Microsoft Puzzle Hunt

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The Microsoft Puzzlehunt is a quasi-annual Microsoft tradition started in 1999. It is a puzzlehunt in the same vein as the MIT Mystery Hunt or The Game. The hunt is a team puzzle competition which challenges each team to solve a large number of original puzzles of all different kinds. The answers, when used in conjunction with the meta-puzzle, lead to a hidden treasure concealed somewhere on the Microsoft campus. Teams spend the weekend solving original and unique puzzles, usually created by the team that won the last hunt. Puzzles may be anything from traditional puzzles like crosswords, word searches, cryptograms, jigsaw puzzles, word play and logic problems to wandering around campus to find landmarks or puzzles that have to be solved on location. Teams are no larger than 12, at least 4 must be current Microsoft employees, and at least 6 must be current or former employees.

The Microsoft Puzzle Hunt takes place over a weekend at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Washington, usually lasting approximately 32 hours from beginning to end.

Microsoft has a rich tradition of puzzle events, including Microsoft Puzzle Safari, Microsoft Intern Puzzleday and Microsoft Iron Puzzler, but Microsoft Puzzle Hunt remains the "main event" for puzzle solvers in the Microsoft community.

Puzzle Hunt I: The Microsoft Games (August 13-15, 1999)[edit]

  • Theme: Olympics
  • Participants: 35 teams, 275 players
  • Hosted by: TLA (Bruce Leban, Dan Westreich, Gordon Dow, Jason Woolever, Matthew Kotler, Roy Leban, Sam Sherry, Sarita James, Scott Ruthfield, and Shannon Talbott)
  • Won by: Killer Bees
  • Awards: Gold, silver and bronze medals
  • Memorable Events/Puzzles: This first hunt was a three-day hunt, running Friday afternoon to Sunday night. The event was three rounds (Bronze, Silver, Gold). Killer Bees won the Gold round, the Silver Round, and the hunt. United Farm Workers won the Bronze round.

Puzzle Hunt II: Age of Puzzles (April 1-2, 2000)[edit]

  • Theme: Age of Empires - The puzzles from this hunt can be found here: [1].
  • Participants: 27 teams, 305 players (1 team finished)
  • Hosted by: Killer Bees (Eric LeVine, Kenny Young, Dana Young, Steve Bush, Christine Chang, Jeff Reynar, and Todd Roshak)
  • Won by: Cracking Good Toast
  • Awards: T-shirts
  • Landmarks: First hunt with computer scoring and a point system.

Puzzle Hunt III: You Don't Know Puzzles (November 4-5, 2000)[edit]

  • Theme: Game shows
  • Participants: 28 teams, 344 players (1 team finished)
  • Hosted by: Cracking Good Toast (Jack Bridges, Jennifer Gosnell, Mark Lambert, Alex Mogilevsky, Tom Powers, Briand Sanderson, Peter Sarrett, Ken Wong, and Mark Engelberg)
  • Won by: Killer Bees
  • Awards: Computer games
  • Memorable Events: Three live, massively multiplayer game show events, each of which concealed a puzzle which the winning team didn't need to solve.
  • Landmarks: First hunt with a team limit of 12 at a time (substitutions allowed). First hunt with live events. First repeat winner.

Puzzle Hunt IV: Clue (November 3-4, 2001)[edit]

  • Theme: Clue board game and film
  • Participants: 38 teams, 416 players (4 teams finished)
  • Hosted by: The Usual Suspects (Jennifer Cockrill, Giovanni Della-Libera, Meredith McClurg, Brooke Nelson, Andrew Ryder, Peter Sagerson, and Kenny Wolf)
  • Won by: SCRuBBers
  • Awards: T-shirts, and each of the 4 finishing teams got their choice of one of the weapons
  • Landmarks: First hunt with no substitutions (hard limit of 12 team members). First hunt which had multiple teams finish.

Puzzle Hunt V: Mission: Impuzzible (September 21-22, 2002)[edit]

  • Theme: Mission: Impossible
  • Participants: 45 teams, 469 players (2 teams finished)
  • Hosted by: SCRuBBers (Troy Barnes, Josh Benaloh, Steve Dupree, Matt Lyons, Becca Olsen, Deborah Pierce, Jon Pincus, Dan Simon, Terence Spies, Dave Thaler, Jay Thaler, and Jeff Wallace)
  • Won by: Cracking Good Toast
  • Awards: Mission: Impuzzible portfolios
  • Landmarks: First and second place teams were separated by 11 minutes.

Puzzle Hunt VI: TimeCorps (May 17-18, 2003)[edit]

  • Theme: Time travel
  • Participants: 40 teams, 439 players (4 teams finished)
  • Hosted by: Cracking Good Toast (Andrew Becker, Rolf Buchner, Thomas Coon, Greg Hermann, Victor Kozyrev, Mike Marcelais, Don Munsil, Peter Sarrett, and Roger Wolff)
  • Won by: TLA Lovers Anonymous
  • Awards: Hourglasses
  • Memorable Events/Puzzles: Puzzles were given in three waves, with the puzzles in wave three having the same names as those in the first two waves, but a slightly different puzzle in keeping with the idea that the villain went back and changed time. Chicago Fire, a crossword puzzle on red construction paper, was a memorable puzzle in that it required pouring water on the puzzle to reveal the Scotch-Guarded squares.
  • Landmarks: Largest win margin in hunt history (8 hours).

Puzzle Hunt 7: Alice in Puzzlehunt (March 20-21, 2004)[edit]

  • Theme: Alice in Wonderland
  • Participants: 51 teams, 558 players (1 team finished)
  • Hosted by: TLA Loves Alice (Brett Roark, Bruce Kaskel, Bruce Leban, Chip Brown, Darren Rigby, Elan Lee, Gordon Dow, Ken Jordan, Kiran Kedlaya, Mike Koss, Paul Grimes, Roy Leban, and Scott Ruthfield)
  • Won by: Staggering Geniuses
  • Awards: Framed mirror with image of a playing card showing Alice as both Queen of Hearts and a chess queen. Solvers of the three first stage metapuzzles also received plastic Cheshire Cat coins, White Knight business cards and copies of Washington State House Resolution No. 4717.
  • Memorable Events/Puzzles: The actual Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle was part of the event. Roy Leban, the puzzle creator and a New York Times crossword contributor, coordinated with Will Shortz, the puzzle editor for the New York Times, to have his puzzle published on that particular Sunday. Other memorable events included the Puzzle Special pizza that had to be ordered from the local Pizza Hut and Washington State House Resolution No. 4717 PDF officially recognizing March 20-21st, 2004 as Alice in Puzzlehunt Weekend in the State of Washington.
  • Landmarks: First, second, and third place teams were searching in the same building (but not on the same floor) as time was about to expire.

Puzzle Hunt 8: The Hard Way (February 19-20, 2005)[edit]

  • Theme: Las Vegas, complete with showgirls and a time-share presentation
  • Participants: 57 teams, 643 players (6 teams finished)
  • Hosted by: Staggering Geniuses (Amanda O'Connor, Mark L. Gottlieb, Sean Trowbridge, Mike Selinker, Matt Ruhlen, Greg Lewis, Jason Alcock, Matt Dixon, Ron Giesen, Matt Jones, Chris McBride, and Chris Pearo)
  • Won by: Cracking Good Toast
  • Awards: Giant dice
  • Memorable Events/Puzzles: Teams were given a "Las Vegas" (transformed Microsoft Campus) travel brochure at the opening ceremony with seven puzzles and a metapuzzle embedded within. Each of the seven puzzles gave an instruction for cutting out and taping together buildings, cutting holes in the buildings, positioning them on the map, and shining a light through the buildings from a particular position over the map to cast the shadow of a phone number, which kicked off your meeting with the nefarious Mr. Big.
  • Portions of this hunt appear in the November 2005 issue of GAMES World of Puzzles.
  • Landmarks: Second largest win margin in hunt history (? hours). First three-time winner. First hunt to have a team (not the winning team) solve all puzzles.

Puzzle Hunt 9: Doomsday (November 5-6, 2005)[edit]

  • Theme: American Comic Books. Before the hunt started, the title was "Countdown".
  • Participants: 62 teams, 708 players (6 teams finished)
  • Hosted by: Everyday Heroes (Karen Babcock, Stephen Beeman, Nick Gedge, Dave Heberer, Sharry Heberer (Claypool), Jesse McGatha, Brett Roark, and Richard Rowan)
  • Won by: Cracking Good Toast
  • Awards: Keys to the city and Captain Micropolis/Puzzler coins
  • Memorable Events/Puzzles: Captain Micropolis, the superhero defender of Micropolis, announced his retirement, then flew off for one last challenge, where he unfortunately met his doom at the hands of evil super-villain The Puzzler. The opening round was a newspaper distributed immediately after the opening event, ending with the first meta. There were 8 meta puzzles, with the final one being six rebus puzzles (gotten from the intermediate six metas), which each fed into a final rebus meta puzzle. At the end of the hunt, it was learned that Captain Micropolis was really The Puzzler and the winning teams saved him from a fate worse than death.
  • Landmarks: First hunt to use an unlocking scheme (solving a puzzle gained you another puzzle), with no bonuses for first solves. First four-time winner.

Puzzle Hunt A: Atlantis (February 10-11, 2007)[edit]

  • Theme: Atlantis
  • Participants: 75 teams, 864 players (12 teams finished)
  • Hosted by: Buzz Lime Pi and Friends (Chris Battey, Mike Burk, Jeremy Elson, Carrie Emmerich, Nick Emmerich, Jon Howell, Jay Lorch, Evan McLain, Sora Werner, Chase Stephens, Robert Stewart, Michelle Teague, Dana Young, Kenny Young)
  • Won by: Death of Dr. Zero
  • Awards: Atlantis "Access Tokens" (laser-etched acrylic disc)
  • Memorable Events/Puzzles: A puzzle that used an interactive Virtual Earth map to locate items hidden on campus (two members of the organizing team had to fly an airplane over the Microsoft campus with a high-resolution digital camera to get the level of detail down to 3cm per pixel, allowing each puzzle answer to indicate a 6-foot square region where an item was hidden). A puzzle that had you build a quinoa-powered analog computer that produced a phone number.
  • Landmarks: The top three teams finished the hunt separated by only 16 minutes. First hunt with automated web answer submission system. First hunt to have a dramatic end-of-hunt spectacle at the closing ceremonies (in previous hunts, end-of-hunt storyline was only seen by finishing teams).

Puzzle Hunt 11.0: Caught in the Net (October 6-7, 2007)[edit]

  • Theme: Tron
  • Participants: 71 teams, 830 players (14 teams finished)
  • Hosted by: SCRuBBers (Troy Barnes, Josh Benaloh, Nat Dupree, Steve Dupree, Jessica Lambert, Matt Lyons, Dan Simon, Dave Thaler, Jay Thaler, Kaylene Thaler, Ian Tullis, Jeff Wallace, Roger Wolfson)
  • Won by: The Usual Suspects
  • Awards: Discs of Tron (illuminated flying discs)
  • Memorable Events/Puzzles: Illuminated flying disks and puzzle spheres on the playfields in the dark. Balancing puzzles solves between conflicting goals -- keeping the MCP happy by solving his puzzles, while still working on solutions that would help the internet rebel forces and contribute to the Meta puzzle.
  • Landmarks: Introduced an unlocking system that also tracked top 3 fastest solves per puzzle, based on unlock times. A web interface built in Microsoft Silverlight which provided an immersive experience appropriate for the Tron theme. First and only hunt in which all finishing teams wrote a program to solve the Meta.

Puzzle Hunt 123: Jeopardy!/Puzzlehaunt! (February 28-March 1, 2009)[edit]

  • Theme: Jeopardy! morphing into a haunted puzzlehunt
  • Participants: 84 teams, 975 players in Redmond (1 team finished); 16 teams, 178 players in Bay Area (1 team finished)
  • Hosted by: The Usual Suspects (Rich Bragg, Giovanni Della-Libera, Gordon Dow, Caroll Ferry, Douglas Ferry, Dave Fisher, Brent Lang, David Miller, Brooke Nelson, Andrew Ryder, and Peter Sagerson), Cracking Good Toast (Andrew Becker, Mike Marcelais, and Peter Sarrett), Dana Young, and Kenny Young
  • Won by: SCRuBBers (Redmond); Demonic Robot Tyrannosaurs (the Burninators and coedastronomy, Bay Area)
  • Awards: Jeopardy! plaques
  • Memorable Events/Puzzles: Three-dimensional metapuzzles constructed of 30 paper rectangles forming a rhombic triacontahedron, 20 truncated triangles (nonagons) forming an icosahedron, and 12 pentagons forming a dodecahedron, respectively, with a final meta using all of the pieces combined to form a rhombicosidodecahedron, on the surface of which participants had to solve a chess puzzle. "Daily Double" puzzles that encouraged the entire team to work together to solve a timed, interactive puzzle for additional points.
  • Landmarks: First hunt to be simulcast to the Bay Area. First and only hunt to have separate competitive and recreational divisions. New record for largest hunt with 100 teams and over 1100 players.
  • Note: The combination of themes (and the out-of-sequence number) was a result of the teams planning hunts 12 and 13 merging.

Puzzle Hunt 14: Travel the Number 14 (September 10-11, 2011)[edit]

  • Theme: Trains - The puzzles from this hunt can be found here: [2].
  • Participants: TBA
  • Hosted by: Liboncatipu (Ben Andrews, Jen Chalfan, Jamie Eckman, Jeff Ford, Jonobie Ford, Drew Hoskins, Mike Janney, Jason Lucas, Chris Moore, Andy Rich, Rehana Rodrigues, Deanna Rubin, Adam Ruprecht)
  • Won by: Death of Dr. Zero (Redmond); Friday the 13th Part VI (Bay Area)
  • Awards: Individually personalized wooden train whistles
  • Memorable Events/Puzzles: Four "whistle stops", each designed to be projected in a conference room and solved by the entire team
  • Landmarks: First hunt with explicit rules governing how teams were provided with hints and data confirmation.

Puzzle Hunt 15: The Motion Picture Post-Apocalyptic (June 21-22, 2014)[edit]

  • Theme: Movies
  • Landmarks: First hunt constructed in a modular fashion, with multiple individuals and teams contributing small modules rather than one team constructing the entire hunt.
  • Won By: Will It Blend?

External resources[edit]