Silph Puzzle Hunt 2021

It felt like an eternity since my last puzzle hunt when Silph Puzzle Hunt landed, so I was thrilled to dive in. My team didn’t finish the hunt, but there was a lot to enjoy.

A few takeaways from the hunt:

Guess I should start using Nutrimatic – I’ve used a blend of anagram solvers and crossword solvers in puzzle hunts past. It seems Nutrimatic is the most powerful of these tools, and it’s referenced explicitly in some of these puzzles.

Plan for painful puzzles – Reading the wrap up for Silph Puzzle Hunt, I see the designers intentionally released a few puzzles that require a tremendous amount of busy work early in Round 2. One of my teammates did hours of heavy lifting on these to get them across the finish line (great job SarlCagan93!). In the future, I’d like to have a gameplan for these situations, to either divide the work to make it least painful, or else to pull the plug on the hunt if things get too tedious. I hate leaving a team member on an island to spend hours and hours on the tedious parts.

Press onward – I have to admit I spent a bit of time going back to round 1 puzzles after we reached round 2, even though there was no purpose in doing so. I suppose I wanted to get our team’s number of solved puzzles a little higher, especially when it became apparent we weren’t going to finish, but ultimately, my time would have been better spent pressing forward to unlock the final metapuzzles.

Scan references – References were aplenty in this hunt. It’s not unusual for puzzle hunts at all, but I’ve been lucky in the past to encounter more references to topics I was extremely familar with (e.g. Star Trek episode titles). This time around there were quite a few references to modern video games I’ve never played. For some I had enough of an idea to get started based on the flavor text (I have heard of League of Legends, so when I saw “legends” in the flavor text of one, I was able to find my way forward) but I have never heard of “Valorant” which was part of one of the final metapuzzles. Still, the flavor text did a good job cluing these, and if I type into Google “games with valor in the title,” Valorant is the fourth result, so it was still definitely doable.

Losing steam – The team I worked with started strong, but by midweek we were down to only one or two active contributors per day. It’s not necessarily a problem, but I realized when I had to step away due to a family emergency midweek that it’s extremely difficult to reinsert myself into an active puzzle, and I imagine that’s the case for everyone. When you go to the working doc for a puzzle and it’s filled with unexplained notation that makes it look like someone is moving something forward, and you have no idea how to contribute, it’s really hard to get back into the mix. It gives me an idea of how to manage these differently in the future, perhaps by including memos to returning participants on each puzzle and what they can specifically do on them. I may even make a new Google doc for “the leisurely team’s template for puzzle hunts” so that we’ve got the right format for a team expecting members to jump on and drop off throughout the week.

Surprise favorite – One boring-looking puzzle became an all-time favorite of mine. “I See!” led me to a book called Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, an extremely unique book in which Marco Polo describes imaginary cities to Kublai Khan. The book is structured in an unorthodox fashion, which fifty five cities are classified into eleven categories and organized in an intriguingly-structured pattern throughtout the book. The book was perfect for a puzzle hunt, and I picked up a copy afteward.

Overall – Silph hunt was well constructed, and I appreciated the thought going into the puzzle design and question order. I’d personally prefer all the busywork puzzles be tweaked to make them less of a headache (not just for Silph – I’ve had this issue with about half the hunts I’ve participated in), but given that I have no levers for change here, I’ll settle by preparing a gameplan for these scenarios moving forward. Based on the wrap up, there may not be another Silph hunt until 2023, but whenever the next round arrives, I’ll be ready and eager to participate.

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