One of the things that I got most excited about during the Exit Games UK years was the Cambridge University Computing and Technology Society’s puzzle hunts, which have been running since 2012 at about this time of year. The best way to find out about them is looking at the society’s Facebook page, and I have been doing so every week or two for a month or two. Except that I have just realised that I haven’t checked for a while, so I checked just now and… this year’s hunt is happening right now as I type. It appears to be 9 hours and 40 minutes in – people are probably enjoying the tail end of the midnight pizza party right now – and will run until 4pm on Saturday.
“The Puzzlehunt is a team puzzle-solving and treasure-hunting competition. Your team will navigate its way through a mental and sometimes physical obstacle course of challenging and fun computational, mathematical and linguistic puzzles scattered throughout Cambridge, seeking to cut its way through to the goal before everyone else. No preparation is necessary, just come along on the day!”
“Teams may be made of up to three members. It is envisaged that most participants will be @cam.ac.uk (affectionately known as Camacuks) and it is encouraged that each team should have at least one Camacuk. However, teams not meeting this criterion may be allowed to compete by prior agreement (drop us an email). If you’re looking for more team members, hit us up and we’ll try to match you up!”
The puzzles are pretty Cantabrigian in style, by which I mean they have something of the feel of some of those from Cambridge, MA’s MIT Mystery Hunt. There are rumoured to be at least one or two cells of MIT Mystery Hunt solvers in the UK Cambridge each year – I don’t know the specifics, though have guesses – so it’s quite possible that the CUCaTS hunt solvers and setters have direct experience and inspiration there. The levels of difficulty are variable but both floor and ceiling are, er, somewhat high.
Even though I imagine it’s too late to get involved this year, as funny as the idea of people high-tailing it to Cambridge in the early hours of the morning an looking for an in-progress puzzle hunt is, I would be tempted to take a look at the recently-updated hunt archives page and click through to the puzzles from previous years. Some have solutions, others don’t. You can judge for yourself from these past puzzles whether this hunt is for you or not.
It is a wonderful thing that hunts like this exist in this country at all, and clearly the good burghers of CUCaTS should (and evidently do!) set their hunt to suit themselves and their own wants and needs, noting the second quoted paragraph that most (but, evidently, not all) hunters are expected to be of the @cam.ac.uk variety. The announcement that this year’s hunt would be happening was not made until June 5th. Evidently my checking was not quite frequent enough.
Fingers crossed that this year’s hunt is a huge success and that there are more such hunts in future years. Looking at the commonality between when previous years’ hunts have been, the strong favourite for when any putative future hunt might happen has to be the weekend immediately after the conclusion of Cambridge’s Full Easter Term. Pencil it into your 2017 diary now!