There’s a lot I could say about the clue hunt/mystery adventure/sadistic road race that I sent 25 of my closest friends on last weekend. Things like, “Boy, that was more complicated than it needed to be.” Or, “Remind me why anyone trusts me to organize anything?” Or, “Not everyone looks at a a sequence of numbers and immediately considers what base it may be in and, if converted, what other bases could hold secret meanings.” Instead, I think I’ll be like the kid who steps off the roller coaster, heaves up his lunch into the trash can, wobbles toward the back of the line and screams to his dad, “Let’s do that again!”
I’m not ashamed to say I like celebrating my birthday. I think it’s clear by now that I’m fond of celebrating, period, and my birthday is just another, reliable reason to do so. For the last few years, birthday celebrations have been mostly bowling parties or nights out to eat, or both. This year I was turning 30, and while I didn’t care much about the significance of it, I did appreciate the opportunity it gave me to throw a bigger bash.
The idea of holding a clue hunt had been percolating for a long time. Many years ago I bookmarked this post by Defective Yeti about a hunt he hosted, thinking I’d use it as inspiration someday. Much time passed. I’d spy the link every once in a while, consider trying it, but the mountain of prep would always seem too steep. Then, about five weeks before my birthday, realizing we had nothing planned, I resolved that this was the time to make the plunge.
Without any conception of how the actual event would work, we got to work creating homemade invitations. (It’s a sickness we have.) If this was going to be a serious event, no Evite would do. After a ridiculously disproportionate amount of time spent on postcards that our guests would look at for all of seven seconds, we finally had 40 invitations to send out. Each one was handmade and looked completely different from the next. Dominating each card was a picture torn out from that Sunday’s Tribune or Times. I thought it gave the cards a nice randsom-notey feel. Some examples:
The left side, which was printed on stickers and cut out like quote ballons, said “I need your help! I’m on a hunt for XXX. Get the scoop at santheo.com/xxx. Wear comfy shoes.” This was to be the first hint about the theme: XXX. We had no idea how that whole thing’d play out, exactly, but it seemed perfect, XXX being the Roman numeral for thirty as well as a symbol for confidentiality and secrecy. I even went to the trouble of pasting the black XXX bar on separately, allowing me to hide a secret message on the white part underneath. To my knowledge, no one was curious enough to go hunting. If they had been, they would have seen this, typed out in red:
I’ll leave this undecoded for a few days in case anyone wants to try to figure it out. It shouldn’t be too difficult.
Spending all that time on the invite instead of doing more important things like earning an income apparently just fueled the fire, because the moment those cards went out, I spent a number of otherwise useful hours putting up the website for the hunt. Necessary? No. Nerdy? Yes. Worth it? I’d say so.
Again I hid a secret message on the site, and again no one found it. This should have been my first warning that I belong to my own special brand of crazy, and that maybe I should reel it in a little. If I saw the warning, it went unheeded. Sarah and I began to dig in and brainstorm.
Next up: part two, in which we reveal the details of the hunt all the crazy puzzles we came up with.