MIT Mini-Hunts- superb puzzles

Dopers who enjoy word/ logic puzzles, cryptic crosswords and the like, will enjoy these puzzles (links to pdf docs):

Major Malfunction

Background: these puzzles were written by Dan Katz as ‘warm-up’ puzzles for his team to solve in advance of the ‘MIT Mystery Hunt’, an annual puzzle tournament.

Each one consists of several mini-puzzles, which when solved, link together to provide further information that leads you to the overall solution.

They’re great puzzles, ingeniously linked, and a lot of fun to solve. I’ll provide hints if anyone wants them (although I’ve only solved about 3/4 of ACRONYM).

Don’t worry when reading the introductions to each puzzle- you don’t need to know anything more about Dan Katz other than the background info I’ve given above.

God bless you, this should keep me out of trouble for a while. :smiley:

Does anybody know how the hell to get started on these? Most of them, I don’t even know what kind of puzzle I’m supposed to be solving.

For instance, here’s the entirety of one puzzle in the Malfunction PDF:

That’s all it says. “Translation key” implies that perhaps it’s some sort of code, but where do I go from there?

I had a look at “Major Malfunction” a while ago and couldn’t get a toe-hold, as it were. This time, I have made some progress:

Three letters from the alphabet - done, quite easy, althogh I did feel that I just stumbled upon the answer by luck.
Grid of sets of three letters - done, but not sure what to do with the numbers below the grid.
Hexagon - no idea really. The mention of the area of a hexagon prompted me to count the letters, of which there are 60. Each vowel only occurs once. And we’re apparently looking for seven answers of about 8 letters, on average. So something else is probably going on here.
Puzzle mentioned bt Airblairxxx - not a clue.
Cryptic crossword - completed the grid, not sure what to do with it.
Algebraic equation - done, I think. Nice little runaround with the Jesus Jones bit. I wasted some time Googling that :).
Music - done, easy enough with Google.

Most of the rest look a bit daunting

I think the only “Major Malfunction” is with those who undertake such puzzles.

How do you download PDF files again?

Don’t worry if some of the puzzles look initially unsolveable- they’re meant to be! ‘Foreign Languages’ will become clear when you have solved one of the other puzzles. The same is true of ‘Geometry’ (the hexagon grid). Work on the ones you can solve immediately- ‘Music’ is pretty easy, ‘Computer Science’ is another good one to tackle first, IMO.

Put your completed sentences in clue order, 1 to 8.

The three unclued entries in the completed grid suggest the method of combining the answers to two other puzzles, to provide one of the four final words.

Something else is going on here. Work on the other puzzles.

The trouble is, some of the sentences can go in several places, if I’m interpreting the results of the grid correctly, and the position of the apostrophes suggests I am. I can’t seem to get anything coherent from the numbers whatever order I try.

Each clue corresponds to only one of the sentences. For example, 1) 10 6 2 6 is RESTRICTED RATING AT MOVIES

:smack: So I already had the answer -the numbers below just confirm it. I thought I merely had an intermediate answer and you had to use the numbers to identify letters in the sentences or something. I spent hours trying to crack a non-existent code. The clue from another puzzle merely complicated this pursuit. Now, it makes sense.

I’ll post a couple of hints for some of the other puzzles which might help:


[SPOILER]The answers to the clues in the left hand column all have something in common. If you’re still stuck, the next spoiler will get you on the right track.

Like most Sunday crosswords = THEMED, Cliff Huxtable’s son et al. = THEOS, Believer in God = THEIST…

The answers to the clues in the right hand column have a one-to-one correspondence with the answers in the left hand column.[/SPOILER]
Set Theory

It’s pretty simple, you just have to start with the right words


[SPOILER]First of all, make sure you have solved ‘Psychology’ first.

The answers to the clues all have something in common- something that is related to the design of the puzzle.

You won’t be able to find all of each answer in the grid, but be sure to make a note of what you do find instead.[/SPOILER]

Yeah, I solved Psychology. Nice puzzle. That is another one that people might like to tackle early on.

Well, I finally cracked “Geometry”, and that is one tough puzzle. I don’t think I could have done it without the hints above. I’m going to add a couple more hints:

Minor hint:As hammos1 said, you must solve the Psychology puzzle first. Since the answer to that one, like so much else in this collection of puzzles, could reasonably be interpreted in many different ways, I would add that the most obvious interpretation is the correct one.
Major hint, addressing a particular stumbling block that I encountered:After making some progress on the puzzle, you may feel that you’re on the right track, but your answers don’t quite fit, or the rule you have in mind doesn’t quite work.
But, are your answers long enough to account for all the hexagons? If not, maybe they’re only partially correct? Or maybe they’re correct, but too short?

I think good general advice for these puzzles is to not over-think them. I have wasted quite a lot of time pursuing lines of enquiry that turned out to be more elaborate than the actual solution to the problem in question. The trouble is, the instructions and hints are so vague (in some cases non-existent) that you do have to make guesses at what you’re supposed to do, which can lead to a daunting number of possibilities. I’m sure it all seemed more obvious to the setter than it did to me.

I’ve been stuck on the uber-puzzle for a few days now. Pretty sure what I have so far is correct, but there must be some clue I am overlooking.I have arranged the exam questions according to the instructions in the four words. I have also noted the… feature that is present in each exam question, and used that in every way I can imagine with the questions, or with the intros to the twelve puzzles, in the appropriate order. Nada. I even tried ROT13-ing the results I got, just in case.
I also thought about the intro words “all the things we’ve learned this year and cry in that order”, how there are twelve words there. But I couldn’t get anything from that either.

Maybe there’s a hint in the introductory paragraphs, or the intro to the final exam, that I am missing?

Ximenean, regarding the uber-puzzle:

[SPOILER]You are very close- so close, in fact, that it’s difficult to give you a clue without giving you the answer. You are on exactly the right lines, there’s no need to ROT-13 anything or pick over the words in the puzzle intro.

If that doesn’t help (and I can see how it wouldn’t), try the next spoiler.

You have to use the feature you noticed in each exam question to index into the letters of a single word. The single word in question varies, depending on the subject.[/SPOILER]

Ah, I got it. I guess I thought he was finished with those words. I’d been trying that procedure and variants of it on other material.

Congratulations, Ximenean. I didn’t spot the feature in each examination question when I did the puzzle- but fortunately there were other people discussing the problem on the Grey Labyrinth boards at the time (this discussion seems to have disappeared) and I was able to get the required hints there. I think the final puzzle is a little too open- there are so many possibilities as you noted- but then I guess it is the final puzzle, a bit more difficulty is to be expected.

Have you looked at ‘Acronym’? I think it’s generally a little easier than ‘Major Malfunction’, but I’m stuck on the chessboard puzzle (how do you construct the board correctly?) and the ‘Den’ code (even though I have the decoding instructions, I don’t know exactly how to apply them).

I’ve picked off some of the low-hanging fruit in “Acronym”, and I’m now pondering the Theater one. I have a feeling that Kevin Bacon’s presence in that puzzle is no accident…
I’m sure I’ll be back for more hints. But I’m hoping it will be easier, now that I have a better idea of what to expect. I’m at the same point as you with “Den”, and I’ve only glanced at the difficult-looking chessboard one.

Regarding “Den”,the second row is quite a bit easier to decode than the first, which is a little ambiguous. I can get two or three slightly different, and slightly cryptic, wordings out of it. Maybe it’ll make more sense after I’ve worked on a certain other puzzle. You may already have got this far, but the key for me wasassuming that the intermediate code contains no zeroes, and that the code given in the puzzle does not use any leading zeroes.
Another very nice puzzle, actually.

Ah, come to think of it one of the possible answers to “Den” does make sense. I can maybe hazard a guess at what I’m supposed to do with another puzzle now.