Saturday, May 19

Page 11 recap

Hello all! Much of what was written on page 11 of this year's list was my doing. I wanted to go over my items and let you know about them. I was very pleased with how they were completed this year! One fact I've found to be almost universally true about Scav judging is that the items that you are less excited about ahead of time are often super fun and great in practice. So thanks to all the teams for being so awesome - really, every team had something that impressed me greatly at some point in the hunt, so I hope that you are all very proud. Scav is the best!

So with that said, here are my items and thoughts:

177. A teammate whose facial hair rightly earns him the nickname “Starburns.”

This is, of course, a reference to the TV show Community and the recurring character Alex "Star-Burns" Osbourne, who, if you are curious, got his nickname because he looks like this. So all you needed to do for this item was give yourself some star-shaped sideburns, and, if possible, yell Starburns's catchphrase: "MY NAME IS ALEX!" (the catchphrase was not required).

When I wrote the item, I had no idea that the show was planning to kill of Starburns the week before Scav Hunt, so the RIP pointing was a nice touch from the pointing committee. Scav Hunt always wants to stay relevant!

I believe it was Breck whose Starburns also made sure to wear a vest and top hat, so if I had to pick a favorite completion, it was that one. Still, many teams got full points for their 'burns.

178. A book from the UofC library system that features irony marks, an interrobang, or both. The glyph must be used as intended; the book may not use the glyph in a discussion about punctuation.

The Interrobang is a combination of a question mark and an exclamation point in a single mark ("interro," like "interrogate" for the question mark, "bang" is sometimes a nickname for an exclamation point). Here: ‽ Alas, the brilliant and brilliantly named mark never did catch on, and nowadays we tend to just use the two glyphs side-by-side instead, as in, "You drank how much salad dressing for that item?!" or "Where the hell is our dancing robot?!" Irony marks are backwards question marks used to show irony or sarcasm in a question.

For the record, I did not have any particular books in mind for this, and wasn't even sure the Reg had such a book, or how one might go about looking for it.

And, indeed, perhaps I should have. No one ended up getting these to my satisfaction. Some people brought microfilm of documents from long before the interrobang was invented, some people brought a book describing how easy it is to get used to writing irony marks, and one team even drew a small line next to a question mark to make it look like an interrobang. Very clever, but AFeld found the original on google books, and all it had was a question mark.

179. Perform the Hamster Dance in the following styles: gospel, Cajun dance, sea shanty, acoustic rock, renaissance polyphony.

This item was really just an excuse for me to try to listen to some good folky music (with some other categories thrown in because other people may like those as well). And to force you to learn to play the music I like. The original item was going to use the Badger Badger Badger song, but then it was pointed out to me that that song has like, one note, so I should choose something more musically interesting.

Since it called for five different performances and was only worth five points, many teams understandably did not put in the time or effort to create timeless musical masterpieces. I completely understand. That said, MacPierce outsourced the work to a teammate's brother who is studying music, with excellent results, and Burton-Judson made videos with a lot of the right instruments for the genre (accordion and fiddle for the Cajun version, for example). Many teams got partial credit for doing a few but not all of the styles (gospel and sea chanty, for example, were fairly easy to do with no instruments needed).

Now go listen to some Cajun music!

181. Gather at the center of the quads at noon on Friday for a simple game of Name That Tune. No tricks, no lies, we’ll play a tune, and you have to name it. We’re not going to secretly make it trivia about Sir James Tune, or actually make it Name That [Obscure 1970s car]Toon or anything like that. We’ll play the melody from a piece of music, and you name it. It’s that simple.

As I am sure you all guessed, there was indeed a major twist to this item, though I tried to take care that the wording of the item did not contain any actual lies. Taken at face value, of course, you might assume that this item means we would play a recording of the music on a cd player or computer, but no, the secret twist is that the music would be played live, on an instrument. And if you are going to play an instrument, why not play the largest instrument in the world? Especially since it's right on campus.

That's right - all our tunes were played on the Rockefeller Carillon by expert carilloneaurs Oliver McDonald and Hunter Chase. A more detailed explanation and some photos are in my previous blog post.

One million thanks to Oliver and Hunter for working so hard to arrange and play songs, and one million more thanks to Dean Elizabeth Davenport for finding us time on the carillon schedule and being so enthusiastic about the event. And one trillion thanks to them all for keeping it a secret, even though in scheduling time on the carillon, they had to lie to a carillon student who was the South Campus page captain for this very page! oh, scav hunt.

I hope that if you guys were walking around campus at Noon on Friday, you got to hear some of the music!

182. A word chain, but for real! Since we’ve already got us a “LIST,” take that word and change a single letter. Bring us the new word - and the object is signifies - physically chained to the first one. Change a letter again, and chain it to the previous word. Continue ad nauseum - and at the end, chain that last word back to the beginning!

This item is I suppose a distant cousin of an item of mine from 2010, "Add, remove, or change a single letter in any item on this year’s List and complete the newly created item." (item #243 that year). What can I say, I enjoy quick little word games like this. Of course, in this one, you are limited in which words you can make by the fact that you will literally have to produce an example of the new word. So for the first move, you may have an easier time finding a LINT to chain than say, LUST.

That said, I was surprised by how many ways teams figured out to show me naked people, for a variety of words. I guess there's no use stopping someone if that's what they want to do! Notable completions included Snell-Hitchcock, who had the longest chain by far, and GASH, whose final word before coming back to LIST was FIST, represented by an old FIST team shirt. May they rest in peace!

Since I didn't specify a minimum or a maximum number of links, most teams got full points for this, if they attempted it.

Thanks to Judge C-Kam for changing this item for the better - originally there was no physical chaining involved, it didn't have to go back to the beginning, and the start word was the harder-to-work-with SCAV. Each of those changes made the item much better.

184. This Scav Hunt, why not take a break from the stresses of all these items and events? We’ll give you a nice relaxing jigsaw puzzle. Just bring it back to us at Judgment, completed.

Ah, the puzzle item. This one probably consumed 90% of my total pre-scav efforts and energy. Was it worth it? Who knows. It was a major headache for me to set up, so I hope people enjoyed it.

Like the Name That Tune item, the wording here was misleading. In this case, possibly to the item's detriment. Despite the wording, there was in fact more to do than just solve the jigsaw puzzle. The jigsaw itself was just the first step in a small series of puzzles.

Here's the full story:

This was originally just supposed to be a giant jigsaw puzzle, nothing more. I got the idea at a very cool game store I was at where they were selling 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzles. I liked jigsaw puzzles a lot as a kid and I thought it would be a fun, social thing that the teams could work on. I don't think you could solve it on your own, you would need to have a group of people, and it would take a while, and I thought that might be fun to do. Alas, it turns out that such things are expensive, and few judges were convinced that a giant puzzle for each team was worth the hundreds of dollars it would cost. Instead, with some brainstorming, we came up with the idea of a smaller puzzle, but one custom-made with our own picture, which would contain within it the clues for a broader puzzle (or "metapuzzle," as I called it). I worked with a few people (notably Judge Sarah, Judge Puzzathon, and a long-time puzzle-loving friend of mine named Greg) to figure out the details.

I should note that I drew heavy inspiration from the MIT Mystery Hunt, in which I participated this year for the first time, and the Washington Post Hunt, which I've done a few times now in DC. Both are very fun and often diabolically clever (of course, the Mystery Hunt is about 100 times more difficult and more expansive than the Post Hunt. but whatever, Scav is clearly the greatest of the bunch).

So, here was my goal in making this puzzle: I wanted the image on the puzzle to correspond to a location on campus, and I wanted to hide a clue on campus with its location indicated on the puzzle image. I also wanted a further puzzle within the jigsaw puzzle, but one which you a) needed the campus clue to solve, and b) couldn't solve without first assembling the jigsaw puzzle. And I didn't want it to be too hard. I guess I'd say my hope is that any team that put the time in to do all the steps would be able to solve it. But that's hard to calibrate ahead of time. So, with that in mind, here was the sequence of events if you solved this whole puzzle:

1) you got the bag of puzzle pieces at Captains' Breakfast.

2) you assembled the puzzle, hopefully noticing that the backs of some pieces are blacked out in permanent marker. The solved puzzle looks like this:

If you look closely, you will see an arrow pointing at one of the lampposts on the left-hand side of the image. It was a bit easier to see on the puzzle in real life, though due to the nature of iron-on transfers, it wasn't quite as clear as it perhaps should have been.

Anyway, if you flip the puzzle over, the back look like this:

It should be pretty clear that there is some kind of meaning behind this, and if you want to try and decode this message right now, you can, but you will hopefully find it extremely difficult without the clue.

3) you visited the area in front of Harper Quad and, specifically, the lamppost circled in the image. And - I say, is that a clue? Locked to the lamppost was a luggage tag, and on the inside was this:

If you play the music, you'll (hopefully) recognize it as the second half of Amazing Grace (appropriate enough, as the luggage tag I used was borrowed from Judge Grace). There are a few verses of the song, but the first is the most famous, and that's the verse I wanted people to think about. The notes here correspond to the lyrics "I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see." This was meant to be a clue for how to decode the pattern of blacked-out puzzle pieces. They represent braille.

I figured at this point you'd have to do some trial and error to see how, exactly, the letters are broken up, but it's fairly straightforward. Each 2x3 block of pieces represents a single braille character. Blacked-out pieces represent raised dots; untouched pieces represent blank spaces. So this:

becomes this:

becomes this:

becomes this:


which I chose because that's where the Shady Dealer meets every Sunday at 7:00! Good old shady dealer. Go write for them.

So, for full points on this item, you had to solve the jigsaw, find the clue, decode the message, and present me with the completed puzzle with the room just to the left of the main door circled.

In the end, only one team presented me with that (it was Max P). I was overjoyed to see it, because I had been hoping more teams would solve it fully, and then I was super worried that no one would get it.

I should make it clear that I in no way blame any teams for not solving the puzzle - it's totally my fault for making it too hard. I haven't really done anything like this before and it's very hard to figure out how difficult it will be to solve. In the end, I blame two factors, both of which I was responsible for: 1, the wording of the item which implied that there was nothing else to do once you solve the jigsaw, and the quality of the printing, which made the arrow more difficult to see and meant that fewer people went to go find the clue. Still, for those of you who worked on it, I hope you enjoyed putting the puzzle together and I hope you keep the finished product on your collective mantlepieces for years to come.

(come to think of it, I had a sort of puzzle item in 2010 and that one was also too hard...maybe I should stop trying to make puzzles....?)

I also have got to take a moment here and thank Andy Jordan for the enormous amount of work I made him do for this - as the only judge with a color printer, I had to print all the puzzles at his place, and then the huge amount of ink we needed meant he always had to run off to Office Depot to buy more, and then there were more teams than we expected so we had to make more on thursday afternoon, oh my lord it was so crazy! Thanks andy. He had no idea what he was getting into when he said I could use his printer.

185. A door that, when opened, creaks out the opening notes of “The Final Countdown”. [1 points for the first four notes; 2 points for the first nine]

Not too much to say here! This item is inspired by a door at my office, which does this. I was intrigued by the idea of how one could fashion a doorway to do this intentionally, and I was amused at the thought. So there you have it.

No one found such a door, which is understandable given how hard it would be and that it was only worth one point. Some teams showed me videos of doors opening while someone played the Final Countdown, but this was not what the item called for.

186. A bookshelf that spins around to reveal the entrance to a secret lair. [24 points, 6 bonus points if the spin is triggered by pulling a particular book from the shelf].

Man, who wouldn't want one of these! Quite frankly I'm surprised I hadn't thought of this item a year or two ago.

Two teams did a great job with this, Breck and MacPierce. MacPierce tried to get me to go to Maclean and see it in person, at 4:00 am on Sunday, and after several hours of dinner pointing and HQ visits there was just no way at all that that was going to happen. I watched a video of it, though, and it seemed quite cool, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt on pointing.

Breck's, meanwhile, I did get to see in person and it was awesome. I could have played with that shelf for days. Here's a video of it in action. You can't quite tell how it works from the video, but the basic idea was that there was a weight pulling at the shelf/door from one side, and a locking mechanism to keep it from spinning around. When you pulled the book, the lock was removed, allowing the weight to pull the door and spin it around 90 degrees. It was very low tech, but it worked perfectly every time. The bookshelf was just made of of a door with two-by-fours on it, but it certainly functioned as a bookshelf and had books on it, so I counted it as 100% bookshelf. Pulling the book really did feel like you were in some kind of spy movie. Full points! Great work, Breck.

So, that brings to a close my role in Scav Hunt 2012. I hope you enjoyed it, and perhaps even enjoyed some of my items. If 2012 was your first Hunt, I hope you come back for years. Scav is a very special thing in my life and it's always so exciting to see people get so excited to work on items, go to events, and just have a blast together. See you in 2013!

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