more physical activities, more reliance on a hinted-at-rather-than-explicitly-stated theme, none of which were warned in advance. I’m happy for DASH to try different things out, though perhaps more explicit warning should be given, and perhaps DASH might be wise to stay relatively conservative to a theoretical idealised puzzle hunt experience, considering it’s the only puzzle hunt that many people play.

      Puzzled Pint: well, it would count as being as much of one as the one-off Puzzled Pint Stockton did. But Puzzled Pint Stockton begat Puzzled Pint London, so who knows…? *twinkly eye*

      • We didn’t get ice-cream, sadly! We went to Leon in KGX, though, which is marvellous for gluten free types. Will definitely keep an eye out for it if I ever end up with a long change whilst waiting for an up-north adventure in future!

        I think that’s partly it! If you’re going to be a mysterious cat about a lot about what you do, you need to maintain consistency. In the absence of external information, nobody revisits an event expecting something completely different, and nobody avoids attending an event because they expect the organisers to make changes in the future that they won’t like.

        I saw the logo a week or so ago and went ‘Ho ho! Harry Potter themed, I see!’ and deduced it would be tri-wizard related. I said I would be surprised if KGX didn’t appear somewhere. Had the 9 3/4 trolley remained a sad little afterthought at the back of the station, I would have thought it would have been a thing. I was positively excited! I got a bit worn down during the day as the sheer potterification of everything just made it harder to figure out what was going on. “Yes dear, I read Harry Potter too, can we just get on with things?” Also, if next year is another franchise that I vaguely like but easily reach a state of ‘just plain over’ with, then I will be less likely to go.

        Trying to be positive: I really liked the ‘last’ puzzle, with the book of mini puzzles. We all selected one based on our strengths and got on with them at a good pace and felt good about them.

        I liked King’s Place as a venue. It was spacious, plenty of tables and seats to work in peace downstairs, there was a nice peaceful atmosphere, ready access to toilets and coffee. (Also, a lot of gluten free treats!) (It did put us a bit far away from the GCs but I’m not going to pretend that us not consulting them on our puzzle when we failed to notice the board was two sided was because of that rather than because of us feeling we didn’t have time to do multiple layers of the puzzle given the limits we had.)

        I liked that everything was in walking distance, and although I was quite bone tired at the end of the day, not taking long jaunts around London was pleasing to me. I found that a bit daft last year, and really thought things hung together better when you didn’t have to take the tube between venues.

        There was more of a pop-culture element to the puzzles this year, in general. This actually works for me, because I know more pop-culture than anything else. (This is intensely YMMV)

        One of the things I liked about DASH last year, and still remained true this year, was the extent to which it is pure team work. There was no puzzle that could be solved by one person in our team, it took the insight and brain power of the entire team to finish them. It’s a curious feeling of knowing that you helped, they couldn’t have done it without you, but you didn’t do more than your share. We particularly liked the Rita Skeeter one of that reason. We had our two mathematically and logically inclined team members working away furiously on the bug sites, whist another two of us who are more into verbal reasoning worked our way through the other half of the puzzle. It was the only one we finished below par!

        • Never actually been to LEON, though I’ve walked past several and heard no ill said about them. Oh, and that ice cream van also did lemon ice cream, sort of in the style of proper Northern lemon top but scooped and sorbet-ish rather than dispensed and whippy. Meg was pleased with it, anyway.

          I have a theory that the hunt might have been more player-friendly still if (probably by happy accident rather than anything that could be deliberately designed) the relatively short puzzles could have been loaded towards the start of the day, strengthening the theme of working up towards the toughest and/or longest ones at the end, especially the traditional marathon metapuzzle to finish with. Mini-puzzles do work very well for getting people flying and feeling good, though you probably wouldn’t want to have more than the number that there was this time in practice.

          Totally with you on the way that the puzzles were very well-designed for teamwork, so that even in the styles that lend themselves most to a single brain working on them (the logic puzzles, in practice) then the other team members can be making a vital contribution, and the puzzles can be solved both forwards and backwards. That’s always an absolute joy.

          • Oddly, I actually disagree with that theory, Chris – I think that having a whole spate of minipuzzles at the end of the day *after* all the brain-burners was a much better way to wind down whilst keeping the team spirit fairly high. On the other hand, the “extra credit” puzzle then rather destroyed that good feeling. 🙂
            But as someone who complained last year about the preponderance of “single person” puzzles (i.e. ones in which it was difficult to have multi-solvers), there was good progress this year away from that – as noted, the Rita Skeeter puzzle was particularly fine in that regard.

  4. Is there a direct link to the scores anywhere yet? Cluekeeper doesn’t seem to have a results search if you weren’t the one in with the control phone.

  5. I intend to blog my own more detailed thoughts at some point during the week. But to answer your initial question:

    In our three person team we had one theme expert and two complete ‘muggles’. I’m certainly the latter. After the icebreaker puzzle had an ‘in theme’ answer I was a little worried, but that was the only time in the day that I did.

    As you already know, we had a fantastic time and will almost certainly be back next year.

  6. The answer at Granary Square is not a brand of tea. Even teams who solved this in the tea shop would not have been helped.

    Readers may be surprised at how little I knew about the unmentionable works in question: got through one-third of the first book before getting stuck in the author’s gloopy writing style. The rest is osmosis from popular culture.

    Radinden and Frayer make some very good points, I will discuss directly with them.

    I welcome the opinions in the post and comments, and will ensure they’re summarised and brought to the attention of DASH control. If anyone wants to make points out of the public gaze, email dashinlondon@gmail.com

    At some point (a few weeks yet), I plan to crunch the numbers and answer some questions on the scores. Were London teams advantaged or disadvantaged on any puzzle? Is there a meaningful adjustment between Novice and Expert tracks? Was there a de facto Super-Expert track, for which entry was the final meta?

    • Not a brand of tea? Huh! I must have been more confused than usual. Thank you for the correction, and thank you for all you did – both personally and in terms of pulling a team together to make the whole of the day happen.

  7. Some further thoughts:
    Theme: while I didn’t dislike it, nor did I feel not knowing about it disadvantaged me in any way (though had a fan on the team) I do think, for me, compared to last year, the ‘story’ suffered. I basically could barely follow it. It didn’t impact my enjoyment of the puzzles, but it felt less coherent. Just a jumbled collection of HP references. While we didn’t do the final meta, reading about makes it sound like something I’d really have liked (piecing together what you’re doing through engaging with the story). But the story was really tough to engage with, especially for non-fans. But even for fans, there then the secondary concern of how much assumed knowledge you should bring with you, and how much you’re just over-complicating it. That sort of meta seems like something that really needs to be based off a story where the rules and concepts of the world are entirely defined in the hunt material.
    (As another example – the infamous Platform 9 3/4 confusion. We got the joke after about thirty seconds, but my first thought then was “hang on, the opening remarks said using magic wasn’t allowed” – it didn’t really hang together).
    The activities – I don’t object to them in principle, but they were kinda lame. Am all for them being done, they took nothing away from things, but added nothing either.
    In terms of timing for the novice track, we finished at 6.10pm so just under the original time limit (given the late start), and there were only two of us, and we’re not that good at this sort of thing – though we did puzzle during lunch at King’s Place. So at least on that track it seemed to work, though obviously that was also one fewer puzzle. I’d also be curious if, had the time limit not been extended, when ClueKeeper would have kicked us out. Given we finished at 6.10pm, had it locked us out at 6pm, after we started about 20 minutes late, that would have been frustrating!

    • There is something of a tradition in puzzle hunts based on an existing fictional universe of, if not retelling an existing story, then at least alluding to its events in approximate sequence. This was pretty loosely interpreted here, but was fun if you got the references. The activities perhaps fell between stools here, with the idea of existent but minimal activities maybe not satisfying those who would have preferred full-blown activities or those who would have preferred none at all. It’s cute to follow the #playdash tag and see how other locations interpreted the activities; one location had three team members share a single broomstick, another location had rather more mobile Golden Snitches, and so on. I quite like the location which celebrated the Monsters puzzle with an activity of playing monster-themed Whack-a-Mole.

      Fairly sure that Cluekeeper involuntarily declared teams finished ten hours after the start time, and the start time was 10:23 am – but the only reason I intuited this was that the (welcome) “you’ve been playing for n hours” messages came identical numbers of minutes and seconds after the various hours. Do I remember correctly that the version of Cluekeeper used in DASH 6 displayed the countdown to the end prominently, and that such a countdown was conspicuous by its absence this year?

      • Yes – Past years would do a countdown to the end. The change this year was because we do want teams to get points for solving the meta, after all, even if they’re not exactly within the 8 hours, but you can’t tell Cluekeeper to “just accept answers until GC goes home.” The multi-city model of DASH is quite challenging for Cluekeeper to support, and I am so grateful that they even humor us. If we’d done “x hours until the hunt ends!” this would have likely confused teams, so we chose to go with “x hours have passed.”

  8. Hi Chris. We have you to thank for advertising DASH on this blog, that we ended up doing it. All being newbs my wife and our friends really enjoyed the beginner track. We had fun doing the meta puzzle today at home! Looking forward to some more puzzling at Puzzle Pint :).

    • You’re very welcome, and a big part of the motivation behind this blog is to get people involved in more different sorts of fun that they didn’t previously know existed and that they really could get involved with. Sadly I’m away on shift (or, more precisely, getting an early night in preparation for starting day shift the next day at 6:15am) for this month’s Puzzled Pint, but hopefully I’ll see you at ones further down the line!

  9. Hi! I’d like to clear up some confusion over the timing. Last year when we used Cluekeeper for the first time, we had a strict cut-off at 8 hours, and that meant teams who were minutes away from solving the meta were denied those points. In practice at just about every DASH before, GC usually stayed past the end time so teams could get the satisfaction of submitting that final answer and thus get credit. Our silent extension of two extra hours was an attempt to model this friendlier model – teams were supposed to assume that they have 8 hours to finish all clues, but hopefully would be pleasantly surprised if they were just a little over time and still got points for solving the meta. Additionally, our GC volunteers could still go home at 6pm if they needed to.

    Regarding the little flavor activities – during playtesting we had feedback that there’s confusion over which puzzles corresponded to trials of the tournament, and which ones were tasks (interview with Rita, house elves, etc) so we decided to pair an activity with each trial to set them apart.

    As for theme and story – well, different strokes, I suppose. Some people would honestly prefer to sit in one place and solve all puzzles, and others love the run arounds. DASH tends to be heavier on theme anyway, and I think it’s always been that way. We always have a theme and we’ll always try to have a plot. We tried very hard to stay with theme this year because we know there’s so many HP fans out there, but unfortunately it seems to have its share of haters as well and I’m sorry for that. We did try very hard to make sure teams with no background knowledge would be at a disadvantage, and in all hunts, I think this should be a fair assumption – e.g. when we played Tron/Wargames or Hunger Games themed hunts, knowing the references was fun, but it didn’t help with solving at all.

    • I really don’t think there are any ideal solutions to the various dilemmas that will suit everybody, particularly the dilemma of the cut-off time (which affected us last year; we were so slow between clues – my fault – that we ended up taking hints on the meta in order to be able to finish it in 7:59:27 overall time rather than not taking hints and finishing in a non-scoring 8:10:00 overall time) and there was at least consideration and good logic behind the solutions you chose. An alternative model of saying, perhaps, something like “you have eight hours plus two hours of overtime for the last puzzle where GC may have packed up and gone” would be pretty unwieldy. The whole “extra credit” way to dress the metapuzzle certainly ran along those lines, but wasn’t immediately obvious.

      Admission: I totally missed the thematic link between some of the puzzles relating to the three tasks of the tournament and other puzzles relating to tasks, but that revelation does make things cuter still.

      Any sort of puzzle hunt is an immense undertaking, particularly one where you have to attempt to cater for the wildly varying tastes of four digits worth of players across time and space so many different locations and cultures, and perhaps it’s one of the less delightful aspects of human nature that it’s sometimes easier to be against and the negative aspects of a mixed review (even a 99% positive one) are the ones that last longest in the memory. Be sure that the world at large is incredibly grateful to you, and everyone else from everywhere else, for the good time they had.

      • As DASH grows and matures, it’s getting harder to please everyone, but the critical comments should help us grow in the right direction. Negative feedback is also deserved sometimes. For instance, the confusion around the meta and extra credit could have been made resolved if we’d just called it meta 1 and meta 2. (Similar to DASH 1)

        • I think “Meta 1″/”Meta 2” might have caused more confusion. The first half wasn’t really a meta; it merely provided the material for the meta.

          Also, just a quick note, Chris (in an overall spectacular writeup, by the way): The solution to the meta had nothing to do with the flavortext from the previous puzzles, only its own flavortext. It’s solvable with just the materials from “Regarding the Cup” and a list of previous puzzle answers.

    • I’m a fan of the heavier theme/plot approach (indeed my discovery/interest in escape games and puzzle hunts stemmed from interactive theatre rather than puzzles) – but as a non HP fan (I don’t hate it, just never read it and seen only one of the films) I found the plot pretty hard to follow, so it essentially did become “just solve the puzzles” for me. Which is kinda what I’m getting at – I think the thing was very well done so people like me wouldn’t be disadvantaged in enjoying and completing the puzzles, but that lack of knowledge did impact on my enjoyment of the story and theme.

      I might suggest some of that same logic used in making the puzzles accessible also be applied when picking/presenting a theme? HP I think is a particularly tricky one, as it has its own in-universe logic and terminology that isn’t easily comprehensible. Whereas say a Lord of the Rings theme would be mostly understandable by anyone who has read any trad. fantasy, and a Star Trek theme by anyone who has any notion of science fiction.

      • Yes – that HP had a complex lore/universe around it is definitely an important point and one that I’ll pass along to next year’s organizers (whoever they might be). HP happened to fit well for something having to do with the number 7, and had the additional benefit of being well known to the British. And, admittedly, quite a few of our GC team are HP fans. 😀

        I personally would love to see a Star Trek themed hunt. Perhaps a DASH Space Nine in two years?

      • Regarding themes, I appreciate you are just throwing out examples of what might be more accessible. However, there is always a risk in assuming that the sort of people who would do DASH – which, let’s be honest, requires a certain geekiness of mind – have a shared cultural canon of some sort: it is stereotypically assumed to include, as you mention, fantasy and science fiction in some way. Despite being squarely in the DASH demographic otherwise, however, I generally don’t enjoy fiction at all in any of its forms – written, filmed, etc. – and so would equally struggle with and be disengaged by the examples you give. That said, I appreciate two things: one, that I may be an outlying data point; and two, that – as the ones doing the work – it’s the organisers’ prerogative to make DASH a strongly pop-culture flavoured puzzle hunt, and that as individual participants our only right is to decide whether to show up or not!

        • Sure, but even as a potential outlier, I guess you’d know what dragons, orcs, knights and barbarians are in a general sense? Or spaceships, aliens and lasers? More so than dementers, muggles and quidditch?

          And while there are certain familiar touchstones in HP (spells, wands, potions), the hunt sort of stepped a bit beyond that.

          Personally I’d rather not see a theme in any pre-existing universe, as it allows you to pick up on the generic stuff more easily.

          • I completely agree with you: it’s why I found the theme for DASH6 so much better (rather than having been based on, to give a random example, characters from an existing television franchise doing the same lemonade-y things). I’d be very happy with a generic “stuff going down in space” or “stuff going down in a sort-of-mediaevalish alternate universe” theme, so long as it eschewed a particular canon such as Star Trek / Wars or Lord of the Rings (in respect of all of which I have little or no prior knowledge: I’m that much of a geek outlier!).

  10. As a fun note – one of the alternate themes thrown out there was Se7en, but that would have been difficult to do with DASH Jr…

  11. Thank you all for the comments and feedback you’ve given here. Please continue to be frank in these comments. Internationalization is not an easy task, and we clearly haven’t worked out all the kinks. With all but one city in the US we have designed a hunt that’s very familiar to US audiences, but still not quite what’s expected from UK audiences – silly tasks, immersive themes, etc. It also seems we like Harry Potter a bit more than Londoners.

  12. I thought it went very well. Though many of the puzzles were frustrating (Rita Skeeter comes to mind), it was great having most of them be very team-oriented. That’s why I go. If I want straight puzzling I’ll do a crossword or Puzzled Pint. We had six people this year which I worried a lot about. It turned out to be a complete non-issue and all six contributed in various ways throughout the day.

    I also enjoyed the interactive parts like quidditch and spell casting. It was a nice break. I am a Harry Potter fan, however I don’t feel like it helped me too much other than perhaps recognizing the opening social puzzle as spells and why you need to enter your name into the Tri-Wizard Cup. After that it was pretty generic other than the theatrics.

    One other thing I’ve learned is to *find a table*. There’s nothing I hate more than puzzling on the ground where not everyone can see very well. We were in Seattle, so the Library, Convention Center, and improv theater were great puzzling locations. The sidewalk outside the Art Museum, not so much.

    Anyway, kudos for putting on a fantastic event year after year. We’ll be back.

    • “Find a table” is great advice, though there is a sense in which some imaginary furniture with a pyramid of chairs behind it so that everybody could be facing in the same direction and looking at the same piece of paper would be better still. (Or, alternatively, some of the puzzles this year thoughtfully included two copies of the same material, which I would recommend as best practice.)

      We are big fans of finding tables as you suggest; a minor quibble we had about the activities was that their existence didn’t suit our preferred order of operations. Find location, retrieve start code, find table, dump stuff, settle in, then send one person with the start code to get the puzzle. Learning that we had to go up as a team to perform the activity interrupted our order at the “settle in” stage, meaning that we either had to (a) leave all our stuff alone while we went up for the activity or (b) risk losing the table that we had unoccupied for the activity. This may well be a bug with the way that we chose to do things rather than an inherent bug with the existence of the activity.

      • No, you and us both: it often ended up with me doing the activity on my own, while having absolutely no clue what it was supposed to reference – see the sub-thread elsewhere about my theme ignorance. It was particularly a problem in venues where we were (quite reasonably) expected to order something to eat or drink as well: you want to have all that ready before you start a puzzle timer, but you need somewhere to put the food and drink down and obviously don’t want to leave it unattended and/or getting cold / warm (as appropriate). The alternative is to do the physical challenge before even seeking a table and buying food, etc., and then come back later to get the materials and start the timer – but then you’re doing the challenge with all your bags and everything getting in the way. There’s no real way to make that convenient unless the venue is very compact (but that causes its own problems) or you’re in a climate where you don’t have supplies to deal with everything from heatwave to snowstorm 🙂

        While I’m on the train of thought, the other problem was that giving GCs time-consuming tasks to administer gave them less time to respond to teams struggling with puzzles, and stopped them wandering around the venue generally checking everything was going well. The problems with the two-sided board may have been very quickly obviated if at least one GC had been able to walk round looking at teams’ progress and notice the error.

        Instead, GCs were forcing a waiting queue of teams to eat something disgusting; I’m sure that was hilarious if you had some idea of the theme and knew what was about to happen, but was absolutely fucking unforgivable in all sorts of ways – not least from a disability / inclusiveness point of view – if you didn’t. There’s a fine line between a funny prank and crass insensitivity, and that missed the mark by so much that whoever thought it was a good idea should be forced to read the angry bits of Tumblr for a whole week.

        • As hinted at, the bean-eating activity was by far the biggest miss (well, the only real miss) of the day for me too, a rare excursion into “Only Game Control thinks that’s funny” territory to the point where I Tweeted about it at the time in the hope that GC in other locations might see it in time (the joys of being the location in the first time zone to play!) and reconsider whether it really was a good idea or not.

          Given the theme, I thought there was a fair chance of BBEFB happening, though expected them to be more likely to be given out as a prize at the end (in the style of mini-prizes from previous years) and was hoping for (real-life-derived-from-the-film) Chocolate Frogs instead. People less familiar with the canon may well have not known what to expect without clear indication and may have found the surprise particularly discomfortable. As discussed in the comments to the previous post, some puzzle hunts have the tradition of requiring their participants to be even more game for a laugh still, but this is definitely an area where expectations need to be set in advance and an area in which DASH chooses not to tread.

          I would note that other locations did different things for their activities; I’m not sure what San Jose did for the potions activity but it looks much more to my taste. (Also as noted in the comments to the previous post, scoring the activities only works if all the locations can have comparable activities, which is not practicable.)

        • Well, in San Jose (and in Seattle too, since it came from there) our Potions activity involved people making a solution of baking powder and water using their fine Potions skills to reveal the start code on invisible-ink-printed papers, although we were going to do the jellybean thing originally as well. (You can see photos of this in my posts on Twitter, here is one: https://twitter.com/deanna_rubin/status/605061561837711360)

          Cluekeeper is intended to guide teams along so that you don’t need GC to be as involved. This especially helps out cities with smaller puzzle communities that might only have 4-5 people total to staff the entire event; in several cases GC will leave a site while teams are still there just because otherwise teams would arrive at a future site and have nobody there to greet them. It also actually makes it more fair to keep track of hints that way — there was a CK hint about turning the paper over. Having been GC a ton of times, it’s really a pain if you have to manually keep track of which teams take hints and whatnot (which affects scoring), so I’m pretty happy about letting CK deal with that.

          Honestly though, I don’t feel like GC’s job is to wander around monitoring teams. If GC is there and teams want to approach them, that’s fine, but it’s expecting a lot out of people to go around, especially when in some cases the GC is just a random friend of the organizers who is being nice enough to give 4-5 hours of their time on a Saturday to sit in a spot and hand out puzzles, and who wouldn’t even necessarily be able to hint you effectively anyway.

          It’s very bizarre, reading these comments, not just yours, I feel like the UK scene must just be very, very different from the US puzzle hunt scene. I’m pretty used to having to do various challenges for puzzle events (case in point 2 weeks ago at Shinteki Decathlon taking a shaving cream pie to the face in order to reveal a puzzle under the shaving cream, but more crazy extreme things have obviously happened at the MIT Mystery Hunt or at various versions of The Game). I was GC for San Jose and I staffed both Quidditch and Potions and aside from a few people who really didn’t want to get on the broom (and had their teammates do so), the extra activity flavor was enjoyed by a lot of the players there. I think that people here are also used to Cluekeeper being a guide; I didn’t get a ton of questions from people even when I wasn’t busy running the activities.

          Also, the two-sided board wasn’t the same puzzle as the jellybean activity anyway, did they run them in the same location or something? That is very odd if so.

          • London combined locations for a few puzzles (potions & house elves, e.g.) – there simply wasn’t enough people to staff locations otherwise.

      • I do want to point out that London is very lucky to have had so many indoor locations. This is not the case in most cities, and I think in the majority of hunts I’ve participated in, we sat on sidewalks, on steps, grass – pretty much any surface you can think of.

    • Our Seattle team took the Art Museum puzzle down to the harbor steps. It probably cost us a minute or two of walk time, but it did mean we all got to sit around a table in the shade.

      For the record, I’m not a HP fan, but I still thought it worked great as a theme, and I didn’t feel disadvantaged. I also didn’t mind the tasklets. They weren’t part of the timed section, so they didn’t affect your score, and I thought it could be a clever way to help keep the teams bunched together to make GCs task easier: Make the early arrivals spend a bit more time before they get the puzzle, skip the later teams straight through.

  13. My frustrations were different than the ones mentioned here. The double sided board for the tile puzzle simply can’t happen in an event like this. At least three teams in Austin and one here didn’t realize the board was double sided. It’s mentioned in the clue keeper notes (that no one was reading), but there’s no reason for it and is a terrible idea. Also, the free hints in clue keeper came at such a rapid pace that I don’t know how teams didn’t make par. We were racing clue keeper as opposed to the other teams. While local GC was wonderful, the choices made by the international team left a bad taste in my mouth.

  14. Alexandra Dixon here – born in London, coincidentally, but living in San Francisco, and friends with inestimable DASH creator Debbie Goldstein. The D in DASH should definitely stand for Debbie!

    I’ve played in all of the DASHs, in various Bay Area cities, in the Expert division when there is one. Yesterday no exception.

    In general I really love DASH and look forward to it every year. There were tons of lovely puzzles in yesterday’s game.

    I was thinking about blogging about the game, puzzle by puzzle. I might do that here in the comments if you don’t mind (since I don’t actually have a blog!).

    But I have something time-critical to do between now and midnight so I’d better keep this short for the time being.

    So my short review of DASH is that I thought most of the puzzles were strong and I really enjoyed them. There were a couple of puzzles that I thought were flawed in minor ways (the tetrahedron one being the most glaring example). The 5×5 matching words square had an ambiguity that led us to have difficulty extracting half of the solution … this ambiguity could have been avoided by printing the 5×5 grid on a transparency which would have upped the coolness factor but I realize that would be slightly expensive and maybe not possible for some Game Controls…

    I liked the suite of 14 easy puzzles toward the end.

    More later!

    • Feel free, Alexandra, but you’d also be very welcome to write an entire guest post of your own if you’d prefer. 🙂

      (This comment has been sponsored by the “getting other people to do the work” department!)

    • Interesting, I found the tiles puzzle the most frustrating, though for different reasons. I like your transparency idea.

      I do want to say though, that this was my second-favorite meta puzzle ever (losing only to coed-astronomy/SNAP 3’s truly-meta meta). Different strokes, I guess.

  15. Since it seems like several DASH organizers are monitoring this blog and the comments, this might be a good place to post my comments about the DASH 7 puzzles. Spoilers will abound. And also talk about DASH in general.

    WRT DASH 7, I won’t comment on the theme except that I’m not a Harry Potter expert and I didn’t feel hampered by that.

    Back when DASH was created, I thought it had some really exciting potential:
    1) to create a truly global shared experience.
    2) to seed puzzle hunt communities in cities other than the Big Three (San Francisco, Seattle and Boston).

    In the first couple of DASH games we had interactive twitter puzzles that were creative and fun – they truly gave me a sense that we were part of something larger than just a San Francisco game.

    In the past few DASH games, we’ve had a combined national leaderboard but to be honest, while I’m playing in DASH, without the inter-city interactive element, I don’t feel as though I’m playing in a national event. I wish the DASH organizers would kick around ideas for having teams in different cities interact with each other in a non-trivial way.

    As for seeding new communities … I know the original idea was to have different cities each write a puzzle. Is that still happening? It seems that more and more teams are turning out for DASH in the newer cities, which is great. Are they also starting to run their own local games?

    So, about DASH 7.

    All of the information I received from Game Control before the game indicated that it would run from 9 am to 6 pm. I have run games using ClueKeeper and I know that you can build in a time limit – or not. I had the impression that ClueKeeper would time out at 6 pm. Or at 9 hours from entering the start code – I wasn’t sure. So, as we were working on the final meta and 6 pm was approaching, I thought ClueKeeper was going to shut down on us and I got anxious. I think my team somehow got the message that we could keep going and ClueKeeper would stay open … but I’m not sure how this information was conveyed to the teams – care to comment on that?

    Overall, the graphical presentation of the puzzles was very pleasing. The font choice was thematic (what is the font name?), and the layout of the pages looked great.

    Super easy. Not sure why it didn’t count?


    A lovely puzzle. At every step it was thematic and darn-near perfect. Really creative how three different encryption themes (prepend a letter, homophones, and anagrams) all operated on the names of woods, each of which was represented by a single image. And we extracted the final message by using the same methods on the three answer words, all of which were real words in their own right. We quickly got (S)TORE WI(D)TH … but had trouble with the third one. Our bad – we did the math wrong so we didn’t have the right letters to anagram. Luckily, for some crazy reason when I saw STORE WITH, I immediately thought of Apple – no idea why! – so we got to skip solving the third word. And – doy – just realized APPLE is a type of tree. So even the answer was thematic. I guess my only quibble was that PHONIES->IPHONES was not a real anagram, just a letter shift, and if you couldn’t unscramble PHONIES by sight, an anagram solver might not help because IPHONES is both a proper name, and a plural. I imagine nobody was really tripped up by that though. I’d give this puzzle an A+.

    Even though this didn’t have any big “ahas” built into it, it was really fun to answer all the definitions with words and phrases that had BEAT and KEEP in them. The definitions were excellent – spot on. The word search must have been very challenging to put together in such a symmetrical shape with three separate leftover messages, each of which ended neatly in one of the letters of F-L-Y. Kudos for caring about such details that weren’t essential to the puzzle solution but made it more aesthetic. It was fun to realize all three answers had the word “CHASE” in them. I’d give this an A.

    Really enjoyed coming up with alliterative phrases, and the examples made it clear that one word in each phrase would be an antonym of its corresponding definition. Some were tougher to figure out – which made the delayed “aha” when one of us got one, even more gratifying. I briefly thought that the alliterations would span the first 18 letters of the alphabet uniquely, and they almost did but … newp. If they had, it would have helped to home in on missing phrases. The logic puzzle was easy enough, we got the top half and started pulling out the message, and basically backsolved a chunk of the end of the message by pulling out the possible letters. So it wasn’t strictly necessary to solve the whole logic puzzle to extract the final phrase. Which was nice and recursive, since it clued a three word alliterative phrase with one antonym, just like the other answers. I’d give this one an A-.

    More later!

    • Really interesting to hear others’ experiences. We evidently had the puzzles in a different order: three and four reversed. And yes, we were tripped up by the final anagram in puzzle two for a long time, until we found an anagram solver that covered brand names; ironically, its being completely off-theme utterly threw us (especially as I was parsing “store” as a verb, not as a US synonym for “shop”).

    • Really enjoying this and looking forward to the continuation.

      I’ll admit to massive privilege in taking part in the location in what is currently the furthest-East time zone, which means that we’re finished first and thus likely to be the first to complete our day-after write-ups. This privilege will not last forever; I do think it’s a matter of time before Australia and English-(among-other-languages-)speaking south east Asia start their own legs of DASH, and when that happens it will be glorious, and yet make the matter of what cultural standpoints, and even what varieties of English, will fly for all the locations even more complicated still. The time zone issue may also make participation in inter-location activities impractical. (Do I remember correctly that when DASH was US-time-zones-only, it started at the same global time but different local times in different time zones, which would enable Twitter puzzles and other such inter-location activities?)

      It would be an unintended consequence if the spread of readily available puzzle hunt content outside the traditional puzzle hunt hotbeds, primarily with DASH and Puzzled Pint but also with increased acceptance of globally Internet-playable puzzle hunts, sufficiently scratched people’s itches to the point where it meant that there wasn’t the impetus for people to produce the massive capital-G Games of legend any more, and things do seem to have got quiet over the last couple of years. Perhaps we need Curtis and DeeAnn to tell us to Run More Games again. 😀

      Time limit: we got the word that the time limit was more than eight hours from GC, when we started the meta and said “well, we’re not going to finish it in eight hours but…”, though do see the comments above. If it were the case that different teams had different information about whether the eight-hour cut-off would apply or not, that would be very strange.

      The quality of the physical product throughout was excellent and has gone underpraised so far; many thanks to the graphic designers on the team. Might the font have been Lumos?

      Definitely interesting to note that your location had Quidditch and an Interview with Rita Skeeter in the opposite order, and I suspect this may have arisen from the relative geographical locations, noting that the Quidditch puzzle’s associated activity had rather more onerous demands on a location than most.

      Also note that Alexandra, too modest to blow her own trumpet, is puzzle hunt royalty and it’s rather thrilling to have her comment here!

      • The overall original event order had Quidditch 3rd and Rita Skeeter 4th, but yes, it got changed in a few cities to accommodate having a field to run around on with brooms. (In SJ we also swapped Potions and Tea Leaves so that Potions would be at a location that had a lot more tables to accommodate people cutting out lots of little triangles.) Note that this also meant Cluekeeper had to know which order your city was in so you could do the reverse incantation in the correct order as well! 🙂

    • > I guess my only quibble was that PHONIES->IPHONES was not a real anagram, just a letter shift, and if you couldn’t unscramble PHONIES by sight, an anagram solver might not help because IPHONES is both a proper name, and a plural. I imagine nobody was really tripped up by that though.

      Boy, we sure lost several minutes to PHONIES. We thought it decoded to “OPEN HIS”, which if the other words weren’t ordered, could lead to “OPEN HIS STORE WITH”. We were guessing things like “Key”, “sesame”, “wand”, then started googling for opening/unlocking HP spells.

    • Hi Alexandra!

      This year, we had pretty good coverage of cities -> puzzles. We had decoupled the puzzle writing from running a city in theory, because once DASH grew beyond 10 cities we didn’t want to deal with the issues of who gets to submit a puzzle, or if they even wanted to do it at all. In practice, a lot of city gc do want to write puzzles as well, so at least that bit is still working nicely.

      Twitter puzzles are a logistical nightmare, frankly, across time zones, esp. with the very little overlap London has with west coast cities in terms of playable time. In lieu of the twitter puzzle, we’ve made the first puzzle social instead.

      Speaking as a player: I personally think that Puzzled Pint and Escape Rooms are doing more to bring up new communities now, and arguably, Puzzled Pint is something that started because of Portland’s love for DASH and wanting to spread puzzling further. DASH is a bit of a commitment for anyone who’s never tried puzzles before – 8 hours is not a trivial chunk of time, and it happens only once a year, whereas Puzzled Pint is a short 2-3 hours on average and happens every month. I’m happy with this, though. It’s kind of like how we had BANGs in the Bay Area fairly frequently in between larger games.

      • Hi Yuan,

        Good point re: twitter BUT there are other ways to make DASH a global shared experience. Such as … drumroll… a pre-game on-line cooperative activity. For example, each city’s registered teams get pieces of a puzzle that they solve cooperatively, and that puzzle rolls up into a 16-city meta that all cities solve cooperatively, sharing their individual answers. Sort of like the old Collective Detective forums where people collaborated in solving stuff. Maybe have an on-line password protected forum to which only registered teams have the password.

        Perhaps this could be used to reveal the theme of the upcoming DASH.

        Which brings me to another point. I do think that you didn’t need HP knowledge to solve the puzzles BUT the more knowledge you had, the more you would enjoy the flavor of the game. I think this edition of DASH would have been better served if you had announced the theme in advance and suggested to people that they might want to brush up on Harry Potter, while making it clear that there would be no actual disadvantage in the game if they didn’t.

        I realize DASH is a monster to coordinate and produce, and adding a pre-game activity adds to that complexity. It’s just a suggestion to illustrate that live twitter interaction is not the ONLY way to get teams in 16 cities involved with each other. And doing it on-line before the game removes the issue of that pesky time zone outlier, London.

        • Ah, you’re right. This pre-game activity could work well for people who like these extra social things. Not familiar with the collective detective forums. I’ll definitely refer whoever’s doing DASH next year to this post. Somewhere, someone’s bound to think that writing this social puzzle is their calling!

          • Collective Detective went pffft years ago. I hung out and watched some pretty brilliant people collaboratively tackle some insanely difficult games. There was one game that was so beautiful, and so complex, and so difficult, and so erudite … it was written by a consortium of scholars (including some Nobel laureates I believe) from various disciplines around the world. I wish I remembered more but it was probably more than 10 years ago. Joe DeVincentis was heavily involved in it (he’s a one-time member of the US puzzle team, a top puzzler, regular participant in the MIT Mystery Hunt and often on the winning team). If you’ve ever found an index of every MIT Mystery Hunt puzzle for the past 10-15 years, that’s his page that he maintains. He’s also a brilliant writer with an encyclopedic memory … if you like I can ask him to comment here on Collective Detective – focusing on collaborative solving to keep it on-topic. But maybe even that would be too far off-topic for a thread about DASH?

  16. Continuing where I left off. BTW Chris thanks for the compliment though I think it’s a bit hyperbolic and linking to my web site which I haven’t updated in 8 years certainly doesn’t burnish my tiara 🙂 I’ve gotten away with not updating it for that long because I get a lot of corporate and privat puzzle hunt gigs by word of mouth, and haven’t run a public hunt since 2005 – that may change this year 😉

    So, couple things about the puzzles I already reviewed. Refreshing my memory on Quidditch, I realized that the final answer wasn’t CHASE but SWEEPSTAKES, which you could see after accounting for all the other text as either a BEAT/KEEP search word, or one of the three messages. Considering that the three messages, each independently leading to the word CHASE, didn’t clue the actual answer, which was hiding in plain sight in the unused letters … I am wondering what the point was for those three messages. I didn’t have the master phone and don’t remember whether we entered CHASE for partial credit, but in any event the way ClueKeeper works, if you enter the final answer you get full credit anyway and don’t need to enter partials … so much as I liked those three messages as being thematic, they didn’t really contribute to the solution in a non-trivial way. I mean, you had to find them to scoop up the letters and leave THE SOLUTION IS SWEEPSTAKES left over, so I guess they served SOME purpose. Meh. This might take this one down to an A-/B+. But I still really liked it.

    As far as INTERVIEW WITH RITA SKEETER was concerned, I mentioned this but want to make the point in more detail that I really think having all of the alliterative phrases use the 18 letters from A to R would have elevated it both in terms of elegance and in terms of solvability. Because the antonyms were the words you needed to pull out, and they were ordered separately on another page, there was absolutely nothing stopping the puzzle designer from providing the clues in alphabetical order by answer phrase, and this would have given solvers a bit of a hint on any missing phrases. For example, if you had the first four phrases, and the sixth, and the words started with A, B, C, D and F, you could be sure that the missing one started with E. That’s a standard puzzle construct that I kinda look for in puzzles like this. And at a glance, there’s nothing about the logic puzzle that couldn’t accommodate a different ordering.

    Moving on to the rest of the puzzles.

    A really nice easy puzzle though we were a bit thrown off by YAK BUTTER tea. One of our team thought she had heard of it, and we googled it, but – really? There weren’t any more common tea names you could have used? I liked the rebus-y part, we backsolved a couple which gave us a nice “ah, ok” moment as we figured out that the “sorta” Britain/UK rebus was clueing English.

    I think in the order we got the letters we had something that didn’t rule out TWINING’S (well, TWINING since the answer was seven letters long). I really wanted it to be that. Or even better, make it 8 or 9 letters and give us a groaner for the answer: TWINNING’S TEA. Since it’s TEA FOR TWO, right?

    My team anagrammed the letters to get WHITMAN while I was off in the bathroom. When I came back I asked how they had done it and they said they had just rearranged the letters. We all assumed there was an innate ordering in the puzzle but didn’t know what it was. Looking at ClueKeeper two days later I see Hint 6 told us what to do: put the letters on the leaves and read them in that order.

    I wasn’t running ClueKeeper so I didn’t see the final message until today – that WHITMAN was chosen because Walt Whitman wrote “Leaves of Grass.” That’s kinda weak. It’s “Leaves of Grass” not “Leaves of Tea!”

    This puzzle struck me as being closest to DASH puzzles of previous games in feel and difficulty. I’m not going to grade this or subsequent puzzles because really – everything except the meta gets an A +/- from me anyway!

    OK, I lied. This one is in the B range. I thought it was cool but quite flawed.

    First, once you put together the five tetrahedrons (flattened out) you could collate the three letters from each, sort in numeric order by numbered tetrahedron, get this:


    and figure out the message: UNUSED TRIANGLES

    Taping the tetrahedrons together and rolling them just disambiguated the three letters on each tetrahedron, which we didn’t really need to do because unscrambling those trigraphs, in order, to get UNUSED TRIANGLES is pretty trivial. But in any event we didn’t even NEED to get that message!

    Cuz here’s the thing. Without unscrambling the letters, and without taping and rolling the tetrahedrons, we were already focused on the unused triangles. So when the hints came out that told us to tape the tetrahedrons and roll them – we actually stopped looking at the unused triangles and ended up in a time-wasting diversion. That potentially cost us bonus points. But probably not because we were 10 minutes over anyway.

    When we got back to focusing on the unused triangle words, we had a little difficulty ordering them according to the five rules. I thought CEMENT meant HARDEN, and SOFTEN would be an antonym of that. A teammate disagreed and said CEMENT is to join two things, so REMOVE would be its antonym. So we had CEMENT – REMOVE – SUMMER – SUFFER – BUFFER – SOFTEN which gave us CEMFEN for one diagonal and TVMFUS for the other. We fussed around with it until we got COFFEE by arbitrarily shifting CEMENT at the end and reading up.

    I think stronger antonyms and synonyms might have disambiguated this better, or failing that, maybe a hint that said “Start with CEMENT” and another that said “Read the top left to bottom right diagonal” so that teams could home in on exactly the right answer on the first try. But that’s a minor quibble. I just don’t like it when there are two possible diagonal options and one is wrong and one is right but I guess because the word relationships were bidirectional, that was inevitable. And maybe saying “start with CEMENT” would have been too much hand-holding, especially for the Expert group.


    I read the comments and saw that people were annoyed that they didn’t realize that there was anything printed on the back of this one. By chance, we noticed it was printed on both sides so that wasn’t an issue for us. But we did have the same issue Chris Dickson mentioned … we transposed the letters onto the back as a mirror image, so while our rows yielded HORSE our columns yielded junk.

    I loved the 5×5 grid of words, putting those together was fun and it was something all five of us could do. Bonus points for any puzzle that involves the whole team. We noticed the “all four words have one letter in common” connection on our own though in hindsight I see it was hinted on a couple of the tiles.

    I think I mentioned this in my first comment, but what would have really elevated this puzzle would have been to print the 5×5 grid on transparency paper. I know each side of the board had text on it so the transparency would have had to be surrounded by paper … but the coolness factor would have been raised by being able to just turn it over and see the letters through the clear sheet. And it would have saved time transcribing the letters (which we did wrong).

    We muddled through and got HORSESHOES, thanks to a teammate who started brainstorming 10 letter words or phrases starting with HORSE. But still – we shouldn’t have had to do that. I think it wasn’t 100% intuitive that with a solid grid, you had to flip it onto the other side and pretend you could read the letters through it.

    Aside from those quibbles, this was a lovely puzzle, the tiles were beautiful (how did you make those?) … and the spiral idea was a nice twist on “read the letters you wrote in” – and nicely hinted … it would have been frustrating if it hadn’t been.


    Ah, more logic puzzles. My teammates were very strong at this and worked well together. I liked that the rules for the monsters flowed through to all three pages so one person’s work would benefit another person. It was a nicely cooperative puzzle that we could all work on – yay for that.

    We solved the first one all the way as a logic puzzle and got CREATURE. That was the one I worked on. Then while two teammates were working on the second one I needed something to do so I drew out the second grid and put the monsters’ initials in the grid, and the word TRAPPED almost immediately popped out at me! I can’t remember but I think ClueKeeper confirmed these partials. Yay, so we avoided having to solve that all the way.

    Then the teammates who were solving the third one, they had RETE and I think they had a couple of other potential letters and were thinking maybe it was CREATURE TRAPPED IN CONCRETE … but fortunately the teammate who was working on it had the “aha” that it was CRETE and so we got MINOTAUR – woot! We managed to get the final answer even though we only completely solved one grid.

    We still weren’t fast enough to get bonus points though 🙁

    My only quibble about this one was that the years were SO specific I thought they would come into play somehow and they didn’t – unless I missed something? In previous puzzles where there was an ordering to separate sheets, you just wrote 2, 3 and 4 on them – so there was a bit of a disconnect… I was wondering why you bothered to put years on at all.

    I’ll stop there, my dog’s legs are crossed and she has to go out 🙂

    • I think there’s a universal puzzling rule that if you have a puzzle where you put together a bunch of tiles to make a grid, and then flip them over to read something off the back, most of the teams will flip it the wrong way first. It’s in the same category as “bread always lands butter-side down.”

      • On that topic, one of my favorite phrases was actually coined by DASH’s own Debbie Goldstein. There’s this French bakery near my house that, in season, makes lemon tarts with amazing fluffy meringue on top. I was sitting at my computer eating one when it fell out of my hand and of course landed meringue side down – on my keyboard. Since you can’t wash a keyboard, and the meringue was REALLY good, I licked it off. Prompting Debbie to invent a new term: Keyboard Lickin’ Good.

    • Hi, Thanks for the feedback on House-elves Help. I will keep this in mind if I am to make any more puzzles in the future. Being English myself, I was hoping all the word pairings were fine, as I do remember when I was originally coming up with the pairings that the game hosts were worried some were TOO UK based, and something that maybe only we would understand.

      Anyway, thanks once again.



      • The word pairs were absolutely fine, I don’t think there was a single one that wasn’t a word/phrase commonly used in the US.

    • As a co-author of the Quidditch puzzle, the CHASEs were thematic to Quidditch itself — in Harry Potter, the 7-person team involves three chasers, two beaters, a keeper, and a seeker. SO, my concept was that you would have the entire Quidditch team out there in the puzzle. Beaters and Keepers were in the word find, Chasers were (as they do in the Quidditch game) flying across the field to the goalposts, and Seekers were actually you guys on brooms going out there to get the Snitch with the start code.

      So I suppose it’s true that this may have suffered a little bit from the “if you’re not into Harry Potter you’re not going to really ‘get’ this puzzle” problem moreso than some other puzzles, but I also thought it would be more fun to write a strongly themed puzzle, which most of the other puzzles really weren’t. Also I figured it wasn’t too unreasonable to figure that *someone* on a DASH team would have encountered Quidditch before, and it’s also possible to look it up on the web, certainly.

      • Hey Deanna! My team definitely had HP fans (and experts) on it and they loved the theming throughout the game, and as you said it was particularly strong in this puzzle. Even I remembered enough about HP to know chasers were thematic. I loved the puzzle … and I do think, weighed in the balance, those three phrases contributed to its appeal. Just not solving speed 🙂

    • Glad you enjoyed those tiles!! Transparency would have been a lot of fun too, though as you pointed out, too expensive for our budget. We used http://www.printplaygames.com/product/die-cut-pieces-tiles-and-counters to create those tiles. Originally, we were thinking cardstock, but because a lot of locations tend to be outdoors, we wanted to 1. make sure they wouldn’t blow away easily in wind and 2. up the production quality. Unfortunately, this had the unintended effect where teams didn’t tape the grid of words together the way they did in playtest, leading to some confusion in extracting “SHOES.”

      • Ah, that ties right into the theme of my potential Game Control Summit talk – playtesting. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve introduced an unanticipated problem when I made what I thought was a trivial change to a puzzle and DIDN’T playtest it again. Who would have thought that just making the pieces heavier would change the way people interacted with them and affect their ability to solve it???

        Thank for the link, I’ll check it out.

        I splurged and bought the Rolls Royce of craft cutting machines, a Silver Bullet. From a company with the unfortunate name “That’s Scrap.” I haven’t taken it out of the box yet but I plan to use it for puzzles like this!


        • That’s a really cool machine.

          Totally agree with you on playtesting. Luckily I don’t think this particular flipping issue is too bad, because it’s entirely possible teams could have also skipped using tape with cardstock.

          Even more generally, DASH has some unique issues related to scaling and distribution. We do at least one playtest per city, sometimes two, but is one or two teams going to really represent the average team for that city? Additionally, because we offer the experienced and novice track, we had some trouble finding teams representative of all tracks.

          • That’s a perpetual issue with playtesting. You need people who represent the target demographic, and you need enough of them to get a feel for the range of solve times … and once those people have playtested something, they’re “burned” so you need fresh playtesters, and if you playtest every tweak you’ll quickly run out of people. Sigh.

    • I think for Potions and Sabotage, in the final answer the “connections” were in order by the numbers on the dice. We also felt that some of the connections were tenuous, but the numbers disambiguated it.

      I had a whole lot of fun doing this in San Francisco, my first DASH! Overall, a really great experience.

  17. Oh, one more thing about the tiles puzzle? Huge kudos for coming up with a set of 25 letters that contains TWO complete sets of five 5-letter animal names! That puzzle had so many lovely layers, and was just so tight and elegant (leaving aside the quibbles noted on this thread), that it was an A+ in my book.

      • I didn’t take a photo but I took the puzzle home. Doesn’t look like I can post a photo in my comment but I’ll be happy to take a photo and send it to Chris to forward to you if you like. We wrote on the pieces though. Why didn’t you get to see the physical puzzle?

          • You should have a copy! If you send me your snail mail address I’ll send you our copy (will try to erase our pencil marks).

            • I’m hoping to frame this particular puzzle if I can find an appropriately sized double-sided frame, as a memento of the day and our first hunt. Just a shame we folded our board to fit in our bag; our tiles are still in mint condition.

  18. I dropped out of organising DASH in London, and I have to recognise and thank Weaver for picking up the wand of organisation.

    Since I was unable to attend this year, this comment is from a spectator’s point of view.

    One major reason that I stepped down was the decision to use Cluekeeper – as part of GC in DASH6, this made the hunt less fun and less personable for me, and created a bunch of new problems we were unable to triage from London.
    For example, “just accept answers until GC goes home” has never caused a problem before.

    I would suggest that a non-competitive/non-timed hunt would suit DASH better. The last 2 DASHes seem to be targeted more towards experienced teams than for the new-ish community we have in London. For anyone outside the top ranking teams, some of the joy of the hunt and thrill of solving the high-quality puzzles is lost in the rush of harsh time pressure.

    I was involved in testing a non-competitive hunt this year, and I found it much easier on GC: the faster teams were not constantly pushing to be one step ahead of GC and were happier to take their time. This led to a much more manageable pace overall. Recommended.

    • As someone who has produced a bunch of games using ClueKeeper, I know you can run a game on CK without a time limit.

      Also, I’ve never had CK freeze during a game so I’m surprised to hear about these issues.

      As far as the advantages of CK, they are legion. In a game like DASH, it allows you to scale up the number of players without adding staff. With 60 teams playing I cannot imagine using humans to dispense hints and directions, for example.

      Also, CK has saved my ass when I needed to make last minute changes. Last month I ran a corporate game in Napa. First, I need to say that in northern California we have had a FOUR YEAR DROUGHT. So, as the date of my game approached, I checked the weather forecast expecting dry sunny weather.

      Newp. For the day of my game, in fact the THREE HOUR WINDOW of my game, the forecast was for rainstorms and thunder and lightning.

      Oh, and the first activity involved throwing metal horseshoes outdoors in a park under very tall trees.

      Also, we had a bunch of outdoor locations that needed to be shifted indoors.

      I was able to make all of these changes the day before the game without reprinting a single sheet of paper.

      I {heart} ClueKeeper!

      And any issues you might have about timing/competitiveness/pace, as well as the human factor, I don’t think there’s anything (IMHO) inherent to ClueKeeper that changes or limits the way a game is run. you can still have helpful GC people at clue sites, for example, and in fact CK will free them up to deal with teams who are really struggling and need a little extra help, as opposed to having long lines of teams who need hints who might otherwise get them via ClueKeeper.

      I do think that using the par system put some time pressure on us. Not to MOVE quickly but to SOLVE quickly. I’m not a fan of par-based scoring though I do think that GC nailed the par values in the Expert division, which is no easy task!

      • A huuuge thanks needs to go out to Allen Cohn, who coordinated the Cluekeeper entries for EVERY CITY, not once, but twice – once for playtests and once for game day. He did such a fantastic job here.

  19. I’m incredibly grateful to all the people who put a lot of work into making DASH – it was a fantastic day, and I thought the standard of the puzzles was very high. Personally I have no substantive criticism of any of them, at least until we get to the final round where I thought it was a shame the final (non-bonus) puzzle wasn’t designed to be solved as a team – anyone can sit at home and solve their choice of standalone puzzles whenever they wish, so it’s a weak way to end a team puzzle hunt.

    I did think the final “bonus” round had some significant flaws, however:

    Firstly, it was very easy to guess the solution key to the previous round without finishing all of the puzzles. If you then started the next round without doing so, you were disadvantaged since there were certain puzzles you needed to have solved, AND you no longer had access to the Cluekeeper partial-credit verification for that round. So a significant flaw there, really, since we spent a good amount of our bonus round solving the remaining puzzles. Given we thought we were going to run out of overall hunt time, thanks to spending 45 minutes hanging around at Kings Cross with all the other ‘experienced’ teams (a special feature of the London hunt, whereby there was a “joke” that the previous site’s GC didn’t know about, and the overall GC wouldn’t admit for 30 minutes, even posting false Twitter responses saying to look behind a wall, sending many teams off on further pointless treks), we started this round right away without finishing off all previous puzzles so we wouldn’t run out of time. Turns out the hunt didn’t end at the stop time, unlike last year – I think if you’re going to give teams points, it’s important to be clear about how that works, which it wasn’t.

    The second major flaw was that the Cluekeeper hints for this final bonus round were really very misleading. At least three of them referred to the (obvious, given the previous round) fact that you had two wheels that went back to back, and were trying to get you to find opposites (which you again had already had to do in the previous round). Until the final hint (that you had to buy), there was no suggestion at all in those clues that you look anywhere other than the wheel for the words and opposites. Worse, there were some vague references to partial points which were not explained and led us to believe we were missing a lot of information; I realised afterwards that this was probably suggesting entering the original to-duck conversion spell for partial credit, but given the way the puzzle was designed this only became obvious AFTER the entire puzzle had been solved. The fundamental problem is that the puzzle was open-ended, but the clues were very specific and made significant assumptions about what you had and hadn’t worked out; and they focused on only one part of the answer, presumably assuming that the rest was ‘obvious’. Unfortunately, the specificity of the clues led to the ‘obvious’ part being completely unobvious, since they didn’t mention anything other than using the wheels to solve the puzzle. In other words, if you didn’t solve exactly as expected (which is entirely plausible, given the vagueness of it) then the hints were both unhelpful AND misleading.

    Thirdly, having designed the final non-bonus round so that everyone solved alone, the bonus round then required everyone to share their knowledge. But since so many of the puzzles were trivially easy, no one had read all the flavour text, and therefore this didn’t work. Also after eight hours it’s unrealistic to expect ALL team members to be fully awake and still keen to concentrate!

    Fourthly, when you have a really wide-open puzzle like that, you need to consider what’s important to the puzzle and what isn’t. There were already enough parts of the puzzle booklet that weren’t needed, so it was a bad idea to insert jokey extra goblin conversions (e.g. ‘a mildly popular female goblin name’) that seemingly had no part in the solution. I think adding red herrings on top of red herrings is unwise.

    Fifthly, if you know people are typing on tiny little phones, don’t give them forty or fifty nonsense strings to type in letter-perfect to find critical information, especially when much of that is not actually needed at all anyway. Better would have been a look-up spell book or some such, which could have had many false entries to avoid cheating. I can see how this seemed like a good idea at the time – but it wasn’t.

    Finally, Cluekeeper, at least on my iPhone 6 Plus, was very unreliable. Frequently it failed to pop up the keyboard when typing, and it would often get stuck where it wasn’t drawing the screen correctly. It also decided to start syncing and never complete on more than one occasion. We lost several minutes to it. Until the app works properly and reliably, any round that relies on repeated use of it is going to be problematic.

    So I felt that the final round did let the whole hunt down a bit, and it was a shame not to end with a more tightly focused, team-uniting round. Since, after all, that’s what makes DASH special for those of us who live in places where it’s the only hunt that ever takes place! 🙂

    • Absolutely not a criticism of anything you have to say, but in your team’s particular instance and even more so in your instance in particular, knowing how stellar your tech and coding skills are (see, e.g., Puzzle Mix) I would absolutely point you in the direction of the upcoming CUCaTS puzzle hunt at Cambridge University at the end of next week – the UK hunt calendar is, very fortunately, not exactly one event long each year.

      A 24-hour hunt isn’t going to be everybody’s cup of tea – and the particular timing on this occasion may fit into potential players’ lives even less well still – but the crossover between those who would be likely to enjoy this particular hunt and those who would be likely to enjoy the UK Puzzle Association‘s logic puzzle competitions has to be, relatively speaking, about as big as it gets. The more crossover and support of different events there can be, the better all round!

      • Thanks for the heads-up Chris. I’m definitely not up for a 24 hour hunt, that’s for sure! 🙂 I think, the rare one-off exception notwithstanding, it’s absolutely true to say that DASH is the only such puzzle hunt in the UK. What other ones are there? There was Boys & Girls Come Out To Play last year, but I can’t think of any others that are open to the public. In fact, that Cambridge one isn’t open to the public either.

        So this just reinforces my point – I think with a hunt like DASH it’s important to focus on what’s unique about DASH, rather than what is generic.

        • Well, that’s where my whole next post came from… 😀

          You’re correct that there isn’t anything quite like DASH, and there won’t be unless someone wants to run something like it, such as – indeed – the spectacular Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play last year, or alternatively last year’s “Top Secret” Treasure Hunt of a slightly different type. We are fortunate in this country to have so many people who devise, share and contribute puzzles of so many different sorts and it would be churlish to complain that their preferred puzzle medium of construction choice is not perhaps the one that our relatively niche interest might prefer.

          However, that post – and this blog at large – is full of things that are sort of like other things that you (generic “you”, rather than specific “you” here) know you enjoy, and it’s quite possible that you might discover something that you turn out to enjoy more than the things you knew about already. Conversely, while this sad day will eventually happen to all of us, it would be disappointing to think that I will never go on to discover a game in the rest of my life that I turn out to enjoy more than the games I have enjoyed in the past!

    • As the author of the “Regarding the Cup” puzzle, I would like to respond to some of what Mr. Moore has said. I won’t quibble with individual taste in puzzles, but I feel especially compelled to correct certain misconceptions.

      Firstly, Mr. Moore’s assertion that the partial-credit verification for the individual mini-puzzles was lost once Part I was completed is entirely incorrect. If Mr. Moore had tested this unfortunate assumption, he would have found that full support for the mini-puzzles — hints on demand, partial confirmation and answer confirmation — was present in both parts of Regarding the Cup.

      Secondly, the assertion that uncharged hints covered only the Jorvikspar/Kelnothspar (“wheel”) counter-spells to the exclusion of counter-spells found by other methods is also false. The former is simply more complicated than any of the latter, and so required slightly more hinting. While hints 3 and 5 of Part II covered aspects of the “wheel” counter-spells, Hint 4 explicitly stated that there were three different ways to find counter-spells. In fact, Hint 4 gave the “tangled line” pairings, which have little to do with the “wheel” method, as an explicit example.

      Thirdly, there are no uncharged hints that make any assumptions about what the team has worked out so far. The information imparted by each uncharged hint can be understood having worked out none of the meta. The second charged hint assumes knowledge of the first charged hint only because, together, they constitute something of a walk-through.

      Fourthly, I do not understand how Mr. Moore can in one breath criticize the “red herrings on top of red herrings” in the ClueKeeper-based dictionary, and in the next breath suggest replacing replacing it with a look-up book containing “many false entries to avoid cheating.” These false entries would constitute precisely the same kind of “red herrings” that are found in the ClueKeeper-based dictionary. Furthermore, there would likely have to be many more of them in the look-up book then there are in the software version in order to obscure the relevant entries. We did, in fact, consider such a look-up book, and we chose the software version instead in part to minimize red herrings. After seeing the software version in practice, I am confident we made the correct decision.

      (As a side note, the “red herrings” in the software version play a crucial role: The positive feedback encourages use of the translation dictionary, vital to solving the puzzle. Feeding players a steady diet of “Incorrect! Incorrect!” instead would be quite discouraging and counter-productive.)

      If ClueKeeper reliability is an issue, I’ll say that I share the prevailing opinion that ClueKeeper has proven to be a very reliable app on the whole. Nevertheless, we also provided a web-based, non-ClueKeeper version of the dictionary software (“Auroracle”), as well as a framework for checking longer answers with Game Control staff. Both of these methods were more forgiving of typos than ClueKeeper could be. Auroracle would accept answers that were 97% correct, and GC were explicitly encouraged to overlook minor errors.

      This was an open-ended puzzle; most of the challenge came in understanding analogies and drawing connections. It was certainly designed to be played by a team, not by individuals. Solving a puzzle “at home” does not mean solving it alone. If Mr. Moore’s team found themselves too fatigued to read the text of the puzzles at the hunt’s end, I would have suggested they adjourn and reconvene the following day. I think it’s a perfectly good puzzle to be played in a cozy sitting room over coffee.

      • It has to be said, and this is not just lip-service, that DASH provided a great day of fun, with some marvellous puzzles, classy organisation and good socialising. That said, my feelings tended to chime quite a bit with Gareth (Dr. Moore incidentally).
        I much prefer puzzles that you can attack and see to a conclusion without hints, which (even if free or required) feel a bit like cheating to me. Even more, I also don’t like needing to be prompted by GC in order to finish off the last code-phrase. And as for a puzzle which requires a ton of feedback from some online source, be it the Internet or ClueKeeper, I’m afraid I find that a real turn-off. I am prepared to admit that I (and my team) just had a bit of a disconnect with the whole translations-to-and-from-Gobbledegook process, but that can’t be allowed to denigrate the puzzle in any way at all. However, I am as much of a stranger to my own iPhone as many people are to the Harry Potter oeuvre, and that might be why the use of ClueKeeper on the day was an utter disaster for me. (Almost) any time I called it up, after the first half-hour of the hunt, it just sat and hung for several minutes, certainly enough to exhaust my patience with it. Therefore the idea that I could have helped speed up the decoding process in the final puzzle was scotched, and that will have cost us time, and increased frustration levels. It’s lucky I wasn’t the main Clue-Keeper for our team.
        Those frustration levels were pretty high by the end, and I’m afraid may have contributed to our finding the final set of puzzles less ‘tidy’ than we hoped. Which is a shame, as the cleverness with which many of them worked was notable. Finding out that many other teams struggled in exactly the same way and in the same parts of the same puzzles, as we did, doesn’t for some reason alleviate this feeling! But – I say again – it was an impressive hunt, and our gratitude goes to all the creators and organisers, who volunteer, excel, and deserve major plaudits. Mark from Magpie

  20. I had a wonderful time in my first DASH! Thank you everyone who made it a reality.

    My teammate and I played the novice track (we weren’t quite sure what we were getting into) and we really enjoyed the entire day. I cannot wait to play again. Reading the comments here, I also wanted to share a few thoughts that might help improve the event in future years.

    – Like others, I also had ClueKeeper issues throughout the day on my iPhone 6. The keyboard wouldn’t appear multiple times when we needed it quickly. A few times I didn’t receive the pop-up notification that a clue was available. And lastly, while moving from vertical to horizontal orientation, the app bugged out, requiring a close and restart of the program.

    – I was in Santa Monica, CA. I don’t know how the puzzle locations were chosen, but they should’ve been a little more thought out. For the tea puzzle (a single sheet of paper), we were indoors at Barnes & Noble. For the triangle/tetrahedron puzzle, we were outside, next to the beach, where there was a nice (evil) breeze. Trying to block the wind with two bodies while simultaneously solving the puzzle with 18 tiny paper triangles was a challenge. Minor gripe, but it would’ve made for a more pleasant solving experience.

    – Opinion: I read about people having to run on broomsticks in other cities. I’m all for having a good time, but I feel non-puzzle tasks such as that don’t add anything worthwhile to the game (even if they are themed). Speaking of theme, I can’t agree with others who said the theme was too heavy this year. I know next to nothing about the HP series and I didn’t feel any confusion due to it. The theme should be something strong enough to make the game feel cohesive, but light enough as not to alienate those who are unfamiliar. I thought it was good this year.

    – I was really impressed with the quality of the puzzles. The amount of time and energy that went into them really came through. My favorites were THE HOUSE ELVES HELP, THE WEIGHING OF THE WANDS, and RITA SKEETER.

    Overall it was a completely positive experience. I hope to see this event continue to grow as the puzzle community grows along with it.

    • Delighted to read it, Ryan! Glad to know that you had such a good time and thank you for sharing your experiences.

      As it happens, my iOS ClueKeeper updated to a newer version today (with, among other things, the exciting possibility of self-guided hunts priced other than in US$) – I wonder if this new version has some more of the evident occasional lockups ironed out?

    • I can’t speak for Santa Monica, but I can say that finding locations, especially for something national like DASH, is REALLY HARD. In San Jose, we actually originally were going to use another area, and had a pretty interesting route planned out including having Quidditch by a basketball court, Tea Leaves in a Starbucks, Potions in a juice shop, Monsters was out in a fancy garden… only to have the city basically tell us that they wouldn’t let us do it unless we were willing to pay them an amount of money way over our budget. So we moved to another place and made it as thematic as possible (our route started with players getting on a train and going one stop… logistically it was to cut a 15-minute walk out of the route, but thematically it was the Hogwarts Express!), but there’s only so much you can do when you’re basically in a park walking around a lake.

      When you’re just planning a hunt in one city, you often have a location in mind before you even necessarily write the puzzles, and sometimes the puzzles are written to fit the location (the WHO game a few years back, I think they based half of their characters around locations in Seattle that would serve as the character’s lair, like the Fremont Troll became the Internet Troll, and Salmon Man was based on the Salmon ladder at the Ballard locks). But with DASH you can’t really do that — the goal is often just “okay, where can we find a neighborhood that has 9-10 stops that can handle 200 people?” and theming comes later if you’re lucky. Last year for the Lemonade DASH, we did talk to pretty much every juice shop in the neighborhood we were running things in…

      Something else that can be hard is that sometimes the way timing works, you actually have to plan your city’s route before you even get to see final copies of the puzzles! That was part of why we changed the order of Potions and Tea Leaves in SJ, as well as Quidditch and Rita Skeeter. While Potions and Tea were both still in the park, Potions ended up being at a site that had tables, at least. But we definitely had a lot of our route done before we saw some of the puzzles, and had to adjust later. Same thing happened when I was GC for San Francisco last year — we saw the Money puzzle with all the strips of paper and were like “OMG, we better move this to a place with tables or people will kill us,” and put it in Ghiradelli Square.

      • our route started with players getting on a train and going one stop… logistically it was to cut a 15-minute walk out of the route, but thematically it was the Hogwarts Express!

        To which I say an appreciative Ooooooooh.

  21. Hi all, Rich from ClueKeeper here, though some may know me as the guy who played Hagrid in the San Jose DASH this year. 🙂 I playtested the event in San Jose and thought it was fantastic. Kudos to the DASH organizers this year for another great showing.

    I’m very sorry to learn that some of you had problems with the stability of ClueKeeper this year. As DASH is easily our biggest hosted hunt of the year, it does a pretty solid job of finding any pain points that might exist. As Chris mentioned, we’ve already got a new iOS update out that fixes many of the issues mentioned, and there is another one on the way that fixes even more. Android fixes are coming in the next week as well. The one issue that we haven’t fixed is the disappearing keyboard issue, which is something that just started happening in iOS 8 and we have not been able to track it down yet. While everything I’ve read on the issue points to it being an iOS bug and not a ClueKeeper bug, I’d still love to gather data from anyone that saw this issue to see if there is something I can do to work around the issue in an upcoming release.

    I’m also disappointed to learn that ClueKeeper was a reason Ronald chose not to host this year, especially since one of the primary design goals of CK is to explicitly *improve* the experience for hunt hosts. The intent is that by taking care of all the busywork such as hint distribution and scoring, one would be free to move around and interact with teams without being stuck fielding an endless line of questions from teams. It also allows you to use fewer staffers that don’t need to know how all the puzzles work and creates a meaningful, instantly available international scoreboard. Things like whether or not to have a hard cutoff, whether to show a countdown to that cutoff, and how exactly the scoring works are all completely configurable by GC. I’m also always open to suggestions for new features that can make things work even better.

    Despite the issues, I hope that most hosts and players still saw ClueKeeper as an overall net positive to their experience. I’m a puzzle hunt enthusiast first and foremost and hoped to build something in ClueKeeper that I would love to use myself as a player and host, so if there are more ways we can get closer to that for any of you, please let me know. I have gotten a lot of great feedback directly already and have a growing list of features I plan to add over the coming months.

    On a lighter note, I can’t mention any specifics, but Chris’s suspicion was correct – there will also be a self-guided hunt launching soon in London, and we’d love to have even more submitted! Plus we’ve got some really cool features coming to the platform later this summer that will be unveiled soon…

    • Perhaps the goal might be that ClueKeeper, like any other referee, shows that it’s at its best when people don’t notice it. 🙂 My gut impression is that it definitely is getting there, and still is quite young in software terms. Thanks for stopping by, Rich, and please keep in touch!


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