Tuesday night is Puzzled Pint night in London

Puzzled Pint London logoAnother Puzzled Pint London logoYes, you are deliberately seeing double here… well, very nearly. Two pictures tell a couple of thousand words, but here’s the textual version that tells the rest of the story.

Puzzled Pint is a monthly, casual puzzling event as previously discussed on this site. The simplest way to think of it is to imagine a pub quiz that you solve with a team of your friends, but replace the quiz questions with puzzles: all sorts of puzzles – word puzzles, picture puzzles, maybe codes, perhaps maths or logic puzzles – and usually very good ones. The atmosphere is deliberately accessible and hints are freely available, so everyone can have the fun of surprising themselves by solving puzzles that they thought they would never be able to solve.

The event started almost five years ago in Portland in the north-west of the United States and made the relatively short hop to spawn in Seattle in mid-2012. People started saying “if it’s possible to host a Puzzled Pint in two cities, is it possible to host one elsewhere?” and London caught the bug in late 2013. From there, people started saying “if London can, then surely we can too”; Chicago started a year ago and was a big hit, and the last year has seen rapid growth. This month’s event can be expected to have gatherings in three countries, something like fourteen cities (or areas – depends what you count, really) and eighteen locations within those cities. It’s big enough now that it’s getting hard to keep count.

The difference between the fourteen cities and the eighteen locations arises because there are several cities where Puzzled Pint has become so popular that a single pint glass is no longer sufficient to contain all the goodness – and, rather than overflow, it has become a Quizzical Quart. Seattle has split into City and Eastside, the Bay Area has split into San Francisco and the Peninsula (i.e. greater Silicon Valley) and the original Portland site will be splitting from this month onwards as well. As the graphic suggests, so will London. Late last year, London Puzzled Pint was attracting crowds of 50 or 60; this year, January drew well over 70, and February well over 90.

However, the London situation won’t be quite the same as the others; instead of being two separate locations, it will become two halves of one large location, simply because London has very few (if any?) sufficiently large venues available that press all the Puzzled Pint buttons. Instead of splitting into, say, East and West, the London halves have gone for something rather more local: Bubble and Squeak. (Holmes and Watson was another pair of names under consideration, but implied one half was junior to the other… and one half might always be near Baker Street. So was Dots and Dashes, but that could be confusing.) Perhaps the Bubble location will be more convenient for your team one month, perhaps the Squeak location will work better for you the next month; chop and change according to your mood.

The latest location puzzle is up, and it’s a fun one – just be sure to solve it from the screen, not a printout! Once you’ve put the answer together, you’ll find the two locations and pick which one suits you better.

The north-west has so many exciting exit games going on, and such a well-ingrained puzzle crowd, that it seems likely that – over time – Puzzled Pint might thrive there as well. (Don’t necessarily expect an overnight success; see how small many other cities’ events were at their start, and two of the first three London events had no more than five teams each.) It just takes someone to be willing to commit to running it. On the other hand, MCR folk, you do get your own cool-looking games sessions, like this one on Wednesday afternoon…

avete atque valete

ave atque vale

Don’t worry, nobody has died, nor is this to be taken as a suggestion that this site is going anywhere. However, people move on, and now seems like an excellent time to salute those who have earned glory through puzzle projects in the recent past and then moved elsewhere.

Thank you to DeeAnn Sole and Curtis Chen for 213 episodes, over five years, of the Snoutcast podcast, the last of which was posted today. 90% of the episodes considered puzzle games they had played, or run, or thought about, and the other 10% were also very entertaining simply because they seem like lovely people with a jokey but respectful relationship that works well for them. Just over a third of the episodes had interviews with people involved in running puzzle games, including the twelve monthly episodes through 2014, which attempted to remedy subconscious bias by focusing on women who run games. Loads to think about, masses to learn, and a wonderful source of inspiration if you want to dream about puzzle games that have been played and might be played in the future. Their play in the field carries on, even if the podcast has cast its last.

Thank you to Lisa Long and Jordan Smith, who were the first people to get up and dance on the metaphorical dancefloor of the modern London puzzle hunt community. The two of them were foremost, among the friends and volunteers they raised, in running DASH 5 and DASH 6 in London in 2013 and 2014, and also the Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play one-day puzzle hunt as well. Their stories and reasons for moving on are happy ones; Lisa is off to the continent where she has an extremely exciting-sounding job (and a climate that suits her better… in the way that you’re probably not expecting!) and Jordan is off to further the forefront of original research as he is off to complete a post-doc in Japan. If they go on do to even nearly as much for the local game and puzzle communities there as they have done in London, London’s loss will be very much the world’s gain; fingers crossed that their paths will give them good reason to come back to London some day.

Thank you to Daniel Peake, who started and co-ran (with Lisa Long, as discussed above) the London branch of Puzzled Pint. Dan oversaw the first month with just five teams; over time, it has more than doubled in size – more than tripled on the last occasion, and the steady growth over Dan’s year plus in charge is down not just to the fun puzzles but very much to Dan’s friendliness, accessibility, charm and charisma. Puzzled Pint in London rolls on, with Charmie and (full disclosure: my wife) Meg carrying on Dan and Lisa’s sensational start.

These good people may have gone for now, but – if London is lucky – they may not be gone for good. They are gone but not forgotten in the best way; they deserve to be praised, thanked and fondly remembered for the fun they brought and the excellent and inspirational examples they set. Onwards and upwards!

Puzzles in pubs and public

Puzzled Pint London logoAfter last month’s play-by-e-mail involuntary experiment, the regular format meetings of Puzzled Pint in London (and in ten other cities, now not just in US but also in Canada!) resumed on the second Tuesday of this month, as every month. This month’s London event was the largest yet in the city, featuring a record 18 teams and 77 players, and was warmly received.

The London location has spawned its own Facebook page and Twitter account, to which the latest information will be posted (full disclosure: often by my wife, who is part of the Game Control team there). Getting 77 extra people to turn up for a few hours on a Tuesday night would be a real boon to some pubs; perhaps other pubs might find it in their interest to hold puzzle events yet. (Or, quite possibly, perhaps the success of Puzzled Pint is something that cannot be caught in a bottle and replicated, and its casual, non-commercial nature is part of its success.)

One interesting, slightly related, event that’s starting up from Sunday night is Quiz The Nation, which will be broadcast on an (admittedly slightly obscure) satellite TV channel weekly at 8pm on Sunday evenings. Get your team together, work out the answers to the questions in real time and submit them in the custom app. Over a hundred pubs have said that they will host gatherings for people who all want to play along, and will presumably have a TV set to the channel rather than Sunday night sport. After each round, the app will notify you of your score and position, both nationally and relative to inhabitants of wherever you’re playing. However, if you don’t have a local pub that’s playing, you can play along at home; if you’re at home and don’t have satellite TV, you may be able to stream the channel from the showcase TV site. (It might be a few seconds behind satellite TV, though, and if speed of response is scored, those seconds might be crucial.)

So far, so standard. Quizzes and their players are fun, but not really this site’s sort of fun. The reason why this site is reporting on this is that the quiz and app come from the team behind The Krypton Factor, and are importing some of that show’s signature mental agility tests into this new venture. This turns it from a straight quiz, with all its attendant downfalls, limitations, flaws and elements of brokenness into something much more puzzly, and thus much more interesting. Perhaps this might be a way to get puzzles – even if not by name – into scores of pubs at once and across the country? Perhaps this might be a way for puzzlers to plunder precious prizes! This site looks forward to finding out.

The next MIT Mystery Hunt starts on Friday 16th at a random 17 minutes after noon Boston time (so 5:17pm UK time, etc.), as counted down by this occasionally acid countdown timer, and plenty of puzzle fans are getting mighty excited about it already, as witnessed by the raging #mysteryhunt hashtag. Some people have made relatively short practice hunts for their teams, and at least one has been made available to the public.

However, with the MIT Mystery Hunt in mind, the craziest thing that this site has enjoyed recently is a couple of rounds of Spaghetti at Eric Berlin’s blog. The MIT Mystery Hunt is known for getting people to make remarkable leaps of logic to find patterns between collections of answers to solve meta-puzzles. Eric Berlin helps people practice this by creating collections of random words and phrases – and everybody’s in on the joke – and inviting people to solve them as if they were answers from which a metapuzzle answer must be extracted. The creativity to make something out of absolutely nothing is remarkable, and that of the second game is even more mind-blowing.

Thankfully this site gets to play with much more sensible puzzles!

Looking ahead to 2015: predictions for the year

Crystal ballThis site ran a predictions feature over the second half of 2014 then assessed the accuracy of its predictions. More strictly, the piece was a series of probability estimates, which is not quite the same thing. This year, to make things more explicit, this site will split its estimates into challenges, which represent interesting predictions that have an outside chance of happening but this site considers to be less likely than not to happen in 2015, and actual predictions, which this site considers to be more likely than not to happen in 2015.

CHALLENGES

There is a 5% chance that an exit game business sufficiently motivates and enthuses its staff to vote it into the top twenty of the next Sunday Times “Best Small Company to Work For” list.

There is a 10% chance that the newspapers will find a new style of puzzle that attracts half as much public attention as sudoku. There is a 80% chance that the newspapers will claim they have done, but only a 10% chance that it will actually stick in close to the way that sudoku has.

There is a 15% chance that the world will gain a second global monthly puzzle event. There’s a definite reason for one to exist: the wonderful Puzzled Pint is for the benefit of the community, which (generally) goes to visit a different venue each month in each city. Suppose there were a second event run for the benefit of the venues; individual bars (etc.) could adopt the event, pledging to host a puzzle night in their location each month. There are places that would find that a compelling attraction!

There is a 20% chance that some company brings larger-scale live escape events to the UK, with relatively many teams playing the same game at once. (For those who get the distinction, think Real Escape Game as opposed to Real Escape Room.)

There is a 25% chance that the 25th anniversary of The Crystal Maze, which will happen on 15th February this year, will see a reawakening of interest and the show will catch the public mood once more.

There is a 30% chance that one of the big players in the leisure industry starts a chain of exit games within its own facilities, or teams up with an existing exit game business which wants to expand rapidly by opening in a number of facilities. For instance, if you’re going to go to either of the branches of the real-snow indoor ski slope Xscape, you know you’re prepared to spend money, and the chance to play “Escape at Xscape” would surely be irresistible…

There is a 35% chance that the UK team produces its best performance in the next World Puzzle Championship, beating its previous best of sixth from the twenty national “A” teams in Beijing in 2013.

There is a 40% chance that another UK city develops a puzzle community like that of London, with at least one regular monthly event and at least one larger annual event – maybe as simply as hosting its own Puzzled Pint and DASH events, maybe something of its own. All it takes is someone willing to be the first onto the dancefloor.

There is a 45% chance that the UK mass media will catch on to just how cool exit games are. Maybe the “The One Show” team will go and play, or someone will take the idea to Dragon’s Den, or The Apprentice might consider them to be sufficiently zeitgeist-y to take an interest. At the top end, this site might dream of a revival of The Adventure Game, which effectively featured (among other things) room escape games a good thirty years ahead of the time.

PREDICTIONS

There is a 55% chance that at least one exit game will earn the Living Wage Employer mark. Perhaps there is at least one out there which pays the stipulated wage already. This site doesn’t believe that every exit game can afford to pay the stipulated level; indeed, many owners, especially of very new games, will be some way from covering costs, and consistent wage rises might force them out of business outright. However, perhaps there’s a business out there who would take pride from going down this route.

There is a 60% chance that the next World Puzzle Championship will be won by Ulrich Voigt of Germany, which would be his eleventh overall and the first time anyone has ever won four in a row.

There is a 65% chance that the exit game industry continues to grow sufficiently quickly that this site’s estimate for the number of unique players in the UK or Ireland by the end of December 2015 reaches or exceeds half a million… and this site will not attempt to fix the figures just for the sake of proving this relatively weakly-held prediction correct.

There is a 70% chance that at least one exit game will start to advertise itself using a formal endorsement from a reasonably well-known, mainstream national or international celebrity.

There is a 75% chance that the Puzzled Pint community of London will continue to grow, flourish, with teams getting to know each other ever more closely and look forward to meeting each other at the other puzzle events that exist through the course of the year.

There is a 80% chance that eleven or twelve of the calendar months of the year will see at least one new site open for business in the UK or Ireland.

There is a 85% chance that there will be a UK-based exit game review blog set up this year, to which this site will very happily link. There are many different sites out there who want the publicity from the reviews that they might get; be any good (goodness knows, this site doesn’t set the bar high) and proprietors will be climbing over themselves to invite you to play!

There is a 90% chance that the London leg of DASH 7 will expand from 8 teams in 2013 and 21 teams in 2014 to at least 25 teams for 2015. The London capacity for 2013 and 2014 was 25 teams, so it’s quite possible that London DASH might well sell out.

There is a 95% chance that at least two existing exit games covered by this site will officially call it a day. These don’t have to be unhappy endings; for instance, Oxford Castle are listing their Jailbreak event as happening until the end of January only, then presumably they will put the game cleanly back in its box. Fingers crossed that they choose to get it back out again at some point.

Reviewing this site’s predictions for the second half of 2014

Crystal ball iconAround half-way through the year, this site made a number of predictions as to what might happen in the second half of the year. It’s time to go back and review those predictions. Expect counterpart predictions for 2015 early in the new year.

There is practically a 0% chance that the whole exit game industry proves a fad that goes as quickly in 2014 as quickly as it came in 2013. Nothing lasts forever, but there’s no reason why the industry – or, at least, its best sites – shouldn’t be in it for the long haul.

Happily, this did not come to fruition.

There is a 10% chance that the UK mass media will catch on to just how cool exit games are and base a series around them with properly integrated puzzle solving, rather than the merely disguised quiz of, say, the US Exit show.

No joy so far on this one, but who can know what the channel commissioners of this world are being offered?

There is a 20% chance that one of the big players in the leisure industry – perhaps a chain of bowling alleys, or cinemas, or maybe even gyms or similar – will get on board and bring a corporate, commodified approach to the exit game business to compete with all the plucky independents this site loves so much.

This site is not aware of any progress on this issue.

There is a 30% chance that there will someone will hide a treasure in the UK with a hunt that really catches the public attention. Perhaps Masquerade must be a one-off in its impact, but there have been plenty of worthy successors. Maybe the clues will be shared in a book, maybe it’ll follow the tradition of Alternate Reality Games promoting mass media works, maybe it’ll be something new.

The biggest hit in this regard, to this site’s knowledge, was Gold Hunt London, and the success of that seems to be more likely to be measured in the hundreds or thousands, rather than the hundreds of thousands.

There is a 40% chance that existing exit game sites continue to grow and grow – as just one example, clueQuest is set to open its second Operation BlackSheep room on August 1st! – and that there is a single site which manages to serve forty teams on the same day. Thirty a day seems like a very unambitious target, forty a day pushes it to the “40% chance” category.

This site clearly didn’t see Escape Hunt coming, which serves forty a day – and the rest! – on a regular basis, and has had many days in which they have sold all seventy slots. Other than that, the next busiest site would appear to be clueQuest, which opened a fifth room and serves thirty-five teams on Saturdays.

There is a 50% chance that the next World Puzzle Championship will be won by Ulrich Voigt of Germany – after all, he’s won two of the last four! (Maybe this is underselling him; the full story is that he’s won 9 of the last 14, but surely the opposition is getting stronger as well.)

Indeed he won. On reflection, saying there is a 50% chance does not really count as a prediction either way.

There is a 60% chance that the monthly party that is Puzzled Pint will keep growing and growing in London, exposing more and more people to the puzzle hobby… at least, once autumn comes around and the nights start to draw back in.

It was attracting 10-11 teams in April-June and 13-14 teams in October-November, though the distributed Puzzled Pint experiment for December was less successful.

There is a 70% chance that at least one existing exit game covered by this site will officially call it a day, in addition to those which just might fade from sight. (And, still, the exit game industry would compare favourably with so many others when you think about startups failing quickly.)

This one is probably more of a miss than a hit. One site has been on a long-term “break between seasons” with no sign of a second season and a second site is up for sale, with bookings suspended, but neither have officially closed down. Could you count the Lock and LOL misfire in the category? Probably not quite.

There is a 80% chance that there will be a day where this site can list at least twenty sites open for business in the UK and Ireland, with at least five in the London area.

You’ll see the stats in a couple of days; this came true and then some to the point that the prediction proved rather conservative.

There is a 90% chance that the 23rd World Puzzle Championship and 9th World Sudoku Championship, scheduled for Croydon here in the UK on the 10th to 17th of August, will go with a bang and be a success to be proud of for years.

Arguably this is difficult to measure, but this site is not aware of ill-feeling towards the event and is aware of high compliments paid to it, which would seem to be a reasonable metric.

There is practically a 100% chance that something incredibly cool, of which this site was not previously aware, will make itself known. Maybe it’ll be… not just any exit game, but the exit game of all exit games; maybe it’ll be a puzzle game like of which nobody has seen before; maybe it’ll be the hottest new puzzle trend since sudoku. Be sure that this site will really, really enjoy telling you about it.

Again, this is so vaguely-defined as to be only subjectively judgeable. However, this site would offer Boda Borg and the CUCaTS puzzle hunt at Cambridge University as extremely strong candidates for the category. This site’s absolute highlight of the half-year was the Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play puzzle hunt; incredibly cool, sure, but this site did have an inkling that it was coming.

Puzzled Pint this Tuesday

Puzzled Pint envelopeThis site has previously discussed the Puzzled Pint event, which takes place in a pub in London, a pub in Montreal and nine pubs across the US on the second Tuesday of each month. Imagine a pub quiz, but lose the questions and replace them with puzzles, dial the atmosphere down to accessible, casual and hint-filled, and you and your team are more or less there. London was the third city to start, and now the event is up to eleven! Many thanks to the global team organising the event and to London organisers Dan and Lisa for the hard (but hopefully fun!) work they have put in over the past year and a bit.

However, it’s very difficult to find a pub in central London in December which is prepared to host, perhaps, 60 or so people on a Tuesday evening which doesn’t have the ambition of using its space to host a Christmas party. Companies will plunk down deposits of hundreds or thousands of pounds, which squeezes Puzzled Pint out somewhat. It was possible to get away with it when Puzzled Pint was very small (three teams small) last December, but these days it’s too big.

So there’s an intriguing option available for the London PP this month only: register in advance and you can play by mail: “We send you puzzles on Tuesday, you send back team name & solve time. E-mail us to sign up!” This site loves the history behind this option. Chess has been played by mail since at least 1824, possibly hundreds of years longer. More interestingly, the seven-player game Diplomacy has been played postally for over fifty years, and even more ambitious games have been designed to take advantage of the specific properties of playing games by mail for over forty years. Arguably the genre reached its peak in the ’80s and ’90s as the most accessible way to play a game with more people than could be fit around a single board game table; the likes of Monster Island and Quest could whimsically be considered the first MMORPGs, years ahead of your World of Warcraft and the like. It’s just that the graphics were primitive and latency has improved by a factor of tens of millions, from days to milliseconds.

Thinking more broadly, could Puzzled Pint exist as a game by mail on a longer-term basis for other cities where in-person events are not yet established? Puzzled something certainly could, in the long tradition of timed online puzzle contests, and would be fun. However, it wouldn’t be Puzzled Pint, where so much of the appeal is getting together with your friends in person to crack the puzzles – and possibly to get to see people from other teams who you only ever see at these events. This site is sure that teams will be meeting up for this stop-gap PP this month, but it’ll be many little events rather than one big one. Volunteers are sought to help run the event in London through 2015.

That said, it’s not clear if there can be effective checks as to just how London-based people wanting to play this month’s London event can be. Perhaps playing by mail for a month is a privilege not to be abused for fear of diluting the ethos of the event, but perhaps this might be a chance for people who can’t make every London event to more conveniently join in the fun.

Coming up in London this week

"Puzzled Pint" logoThere are a couple of very exciting events coming up in London over coming days. Tomorrow sees the Girls and Boys, Come Out to Play puzzle hunt, starting in central London. This site has previously discussed the event and registration is long closed, so if you’re interested but don’t have firm plans then your only hope is to try to find a team looking for another member. (Perhaps posting to the Facebook page might do the trick, but it’s mighty close to the event already.) If you’re reading this and will be there tomorrow, do make yourself known to me at the event; the weather looks fair enough that I’ll likely be wearing a purple T-shirt and jeans.

Whether you’re there or not, there’s also Puzzled Pint on Tuesday, also in London. No registration is necessary for this, though a simple but thematic location puzzle has been posted, which needs to be solved in order to find the location of the pub at which the event will be held. Recent months have seen about ten teams take part at the London event, so the pub has been chosen to easily deal with an additional 50-ish-ish visitors drinking and solving.

Puzzled Pint is a free-wheeling, deliberately accessible contest held between teams of three(ish)-to-six(ish). Either turn up with a ready-made team or turn up and form a team on the night. The organisers will be there between about 7pm and about 11pm and will hand each team, when they are ready to begin, probably four or five puzzles to solve. Hints are freely and readily available, with the emphasis being on fun and every team having getting as much help as they want. The puzzles are free; the pints aren’t.

One of the excitements of Puzzled Pint is that the same event is taking place in cities throughout the English-speaking world. For the longest time the event took place only in Portland, then spread to Seattle. Over the last ten months, the number of cities has risen from two to three to five to six, but there’s never been a jump quite like this month’s as there will be ten locations – London and nine in the US, with new entries being Boston, Washington DC, Austin (all of which have strong DASH traditions, so surely should be quick to pick up the Pint habit) and a second Seattle loation, “Seattle Eastside”, as the first has grown big enough to split in two.

I’ll be at this Puzzled Pint and it’ll only be my second London event, though my wife is a regular. Again, I can’t wait – and, again, if you’ll be there, do let me know. It should be great!

Predictions for the second half of 2014

Crystal ball iconWe’re into the second half of 2014, this article has taken far longer to write than was planned, but by way of looking forward to the second half of the year, this site estimates that, at some point during the second half of 2014:

There is practically a 0% chance that the whole exit game industry proves a fad that goes as quickly in 2014 as quickly as it came in 2013. Nothing lasts forever, but there’s no reason why the industry – or, at least, its best sites – shouldn’t be in it for the long haul.

There is a 10% chance that the UK mass media will catch on to just how cool exit games are and base a series around them with properly integrated puzzle solving, rather than the merely disguised quiz of, say, the US Exit show.

There is a 20% chance that one of the big players in the leisure industry – perhaps a chain of bowling alleys, or cinemas, or maybe even gyms or similar – will get on board and bring a corporate, commodified approach to the exit game business to compete with all the plucky independents this site loves so much.

There is a 30% chance that there will someone will hide a treasure in the UK with a hunt that really catches the public attention. Perhaps Masquerade must be a one-off in its impact, but there have been plenty of worthy successors. Maybe the clues will be shared in a book, maybe it’ll follow the tradition of Alternate Reality Games promoting mass media works, maybe it’ll be something new.

There is a 40% chance that existing exit game sites continue to grow and grow – as just one example, clueQuest is set to open its second Operation BlackSheep room on August 1st! – and that there is a single site which manages to serve forty teams on the same day. Thirty a day seems like a very unambitious target, forty a day pushes it to the “40% chance” category.

There is a 50% chance that the next World Puzzle Championship will be won by Ulrich Voigt of Germany – after all, he’s won two of the last four! (Maybe this is underselling him; the full story is that he’s won 9 of the last 14, but surely the opposition is getting stronger as well.)

There is a 60% chance that the monthly party that is Puzzled Pint will keep growing and growing in London, exposing more and more people to the puzzle hobby… at least, once autumn comes around and the nights start to draw back in.

There is a 70% chance that at least one existing exit game covered by this site will officially call it a day, in addition to those which just might fade from sight. (And, still, the exit game industry would compare favourably with so many others when you think about startups failing quickly.)

There is a 80% chance that there will be a day where this site can list at least twenty sites open for business in the UK and Ireland, with at least five in the London area.

There is a 90% chance that the 23rd World Puzzle Championship and 9th World Sudoku Championship, scheduled for Croydon here in the UK on the 10th to 17th of August, will go with a bang and be a success to be proud of for years.

There is practically a 100% chance that something incredibly cool, of which this site was not previously aware, will make itself known. Maybe it’ll be… not just any exit game, but the exit game of all exit games; maybe it’ll be a puzzle game like of which nobody has seen before; maybe it’ll be the hottest new puzzle trend since sudoku. Be sure that this site will really, really enjoy telling you about it.

All the news: puzzle events

Newspaper imageThe last collection of news focused on mechanical puzzles; this one is about puzzle events, mostly leaning towards the puzzle hunt side of things.

There was a slight cliff-hanger relating to events in London on the second Tuesday of each month; as well as the London Puzzle Party, the date is known in five cities around the world as being Puzzled Pint day. See our previous post on the event for more details. The location puzzle is expected to be published at 7pm BST today; solve it and find out where to go at (or, with the considerable number of attendees that the event draws these days, before) 7pm BST. Bring some friends to form your team, or make new ones while you’re there.

Again, one of the likely topics of conversation while you’re there is DASH 6, as previously discussed. Registration has already closed in two cities; I don’t know exactly when London’s registration will close, but at a guess it’s likely to be very soon after Puzzled Pint, not least because there are only two slots remaining. Firm up your team there and then – or get in touch as there are some teams who may be looking for a stray member or two in order to get to a full complement of five. ((Edited to add: Confirmed; registration deadline is indeed “after Puzzled Pint on Tuesday”.))

If you’re not in London, there are some online hunts which may be of interest. UrbanQuest are one of several companies who permit you to explore cities unfamiliar to you by selling you self-guided hunts – sadly none in the UK or Ireland, yet – which you can follow in order to earn points and badges on their site. (You can also solve quick location-free “Quizzle” puzzles for points, too.) Of more interest to solvers here is their EpicQuest online hunt now in progress, with four standalone chapters and a fifth chapter that depends on the first four. Prizes are awarded half as cash and half as donations to the charity of your choice… within North America. Nevertheless, the rules are worth browsing, all the way to the very bottom.

Further ahead, dates of 5th-13th May have been published for the Melbourne Uni Maths & Stats Society (MUMS) puzzle hunt and registration is open as well for teams of 1-10. Score points by solving hunt-style puzzles revealed over the course of five days; if you don’t solve them on day one, hints are published and the puzzles’ values decrease. This is one of the world’s great online hunts; more soon, but start thinking about your team now.

Puzzled Pint

Puzzled Pint
Imagine taking part in a pub quiz with your friends, but swap the questions for puzzles: word puzzles, picture puzzles, maybe codes, perhaps maths or logic puzzles. They might be mysterious at first, but you’ll enjoy figuring them out with your team. The atmosphere is deliberately friendly; hints are given out freely to make sure everybody has fun. This emphasis on “everyone gets as much help as they’d like” makes the event less competitive than you might think. This event exists, it’s called Puzzled Pint and it happens on the second Tuesday of every month in, among other places, London. Accordingly, tonight is Puzzled Pint night.

The event started in Portland, in the state of Oregon in the northwest of the USA, in July 2010. Fairly quickly, people got the idea that the same puzzles could be used in different cities; not much more effort, many more people get to enjoy them. In October 2012, it spread to Seattle. In November 2013, it took the giant leap to the UK and has been running every month in London ever since. This month is a particularly interesting one as the fun will spread to two more Stateside cities: giant Chicago and tiny Missoula. Missoula will be particularly interesting as, over time, it will show whether a Montana city of barely 110,000 people, even counting its suburbs, can support the event nearly as well as the other locations, each a metropolis of multiple millions.

Finding the event location is the first challenge; a puzzle is posted on Monday evening, whose solution will reveal the location in each city. You can find this month’s “location puzzle” here, and it’s a fun one. Again, hints are available if you need them!

The London event generally starts around 7pm. (That said, last month there were almost fifty attendees, in 12 teams, and it was something of a squeeze – so turn up early if you can.) The puzzles are free, the pints aren’t. You can listen to what a Puzzled Pint sounds like in this beautifully-made podcast if you want to hear how much fun people have.

This is quite a different sort of challenge to a locked room; however, it still might scratch your “solving puzzles in a team” itch. They’re all pencil-and-paper puzzles, but there aren’t the fun toys to play with that make locked rooms so cool. The best way to find out whether it’s your cup of tea is just to give it a try!