Hit by the Dodgeball of Prophecy: Mystery Hunt 2024


Howdy! This is a post about the 2024 MIT Mystery Hunt and may contain spoilers about the event and its puzzles, so proceed accordingly.

Palindrome won the MIT Mystery Hunt in 2021, wrote the 2022 Hunt (which I’ve written about my experience with pretty extensively on this site), and I’ve been captain of the team since then.

My goal in writing about my Hunt experiences post-2022 is to not compare every Hunt that follows it to The Hunt I Wrote. Nostalgia’s powerful, my memories of that are tied to deep emotions from all the work our team put in, and I know that while it’s very similar to how any team would write Hunt, it’s also very different. That said, writing the Hunt and coming out the other side has fundamentally altered how I look at it while I’m in the midst of solving it, so some comparisons are bound to occur.

Some Things I Thought Went Well


These were wonderfully clean puzzles. In one of our on-campus interactions the person who stopped by mentioned off-hand that each puzzle had two clean testsolves. I love that! In addition, the puzzles felt like they increased in difficulty as we progressed through the rounds. That can be tricky as Hunt wears on (and I’ll get to that), but this year didn’t have the problem last year have of a wide level of difficulty over too many rounds.


There was so much interaction and acting in this Hunt, and it made me happy. It’s the one thing about 2022 I wish we had sat down and tried to figure out how to do more of - live interaction really makes things fun.

There were a few places in interactions where I felt like story was happening At Us rather than really including us. I was in my 20s in the 2010s, which means that like many white men in my cohort, I went through an Unfortunate Improv Phase and will gladly Yes And you and be ridiculous. Please include me if I’m giving you room instead of completely shutting me down.


I legitimately don’t feel like I solved as many puzzles this year as I have in the last few years, probably due to captaining. Here’s a bunch of notes for things I remember solving or at least intently looking at other people solve:

Adapting to Technical Challenges!

If the web server for our Hunt was down for the first hour I would have broken out in hives, thank you TTBNL for coming up with a plan for the round you distributed as Google Docs and making it happen.

What could have been better

Too much

I applaud the decision to include a “fish round” in this year’s Hunt - it’s a great way to keep smaller teams engaged, and it’s a nice little amuse-bouche/palate cleanser between meatier solves for the teams at the front of the pack. Seriously, as captain, I don’t get to fully solve a lot of puzzles, and the few times I got to find one of these first, get the gist of it, and do most of the solving on my own at 2am when I should have been sleeping was a treat.

What makes this tricky, though, is including this 50-puzzle round alongside 170 other puzzles in the Hunt. Especially if it turns out that the time to solve those wasn’t really factored into overall solve time.

I think there is a world where 237 puzzles in 17 rounds could have been solved by Sunday at 6pm, but I think it would have required the 50 puzzles of the fish round and the complexity of some of the metas to be in the calculus of total Hunt time, and an adjustment across the other 170ish puzzles to make that fit.

Knowing Where We Were

There were a LOT of overworld rounds. Many times on Saturday I thought we had opened every city. And then a new one opened up. It led to a lot of internal dispair on my part as captain, as there was now Another Meta that needed some eyes and concentration on top of the Several Many Metas we already had open. Because I didn’t know how many more were on their way, and the overworld map didn’t make it clear, it was hard to help focus people on what was needed.

With Pen Station in 2022, even if you didn’t have all of the cities open on the map, you could see how many stations were going to fill in, which gave you a little bit of an idea on where you were at and how much more was on the way. I would have loved a fuller visual on the US map this year to help us know what still awaited us.

Burying the Story Page

There was a LOT of stuff happening under the hood of this Hunt’s story. And to keep track of all of it, you generally needed to do two clicks on the website, since it wasn’t directly linked in the main menu of things.

Did I like the 90’s Geocities Web-Design-Is-My-Passion styling? Yes. It still should have been easier to check what was going on with the plot, and there should have been a global navigation link.

The Scavenger Hunt

I’ve been saying for a few years that the scavenger hunt portion of Hunt is broken. I still think it’s broken, though we’re getting there.

I like the task-driven direction scavhunt has gone in lately - it turns out that going and making a bullshit little video for the first dumb joke that pops into my head for a given task is intrinsic to my solving process and enjoyment of Hunt.

The problem with this year’s scavenger hunt was that point values were too low for the initial target set for large teams. If you need 60 points, and the hard tasks are really only giving you a maximum of 3 points, you are asking big teams if it’s worth the time to do 20 tasks to get whatever SCAVENGER HUNT ENDGAME is.

It’s really hard as a captain to have to discuss with the person on your team that’s taken on coordinating your scavhunt mid-Saturday if it’s worth continuing to collect tasks, potentially negating all of their work and immediately decreasing their enjoyment of things. I did not like this moment as a captain! It sucked and I felt bad for even needing to consider it!

I’m glad we were able to get things over the finish line (since having a few extra answers we could buy was nice), but this could have been calibrated better to begin with.

A Hunt That Ends on Sunday

Y’all. This was too much of a good thing.

As of 2024, we’ve now had two Hunts in a row that have bled over into Monday of MLK Jr. Weekend. Both were resolved by around 10 am, but still, that’s a lot.

As a captain of a team, that’s meant that what I expected to be a “well, let’s wrap up what we’ve done and start to clean up our space” meeting on 6pm Sunday has turned into a “well, uh, there’s still a coin to be found and we have metas open, let’s focus our energy”.

I would like one year as captain of Palindrome where as of 8:30 or 9pm Sunday night, I am sitting at a bar somewhere in Cambridge having a nice cocktail to celebrate Hunt being over over.

I know that I was totally able as captain to do this in 2023/2024! I could have slipped away for an hour at any point to go get a mai tai or whatever!

That’s not how I roll. My job was not done yet. I had teammates to direct to puzzles, newbies to check in with to make sure they were still having fun as we neared day three of this, and logistics of making sure our spaces were back to normal to figure out on a slightly later-than-expected timeline.

Selfishly, I want the gift of Knowing Hunt is Over on Sunday night for me, but I also want it for The Team That Is Running The Hunt.

A Hunt that ends on Sunday means that everyone on the team gets some rest on Sunday night knowing that the hard part is over.

A Hunt that ends on Sunday means that you have time to do a walk-through of what you want to cover in wrap-up one more time now that the event has actually happened.

A Hunt that ends on Sunday means that you have the evening and night to compile a bunch of cool submissions to share at wrap-up.

A Hunt that ends on Sunday means that you have slept before you have to present in front of a room of solvers to give them a peek behind the curtain of your team’s approach to everything.

A Hunt that ends on Sunday means that you theoretically are ready to press the Big Red Button That Deploys The Solutions so everyone can look at your cool explanations and constructor notes and get a peek behind the curtain.

Please write A Hunt That Ends On Sunday, Death & Mayhem. You deserve it.