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A team readies for Mystery Hunt 2013.
A team readies for Mystery Hunt 2013. Photo: Emilio Pace, courtesy The Tech

MIT’s annual Mystery Hunt used to be a brainteaser for the Institute cognoscenti, fueled by love of puzzles, twisted clues, and sleepless nights. Now it’s expanding. This year some teams swelled past 70 members, with distant members connected by webcam. Now it's regional news documented by a Boston.com  slide show. And it's long—this year’s Mystery Hunt, Jan. 18-21, lasted 73 hours and 18 minutes, the longest ever.

The story line unfolded at Rockwell Cage starting Friday at 2 p.m. and The Tech related it like this: “the Manic Sages [last year’s winners who designed this year’s challenge] had mortgaged the coin for their own profit to Enigma Valley Investment & Loan (EVIL), and the coin could not be withdrawn for a period of ‘no less than 50 years.’ Thankfully, Alyssa P. Hacker enlisted the help of consultants from the Institute for Heist Training, Facilitation, and Planning (IHTFP) to rescue the coin so the tradition of the hunt could continue.”

Excerpt of a puzzle clue.
Excerpt of a puzzle clue.

As usual, the competition consists of layers of puzzles that lead to a metapuzzle; those answers set up a super metapuzzle for each round. After seven rounds, teams faced three final challenges that yielded the key cards that unlocked the coin. Although the Manic Sages put in thousands of person hours creating a tough puzzle, they finally showed mercy. On Sunday they helped the teams (by cutting out some puzzles and creating options to earn clues) since it was becoming a very long hunt.

The winning team, nicknamed Atlas Shrugged (the actual name was the complete text of the Ayn Rand novel), had teams operating in Chicago, France, and San Francisco. They found the coin hidden behind a safe constructed in 13-1143 (just off of Lobby 13) amid a pile of similar coins. See past Slice of MIT posts to find out where coins have been found.

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