Every Tuesday, Gene publishes weekly updates to his chats.
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On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.
Greetings, update readers...
Today, a brief deconstruction of Sunday's Post Hunt, which drew so many people that we're now worried about the mixed blessing of its continued popularity: Is there a tipping point in attendance beyond which the thing becomes unmanageable? We're not sure how much more o' this we can take, cap'n. But it's a nice problem to have. We may well have had 14,000 of you out there. The Hunt essentially consumed Federal Washington.
(Here are the Hunt puzzles, with explanations, newly updated with video.)
We think we hit a milestone this year: the largest percentage of hunters in memory told us that they solved all five Big Puzzles (seems like a third or more of the teams did it.) This actually pleases us. We like those Big Puzzles to be challenging but gettable, so that many teams still have a shot at winning, right up to the EndGame. We will try for similar difficult levels next year, if there is a next year. (We never outright predict it until the budget's been approved.)
The first Big Lesson I learned from this Hunt was that, contrary to my past assertions in the chat, there is at least one living Jewish woman named "Kathleen." She is Kathleen (Cooperstein) Neace, and I met her at The Hunt and interrogated her to my satisfaction, and then hugged her. Confirmed. Another cultural barrier broken in an unafraid world. Now we need to find a Jewish "Antwaan." Please search and report back.
The second Big Lesson I learned is that life is infinitely rewarding. After being introduced to the three most excellent pirates, for the Pirates Puzzle, I joked to pirate #2 ("Boney Ed"), who wore a very realistic eyepatch, that I'm afraid he'd never be authentic to me unless he could show me he had no eyeball under that patch. Coolly, wordlessly, he flipped up the eyepatch AND flipped me out. I acknowledge authenticity.
(This reminded me of a supposedly true but probably apocryphal story. A famous gambler is facing The Kid, a brash young upstart who arrives to take his money. After two hours of card playing, the kid is down to his last $500, and is looking shaken. The gambler says, "Okay, listen, kid. I want to give you a break here. I'll push my whole pot into the middle of the table, against your measly $500. The bet is that I can touch my left eyeball to that deck of cards on the table, and that I can do it without appreciably moving either my head or those cards. The kid considered this, and pushed in his last $500. At this point, the gambler plucks his glass eye out, lays it on the deck of cards. The kid goes white. Then the gambler says, "Okay, kid. Listen. I noticed you drove up in a nice new Cadillac. I'll bet you my whole pot against your wheels that I can now do that exact same thing with my other eye. The kid, trembling, just stands up, and slowly starts to back out of the room. And as he leaves, the gambler calls after him: "You're not a real gambler, kid. THAT bet you should have taken.")
The third Big Lesson I learned from The Hunt is that you can never be too careful. There is a God of Hunts, and he has a really nasty sense of humor. He might drink too much.
We try to be really careful about anything inadvertently confusing that might appear in the magazine, or out in the streets. This year we were pretty sure we were safe. We weren't.
The EndGame this year pivoted on the pirate word "swag." It was a complicated clue that would lead people on a complicated journey. It was only after the Hunt that we discovered a small snarl: A woman came up to me to say, uh, did you know that "Swag" was an answer to 8-across in that day's Crossword Puzzle in the magazine?
Uh. No. We hadn't known. We had looked at the crossword puzzle CLUES, and there was nothing dangerous -- nothing pirate-themed, for example -- but we had not thought to SOLVE them. The 8-Across clue was "Convention Freebies" and the answer was, yes, SWAG.
Now, WE know that we would not have expected hunters to have solved the crossword -- we'd consider that unfair, without an appropriate hint -- but YOU didn't necessarily know that. Had we been forewarned, we'd either have subbed in a new crossword, or we would have told hunters to ignore the crossword. For any of you who were confused by this (we know of at least two such teams) ... oops, and we're sorry.
There was one other minor glitch: Several people reported that once they figured out they had to make a phone call to start the EndGame, they got busy signals before finally getting through. It's true -- there's apparently a bandwidth-type problem with outgoing-message-only phone lines. We're estimating that about 20 people can get through at a time before the busy signals begin, so the quickest on the draw had a bit of a time advantage. We'll try to deal with this in the future, but we don't consider it a dreadful problem for the simple reason that the quickest on the draw SHOULD have a bit of a time advantage.
We know you know about the unprecedented results of this Hunt -- for the first time in 30 years (The first Miami Hunt was 1984), that a Hunt was won by a single person, acting alone. It goes against everything we've always advised; namely, that hive thinking tends to work the best. So, clearly, we're still learning. We still advise team play, but the solitary genius clearly has a shot as well.
And finally, I would like to abandon all shame and disclose the pathetically flat slope of my personal learning curve. On the days of the Hunt, and no other days of my life, I do a remarkable amount of walking; it's pretty much nonstop, from site to site to keep an eye on things. I'm guessing 6-7 miles over the five hours that Hunt and Hunt-prep require. I always wear jeans. By the end, there has always been some Upper Thigh Chafing. My wife has kindly noted that by hour five, I am walking bow-legged, "like you have a load in your pants."
I have always regarded this as an unfortunate but unavoidable physical byproduct of the Hunt -- the way early astronauts, cramped for hours into tin-can sized capsules, would emerge hunched over like early hominids, or apes.
This year, for the first time, I thought to ditch the jeans and wear softer cotton pants. No chafing! Please note, for what it is worth, that it has taken me 29 years to learn this lesson.
Submit your questions to Gene's monthly chat here. It is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, June 25 at noon. If you submitted a question for today's update, there is no need to resubmit. Thank you.