The Wizard's Escape (MIT Mystery Hunt 2020)

The Wizard's Escape
MIT Mystery Hunt 2020
Wizard's Hollow
Author(s)Evan Davis and Todd Etter, ft. the voices of Nina Hinrichs, Rachel Petterson, and Jeff "Stribs" Stribling
AnswerClick to revealRESCUE DEVICE
No. solves38
No. total guesses122

The Wizard's Escape is a variety puzzle from the Wizard's Hollow round of the 2020 MIT Mystery Hunt.

Solve Path[edit | edit source]

The puzzle is a very long audio file—over 27 minutes, in fact—containing archived footage of a runthrough of an escape room.


The puzzles are never solved using the intended path—sequence breaks like a mouth that conveniently measures exactly 3 ounces or accidentally triggering the completion condition out of thin air are very common occurrences. However, from the footage, the solver can get a good idea of what the room looks like.


The file starts out with five people (Brad, Colin, Derek, Sarah, and Toni) talking about frivolous matters before exploring the room in earnest. Brad suggests exploring the room systematically, going clockwise from the door; for the sake of simplicity, this solve path puts the door on the north side of the room.

In the corner, there is a table with a mirror behind it. There is also a drawer with a 4-letter combination lock, which Toni immediately tries to brute force. (264 is a large number.)

The next wall hosts two paintings of wizards, each one marked with a birthdate (October 2nd, December 9th). There are two similar paintings on the opposite wall, but their birthdates are left unmentioned.

There is also a grate on the floor near the wall, hiding a strip of paper and held in place by a directional lock. This directional lock, however, has markings:

Astute solvers may recognize that these are the symbols of the four classical elements (with the unmentioned one being the downwards triangle representing Water).

The next corner holds a locked chest with no clear opening mechanism and a birdhouse with eight buttons, one of them missing. One button says "Seven-headed warbler" and asks the solvers to replicate the tune it plays (the famous Ah! vous dirai-je, maman). The bottom buttons have names that are clearly English words doctored to look like Latin. The solver may note that treating the button names as crossword clues yields a type of bird in each case:

  • Atticus surnamus = FINCH
  • Blusterus grandus = CROW
  • Buttockus pokus = GOOSE
  • Canadius baseballus = BLUE JAY
  • Lookus outus = DUCK
  • Two-underus parrus = EAGLE
  • [missing]

At this point, the solver may also note that the bird names start with letters B-G—the set of musical notes, missing only A. Pushing the right sequence of buttons here will solve this puzzle; unfortunately, the tune contains two As, while the A button is still missing.

Right next to the chest is a tree stump, atop which sits a silver pear. There is also a hole in the base of the trunk, and a carving next to it claiming "only the blackest of light can illuminate my depths"—here clearly referencing a "black" (UV) light and not a flashlight as Brad suggests.

Before moving on, Toni notes a plaque underneath the mirror, saying "A soul's breath will reveal my secrets."

The wall opposite the door has a closet. Next to the closet is a piece of wood:

While the would-be escape artists orient the piece of wood as in the image and read the directions from there assuming north is up, the solver might realize that their "Z" is actually an "N", intended to show which direction is true north—all directions are actually 90 degrees off.

The next corner has a desk with a beaker and a sign asking for "3 ounces pure of morning dew". Brad notes that this is likely to be a water-measuring puzzle.

Derek then directs everyone's attention to the center, which holds a cauldron. The cauldron asks for "three things Copper, Silver, and Gold"—after which the solvers immediately sequence-break and "solve" it with items that they happen to have on them. Solvers might remember the silver pear from earlier and realize that the necessary objects should be present in the room from the start.

Solving the cauldron produces a "HUZZAH!" reaction from the wizard and a 9-ounce vial—this confirms Brad's theory about the water-measuring puzzle, though Brad and the others don't realize it.

Besides the paintings from earlier, the western wall also has a mousehole, which is promptly ignored in favor of the horse plush next to it; it neighs twice upon being squeezed. Colin starts swatting at a fly (more on that later), while Toni notices a keg under the water-measuring desk. Derek promptly short-circuits the puzzle with his conveniently-sized mouth ("EUREKA!"), and the reward is revealed to be the missing button from the birdhouse—"Burdenus metaphorus", or ALBATROSS. In addition, it releases a piece of paper about elementals:

  • Elteron - Earthquakes
  • Ventria - Volcanoes
  • Frastic - Floods
  • ??????? - Hurricanes
  • ??????? - Tornados

The paper also contains a number of triangles, which may lead solvers to connect this paper with the symbols on the directional padlock—indeed, each elemental can be matched to one or two elements, and thus a direction on the padlock. Which directions unlock the lock, however, will have to come some other time.

That digression aside, the western wall also hosts a pedestal with four metal plates depicting mythological hybrids, locked shut with a four-digit combination lock. The associated clue says "My soft pets value 1 through 5. What values these four, if alive?" Solvers may note that they already saw a horse toy and deduce that it belongs with this puzzle.

Derek then finds another wooden piece with arrows, which Brad erroneously associates with the directional padlock; yet, through sheer accident, rotating the wooden piece such that north is east gives the correct answer to the padlock ("WUNDERBAR!"). It provides the first piece of a poem, which is, on the surface, complete nonsense: "No rose can hold my secret sell; so pay this poem my heat will tell."

The last corner has a bookcase with a copy of The Tempest—an open-source copy, as Colin points out—with line numbers that go really high. There is also a statue of a queen and a bunch of books on the shelf between two gold bookends (which solvers might realize can be used to solve the cauldron puzzle):

  • Adjunct Spellcasting
  • Capricornucopia
  • Double-Decker Bicycle Design
  • Grammar for Sorcerers
  • Horseproofing your Home
  • Laughing Potions
  • Lifeblood, the Friendly Vampire
  • Lord Mayor Gigglesnout
  • Mandrake Turnovers
  • Nocturnal Sunbathing
  • The Trojan Woodchuck
  • Varmint Juleps

They also find a wand—it says "Cast only upon reflection" and also two sample words: STRENGTH = SW SW SW FL SW SW SW SW TAP, SEQUOIA = SW FL SW FL FL FL FL TAP.

Solvers may note that the length of each "spell" is the length of the word plus one; since TAP only occurs at the end of the spell, the solver can associate each SWISH or FLICK with a letter from the word. Doing this reveals that SWISHes match with consonants and FLICKs with vowels. (Solvers may note that STRENGTH is notable for being a consonant-heavy word and SEQUOIA is a very short example of a panvowel.)

Toni then directs everyone's attention to the floor, which has a ring of symbols on it. They describe some of the symbols (in rather perverted ways) and note that the symbols click when stood upon.

Colin then gets distracted by the fly and hits it on the mirror with the wand, somehow triggering the mirror to open in the process ("MAGNIFIQUE!"). It reveals another stuffed animal (which roars once upon being squeezed) and two pieces of paper. One is a horoscope containing the zodiac signs; solvers may realize at this point that the odd descriptions of the symbols on the floor were actually describing zodiac signs (Pisces, Aries, Cancer, and Aquarius, in order). The other is another piece of the nonsense poem: "My close door wine will soon be free, When magic maxim viced rally."

Toni then takes a break from brute-forcing the lock to sequence-break the birdhouse without so much as trying to figure out the birds or use the ALBATROSS button ("EXCELSIOR!"), which opens the chest to reveal a UV light. Another message then triggers out of seemingly nowhere ("WELL DONE!"), but this doesn't seem to do anything

Colin, in the meantime, reveals another message on the mirror while fixing his hair: "Spell Spell with Wand." He then moves to one of the pedestal panels and tries to pry it loose.

Sarah takes the UV light and points it into the treestump (handily explaining the "blackest of light" hint), revealing an image of an island and a big storm as well as a series of numbers.

Colin breaks the hinges on the pedestal ("AWESOME!"), revealing a single piece of copper pipe in the pedestal; solvers might realize here that the copper pipe is part of the cauldron puzzle. Brad and Colin, however, instead try to use the copper pipe to break more parts of the room; Brad's trying to find a secret switch on the bookcase and Colin's still trying the pedestal panel. Something triggers in the meantime ("INCREDIBLE!") and a piece of paper flies out of the mousehole, containing a list of the elementals from earlier.

Brad then short-circuits a puzzle involving the books on the bookshelf ("BRAVO!") and gets another poem: "Most any touch, a sock, a kiss—Can join both queen and…" Brad then walks up to the bookshelf again and accidentally triggers another condition ("GOOD WORK!"); Toni mentions the floor panel under her vibrating and the paintings dropping. Three of the paintings were hiding dragon pictures (with associated names) and receptacles for round objects; the last hid a number of orbs (also named) and a goat toy that bleats four times.

The people in the escape room proceed to solve the associated puzzle just by arbitrarily matching colors ("SUPERB!") and get a bag containing two more wooden pieces and a stuffed bird toy. Toni finally finishes bashing the 4-letter lock on a real word ending in E ("KUDOS TO YOU!") and finds a 5-ounce vial, a stuffed snake toy, and another part of the poem (A word mad from six runs away. One from each thee line will tray.).

It is at this point that the solvers realize that the closet is open and exit the room, before encountering one final panel, which relies only upon what has happened in the escape room. Since the escapers solved every puzzle in an unintended manner, it is presumed that they were unable to solve the panel and escape on time.

From the recording, the solver can deduce that the room looks like this, though visualizing the room in a diagram is entirely unnecessary for the puzzle:

The end of the audio file provides a (now defunct) URL with a transcript (handily removing any doubts about who said what when) and an interactive panel that contains the actual puzzle. (An alternative URL is available on the archived version of the puzzle.)


The panel contains twelve buttons, each labeled with one of the twelve celebratory messages played.

HUZZAH![edit | edit source]

This message is from the cauldron puzzle. The escapers used random objects they had on them while entering the room to sequence break. However, the audio also describes three objects with metallic properties: a copper pipe, a silver pear, and golden bookends.

EUREKA![edit | edit source]

This message is from the water-measuring puzzle. The escapers brought in a 3-ounce container (Derek's mouth); however, there is a way to obtain exactly 3 ounces of fluid using only the 9-ounce vial from the cauldron and the 5-ounce vial from the 4-letter combination lock.

  • Fill 9 oz vial (9-0)
  • 9 oz vial to 5 oz vial (4-5)
  • Empty 5 oz vial (4-0)
  • 9 oz vial to 5 oz vial (0-4)
  • Fill 9 oz vial (9-4)
  • 9 oz vial to 5 oz vial (8-5)
  • Empty 5 oz vial (8-0)
  • 9 oz vial to 5 oz vial (3-5)
  • 9 oz vial to beaker

MAGNIFIQUE![edit | edit source]

This message occurred after tapping the mirror with the wand, which Colin did entirely by accident trying to swat a fly. The mirror itself held the message "A soul's breath will reveal my secrets". Later on, Colin is doing his hair and accidentally gets hairspray on the mirror, revealing the message "Spell Spell With Wand"; the intended method is to breathe on the mirror.

The wand in question comes with an instruction manual; as mentioned earlier, this boils down to "SWIPE for consonants, FLICK for vowels, TAP to end the word." To spell SPELL, the correct sequence is thus SWIPE SWIPE FLICK SWIPE SWIPE TAP.

EXCELSIOR![edit | edit source]

This message comes from solving the birdhouse, which Toni does by inputting a random sequence of buttons. As mentioned earlier, each button actually represents a musical note based on the bird clued; pressing these buttons to play the tune (Blusterus, Blusterus, Buttockus, Buttockus, ______, ______, Buttockus, Atticus, Atticus, Two-underus, Two-underus, Lookus, Lookus, Blusterus) solves the puzzle.

WUNDERBAR![edit | edit source]

This message comes from solving the directional lock, which Brad does by inputting a set of directions from a completely unrelated object (the #3 wooden piece). As mentioned previously, the triangles on the directional lock represent the four classical elements (Earth, Fire, Air, Water); these can also be found on the Elemental paper. Each elemental is associated by way of a disaster with one or two of the four elements—and from there, to a direction on the lock:

  • Elteron - Earthquakes - Earth (down, line) - E
  • Ventria - Volcanoes - Fire (up), Earth - NE
  • Frastic - Floods - Water (down) - W
  • H?????? - Hurricanes - Water, Air (up, line) - SW
  • T?????? - Tornados - Air - S

The piece of paper from the mousehole is a list of elementals; matching each to a direction provides the password SW, W, W, NE, W, E. (As confirmation, this sequence of directions occurs as a contiguous subsequence in the erroneous wooden piece.)

AWESOME![edit | edit source]

This message comes from solving the pedestal, which is simply broken by Colin. The pedestal comes with a message indicating that the stuffed toys are important and number 1-5 on some metric.

Throughout the room, the solvers encounter five such stuffed animals, three of which have emitted sound: the horse (two neighs), the goat (four bleats), and an unknown animal (one roar). From this, the solver can deduce that the number of sounds is the relevant metric at play. The other two are a bird and a snake, with three and five sounds in some order.

Each of the hybrid animals are a composition of some of these animals; this allows confirmation of the unknown animal to be a lion. The natural thing to do is to add the values of the constituent animals to obtain the value of the hybrid. Then, only one assignment of values to the bird and snake allows all four hybrids to be single-digit numbers:

  • Griffin - Bird + Lion - 5+1 = 6
  • Hippogriff - Bird + Horse - 5+2 = 7
  • Cockatrice - Bird + Snake = 5+3 = 8
  • Chimera - Lion + Goat + Snake = 1+4+3 = 8 (note that snake=5 would make this value 10)

BRAVO![edit | edit source]

This message comes from solving the bookshelf, which Brad short-circuited by feeling for the RFID tags. While it is currently unclear what order the books should go in, there is something that can tell us how.

When Sarah shined the UV light into the stump, she saw an island in a storm with a series of numbers. The island in a storm is referring to the copy of The Tempest in the same room—which is described as "open source". Finding the line number and word-indexing the associated number into the line yields the following:

  • 804 and 2: "That SORT was well fished for."
  • 278 and 5: "Knowing I loved my BOOKS, he furnish'd me..."
  • 85 and 2: "If BY your art, my dearest father, you have..."
  • 1629 and 3: "You are THREE men of sin, whom Destiny,"
  • 859 and 1: "LETTERS should not be known; riches, poverty..."
  • 65 and 3: "I'm out OF patience."
  • 398 and 4: "Once in a MONTH recount what thou hast been..."

Seeing this, a solver might look at the book titles a little more closely... and then realize that each one contains a unique three-letter month abbreviation.

  • The TroJAN Woodchuck
  • LiFEBlood, the Friendly Vampire
  • GramMAR for Sorcerers
  • CAPRicornucopia
  • Lord MAYor Gigglesnout
  • AdJUNct Spellcasting
  • Varmint JULeps
  • LAUGhing Potions
  • HorSEProofing your Home
  • NOCTurnal Sunbathing
  • Mandrake TurNOVers
  • Double-DECker Bicycle Design

GOOD WORK![edit | edit source]

This message comes seemingly out of the blue as Brad nears the bookcase; however, the solver can get a good idea of what the trigger for the message is regardless. Toni mentions the floor panel below her vibrating upon the message triggering, and Derek earlier mentions a "click" when he stands on one of the floor symbols; this means that the trigger is standing on the correct combination of floor panels.

Toni also mentions the paintings moving, indicating that these are relevant to the puzzle as well. Each one is known to have a birth date; however, the solver is only told two of them (October 2 and December 9), corresponding to LIBRA and SAGITTARIUS. The other two must be deduced based on how the message was triggered in the audio file. Toni is stated to be sitting on a symbol; judging by the positions of the described symbols, the solver can deduce that the symbols are arranged in zodiac order, and subsequently realize that Toni is sitting on TAURUS. The message triggers when Brad approaches the bookcase; the symbol next to the bookcase is earlier described to be two wavy lines, or AQUARIUS.

SUPERB![edit | edit source]

This message was triggered by the orbs and dragons puzzle, which was solved in another completely arbitrary manner.

Based on the people describing the objects behind each painting, the solver can deduce that the green dragon is Granitas and the white dragon is Papyrosaur. The orange dragon is left unnamed. The known names, however, respectively refer to rock and paper; one can infer at this point that the puzzle secretly refers to the game rock-paper-scissors, and deduce that the orange dragon has a scissors-based name.

Interestingly, among the orbs, there are three that also refer to the RPS theme: Confetti Bomb (paper), Cutting Blow (scissors), and Rockslide (rock). Putting each on the dragon it beats solves the puzzle.

INCREDIBLE![edit | edit source]

This message is triggered seemingly out of the blue, while Brad and Colin were trying to use the copper pipe to break more of the puzzle room. While it is unclear what the trigger condition is here, there are some clues in the room that can provide insight.

Namely, the poem obtained from the bookshelf puzzle: "Most any touch, a sock, a kiss/Can join both queen and…".

"Queen" might bring to mind the queen statue on the bookshelf, where Brad was standing. Colin, meanwhile, is trying to pry open one of the metal panels. Brad doesn't read the last word in the poem out of exasperation, but there is an animal on one of the panels that completes the poem in meter and rhyme: the cockatrice. Touching both the queen statue and the cockatrice plaque simultaneously triggers the message.

KUDOS TO YOU![edit | edit source]

This message is triggered after solving the four-letter lock, which Toni does using a complete search.

Solvers may recall the wooden blocks—there are four total (two of which are not seen). When oriented correctly (that is, with an N on top, rather than a Z to the right), following the arrows traces letterforms.

The first letter is an R and the third is an N. Since Toni ends her complete search on a word ending in E, only the second letter remains to be determined. Toni also mentions that the lock opened on a real word, forcing the second letter to be U for RUNE.

WELL DONE![edit | edit source]

This message is triggered seemingly out of the blue.

At this point, the only clue remaining is the three-part nonsense poem, which can be assembled as follows:

No rose can hold my secret sell;
so pay this poem my heat will tell.
A word mad from six runs away.
One from each thee line will tray.
My close door wine will soon be free,
When magic maxim viced rally.

Solvers might note, however, the hint in the fourth line—that one letter is missing from every line. Further examination might reveal "closet door twine" (an object mentioned in the audio) or "a word made from six...". The poem will eventually take on a more sensible form:

No (p)rose can hold my secret s(p)ell;
so p(r)ay this poem my hea(r)t will tell.
A word mad(e) from six run(e)s away.
One from each the(s)e line(s) will (s)tray.
My close(t) door (t)wine will soon be free,
When magic maxim v(o)iced (o)rally.

The secret spell is thus PRESTO, confirmed by the fact that the message triggers soon after Colin says "stop trying to impress Toni".

After solving all twelve parts of the panel, the buttons with the messages become clickable once more for one final puzzle. The escape room is structured such that solving each puzzle provides a piece to solve another; the twelve exclamations can thus be ordered.


WELL DONE requires all three poem pieces, unlocked by WUNDERBAR, KUDOS TO YOU, and MAGNIFIQUE.

WUNDERBAR needs the list of elementals (from INCREDIBLE) and the paper describing the elementals (from EUREKA).

INCREDIBLE needs the poem with the queen, which is obtained from BRAVO.

BRAVO requires the UV light from EXCELSIOR.

EXCELSIOR requires the button from EUREKA.

EUREKA requires the 9-ounce vial (from HUZZAH) and the 5-ounce vial (from KUDOS TO YOU).

HUZZAH requires the copper pipe (from AWESOME), but otherwise isn't blocked by anything, since the pear and bookends are both out in the open.

AWESOME needs all five stuffed animals, of which only one is there from the start (the horse). The goat comes from GOOD WORK, the lion from MAGNIFIQUE, the snake from KUDOS TO YOU, and the bird from SUPERB.

KUDOS TO YOU requires four wooden pieces: two that are out in the open and two from SUPERB.

The content of SUPERB is entirely gated behind GOOD WORK.

GOOD WORK requires the horoscope from MAGNIFIQUE.

MAGNIFIQUE is the only puzzle doable from the start, as the necessary wand is just sitting on the bookshelf.


Clicking all twelve buttons in this order causes the display to update and spell out the answer directly.

Puzzle Elements[edit | edit source]

Audio - The puzzle body is a very long audio file—27 minutes, in fact—containing archived footage of a runthrough of an escape room.


Interactive - The message at the end of the audio file directs solvers to an interactive panel, where the majority of the puzzling action will take place.

Subpuzzles - The puzzle can be compartmentalized into twelve smaller subpuzzles and the ordering.

One-Way Cipher - MAGNIFIQUE relies on discovering a one-way function between English words and wand motions encoded into the side of the wand.

Knowledge Required (Astrology) - GOOD WORK requires knowledge of the Western Zodiac.

Rock, Paper, Scissors - SUPERB is secretly a puzzle about rock, paper, scissors.

Follow the Arrows - The woodblocks used in KUDOS TO YOU have arrows on them; when oriented correctly, they trace out letter shapes.

Wheel of Fortune - A rather simple one in KUDOS TO YOU, consisting of R_NE; the second letter cannot be determined in any other way besides knowing that the solution is a real word.

Knowledge Required (Mythology) - Knowing what composes the mythological hybrids on the metal plates is required for AWESOME.

Water Pouring - EUREKA is a water pouring puzzle with an infinite tap, a 9 oz vial, a 5 oz vial, and a sink.

Pitch-Perfect - EXCELSIOR requires knowing the names of notes.

Book Code - BRAVO's first step is interpreting a book cipher using an open source copy of The Tempest as the key.

Knowledge Required (Alchemy) - WUNDERBAR's directional lock requires interpreting the alchemical symbols for the four classical elements.

The Purloined Letter - Each line in the poem for WELL DONE is missing all instances of exactly one letter.

Causality Logic - The twelve minipuzzles can be ordered based on which minipuzzle unlocks an object involved in another minipuzzle.

Reward Extraction - Finishing the ordering puzzle causes the interface to directly give the answer.