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Sunday August 26, 2007 // By Sandy

Mystery of the Poisoned Picnic, part 5

The last in a series detailing our latest puzzle hunt. Catch up with parts one, two, three and four.

Puzzle #8: Movie posters

Not sure why, but we ended up with two movie-themed puzzles in this game. Perhaps this reveals a slight bias in the game developer’s interests, but to be fair, the average person is probably more knowledgeable about cinema than, say, Greek poetry.

The gimmick here centered around sixteen posters from well-known movies. On top of that, they all happened to be Best Picture winners, though we didn’t explicitly say that. Teams found the posters in a bag that was locked to a fence in a park. The expectation was that teams would understand they needed to put the movies in chronological order. At that point, flipping the posters over would reveal a message, as each poster had two letters written on its back, and when put in order, the 32 letters spelled a master clue.

I based this puzzle off of one we did last year, which involved Beatles albums instead of movie posters. Seemed easily transposable. We hit two snags. One: either a sneaky team member or a punk-ass teenager took several of the posters and slipped them into the bag smaller pocket, crippling subsequent teams. Two: the sixteen movies we used were released between 1968 and 1989, a span of twenty years. This was way too tight of a range for the average movie fan.

Post-game analysis: Most teams ended up flipping the cards around and arranging the letters to form a message. I was fine with this, but it just meant the puzzle was too hard. The problem of the missing cards could have been solved by telling teams how many posters were supposed to be there.
Grade: B-


Puzzle #9: Jigsaw

Who doesn’t love a jigsaw puzzle? My guess was “no one,” so we integrated one into the hunt. But simply solving a jigsaw wouldn’t do. We needed another layer, something more than just the putting together of pieces, and preferably one that would involve the notebook.

We decided to use the notebook page as answer key. We punched out three holes in each notebook. The holes lined up with the puzzle in such a way that the teams could easily deduce the clue. (Which was “Demeter didn’t bring kimchee or rosemary.”)

The best part about this was the jigsaw itself. I wanted a way to combine all the characters in our puzzle, along with the dishes and the ingredients. But, my artistic abilities being what they are (or are not), I needed a starter image to riff on. I found my answer in a Jacopo Bassano painting of Last Supper. It was perfect: it had people draped on and around a table topped with food and other sundries. It wasn’t a stretch to imagine something nefarious going on. After a few hours fiddling around in Photoshop, I came up with this:


We sent it off to an online jigsaw maker, who sliced it up into a 50-piecer.

Post-game analysis: Even without a picture to go by, teams seemed to be able to piece it together without much trouble. The trouble came with lining up the holes. We were fairly certain there was only one way to line up the holes so they revealed the real answer. Even so, we marked both the puzzle and the paper with an icon, which indicated how to line them up exactly. Not one person noticed the icon. Next time: make the icon more obvious.
Grade: A-

Conclusion

As teams found and solved the nine puzzles, they were meant to enter them into the nine blanks next to the master grid, then fill out the grid. When they finished all puzzles, even if they didn’t have the master puzzle solved, they were invited back to the house, where the BBQ was starting up. For the most part, this worked out fine. Players who wanted to concentrate on finishing up the game could retire to a corner, while those more interested in eating could grab some grub.

Yet, there was one crucial flaw to the center construct of the game. Because the was almost no redundancy in clues, and because teams needed all the clues to solve the master puzzle, there was no wiggle room. They either had to get everything right, or they weren’t going to solve the matrix. Most puzzles were indeed solved properly, but one mistake could cost a team the solution. In retrospect, it was a tad unfair, and make the game a tad less fun for those teams. It wouldn’t have been a bad idea to double up some of the info, or give teams a way to confirm their master clues before digging into the matrix.

All in all, though, I think it was a great success. It came down to two teams, Wild Thingz and Team Won, with the tiebreaker coming through the creative writing challenge (write a paragraph from the novelization of the Poisoned Picnic). When the points were all tallied up, the blue ribbons and bags of candy went to the presciently named Team Won. Congrats to Gabe, Megan, Ian, Davey and AmyMom. Next time, you guys get to host!

COMMENTS
Posted by megan // Aug 27, 14:19
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