22 Famous Puzzlers
After you solve the puzzle in the introduction of the book you'll begin the Puzzler Hunt. In the weeks that follow, you’ll be introduced to 22 famous puzzlers, each of whom will have a puzzle associated with them. (The first puzzle will appear at 12:01 p.m. ET on May 3, 2022. One additional puzzle will appear each weekday until the final one on June 1). If you solve all 22 puzzles, you’ll be eligible to race to the finish line in a final round of metapuzzles—additional puzzles that make use of the answers to the first 22 puzzles. The first person to solve all of the metapuzzles wins the grand prize!
What the Puzzles Look Like
Each puzzle features a famous puzzler from history or fiction, along with a short bio of that person (which will not be needed to solve the puzzle). Each puzzle has a title, and many will have italicized “flavor text”—allusive or cryptic text that usually contains a hint about how to solve the puzzle. Some puzzles may also have instructions, but many will not.
Some puzzles will be readily recognizable puzzle types, like word searches, crosswords, sudoku, et al. Others will be quite unfamiliar, and part of your challenge will be to figure out what you’re supposed to do to solve them. In the absence of explicit instructions, the title and flavor text (if it exists) may provide clues on how to solve the puzzle. The short bio, however, will not contain information that you need to reference to be able to solve the puzzle; it is simply there to provide information about the puzzler in case they are not familiar to you.
What the Solutions Look Like
The final answer to each puzzle will be a word or phrase, which you must enter into the provided answer checker. The answer checker ignores spacing and punctuation, and is not case sensitive. In some cases, it will give you feedback if you’re on the right track.
For example, suppose a puzzle’s answer is GEORGE WASHINGTON. Solving the puzzle might reveal a clueful phrase like FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE US. Here’s how the answer checker would behave if you tried the following guesses:
- GEORGE WASHINGTON: Correct!
- georgewashington: Correct! (The checker ignores spacing and capitalization.)
- George Washington!: Correct! (The checker ignores the exclamation point.)
- Goerge Washington: Incorrect. (The checker will not correct your spelling.)
- WASHINGTON: Incorrect. (Be more specific. You’re missing the first name.)
- FIRST PRESIDENT OF THE US: Keep going! (You’re on the right track, but that is not the answer. You’ve entered the clue phrase but not the final answer.)
- ABRAHAM LINCOLN: Incorrect.
Note: while you are encouraged to guess answers if you think you’ve solved the puzzle, repeatedly submitting incorrect answers will eventually lock you out of a given puzzle for a short period of time.
What the Metapuzzles Look Like
After all 22 regular puzzles are completed, solvers will enter the final round of metapuzzles.
We’re not going to reveal too much about the metapuzzles up front, but we will tell you this: they will also feature famous puzzlers, and will be presented in a similar format to the regular puzzles (title, optional flavor text, bio that is not necessary for solving).
Each metapuzzle will make use of a subset (left for you to determine) of the regular puzzle answers. The metapuzzles will be presented in a sequence—you have to solve one to unlock the next—and we don’t tell you which answers go with which meta. To solve all the metapuzzles you must use all 22 answers from the regular puzzles, and no answer will be used in more than one metapuzzle. So part of your challenge will be to determine which answers feed into each metapuzzle, but once you’ve solved one metapuzzle you can check off the associated answers from your list.
The answer to each metapuzzle is a word or phrase. The answer checker for the metapuzzles works the same way as for the regular puzzles, ignoring spacing, capitalization and punctuation.
When Does All This Happen?
The regular puzzles will be released one puzzle per day on weekdays starting Tuesday, May 3, and ending on Wednesday, June 1. Puzzles will be released at 12:01 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time each day, but you don’t need to finish them quickly. You have the entire period from May 3 until the opening of the final metapuzzle round to solve the regular puzzles.
The metapuzzles will launch on Saturday, June 4 at 12:01 p.m. EDT. At that time, everyone who has solved the 22 regular puzzles correctly—and only those people—will have access to the first metapuzzle. When you’ve solved the first meta correctly you’ll unlock the next one, and so on until you reach the end. The first person to solve all the metas wins the grand prize!
Solving Resources and Ground Rules
Solvers must register individually on the website, and barring a tie only one registrant will finish first, but solvers are welcome to team up with each other (and work out how to split the prize money among themselves).
You are allowed to use any resources you wish to solve these puzzles. Dictionaries, encyclopedias, online reference sources, etc.—everything is fair game. (And, to be honest, in some cases we expect that you will have to use online resources to solve the puzzles.)
Please refrain from attempting to hack the website, server, or code for a particular puzzle. Doing so may result in disqualification from the competition. The website does not contain any hidden pages or hidden information that will be needed for solving puzzles.
While you must log into the puzzle hunt website as an individual, you are allowed to work with others to solve the puzzles. In fact, if you’re just playing for fun we recommend this! Sometimes a puzzle is more easily cracked when someone new takes a fresh look at it, and different solvers can apply their differing skill sets and knowledge bases to solving a puzzle. The winner of the grand prize will be the single registered individual who arrives at the end first, though of course that individual can choose to share their prize with others.
What if We Think We Found an Error?
Our team of ace test solvers has worked hard to root out any errors or mistakes, but you still might find something you think is an error or is not working properly. If you do, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll respond as quickly as possible.
What if We’re Stuck?
During the contest we regret that we are unable to provide any hints to solvers. If you want to learn more about how to approach puzzle hunts, we recommend this blog post, as well as this tutorial guide.
There’s also a terrific book called THE PUZZLER, filled with delightful writing about all kinds of puzzles, insights from some of the greatest puzzle makers on how to solve puzzles, examples of fun puzzles from history, and a brand-new puzzle hunt from puzzlemaker Greg Pliska. If you haven’t already, you should buy it; it’s a fun book! (But, of course, purchase of the book is not required for participation in this online contest.)
After the Contest
Once the prize has been claimed we will announce the winners on our website. The puzzle hunt will remain active for the foreseeable future, so you can keep working on the puzzles even if you didn’t compete for the prize.
Please see the Official Rules for further details.