Recovering from the 2011 Post Hunt

Jun 06, 2011

Wow, you survived the 2011 Post Hunt! Here, Dave Barry, Tom Shroder and Gene Weingarten took Hunt fans' comments, questions, abuse and advice.

The Post Hunt is an afternoon of brainteasing puzzles set up in downtown D.C. Take a look at our video explanations of how to solve each of them:
The acrobat puzzle
The vanity puzzle
The monoliths (keyboard) puzzle
The scratch-off puzzle
The government agencies puzzle
The End Game

Now share your experience on our comments board and upload a photo of your team, or take a stab at designing your own puzzle.

Hope you've been following us on Twitter @posthunt and on Facebook, and using the hashtag #posthunt. Be sure to check out washingtonpost.com/posthunt for everything Hunt-related.

More than ten thousand of you were out there, which is very likely the largest crowd in the storied if weird 27-year, two-city history of The Hunt.    Congratulations to the winning team of Sean and Diana Viera, Alex Elliott, Kevin Chang, James Auwaerter, Amy Poster and Galen Mullins.     We've decided not to give them a second $2,000 check -- we thought it would be fun if they have to persuade a bank to cash the huge Styrofoam one we gave them onstage.   

Planning the right level of difficulty is always our biggest challenge.   We have two nightmare scenarios:  1) A stampede to the finish line because the endgame is too easy.   2) An endgame so hard that no one solves it for hours, as we have to give increasingly lamer kindergarten-level hints from the stage.       In this sense, yesterday's results were ideal.   No hints were needed and only  five teams solved the endgame.   We may never have had a result that "clean. "

I was at the endpoint of the endgame, watching from a distance with my children, Molly and Dan, as the five teams got to the "hole in the bottom of the C."     It turns out I misspoke from the stage about the exact sequence of events:   I said that there was an 11 minute gap between the first and second prizewinners; in fact, that gap was between second and third.    The first and second prizewinners arrived almost simultaneously.   The second prizewinner got there first, but didn't see the hole in the letter right away, so was a split second late.   The moment is captured perfectly in this video, around the 2:50 mark.     That's James Auwaerter who gets there second, but gets to the hole first.  The momentary delay cost the second-place finishers a cool grand.   

Several people told me they were surprised they hadn't noticed the hole in the C earlier in The Hunt.  They hadn't noticed it because it wasn't there.    At one minute to three, the stealth team of Dan and Molly Weingarten ambled up to the C; with Dan providing cover, Molly used the skilled fingers of a veterinary surgeon to surreptitiously remove a piece of black tape, exposing the hole.    Inside that key was a chute the width of your standard derder, slightly wider than a ping pong ball, angled downward toward a corresponding exit hole, also covered with tape at the base.   It was from this hole, at 3:30, that the balls were retrieved, queued in line, winner first.

The keys were constructed by Vicki Jessee and her terrific team at MCS Design and Production, a prop-making company from Ashland, Va.   They've been designing the Post Hunt big puzzles since the start, four years ago.   ( They did the presidential statues, the giant buried number, etc.)

 

 

For the first time, yesterday's Hunt featured a puzzle designed by a reader.    At the end of last year's Hunt, Jennifer Engel wrote in to suggest the vanity clue.  We loved the idea and used it just about exactly as she designed it.   So, and I say this with great pride,  It Wasn't Our Fault.   

Most years of the Hunt involve near-disasters that were averted, usually by luck.   This year, we almost did something awful, due to the fact that the three Hunt creators -- Tom, Dave and I -- are doddering old fools.   Our combined ages total 180 years.    We initially were not going to have "Tea for Two" sung at all.   To make it a little harder, we were just going to play the music -- no words -- on the theory that everyone on Earth knows this song.    When I casually mentioned this to Molly and Dan, neither of them had heard of it.   I called Caitlin Gibson, 28, to tell her how deeply  ashamed I was of my culturally ignorant twentysomethings; Cait didn't know the song, either.       So we realized we REALLY needed lyrics. 

As it turned out, John of the Beatles tribute band had never heard of "Tea for Two"  either.    We had to send him a link to the most recently recorded version of it, which was sung by, um, a young Doris Day.  

Most of you probably haven't heard of Doris Day either. 

Okay, let's take your questions....     

As you might expect, the Post Hunt issue is scrutinized much more closely than an ordinary issue would be, so the unnoticed and unexpected are always possible. Did any of you notice the F word amongst the text of the Blithe and Bonny candle on page 9? What's that doing in a family magazine?

We have no idea what you are taking about.

Correct.   We are instead focused on the fact that you said "amongst."   What a sissy you are.  

In our defense, looking on the answer grid, you will note that the F Word is NOT a possible answer.

Maybe this was the intent, but The Grid meant you could have the clue solved even if you only solved three of the puzzles. We were toying with the "45" answer but were settled when we saw that a bunch of 45s were located near other answers on the grid. And then we figured out what the next answer was going to be before even getting to the last destination. Later we heard a team talking about how 45 must be an answer based on The Grid but having no idea why. So were you happy with how The Grid worked out?

The Grid, which was Weingarten's idea, was a huge success. We can't wait to use it again, perhaps in the year 2094.

Image: The Grid

The Grid was actually Dave's idea; Tom and I tried to talk him out of it, but Dave is a mule.   

The God of the Hunt intervened to save us here.  Gonna take some explaining: 

There are basically three types of Hunt teams out there.  They are all worthy.    The first type is not really out to win; they're there for the fun of it.   They don't run, they amble.   They might have toddllers or a dog.   They'll take time for a leisurely lunch.   They might not even participate in the endgame, but just chill at the stage and wait for the explanation.    We like these teams.  

The second type are in it to win, but probably won't.   They take it  seriously but  in temperament or mindset aren't quite in tuned with our deviousness.   They love to laugh at themselves when they're stymied.  They're having fun, too, and we like them, too.

The third type of team are in it to win, and might well do so.   They are Puzzle People.   Crossword addicts;  wordgame enthusiasts.   They run; they disperse themselves to tackle different Puzzles at the same time, minimizing "fun" but saving time.     They represent maybe a quarter of the teams.   We love them.  

 Our goal, in general, is to design the Puzzles so that the first group solves at least one puzzle, the second solves two or three, and the last group solves them all.   We want about a quarter of the hunters to solve all five, and we want it to be necessary to solve all five to have a shot at solving the endgame.  

Here's where The  Benevolent God of the Hunt came in this year:   Very few teams, we think, solved all five puzzles.   Some really good teams only solved four.    But as it turns out -- complete accident, or Divine Intervention -- these people still had a shot at the endgame.  Which is exactly what we wanted.    It worked, through no credit to us. 

I think that what Gene is trying to say is that the Grid was God's idea. He speaks to us frequently.

Pink typewriter on page 31 of the magazine: coincidence? Reference to "porta potties" on page 21 and resemblance to grid: coincidence?

Pink typewriter: No coincidence.   We wanted to give you a keyboard reference in case some of you non touch-typers had phones without keyboards.  

Porta-potties:  Coincidence. 

Actually, as the Hunt began, we noted with some amusement that right beside the stage were porta potties belonging to the company "Don's Johns."   We wondered if some of you might dive for the commodes after John sang.   Did any of you?  

 

We also figured that given Don's Johns right beside the stage, nobody could reasonably claim that they couldn't have known that an outhouse was called a "John."

Is this the first time an obscenity has accidentally (at least, we assumed it was accidental) appeared in a Hunt puzzle?

This is the first we have heard of this.

Hearing what? 

Of all of the puzzles presented, the one that will stand out in my memory is the performance given at the Newseum. Talk about a twisted puzzle! WE really liked her. Wherever did you find someone with such a flexible, um, schedule?

She was very popular.

Here name is Shelly and she came from the Cast of Thousands talent agency.

Were the individual in a T tee-shirt at the lower part of the map (where it seems 2/3 of the crowd ran) and the Ewe ("you") saying "me" on the left side of the map intentional red herrings for the end game?

If there's one thing we know about red herrings  from a quarter century of Hunt-making experience, it's that Hunters find them on their own, whether it's an unfurled map on the dashboard of a parked car, or an odd-shaped stain on the sidewalk. We don't NEED no stinking red herrings.

I think one of these years we should have an actual red herring, if we can figure out where to buy it.

When you announced that 816 was one of the correct answers we were thrilled -- until we realized we got that answer for the wrong puzzle! For the mirror question, we noticed that the book was rotated differently in the physical display than in the photo. Looking in the magazine, we saw that the price of the book was $17.97. So, of course we realized we should add up the digits (1+7 = 8 // 9 + 7 = 16), and then putting them together: 8-16. We filled out our grid with the "correct" answer, 816, and moved on. What's the prize for getting the right answer to the wrong question?

You will receive a check, from the Washington Post, for 17 million dollars.

The answers we had to the Opening Questions were H, C, C, F, F. So imagine our surprise when you changed the last answer to E. What, the F? Was this a correction to a screw-up? Did it make a significant difference?

Those Opening Questions are ALWAYS just for fun, a joke. We want to tell you exactly where the five puzzles are, and this year we did just that in recognition of that fact. We don't want anyone not to find them. The areas are often general enough so that two letters on the map axis would both get you there.

So how DO you think of the Post Hunt puzzles? Do you see a funny prop and think of a puzzle to go around it? Or do you work backwards by thinking of a punny solution first? Either way, I'm sure beer is involved.

Before I got to the end of your question, I was ready to say "beer is involved."

Beer is involved. 

I know you're not the U.S. Park Service, but can you give us a rough estimate of how many people participated in the 2011 Post Hunt?

14 million.

Why didn't it rain? Rain is a tradition in the Post Hunt!

That was indeed a major bummer. 

It was the absence of damaging hail that disturbed me.

If almost the all of the scratch-off paper didn't matter, why the specific instruction that "You don't need the pound signs?"

Because in testing this puzzle, we found that people's initial impulse was:  Well, we're looking for a number, and here are all these # signs.... 

Yes, that meant ignoring all those letters that spell words, which was pretty dumb, but we felt, in retrospect, that we should not have had something that looked like a number sign.   So we told you it wasn't the answer. 

Strangely, I got 19 as an answer...but for the vanity. See, there were three of the picture frames, but one of each other item. The picture frame was item #2 on the page. 1+2+2+2+3+4+5 = 19.

I'm pretty much in agreement with Dave that you don't need to refrigerate catsup, but I am inalterably opposed to the way he spells it.   "Ketchup" is childish, no more dignified or defensible  than "E-Z Mart Kwik Serve."   

Yeah, me and the childish and undignified Oxford English Dictionary.

I can't believe the Editor's Query in the magazine wasn't a Hunt clue! I was positive that there was no way someone could (a) have that ridiculous of a name and (b) be that much of a douche. Was it a red herring?

No.  And neither was the obscenity that none of us knows about. 

I liked the GAPS puzzle because it was appropriate for its D.C surroundings, and it was funny to see the "uh oh!" looks on the speakers' faces when an impossible topic was asked. How did the speakers prepare? Who thought up that puzzle?

Dave thought this up.    I thought Rachel, Dan and Cait did great.     After a while, there seemed to be a whole second level of humor involved:  Their predicament.  

Fantastic hunt this year! The best since the first! (I'm biased because we made it halfway through the endgame that year...) Our group got 4 of the 5 first clues, but we were still able to draw in the grid. It was easy to use symmetry to figure out what the fifth number was. Was that intentional; the hunt was so hard this year that you made it so we only needed to get 4 puzzles? Anyway, it turns out we didn't need the grid anyway. Many groups picked "Tea For Two" as the relevant song because it was the only one with a coordinate. So as our group was trying to figure out when the outhouse would come into play, we dutifully ran, along with many other people, to T-2...oops.

Hahahahaha. I am laughing WITH you.

okay, this is petty but the instructions said to ignore everything connected to advertising. The flyer looked like a papa john's ad, so I ignored it . I got the IRS, FEMA, USDA, which together had 11 letters - which was a possible number. It reminded me of last year - which I steadfastly refused to participate in, but I found myself in the middle of a couple of puzzles just by virtue of walking by them. In that situation I saw the 500 and made it more complicated into 3/4 of it being buried. So much depends on what you can see and having a large enough group to have many eyes on things like the ad says GAPS. That's 4 hours of my life that I will never get back, ugh.

Er, we said ignore the LOGOS of the advertisers.   

This is hard to explain, but if you are into the ethos of the Hunt, you'd know that we would never have  a Puzzle that involved acronyms for three specific agencies, and then make the answer just dumbly counting up letters.   That would be too stupid and simple and unsatisfying. 

I read the pre-Post Hunt and thought we might need ketchup, so I brought several bottles. But it didn't turn out to be a clue!!! So what should I do with all this ketchup?

Q&A Transcript: Pre-Post Hunt

See, that's the beauty of it!   Just put it in a cabinet!  YOU DO NOT NEED TO REFRIGERATE IT. 

Congratulations on spelling it correctly.

Why did Homeland Security want the vanity table puzzle moved? Are international terrorists now making weapons out of pink fluffy flowers, lavender candles and fine walnut furniture?

It would have been extremely easy to use the vanity to conceal liquids or gels in quantities greater than three ounces.

Every year I long to do the hunt, but the only friend I have who does it doesn't really like me. How should I get a team together next year? Craigslist?

I would mass email or tweet a photo of your crotch, in underpants, to as many people as you can.  Someone is bound to be impressed and want to be on your "Team."

We (and others) after making the phone call ended up WAY down on the corner of 10th and Constitution because on the map there was a person with a yellow shirt on ... with a T on it... saying "Voila" you laughing yet?

I, for one, am. 

"Voila" is French for "loser."

... and wondering if we were the only ones. We thought "Scratch ONLY" meant "Scratch on LY"... and when we did so (there was only one LY combo), came up with 71, which was a possible answer. And on the other puzzle, we took "3M" to mean 3 x 13, since M was the 13th letter of the alphabet, getting 39-- also a possible answer. Needless to say, our grid looked a wee bit different than everyone else's....Doh!

It's rare that when people get a rogue answer it is even close to as reasonable as the REAL answer. In this case, you came up with a good one. Scratch "ON LY" sounds like something we might have come up with -- though "itch" is funnier. It's the kind of thing we lose sleep about.

It seemed like it would have been possible to win the endgame this year without getting the puzzles right - John's song was the only one that had something that sounded like map coordinates (and I probably would have picked John anyway, being familiar with Gene and Dave's work. The grid picture was just confirmation...). If you solve the endgame but didn't get some or all of the puzzle right, do you still win the hunt?

If you solve the endgame correctly, you win The Hunt.  But I don't think any Hunt winner ever got where they got without first solving all (or most of)  the Puzzles.   While it is true that only John's song sounded like a coordinate, why do you assume we were giving a coordinate?   We've gone in all sorts of different directions at that point in The Hunt.   And remember: Each of the Beatles was singing about a number. 

Yeah, what he said.

Little-Known Fact: Those were the real Beatles.

Could you please remember next year that thousands of us look forward to the Post Hunt for an entire year and be sure that no clues are at street level next year! Thanks (and thanks for a great day)

Street level?

Meaning, I think, too low for people at the back of the crowd to see. This is a good point.

I don't consider anything critical to be a "good point."

So, my brilliant team (one rocket scientist, one physicist, two lawyers, and a Jew!, er...concert violinist) overthought the GAPS puzzle, but I'm wondering if you've heard that anyone else did so in the same way that we did. We figured out the clue "First Female Plus Date", but instead of going the creators' route (27+65), we determined that "first female" must be Eve, and therefore "date" must be Adam: Eve and Adam. Our rocket scientist then suggested that it was a homophone/pun for Even: Add 'em, so we added up the even numbers of the speakers (27+49+88 = 2+4+8+8) to reach 22. It seems like a stretch now, but yesterday it seemed like the aha! moment that we needed. Please make us feel better by telling us how brilliant we are, even though we were wrong.

Wow.

We would like you to design next year's Hunt. 

There was a lot of walking in this Post Hunt. A LOT.

Don't blame us. Blame Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign.

So what happened with the poor guy who made it all the way to the giant keyboard keys at the End Game, then dropped his pingpong ball in the wrong place?

He told us he heard the phone clue as "drop it into the hall at the bottom of the C."  

We said, "but there WAS no hall."

He said:  "I know!  I'm an idiot!"

Where did you find that amazing acrobat? Wow. Does she work for a circus or is she a dancer or something?

Guys, Thanks for a great hunt! My main complaint is that it seemed to cover a larger area than previous hunts. The Newseum was far, and making it a double-location clue made it take about a half hour even though we got it "quickly". The hunt took us the whole three hours, which it never had before, and I was exhausted by the end! Can you keep things a little closer together next time?

At the urgent request of Michelle Obama, we were participating in the White House Crusade for Physical Fitness.

This question and answer should have come earlier, so the previous reference to Michelle would have been seen as a clever re-reference.   Please imagine you are reading this first, and be in awe of how together we are at this. 

When we arrived for the Post Hunt, D.C. workers were putting up flags on many street corners -- two U.S. flags flanking one that was black, red and gold (Germany, maybe?). But they weren't clues, as it turned out. So what was THAT all about?

Nothing!

Nor was the thing in the next post. 

A few rows of yellow tape, like lines painted down the center of a highway, were laid down on the giant world map at the Navy Memorial, where the scratch cards were being given out. A lot of people thought that might be part of the puzzle, especially because of the yellow pencil on the Hunt Map, drawing the same pattern down a street. Well, guess not. Anyway, any idea what that yellow tape was?

Nope.   It was one of those Things That Happen, Dammit.

I just wanted to say that I printed my copy of the post at home. I only have a 1-sided printer. I had no hope of finding out the mirror question since if I ripped the mirror out, I'd be looking at the page behind the mirror. Shame.

Couldn't you have lined it up with the page that was two pages later? 

So we got 'FIRST FEMALE PLUS DATE' and debated for quite a while whether first female meant '27' (the first woman on stage) or 'Eve', of Adam and Eve fame. The 'Eve' of yesterday's date was 6/4 = 64, which was a possible solution (I think?). We decided against it because we thought the numbers on stage had to be significant. Any thoughts on the other possible interpretation? Thanks for an absolutely awesome time!

I am laughin.  

You know, we're not gonna stick HUGE HONKING NUMBERS on people if don't mean something.  

We found that after getting 4/5 clues, we were able to complete the grid by simply filling in the most obvious number. Aside from the fact that we cheated ourselves out of an 'a-ha' moment, do you guys see a problem with teams being able to participate in the End Game without having legitimately solve all five puzzles?

As Gene pointed out, this year it was a very good thing, because so many really good teams didn't get all five puzzles. The thing is, we know that we are making the endgame very difficult to solve. So to insure that SOMEONE can solve it in a reasonable time (about 30 minutes) we HAVE to have a critical mass of Hunters still in the game at that point.

if you change T for 2 and 2 for T which we both know T=8 you get a different number 703-237-2283 becomes 703-837-8823 not the one tel# you have on the site or to solve the riddle - WRONG

The number was only wrong in our video -- thanks for catching that, we've fixed it:

........booooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo...........

What I hear you saying is: ....yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy....

So the page of the magazine with the vanity said "Voila!". A drawn character on the map also said "Voila!" We went from the vanity puzzle to that spot, but nothing...

Correct!

You announced at the beginning of the Hunt that the puzzles were hard, and you were correct. I think the scratch-off puzzle was almost impossible and should've had one more clue, at least. The winning teams should really be proud of themselves for solving such a difficult set of games. So, taking all past Post and Herald Hunts into account, what degree of difficulty was this Post Hunt, on a 1-10 scale?

19.

Andy, the arbiter of Hunt trivia for years (tropichunt.com) called it an 8/10, the second hardest ever.

Thanks for selling blue 2011 Post Hunt T-shirts instead of the see-through white ones. For the first time in several years, I actually bought one.

Is this Joe Biden?

Was it Dave or Gene who texted me a photo of their boxer shorts during the Hunt?

It was Tom, but he had to digitally enhance it, if you see what I am saying. 

I cannot say anything with certitude.

First, a number of the puzzles were basically impossible this year, which really reduced the fun. Worse, even if you figured it out, the whole numbers thing didn't make a ton of sense. I figured out which agencies the three speakers were from on the main stage, and then our whole team had absolutely no clue what to do after that or how it related to the scantron sheet we were given in our goody bag. Its fine to have a couple of puzzles for the people wanting to win the prize, but whats wrong with having a couple of easier puzzles where the questions are better defined for the rest of us. Overall, while it was fun being with friends, the event was not something I would go to again. It needs more direction.

Noted.   But  let us dissect this a little. 

You duly noticed that Caitlin, Rachel and Dan, standing left to right, represented, respectively, the IRS, FEMA, and the USDA.  You noticed that each had a number around his or her neck.      You noticed, presumably, the giant sign on stage saying Government Agencies Providing Solutions, which has the acronym GAPS.        Inside your goody bag was a slip of paper calling itself that said FILL IN THE GAPS, and it had dashes for letters in certain places.   And if you filled in the dashes with IRS, FEMA, and USDA, it would have spelled out "FIRST FEMALE PLUS DATE." 

The fact that you did not make this fairly obvious connection was OUR fault?   

 

If they were impossible, how did so many people solve them?

Thanks again for a great Hunt. After four years of coming close but ultimately not solving the end game quickly enough, this year my team placed second. So of course today we're plotting a trip to Miami in November for the Tropic/Herald Hunt. Because the entire team is made of lawyers (except for baby Abraham, of course), I think that there is no finer way to represent DC. Any advice for our trip to Miami? I hear that it's dangerous to be a pedestrian, profane Batista, or remain sober in Miami--is this true?

Nothing a law suit (or several) won't fix!

You should definitely stay off the roads, because the drivers are insane. Also stay off the sidewalk, because the drivers sometimes drive there. We do have public transportation, but you should definitely stay off that, because of an incident we had a couple of years ago when (I am not making this up) two guys brought a live six-foot nurse shark onto the People Mover. Other than that you'll be fine.

Hi guys -- a great afternoon again. Thanks for your deviousness. We got the vanity puzzle in a different way. We quickly noticed that the set-up matched the Trend Report in the magazine. For some reason, we immediately added the cost of the frame ($19) and the candle ($26) which just happens to be $45. Sort of frustrated at ourselves for not getting it the right way since we both noticed the 45 on the record and that the setup was missing the mirror.

We totally anticipated that.

From the Magazine: Trend Report and Closer Inspection

Gentlemen, I was glad to look out my office window here on 14th and G this morning to see that a monument to the number 61 was still standing proudly on the corner. Has there been any thought to making this a permanent addition to our city's streetscape? A.G.

Wow. It's still there. Don't tell the DC sanitation department.

So, are there going to be any other citywide puzzles this year, that you know about? Say, in November?

Yes, but it would involve a certain region of the country that appartently isn't very popular among Washingtonians.

I was on the second place team. This was our third/fourth year participating. For the record, the guy that got there first but put the ball in 2nd is named Akbar Siddiqui. He had been training for the Hunt by running because in the past we were all exhausted by the end game. His goal, which he achieved, was to be able to run 2 miles in 12 minutes. Also, this is the first year we solved all 5 of the first round of puzzles, although this year it apparently didn't matter as much as it had in the past.

He was REALLY FAST.  He was so fast he outran the letter C, had to double back, and missed it by seconds. 

By the way, I think I misspoke:  He lost $1,500, not a grand!    Second prize was $500, not a thou. 

for February or March. Has anyone filled him on the Snowpocalypse yet? If not, can we get him up here in February on a 'scouting' expedition? Tell him to wear cargo shorts.

Andy, meet the Snowpocalypse

I saw that!  He mist have had a brain freeze.

When do you start planning next years hunt and how can i get involved? Are the volunteers Post employees/interns?

The volunteers, to whom we are eternally grateful, are Post employees and family.

Who won the contest?

The winners will be notified by mail and will receive handsome Bulova watches.

Thanks so much for an absolutely great day - it truly was one of the best highlights of my few months here in Washington! I had such a blast that I would love to share it with my friends at home (and hopefully inspire some to return with me next year). If I was to try and put on a smaller scale inspired-by-posthunt kind of event at my residence/university/etc, would you see it as flattery or an opportunity to launch a lawsuit? Any guidance on what inspiration we can take & credit we can offer without detracting from the majesty and grandeur of your main events?

Detracting from the what?

Those were odd adjectives to use.  Like when the Pulitzer prize was awarded to Dave for "distinguished" commentary.   

The Hunt seemed much harder this year. Last year, my team came in fourth place and were forever immortalized on the Post Hunt website (and by forever immortalized, I mean on the video for about a second). This year, we got two out of the five puzzles. Was it a conscious decision to make it more difficult? If so, why?

We don't really try for any particular level of difficulty. We just try to think of five good puzzles and and a good endgame. And it almost always turns out to be either harder or easier than we thought. In conclusion: We have no idea what we're doing.

I don't want to pick on your volunteers, whose service and cheer is appreciated, but a couple of times while we stood on freedom plaza people asked questions about whether the order they were standing in was significant, and the response was always along the lines of "don't focus on that/it happened by chance/you should look at other things/the bigger picture". Also, I have to say that it's hard to have an "a ha" moment when there are so many ways of converting a date to a number (6+5+11? 6+5? 65?) Anyway, I carp not out of pettiness but out of love. Thanks again for a great (if more frustrating) day.

Next year we're going to have  to increase Hunt volunteer boot camp from one week to four.

Was the 2011 Hunt as daring and chaotic as you thought it might be? Are you feeling better about your bad middle-aged selves?

We always feel a lot better after we have winners, not to mention several beers.

...that the first place team will not be from D.C., and that the 2nd and 3rd place teams will be from the D.C. area. Don't hate, D.C.'ers. Just sayin'.

This comment was submitted to the chat queue on Saturday. Bad prediction!

First of all, good job on the Hunt this year-- we had a great time. My only complaint is that we actually called the right number in the endgame and got a dial tone instead of the message. Only after deciding to try the number again several minutes later did we actually get the right response. At that point, we knew what to do, but it was too late. We probably wouldn't have won anyway, but we could have at least finished. Other than that, we enjoyed ourselves and we're already looking forward to next year's hunt!

The dang phone company! They'll get you every time.

What Tom means is, you probably misdialed the first time.   

Technically, I did scratch a certain place before I actually realized you were talking about scratching off the letters on the card.

I can't say with certitude where that place was.

We considered having the right answer not be ITCH  but "GROIN"

Did any outside-the-Beltway types complain about having to know the names of government agencies? The Hunt doesn't usually seem to require any information not contained somewhere in the Magazine - or has the whole country heard of FEMA by now?

Unfortunately, yes. Good job Brownie!

These were pretty well known agencies, though as one Washington geek informed me, IRS is not really an "agency."  It is a division of an agency.    

Do you guys have any Hunt t-shirts left for sale?

You can WIN one if you upload a photo or design a puzzle -- the best ones get T-shirts.

So if we get people to design the puzzles for us, what do we do next year? Just sit around drinking beer? Excellent.

Dave and I and Tom will be choosing the best puzzle and the best team photo later today, and will be posting them on this chat, by tomorrow morning.  

I'm with the other people on too much walking. Is riding a bike allowed?

We recommend a Segway.

This is a little know fact, but for some time Dave rode one of those little motorized scooters all around.  He look really cool.   Nothing at all like a crazy old man. 

Someone told us (after we had given up and were waiting for the answers) that it mattered that all the objects in the bag began with "P." Is that something you even planned? (They said they scratched off the "P"s on the thing, and got 45. Really.) Also, we added 1 to 2 to 3 to 4 to 5, because those were the most prominent numbers on the vanity page, and got 15.

Holy crap!  They DID all begin with P!!!!

This was total coincidence.  And bizarre.   And I also would have thought it significant. 

We should have put a red herring in there.

I just want to say that the "unsightly belly fat" ad running in the middle of this chat is NOT a reference to Gene.

I figured out some clues and I have dutifully gone to Philadelphia. Now, where do I go from here, and how much longer does this hunt last?

It ends Nov. 13 in Miami.

I dilligently did the crossword in the magazine on Saturday hoping that would help if it was related to one of the puzzles. Why was it not?!

We've used the crossword puzzle in Hunts at least twice before. There's some kind of legal limit, which is why we employ a large Hunt legal staff.

There's a fourth kind of team - we heard a large team splitting up the locations and agreeing to meet back for the end game. Boo on them! Would love to see a way not to be able to do that. Thanks for a GREAT day! Just wait 'til NEXT year Great Pumpkin! :)

We'll have the football all teed up for you, and we promise we won't jerk it away at the last minute.

She does yoga four hours a day. Simple.

It's paying off.

So were the pipe cleaners in the goodie bags just a red herring?

Ok, so we DID need some stinking red herrings.

Did you name the GAPS puzzle after me?

We did.   This is Michelle Gaps, editor, affectionately known as Spike. 

Here's another bit of oddity.   "The Hole At The Bottom of the Sea" is the name of Joel Achenbach's Book on the oil spill. 

Okay, questions are tapering so we're declaring us down.  Remember, check back right here tomorrow morning for the winners of the team photo contest and the best puzzle idea. 

Thank you all for a great time.     We are grateful for your showing up in huge numbers, and hope it was worth it for you.   

See you tomorrow, and then next year. 

Okay, as promised, here we go with our two winners.   Winning t-shirt for best team photo is it was the baby's hair that proved the winning margin. 

The baby is Abraham Siddiqui, and the others, left to right are Deryn Sumner, Tony Sciascia, Hallet Brazelton, Marshall Barksdale, Gideon Wiginton, Abraham. Tracie Siddiqui, and Jennifer Segal.  And yes, if these names and faces seem familiar, you saw them onstage.  These are the second-place finishers.   

The best Hunt Puzzle was created by a user named apeminkie, and here it is in all its simplicity:

 

Hunters are given two square pieces of paper with lines drawn all over them, and told nothing about what to do with them:   This is paper one, and this is paper two.
 
ANSWER: 
Through careful manipulation of the squares, and with the right vantage point, Hunters will reveal this question with a numerical answer of 12.


--

But we are also awarding a second t-shirt to the person with the most painful, idiotic and hilarious puzzle.   Here it is, from a user named davenotsue:

 
An empty storefront with a big picture window has been turned, according to a banner, into "The Riddler's Market." Displayed on a table are a bag of Wise potato chips, six bottles of Alfredo sauce, a DVD of the movie "Evan Almighty," and a poster board that says, "? Because..." Any schoolkid could tell you the answer is "789."

 ("Wise six Alfredos Evan? Because seven ate nine!") 
Will both anonymous users contact me at weingarten@washpost.com, to tell me who they are and where they live?
Thanks again to all of you, for a great Hunt.  
 

 

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Gene Weingarten
Tom Shroder
Dave Barry
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