Snow Job (MIT Mystery Hunt 2020)

Snow Job
MIT Mystery Hunt 2020
The Grand Castle
The puzzle's icon, a ski chalet covered in snow.
Author(s)James Griffith, Niall Mangan (art)
AnswerClick to revealCRISPIN LIPSCOMB
No. solves61
No. total guesses461

Snow Job is a sports-based research puzzle from the Grand Castle round of the 2020 MIT Mystery Hunt. Aside from the apparently story-focused flavortext, it's presented entirely as a series of slightly-doctored trail maps.

Solve Path[edit | edit source]


At first, there are only two main things to focus on: the flavortext, and the images. The only information solvers may glean from the flavourtext at this point is that whatever they're looking for will be in six groups of size 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 8 ("Six groups visiting the mountain—a couple, a family of four, a sextet, a party of seven, and two octets."). So instead, they should turn their attention to the images, which are all of trail maps, doctored to include red lines along particular trails, numbers in square brackets, and some symbols usually used to denote difficulty on ski trails. Notably, only 6 of the marked trails have had a difficult marker attached to them.

There are two ways one may find the source of the images. If solvers have access to reverse image searching, they can easily find the labelled versions of the trail maps. If they don't, or choose not to for another reason, they may be able to discover it by searching for key words like "ski resort artist" or "trail map illustrations". Either way, they should be able to find all of the original images (done by James Niehues and presented in alphabetical order by mountain), and identify the specific trails being taken by the red lines in each of the puzzle images. For example, the first image is of Bromley Mountain, and the two highlighted trails are LOWER TWISTER [1] and SUNDER [5].

When solvers have identified all 35 trails, they may notice that the number of trail names divides nicely into the 6 groups (2/4/6/7/8/8) mentioned in the flavortext. Additionally, they may notice some connections between some of the names. One such in to this puzzle's aha is by spotting the group of CANDYLAND, LOWER TWISTER, TRIPLE TROUBLE, and UPPER HARD SCRABBLE, which all contain the names of board games. Other groups, such as "Units of Measurement", "State Nicknames", and "NATO Phonetic Alphabet" will hopefully follow. While it should be clear that the numbers that haven't been used at this point, but were attached to every marked trails, are indexes into the names, it may not be entirely clear how to order the extracted letters.

At this point, solvers should turn to their last bit of unused information: the trail difficulty symbols. Within each group, the symbol is placed next to the trail that comes first alphabetically. By ordering the rest similarly, solvers can extract 6 words (ALBERTAN, ALTA, AT, ATHLETE, TORINO, and UNWANTED), which can then be reordered from lowest difficulty (Green Circle) to highest difficulty (Triple Black Diamond), to form the final clue phrase, ALBERTAN TORINO ATHLETE UNWANTED AT ALTA. "UNWANTED AT ALTA" refers specifically to snowboarders (who are notably banned from Utah's Alta Resort). Final Answer: Final AnswerCRISPIN LIPSCOMB.

Puzzle Elements[edit | edit source]

  • Skiing and Snowboarding/Physical Geography - The puzzle revolves around mountain ski/snowboard resorts and their respective trails. If solvers can find all of them from the pictures (whether by reverse image searching or keyword searching), they may also notice they share an artist. The artist isn't really important for the puzzle itself, but it can help confirm that other maps are correct. From there, solvers can start identifying which trails have been marked.
  • Hint in Flavortext - The flavortext makes clear reference to specifically-sized groups (2/4/6/7/8/8) "separated and disorganized" on the mountain. If solvers realize that the sum of these numbers matches the total number of marked trails (35), they should also realize that they need to sort the trails into groups of those sizes.
  • Hidden Substrings - As it turns out, all of the trail names are hiding particular words (although some do a better job of actually hiding than others). These include CANDYLAND (in CANDYLAND - Hide Rating 0/10) and HAND (in CHANDLER'S WAY - Hide Rating 6/10).
  • Themed Groups - Each of the hidden words is a member of a group, and while the total size of the group may not match the groups sizes needed for the puzzle, it's clear that the number of representatives present from the groups does match. These groups include board games (CANDYLAND et al), length measurements (HAND et al), SUV models, state nicknames, sports teams, and NATO phonetic alphabet letters.
  • Reordering - Alphabetical and by Difficulty Rating. While the maps are sorted alphabetically from the start, that information isn't actually used. The information that is used, however, does need to be reordered via these two methods. If the groups are reordered from low to high difficulty, and the trails are ordered alphabetically within the groups, solvers can proceed to the final step...
  • Indexing - The numbers presented next to the trail names are used to index into the full names (rather than just the hidden words). If this is done correctly, and the reordering has been completed, solver can get the phrase...
  • Final Clue Phrase - ..."ALBERTAN TORINO ATHLETE UNWANTED AT ALTA. Those unfamiliar with the sport would probably have to look up the meaning of the latter phrase, on top of figuring out who fits the bill.