DASH 9 was very, very fine

Shake Shack signAfter DASH 9 finished, we went to Shake Shack for dinner, and found this native Iotan extract on one of the walls. I don’t think it translates to M, though; I think it translates to WC.

DASH 9 was a joy today. Every puzzle worked, the story was fun, the hunt was well-matched to its route and there were a couple of breathtaking surprises along the way. The administration of the Expert track was spotless; everything flowed really well. Our Expert-track team were really pleased with how we did; we finished fourth out of 18 in London and probably in the top 15% globally.

Congratulations to Misremembered Apple for once again being clear winners of the Expert track in London, and to Team Rebellion for being clear winners of the Normal track in London. After the hunt finished, it was fun to watch the live ClueKeeper scoreboard; one of my team members compared it to watching the voting coming in at the Eurovision Song Contest. Subject to ratification, it looks like the Burninators, who played in Fremont on the east side of the Bay Area in California, have got the best global score, two points ahead of a team named )((), which I choose to pronounce “fish”. Congratulations to them as well!

Thank you to all the staff, volunteers and people behind the scenes in the organisation; you’ve made a lot of people around the world very, very happy. The pub at the end of the London route was extremely well-chosen; people were happy to stick around and it worked well as a social event too, with quite a few interesting connections being made. What a day; it’s going to be no fun to have to wait for the next one!


  1. This was a fine year, and thanks to London GC and DASH HQ for a very fun event.

    Harking back to my now-annual analysis of the hunt:
    …there was a lot of things on my wishlist that were “fixed” this year, namely:

    *Scoring has been improved – I don’t think any team particularly mourned the loss of the icebreaker or the first “0 points” puzzle. It felt a lot more satisfying just getting into it.
    *Timekeeping was a lot better – I think we started a handful of minutes after 11, which is pretty good. I guess losing the icebreaker makes it possible for latecomers to start afterwards?
    *Props were good – Though not *quite* as flashy as the year before, there was a decent range of props to play with and the finale was very novel.
    *Construction was eased up – No need to make 3,498 paper cranes this time.
    *Puzzle lengths were shorter – Par times were set well, and puzzles still felt meaty without needing a 75 minute par like last year.
    *Although there was still not much indication of how long you’re likely to spend at each location, the puzzles were relatively even in length so there was a nice rhythm to it. I still feel that some more advance information on the route wouldn’t go amiss without spoiling the surprise – e.g. a cafe was suggested for lunch whereas there was an (arguably) much better pub lunch on offer at the next stop.

    London has been blessed with its current GC and a well-paced and witty route was once again in evidence. A telescope puzzle by a telescope! While the unusual mostly-outdoor route was a gamble, other than a bit of wind here and there, the gamble paid off.

    Unless we somehow missed them, I do slightly mourn the loss of the ‘bonus’ activities that have traditionally happened around the main puzzles, but I’d rather have more meaty puzzles than weak activities. Maybe there’s been a worldwide decision to get rid of these? And probably our GC didn’t really have the headcount of volunteers to support those anyway.

    I still think expecting people to learn how to do cryptic crossword clues “on the spot” without any warning is a *bit* rough, but I guess if you’re calling yourself an Expert then it’s not too much to ask.

    There was a reasonable smattering of US references that maybe could’ve been ‘fixed’ or written a different way for the Brits, probably more than last time, but I think our GC did the right thing in leaving it alone for fear of breaking something and just giving a heavy hint at the start to think like an American. Nevertheless, I do think it disadvantages UK teams at least *some* seconds.

    There was definitely a “power behind the throne” that made this year go well, in that all the puzzles *really* clicked. There was precious little frustration factor, and even on the few occasions where we were a bit slow, we definitely felt it was our fault not the puzzle’s. Whereas in some previous years the Cluekeeper hints have often raced ahead of what’s physically possible, this year they were paced a lot better. In fact, we hardly looked at Cluekeeper all day because 90% of the time we pretty much knew the stage that the next message was going to tell us anyway. While several puzzles had quite a lot of lateral leaps to them, you rarely felt out of your depth in a bad way. Other than the final puzzle where we took “the colour that doesn’t feature” rather than “the colour that’s in common”, I can’t think of any “oh, they meant THAT way” situations where instructions weren’t communicated fairly.

    I do feel a little sorry for the pro-teams that whizz around the course in a solving time of under two hours, but I’m glad that GC is primarily aiming the event at teams (like ours) that are going to spend all day solving, not all morning.

    Last year I rated it a solid 8/10. I would definitely say this year is 9/10, and only the (minor) loss of the extra activities marks it down. Well done to all concerned!

    P.S. The clipboard was both a really useful feature, and a nice keepsake!

  2. Re. The cryptic crossword- our novice teammates in NY also had that on the novice track. The one time they messaged me in sheer frustration but I was at least able to tell them not to panic as one of the clues would literally give them all the answers at some point!

    For our expert London team, I was the only one who knew how to do them, but I’m still bad at them. Luckily I was able to teach someone in our team how they worked in about two minutes and he went on to solve most of them himself…

  3. Very impressed with the theme, particularly with the way some of the puzzles interlinked as you learned the language of the puzzles throughout the day. It was a nice bit of design – and had the interesting side-effect that we felt like we were puzzling even in our down time… Theorizing how the pentagons may be reused, making handy look up charts for the alphabet, etc. It was also amusing to overhear snippets of various teams talk about the alphabet and the strange symbols – each seemed to have devolved their own unique nicknames for each shape, (ours were Face, Test-tube, Triangle, Waves, Fin and Lollipop).

    The puzzles were good; very good – although for my money the best of last year’s were slightly better than the best of this year’s.

    I think cryptic clues were fine on the expert track; I was surprised to hear that they were also on the standard track. Sounds like exactly the sort of thing that shouldn’t be.

    Our team didn’t really miss the 0-mark icebreaker, (although I do remember appreciating having the warm up during my first DASH). We had mixed feelings about the loss of the “extra” events. Some of the team really enjoy them, some of the team didn’t care for them.

    I had mixed feelings about the meta. It was an ok puzzle with an interesting gimmick… but we felt like most of our time was spent battling the slightly awkward to use technology, (getting the right angle to view the rocked, figuring out the controls/ what you could interact with, trying not to move your phone too much in case the camera lost sight of the paper, figuring out that the restart button was also the submit button), rather than solving a puzzle… The other problem with the meta, is that it was one of only two puzzles that weren’t really very parallelisable. One of the reasons why DASH puzzles typically stand out as being well-designed, is that they give teams of multiple people lots of things to work on at once. They keep everybody engaged, and feeling like they are contributing. The meta didn’t really have that. I am sure that I would have enjoyed it in a less time-constrained event, but over 20% of our solve-time was spent on this, and that felt like a lot for a gimmick.

    OK – with that mini-rant over… those construction puzzles were awesome – and it is always nice to have something to take home as a reminder of the day. I’m looking forward to next year!


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