Identification is a very common aspect of puzzle-solving, in which solvers are given a series of things (images, items, sounds, etc), and are required to identify what they are. As one of the most common puzzle elements, identification can be found in nearly every puzzle hunt in existence, as it allows for writers to hand solvers something and implicitly ask "what is this?".

Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]

Identification is one of the core pillars of puzzle-solving, in that a large portion of hunt puzzles use identification in some form or another. This process can be applied to many puzzle topics, from sciences to popular media to geography. Due to this versatility, it is possibly one of the most popular puzzle elements in puzzle-writing today. The process of experiencing something with one of the five senses and taking time to figure out what it is is a familiar experience even outside of puzzle solving, making the transition to more puzzle-y application a very easy one to accomplish for most people, regardless of puzzle experience.

Identifying objects, images, sounds, and other things is also a key part of the Identify, Sort, Index, Solve model of puzzle-writing, in which solvers are simply tasked with identifying a series of things, putting them in their proper order, and indexing into them by some number in order to solve the puzzle. While simple, this model is very effective at producing puzzles quickly, although it has been criticized for its results feeling repetitive, bland, or otherwise unfun when treated as the only steps in puzzle creation.

Over time, new technology has allowed for new ways for solvers to approach identification-based puzzles. Processes like reverse-image searching and programs like Shazam or SoundHound (for music ID) have become commonplace, and often make quick work of vanilla identification tasks. As a result, puzzle writers have had to find new ways of asking solvers to identify media without making it too easy. These methods have included intentional masking of images, using mashups or altered audio for music ID, and using screenshots of films and TV taken specifically for the puzzle to avoid easy reverse-image-searching.

Examples[edit | edit source]

  • An Axe to Grind (MITMH 2005) (web) - Solvers are presented with a series of guitar solos from popular music, with the task being to identify the songs they came from and spell them using a series of trigrams. Since this was prior to the invention of easy song-recognition apps (Shazam was a paid, call-in service until 2006), music ID was a serious challenge for many solvers.
  • Feed Your Head (MITMH 2014) (web) - While this puzzle does utilize trivia in part, it also requires solvers to identify various drugs from their chemical structures (albeit slightly altered with extra functional groups).
  • IN SYNdiCation (MITMH 2019) (web) - A combination of music and video ID, as solvers were presented with an audio clip of short bursts of songs, along with a series of videos from TV shows with songs overlaid on top of them. In order to solve the puzzle, identifying the shows is the most important, part, but identifying the songs themselves doesn't hurt either!
  • The Olden Age of Cinema (MITMH 2020) (web) - A classic celebrity-identification puzzle, but since this hunt took place long after the invention of reverse-image-searching, additional obstacles needed to be applied. Instead of just giving the photos directly, solvers were treated to digitally-aged photos of particular celebrities.

See Also[edit | edit source]