Treasure Hunt 2000:
Who Stole the Tarts?

My Fifth Annual Treasure Hunt "Treasure Hunt 2000:  Who Stole the Tarts" was held on September 10, 2000.  Before reading this recap, it may be instructive to check out the faq.

The theme was "Alice in Wonderland", chosen both because it is one my favorite stories, and because Lewis Carroll was a puzzle aficionado himself.  This as the first year I had structured the Hunt around a theme, and this proved to make the planning considerably easier.  Sometimes an element of the story would suggest a puzzle, other times a clue that would have been discarded as bland was integrated into the theme so well that it became acceptable.  I will doubtlessly product themed Hunts from here on out.

My main concern, prior to the Hunt, was that there would be too many people in attendance.  I only had enough clues to accommodate 12 teams (roughly 42 people), and based on the RSVPs I expected nearly 50.  But two things conspired to keep attendance down.  First, it rained all that morning, which certainly scared some folks off.  (Fortunately the weather during the actual Hunt was perfect.)  Secondly, it was belatedly discovered that the Seattle Seahawks were playing a football game in the local stadium, making parking and traffic in the area a nightmare.  Or so most people (myself included) assumed.  Actually, since the game was nearly two-thirds over at the start of the Hunt, traffic was fine, and many parking spots were opening up as some folks left the game early. So these two forces worked to my advantage:  they limited the participants without actually interfering with the event itself.

Approximately 35 people attended, in eight teams of three or four.  Prior to the Hunt, each team was given a sealed manila envelope, and I quickly reviewed the rules.  The object, I reiterated, was to find the Queen's Tarts, hidden somewhere on the campus.   The Hunt began shortly after 4:00.  Here's how it unfolded.

Clue One, "Down the Rabbit Hole":  On my signal, teams were allowed to open their envelopes, which contained two items.  The first was a sheet of paper that had a map of the campus on one side, and the text of the first clue on the other.  The Map showed all the buildings on the campus, a few of which had dots on them and a corresponding letter (see the map here). As explained prior to the Hunt, only the indicated buildings would have clues hidden in or around them.  This was designed so that Teams wouldn't have to search through scores of building names to find the one a given clue referred to.  The clue itself (see the clue here) contained some text from Wonderland, and the message "Find the White Rabbit."  Below that was the warning "Note:  don't let this clue Bug you or otherwise drive you crazy."

The other item in the envelope was a copy of "The Little Nickel", a local classifieds-only newspaper.  Teams that looked for the White Rabbit - found in the Auto section, under Volkswagons - found an ad that read "WHITE RABBIT:  In good condition, but runs a little late.  Comes with ears, whiskers, pocket watch.  The next clue is in the eastern entryway to Bagley Hall."

Clue Two, "The Pool of Tears":  The second clue was in the entrance to a building that abutted the campus fountain.  The fountain - which measures some 100 meters in diameter - had 10 stations around it:  five "A" stations and five "B" stations.  Clue two (see clue two here) directed each team to split up into two groups, with one group heading to Station A1 and the second group going to Station B1.  (See an example of a Station here.)  Once there, each group was to send a signal to their partners, such as jumping up and down, or waving their arms.  Each groups could then take the signal they received from their partners, consult a chart, and determine what Station they should next visit.  After each pair of groups had visited five Stations apiece, the final signals indicated the location of the third clue.

This clue was designed to be relatively easy, but a funny thing happened on the way to the fountain ... It seems that the aforementione football game ended just minutes before the first team arrived at the location, so as teams attempted to send signals back and forth across the fountain, hundreds and hundreds of football fans streamed by, looking on in bewilderment.  My only regret is that I was not there to see this debacle.

Clue Three "Alice and the Caterpillar":  The third clue (see the third clue here) was the longest of the bunch.  The sheet contained 50 pairs of contradictory statements, the statements on the left attributed to Alice and the ones on the right coming from the Caterpillar.  At the bottom of the page were seven digital eights, with a dash between the third digit and the fourth (888-8888).  Each segment of the digits had a number that corresponded with one of the statement pairs.  So, for each pair, a team had to decide which statement was correct.  If Alice's statement was correct, the appropriate segment was left blank, but if the Caterpillar's statement was correct the segment should be colored in.  After all the correct segments were filled in, a seven-digit phone number was shown, which could be called to get the next clue.

Some teams got really stuck on this one, and at least one team called nearly a dozen wrong numbers before getting the right one.  Other teams breezed through this one with relative ease.  Go figure.

Clue Four, "The Cheshire Cat":  This clue (see clue four here) had a mediocre puzzle but a great gimmick.  The puzzle was simply to find the words that fit the supplied definitions and contained the letters "G - R - I - N" (ex:  "Football field" = "GridIroN").  Certain letters in the answers were circled, and when these letters were dropped they spelled out where the team was to take the clue.  When teams went to the indicated location, they had to go into a small, darken area that was lit with a black light.  The black light caused a previously invisible message that was written on the clue to appear and tell them where to find the fifth clue.  It also caused the smile in the Cheshire Cat picture to stand out (as it was highlighted with the ultrviolet ink), while the rest of it's body faded away in the dark.

Clue Five, "The Mad Tea Party":  This was favorite puzzle (see clue five here), but I think I was in the minority.  The clue was posted on a locker that was sealed with a combination lock.  The solution to the puzzle gave the combination for opening the lock.  Many teams struggled with this one, but those who had prior experience with logic problems got it with 10 minutes or so.  One team actually figured out how to pick the lock, which I consider to be just as valid a solution as solving the puzzle.

Clue Six, "Who Stole the Tarts?":  The final clue was a ziplock bag, containing a sheet and a 150 piece jigsaw puzzle (see the assembled jigsaw puzzle here).  The puzzle, when assembled, showed a map identical to the map teams were given at the start of the hunt, except that next to the dots on the buildings there were Playing Cards instead of letters.  On the other sheet was a message in code:  instead of being writing in letters, it as written in Playing Cards (see final clue here).  After assembling the puzzle, teams could crack the code by looking at each Playing Card in the message, referring to the location on that playing card on the jigsaw map, and then substituting the letter that appeared in the corresponding location on the first map.  The message read:

Connect the spades
Connect the hearts
And you'll find out
Who stole the tarts!

Players who then referred to the jigsaw map again saw that there were only two spades on the whole map, and only two hearts.  When the spades were connected and the hearts were connected, the result was a big X, which centered on the building ("Lewis Hall", of course) where the tarts were hidden.

The winning Team was "The Jabberwock":  Bruce Oberg, Gary Smoot and Jackyln Peltier.  In second was "El Segundo", consisting of Denise Liguori, Kate Bicket, John Elefson and Maria Winkler.  Afterwards we retired to the College Inn for beer and assorted merriment.  The tarts turned out to be damned tasty, too.