Great TED Talk: “The Joyful Perplexing World of Puzzle Hunts”


As a teambuilding scavenger hunt creator, my job is to keep teams of 4-6 people stimulated, challenged and engaged for approximately half a day. Imagine, however, if you were on a team of 60, and your hunt lasted not 3 but 36 hours, with each clue taking up to 4 hours to solve.   This is exactly what happens at MIT during its annual Mystery Hunt.


In this fascinating TED talk, titled The Joyful Perplexing World of Puzzle Hunts”,  Alex Rosenthal “lifts the veil” on one of the world’s most complex “puzzle hunts”.   Along the way, he discusses

  • What a puzzle is (and is not)
  • Why “aha” moments are important in our lives
  • The value of shifting perspectives
  • When to listen, when to share, how to recognize and celebrate insights


It’s a fascinating talk, with some great examples of some very-advanced puzzle hunt clues (way harder than what I write at my company, Dr. Clue.


You can watch Alex’s talk here:




Myself, although I’ve never participated in an MIT Mystery, I have played in a few, similarly-advanced scavenger hunt games over the years, and I have to tell you, they’re TOUGH!    Sometimes you have no choice but to call the hunt master, take a penalty of some sort and receive a costly hint, just to get yourself un-stuck. Anything is better than sitting there for 4 hours, scratching your head in confusion!   On the other hand, when you do solve a clue, that hard-earned “aha” moment is deeply satisfying, like biting into a double chocolate lava cake.  Your mind and body are flushed with dopamine and you let out a big, blissed-out “Sigh”.     As a hunt player, this is what you live for – that moment when suddenly meaning appears from chaos.    As a hunt creator, delivering that kind of experience to my participants has its own satisfactions.


If you ever get a chance, please do go play the MIT Mystery Hunt, or something similar like The Game at Stanford.  It’s an intense experience that taps into the human craving for intrigue and adventure.   If you have less time, however, or prefer a hunt that challenges your mind (without exploding it), give Dr. Clue a call at 415-699-3905.


To hear more about Dave’s worst experience with advanced puzzle hunts, click on the video below: