Quick Info

START: 10 April 2010 (Sat), 10:30 AM
       AU Student Union Building

END:   11 April 2010 (Sun), 2:00 PM
       Eric's House (435 Samford)

The Teams
The Puzzles
The Trophies

Past Parties
Facebook Event Page

EPP9: Puzzle Marathon II

Congratulation Red Team!

As the only team who managed to open all five cryptexes and complete the challenge within, Red Team accumulated the highest score and came out on top in thirty hour Marathon in which every team experienced a weekend or puzzles, thrills, luck, and absolutely PERFECT weather.

Here is a list of final standings for the record:

  1. RED
  2. BLACK
  3. WHITE
  4. GREEN
  8. BLUE
Any participant interested in final scores is welcome to email me.

Looks like the next puzzle event in Auburn will be hosted by the "Math GTAs": Auburn Puzzle Patrol; here's to keeping the puzzle-community in Auburn strong and vibrant!

I'll say here that I'll eventually post some more notes about Puzzle Marathon II as a wrap-up. But I may just be saying that because it's easier to say it rather than do it...

"Thanks" to Emily, Marshall and Christy, Mike, Wei-Hwa, and Henry for their contributions and suggestions; and, of course, "thank you" to the 61 people who ran around for 30+ hours dealing with my crazy, frustrating, quirky, and hopefully, fun challenges.

Until next year...


This is the section of the webpage that will be very important during the actual Puzzle Marathon. If any puzzles have errors in them or need further explanation, I will post the information here 9as well as try to contact all the Team Captains as quickly as possible). Check this section often during the Puzzle Marathon!

  • Noon, 10 April: I am back at my house now. You may come by to inspect the cryptexes if you wish.
  • 10 April: I have realized that my Hint/Dashboard System will also accommodate the Errata section. If I find out there is an error in a puzzle, then it will show up as a 0-point "hint" which your team may take without reducing the puzzle value. Such hints will be labeled with a green background instead of a red one (as are the actual hints). They will also be clearly labeled as "Mistake in Puzzle".
  • 8 April: The official start time has been changed to 10:30 AM since the Student Union does not even open until 10:00 on Saturdays. Please have your full team near the Foy Information Desk in the Student Union by 10:30AM.


    Team formation for the Puzzle Marathon II will be similar to recent events: individual players have a "cost" associated with them (based on past participation and number of trophies won), and in total your team may not exceed a particular value.

    The basic formula for player cost is this: if the candidate player has never been to a past Puzzle Party, he or she is a "newbie" and worth 5 points. Otherwise, his or her cost is 6 + (number of past trophies) (a list of past players and trophies won is available here -- if a name is not on that list, the player is a newbie). Finally, if the player is coming from outside the Auburn/Opelika area, his or her cost is reduced by 1 point.

    A team's total value of players may not exceed 50.

    I will be designing Puzzle Marathon II to accommodate up to eight teams rather than the usual six (these parties are getting popular). Email me when you start to form a team. You may make any personnel changes you want right up until Party-Day. Team colors are given on a first-come-first-choice basis, so if that kind of thing matters to you, let me know your desired color soon. As I receive team information, I will update the roster below.

    If you think you would like to participate but haven't decided upon a particular team (or don't feel you know enough other people), let me know, and I'll list you as an "un-teamed" player; teams who may be looking for more players could recruit you. Don't be shy... it's all geeky, puzzly fun.

    TEAM ROSTERS (team names are optional)
    "Math GTAs, Team 1"   Not-quite "Winning Team" "Math GTAs, Team A"     "Mike and his lady friends (and also Shocka (and also Tanner))"  
    Johnathan Clark (7)
    James Dabbs (7)
    Robert Ford (7)
    Megan Grace (7)
    Tim Hardwick (8)
    Scott Varagona* (7)
    Morgan Bettcher (5)
    Ben Dill (5)
    Patrick Donnan (6)
    Victoria Lam* (6)
    Tyler Searcy Miller (5)
    Tim Rhyne (5)
    Chip Self (6)
    Calvin Wallace (5)
    Mark Brady (10)
    Tracy Cobbs* (10)
    Katie Daniels (6)
    Heath Hopkins (8)
    David Jarrell (6)
    Joey Mudd (5)
    Patrick Smith (5)
    Kelly Bregan (7)
    Alex Byaly (7)
    Steven Clontz* (7)
    James Hammer (5)
    Erin McMullin (4)
    Charles Pilman (6)
    Jessica Stuckey (7)
    Andrew Buel (5)
    Bob Gillis (7)
    Marsha Gillis (7)
    Katie Hammond* (7)
    Ian Schaffer (6)
    Ross Spafford (5)
    Adam Syfrett (5)
    Billy Symon (6)
    Anne Daniels* (6)
    Todd Daniels (6)
    Mary Lou Ewald (5)
    James Fordham (5)
    Chelsea Harrison (5)
    Mark Massey (5)
    Bryan McMeen (5)
    Penny Merritt-Price (5)
    Shannon Price (5)
    Tanner Bain (6)
    Jaye Herrod (5)
    Kelly Hollingsworth (8)
    Michael Hollingsworth* (9)
    Big Al Miller (5)
    Kristin Oliver (5)
    Andrew Thomas (6)
    Jennifer Wang (6)
    Margaret Baggot (4)
    Melanie Butler (6)
    Eric Hayes (6)
    Alysha Kambeyanda (5)
    Amy Steinkampf (6)
    Jose Valenzuela* (6)
    Viviana Valenzuela (6)
    Thomas Yuill (5)
    43 43 50 45 48 47 50 44
    * Team Captain (my contact person for the team), be sure I have this person's phone number BEFORE the day of the party.
    "Un-teamed" players. These are players who have said they will likely show up on Puzzle Day, but for one reason or another have not yet settled on a team. If you are looking to bolster your team's roster, you may want to try to recruit these folks: Un-teamed: none.

    Of course, you are also encouraged to invite other friends as well.

    The Puzzles

    OK, here is information about the overall format of Puzzle Marathon II; since this is incorporating some new techniques, I hope most players will read this part of the webpage at least once before Puzzle-Day.

    How the day will play out...

    The final goal of Puzzle Marathon II is to earn as many points for your team by solving puzzles. The puzzles of most value have their titles hidden within five "cryptexes" that will be at my house the whole weekend (a cryptex is kind of like a large combination lock -- as pictured at right -- you are trying to extract the key by dialing in the correct combination).

    The cryptexes vary in size... anywhere from four to seven dials, so there are too many combinations to just guess at them. In order to determine what combination opens each cryptex, there will be packets of minor puzzles (minor in role, not necessarily difficulty). These minor puzzles are generally worth 100 points each if you do not take any hints to solve them. Each time you solve a minor puzzle, it will give a clue as to how to set one of the dials to one of the cryptexes. Solve enough minor puzzles, and you can unlock a cryptex.

    But first you must find the five packets of minor puzzles which help you with the five cryptexes. This is how we will start the day. At the Auburn University Student Union Center (near Foy Info desk) we will start the Puzzle Marathon. Your team will learn how, through an environmental puzzle near the building, you will be able to earn five initial puzzles. In addition to being worth 100 points, as well, each of those initial puzzles will solve to an answer that tell you where a particular packet of puzzles for a cryptex is.

    This has all been explained in reverse, so let me summarize things in proper order:


    Because there are so many teams and so many puzzles, I have implemented an online hint system which I hope will alleviate the chaos on my end and make the distribution of hints more uniform for all teams. The hint system is incorporated in an online "dashboard" for each team which is reachable through this Login Page. At this point at least your Team Captain knows your team password and has been able to login successfully (it is the responsibility of the captain to show the rest of his/her team how to login and use the dashboard).

    At the top of that webpage is a place to "register" all puzzles you find during the day. You register a puzzle by typing in the puzzle's name and clicking the submit button (puzzle titles should be pretty obvious when received -- usually large type at the top of a page, often underlined). It is important that you register every puzzle you find! If you don't not register a puzzle, you will not receive points for it, even if you solve it.

    Once a puzzle is registered, the dashboard page will show its title for you as well as some number of hints which you can possibly take to help solve the puzzle. You may take any number of the hints in any order, but each one you take will deduct points the puzzle is worth to your team when solved (the number of points each hint is worth is shown on the button you will need to click to receive the hint). Do not click the hint buttons unless you are sure you want the hint! Once clicked, there is no way to "unlearn" the hint and get the points back.

    Your Team captain has already registered the first puzzle called "The First Puzzle Is Almost Set," but there are no hints for it per se, it simply instructs you to be at the start location by about 9:45AM on Saturday.

    You might wonder whether it is possible to just quickly click through all of the hints as fast as you can in order to try to get to the end-of-path puzzles in as short a time as possible. You could do this, but it would probably not be worth it for two reasons:

    1. Even if you take all of the hints, you will rarely be handed the "answer". The hints will help you figure out how to solve the puzzles... they generally won't save you the trouble (or time) of actually doing a lot of the work.
    2. Blowing through all of the hints would, of course, reduce all of the initial and minor puzzle values to "0", and while this tactic might save you some time, you probably would have penalized yourself so much that the end-of-path puzzles would not be valuable enough to get your team back in the running.
    Conversely, you might think: well, should we not even worry about the cryptex puzzles? (Should you just register all of the initial/minor puzzles as you find out their titles and then sit on the 100 points they are each worth...). This would not be a good strategy either since, of course, there will be other teams who will get to the end-of-path puzzles, and the points they earn from those will likely put them much farther ahead.

    The balance to be reached, of course, is to get access to the end-of-path puzzles quickly enough to have time to solve them, but also in a way such that you have not squandered points while solving the earlier puzzles.

    More about the cryptexes

    There is one one copy of each of the five cryptexes. They are all at my house and will remain there throughout the Puzzle Marathon. Players are welcome to come by my house anytime after 12 noon Saturday (pretty much once we are done with the kickoff puzzle at the Student Union) to inspect the cryptexes. And, of course, if you think you know the correct combination to open one, you will need to drop by then.

    Team are expected to be respectful of other teams around the cryptexes. If another team is attempting to open one, you should not be badgering them or spying too blatantly. Conversely, if your team is working with a cryptex, don't hog it for too long (and while other teams should not be spying on what you are doing, you should be discreet and remember that nearby teams might overhear anything you are saying or speculating about).

    Here is a very brief desciption of the cryptexes (with nicknames I have given them to keep them straight):

    1. DOZENS. A four-dial cryptex. The only one that has twelve choices per dial (all the others have only ten).
    2. NUMBERS. A five-dial cryptex. It's not the only one with numbers on its dials, but the numbers are more than just the digits 0-9.
    3. MISCELLANEOUS. Six-dial cryptex. A hodge-podge of numbers and symbols on the dials. I'd named the other cryptexes, and this one just got stuck with a non-descript title.
    4. FONTS. Seven-dial cryptex. Digits 0-9 on each dial; a different font used on each (this is the one pictured above).
    5. CARDS. Five-dial cryptex. Card ranks and suits on the dials. You will find the minor puzzles used to solve this one will stray from the format used to open the others (no more hints given out now...)


    Here are some recommendations:

    The Trophies

    Here's what you're losing a night's sleep to try to win: