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Edible puzzles are puzzles that involve some kind of edible component. Often, these involve taste-testing, or determining what the food is, exactly. Other puzzles may simply involve food as a setpiece, or as a special little treat for the solving team (and the writing team, if they bought too much).
Background[edit | edit source]
Making traditionally inedible things into edible versions is a common fascination within humans, who have been making things like chocolate chessboards and hyper-realistic cakes for years now. Fittingly, edible puzzles in puzzle hunts have a start fairly early in the history of the modern puzzle hunt, first showing up in 1995's Clue-themed MIT Mystery Hunt.
Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]
Edible puzzles have one main purpose in puzzle hunts: to give teams something both fun and physical to work with. As a result of this, they can really only exist in hunts where on-site presence is allowed. There are a few ways to achieve the desired goal, depending on the level of involvement in the puzzle one wants the edible item(s) to be.
To maximize involvement, edible puzzles may be identification-based. These would require solvers to look at, smell, and ultimately taste the items given to them in order to put names to them, whether that be generic or branded. These kinds of edible elements can stand alone as puzzles, sometimes showing up at events or as one-off deliveries to teams, but have become more commonly paired with other puzzle elements in an attempt to avoid making a puzzle 'too simple'.
Edible items can also show up as just another puzzle component, one that doesn't need to be eaten to solve it (or at least doesn't need to be identified). These can include thematic setpieces, where a puzzle or clue is presented as part of some edible arrangement, or simply involve using an edible item in a particular way. While possible to be eaten, these kinds of puzzle elements don't need to be tasted to be solved, but whether they should be eaten is dependent on their exact role.
Lastly, edible puzzle elements can sometimes be completely separate from the puzzle itself, coming at the end of a puzzle as a way to present the final answer. Sometimes, this may involve a bit of identification (if solvers get a single cookie as their final answer, they may need to figure out what it is), or could be made as clear as day (if solvers get a wrapped chocolate bar as their final answer). Either way, edible answers can usually be eaten as soon as the answer is submitted.
Strategy[edit | edit source]
Since there's only one major type of edible puzzle that could actually have strategy applied to it (Identification), that's what this section will focus on. As a universal tip, be mindful of food allergies, both when setting an edible puzzle and solving one.
The best tip for dealing with an edible puzzle is to go against one's instincts. While edible puzzle can be delicious, make sure to take a picture of the edible items first. A puzzle where only one set of edible items is given out to teams will likely require identification of the items at some point, so eating them right off the bat, no matter how tasty they may look, is probably a bad idea. If possible, label the items so that proper notes can be taken about them.
Since not everybody has a good sense of taste, you should also identify which people on your team (if you have one) are most adept at the task. If there's more than one, spread it out as much as possible. Having multiple opinions about a particular item will help narrow it down, especially when there are multiple similar options (like differentiating raspberry or strawberry jelly).
Lastly, remember that taste is not the only way to identify many things. Commercial products often have identifying features (an Oreo will always look like an Oreo, etc.), and visual examination will almost always come in handy. If you saved a picture, then go ahead and taste things first (or simply share a snack with the team), and work on things from both senses.
Notable Examples[edit | edit source]
- Kitchen (MITMH 1995) - The first known case of an edible puzzle within a modern puzzle hunt. It was simple, fittingly, and only involved solvers having to identify cereal from bagged samples, followed by a quick indexing to solve it.
- Mass Aid (MITMH 2018) (web) - Partway through the puzzle, teams get a prompt to ask for an 'Info Dump. What they get is a diaper filled with melted chocolate and the next step of their puzzle. While entirely edible, it's reasonable that many teams chose to leave it alone.
- Funkin' (MITMH 2019) (web) - Teams were given an entire box of donuts (a baker's dozen if you include the one donut hole), with a special surprise: each donut had a USB stick shoved inside. Solvers had to both identify the donut flavors AND identify the connection made between them and the audio contents of the USB sticks. Ultimately, they both represented a series of Phish concerts named after donuts (at which they gave out donuts of those particular types).
- Refreshment Stand (MITMH 2020) (web) - After submitting an instructional clue phrase, teams got to pick up a unique plastic device, along with eyedroppers and several drinks. Since the puzzle involved colored liquids and colored letters, it followed that while the drinks were perfectly drinkable, their colors and placing them in the right placed in the plastic device was far more important.