This Thing is totally not a unique-to-DC-thing. You see, since 1984 the humorous and zany minds of Dave Barry, Gene Weingarten and Tom "the Butcher" Shroder have been running the Tropic Hunt in Miami, Florida. So there is an equally frustrating and insane race that goes on yearly in Miami. But in 2008, with two of the triumvirate working for the Washington Post magazine now, they decided to stage one locally.
Now, I LOVE a scavenger hunt. I love puzzles and dares and races. I love solving clues. So of course I braved the impending storm and met up with two friends at the site of the old convention center to partake with several thousand others in what turned out to be an infuriatingly difficult afternoon. I stand in awe of all those able to complete the five main clues, let alone the end game.
I won't give you the play by play -- those are available here. I will say that I was astute enough to figure out the first two puzzles we attempted (both the fortune cookie one, and the President's race one), and then I completely fell apart. I desperately outsmarted myself at each turn, trying to come up with huge elaborate patterns and math problems when usually, the answer was just a clever pun. Of course, I blame Dave Barry.
Finally, in order to solve the 'endgame' and win the whole caboodle, you had to have solved the first five puzzles correctly, and then basically be a mind reader, as Dave, Gene and Tom lead you through a series of logical leaps that I can't imagine actually solving. And yet, at least three teams solved the whole thing to win prizes. Which, as Dave Barry reassured us, shouldn't make us feel bad. It just means we're stupid.
No trip to Miami for me this year...but a few hints for those who may want to participate next year:
- Do it! You have nothing to lose and it turns out to be a good bit of fun...although sometimes frustrating, you feel really smart when you solve a puzzle.
- Bring your friends. Lots of them. I definitely think we suffered for only having three on our team. Each person seems to get stuck going down one path of thought, and it's hard to spark a different idea from that. The more people putting forward crazy theories, the more likely that one of those crazy theories will be correct.
- Don't be a code breaker. I must have spent 45 minutes adding and subtracting and multiplying an patterning those damn Chinese characters, when the actual answer was much simpler than that. Rarely do you need to do math -- mostly you just need follow the innate logic or word play of the puzzle the number will flow.
- A couple bloody maries wouldn't hurt, to be honest. Pregame at brunch.
- Finally, when in doubt, blame Gene: