Wednesday, February 25, 2009 by Dave Blum

It sounds a bit like a super hero movie:

“In our midst lives a little-known subculture, operating under the radar of the everyday society, dedicated to the creation of puzzles and the solving of puzzles.”

I’m not talking about the Dr. Clue staff (although we are definitely dedicated, if not “committed”).  🙂  Rather, I’m referring to that enthusiastic group of uber-brainiacs who consider scavenger hunts their primary, after-hours hobby.  Here on the West Coast, many of these folks are students (or former students) of Stanford University and veterans of The Game, a 36-hour, expert-level hunt marathon.  MIT has its own Game, as does Microsoft…but you get the idea. Wherever you are, they live amongst us — mild-mannered people by day, wildly-passionate treasure hunt players by night (or at least, when the weekend comes around).

My friend (and Dr. Clue puzzle writer) Alexandra Dixon is one of these hunt enthusiasts.  This past Saturday, Alexandra staged her fourth BATH (Bay Area Treasure Hunt), an 11-hour jaunt around San Francisco.  Rather than writing all the treasure hunt clues herself, however, she invited the teams, themselves, to write the puzzles.  As the participants were mostly former treasure-hunt leaders, this wasn’t really a problem.  And when it came to tricky clue writing, boy were they up to the task!

Puttting together my own dream team for BATH was pretty easy:  I chose my wife Jen (of course), plus my fellow smarties Wade, James and his wife Whitney.  Considering none of us had ever staged a Stanford Game, we didn’t figure to win.  Our agreed upon goals were:

1) Experience some cool, new places
2) Get some creative scavenger hunt ideas
3) Don’t come in last

alt=”polygon puzzle” title=”polygon puzzle”>Oure mission was definitely accomplished.

–We circled the Giant’s ballpark on foot, matching stadium details to a series of photographs and finally using semaphore to translate all the data into a message.

–We drove (endlessly) around the Excelsior district, looking for a Cadillac that wound up being part of a mural.

–We solved a creative Vampire mystery story in the Sunset district

–We cracked a Kakuro/crossword puzzle, leading to a glorious fountain

The puzzles were all pretty great ,although our favorite was Alexandra’s beauty, shown in the two pictures to the left — a variety of shapes with words around the edges, which combined into a kind of 3-D polygon and led us to a playground jungle jim).

And perhaps best of all, we didn’t come in last.  Okay, second to last, with 7 out of 9 solved.  But not bad!

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