The Aerialist (MIT Mystery Hunt 2020)

The Aerialist
MIT Mystery Hunt 2020
Big Top Carnival
Author(s)Shelly Manber, Todd Etter, and Jesse Morris
AnswerClick to revealDAME COMMANDER
No. solves30
No. total guesses84

The Aerialist is a puzzle from the Big Top Carnival round of the 2020 MIT Mystery Hunt.

Puzzle Elements[edit | edit source]

Flavortext - Penny Park's famed aerialist is quite an elegant and powerful woman.

Video - The puzzle is a single video of an acrobat in an aerial silk performance, accompanied by a mellow backing track and an occasional gong.


Semaphore - During the gong sounds, the aerialist pauses briefly in a position with legs or arms extended. Each position can be decoded as a semaphore letter.

Interwoven Strings - Decoding directly yields gibberish. However, one can separate the letters by how the aerialist formed them: arms or legs, and right-side-up or upside-down.

Spatial Reasoning - Doing so yields sane-looking extracts of JUDI and BRITISH on the right-side-up letters but gibberish GXGLK and DKUVW on the upside-down letters. However, since the upside-down letters were formed... well, upside-down, rotating the semaphore letters 180˚ before decoding reveals the correct extraction of TITLE and DENCH.

Final Clue Phrase - The four extracted words can form a cluephrase in the proper order: JUDI DENCH BRITISH TITLE. This leads to the answer.

Asked and Answered - The flavortext mentions an "elegant and powerful woman", of which the answer is one example.