Puzzle Boat 4: Smooth Sailing

3 people. 9 days. 174 puzzles. 0 hints. It’s safe to say our attempt at Puzzle Boat 4 was a success!

We’re really getting the hang of puzzle hunts. Since my first hunt (Puzzle Boat 2, in this same series) I’ve learned a lot about what to expect out of puzzle hunts, and I’ve gotten exponentially faster at solving these. It may have taken us nine days, but most of that time was at the end of the night while winding down for the day. I feel pretty confident about my ability to grab a random puzzle and solve it in 20 minutes regardless of the nature, and the few nights our group did reconvene to work together, our average felt like it was about 7 minutes per puzzle.

The more I get involved in puzzle hunts, the more I grow to appreciate them. I’m even starting to soften up to the idea of getting a little more practice with cryptic crosswords, which I initially dismissed as tedious but have grown to be ok with. I still hate sound puzzles, though. Thankfully, this Puzzle Boat only had two sound puzzles, and we knocked out one as a team and found a way to circumvent the other by reverse engineering it from the metapuzzle answer.

Now that I’ve got Huntinality under my belt, I notice a bit of a difference between Puzzle Boat and Huntinality. Puzzle Boat focuses more on conventional puzzles with a twist, e.g. a sudoku that you finish and then scan the grid for abnormalities, or a crossword in which the letters only fit if you apply a theme-based rule. Huntinality had some of these puzzle types, but I also noticed more puzzles there in which 90% of the work was figuring out what to do, after which the solve would be almost immediate.

I don’t have a preference either way. I could see others getting frustrated if solving a difficult sudoku or logic puzzle prevents them from moving past a puzzle in which they understand the general gimmick, but I feel Puzzle Boat’s method forces me to become a stronger puzzler. It’s an educational experience as well.

Puzzle Boat 4 had a “Fantastic Marathon” theme parodying the television show The Amazing Race, in which you solve puzzles at locations around the world and eliminate other contestants at the metapuzzles. It was a really fun setup, and I liked how the location-based theming inspired a wide variety of puzzles.

I was a little bit disappointed that the final supermeta puzzle was fast & easy compared to Puzzle Boat 3. Our group solved it within five minutes of completing the last standard metapuzzle. I wonder if other participants didn’t like the Puzzle Boat 3 finale as much as I did- our group enjoyed it because we kept detailed notes on our work throughout the challenge, but groups that weren’t as organized may have had to go back and re-do puzzles they had either completed or circumvented. The finale this time was still fun, but it didn’t have the incredible “wow” factor of the Puzzle Boat 3 ending which resulted in a 3D sculpture I kept on my desk for months after the contest.

I continue to be impressed by Foggy Brume’s ability to pump out an insane volume and variety of puzzles and I’m glad we still have a few more Puzzle Boats to go before we catch up to the most recent one!

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