Multiple Answers

Multiple Answers is a hunt element in which puzzles are designed to either be solved in multiple ways, or to produce multiple answers over the course of a single solve path. Since using Multiple Answers requires puzzles to be specifically written to facilitate that use, larger hunts tend to only use it for single rounds, if at all, while some smaller hunts can get away with using it for a larger portion.

Background[edit | edit source]

Multiple Answers as a puzzle gimmick has likely existed outside of hunt puzzles for decades, not least due to unintentional ambiguity, in which case some authors may simply claim that the multiple options is 'just part of the puzzle'. However, as an intentional gimmick specifically within hunts, having multiple answers to puzzles has a few possible origins depending on one's interpretation of the element.

MITMH 2003 - Answer Transformation[edit | edit source]

One of the four versions of the puzzle --MESSAGE REDACTED-- from 2009's Orbital Nexus round. The difference between the versions was the color of the image and the content of the linked audio files.
In 2003, thanks to the inclusion of the Training round of puzzles, several other puzzles in the hunt had secondary answers that were gotten by applying transformations learned in the Training round to the original answers. These answers were then used in the metas in place of the original answers.

However, this is not a traditional use of the Multiple Answers element, as the secondary answers were not meant to be submitted and checked as correct answers, and puzzles that involved this only ever had the secondary answer used in metas, meaning the puzzles themselves technically didn't have two answers, but rather had an extra external step to get to the final answer.

MITMH 2009 - Almost The Same Puzzle, New Answer[edit | edit source]

Another version of Multiple Answers came with the Orbital Nexus round of the 2009 MIT Mystery Hunt, wherein each puzzle had four different versions, each being solved in the same general way but containing a few changes in content that resulted in entirely different answers.

While this case is much closer to the most common use of the element, it still falls somewhat outside of it by way of each answer technically coming from separate puzzle instances with separate content.

MITMH 2011 - One Puzzle, Multiple Answers[edit | edit source]

In 2011, the MIT Mystery Hunt's 'The Legend of Zelda' round contained the first instance of individual puzzles with multiple answers contained within them. Specifically, each puzzle had three answers that could be obtained from the puzzle in different ways and without a strict order for their obtainment.

Hunt Application[edit | edit source]

Purpose[edit | edit source]

Multiple Answers can fill a few different niches in a particular hunt. Gimmick-wise, it takes a significant amount of work, simply because the puzzles have to be designed to accommodate the extra results, rather than just the answers themselves being gimmicked. However, the inclusion of multiple answers in puzzles opens up the door for more meta gimmicks as well, as a particular round may have double or more answers as a round of the same size, puzzle-wise. In this sense, the element can be used to inflate the amount of feeder answer options, allowing for bigger or simply more metapuzzles.

Multiple answers may also be used in combination with Adjacency Unlocks, particularly if a puzzle could unlock multiple puzzles upon completion. A designer may choose to assign each answer to one of the possible connections forward, so that getting one answer only unlocks one of the new paths, but completing a puzzle entirely unlocks even more paths.

Presentation[edit | edit source]

Multiple-answer puzzles can be presented in a few different ways, depending on whether or not the writers want solvers to discover the answers in a particular order, or if they don't want the presence of multiple answers to be known at all until later.

Linear[edit | edit source]

Puzzles that apply the element in a linear fashion expect solvers to get answers in a specific order, often achieved by having each successive answer be required to access the rest of a puzzle (such as by using it as a keyword for a cipher), or by providing extraction methods at the outside that must be used at successive points in the puzzle's solve path to extract an answer. Since most puzzles using this method don't actively gate puzzle content behind these sequential answers, there's nothing stopping solvers from inputting them in whatever order they desire once discovered, even if writers expect them to submit things as soon as they solve them.

Sandbox[edit | edit source]

Puzzles that apply the element in a sandbox fashion give solvers free reign to approach the puzzle from multiple directions in whatever order they desire. A prime example of this is the LoZ round from 2011's MITMH, as most if its puzzles' answers could be obtained by solving about half of the puzzle, being presented with a few streams of information, and approaching those streams in one of three ways. Sandbox-style application of Multiple Answers is common, as it doesn't require much thought on what order teams are expected to get their answers: as long as the different methods are suitably balanced with each other, the puzzle can proceed in any direction.

Hidden[edit | edit source]

When a puzzle wants to use Multiple Answers, but wants the fact that they have multiple answers to be part of the surprise, they can go for the 'hidden' route. These types of puzzles will usually involve two levels of difficulty. The first answer will be gotten by solving an easier, more obvious puzzle, while a more difficult/time-consuming"true puzzle" lurks underneath. Most solvers will gravitate towards simply getting the puzzle done: while some may make note of unused content or seemingly low difficulty, fewer will attempt to pursue those deeper puzzles until instructed to do so, or until given a second chance to do so. Either way, covering a difficult puzzle with an easy one has been shown to be an effective way of distracting solvers from the bigger challenge.

As a result of this method, puzzles that use this style of Multiple Answers tend to also end up being linear, but the intentional obfuscation of the deeper "true puzzle" layer warrants a separate categorization.

Notable Examples[edit | edit source]

Linear[edit | edit source]

  • Bear (MITMH 2020) (web) - A math-based origami puzzle, Bear starts off by having five crossword clues with a single blank each. By completing each 'stage' of the puzzle, solvers get both a word to fill one of the blanks and an instruction on how to begin the next stage Click to reveal(taking the presented numbers modulo a certain other number in each case).

Sandbox[edit | edit source]

  • Forsaken Fortress (MITMH 2011) (web) - A great example of Multiple Answers only coming into play after a large portion of the puzzle has been solved. After solvers complete the Diagramless Crossword, they will likely realize that Click to revealthree entries have the same clue of "Something to look closer at". Each one leads to a separate answer via separate methods, meaning each of the puzzles' three answers can be obtained in any order.

Hidden[edit | edit source]

  • The Exam (GPH 2022) (web) - Fitting in with the overall time-loop theme of the hunt, this round had to be solved using the "easy" puzzle answers, with each going towards the round's meta. After doing so, they were thrown back to the beginning of the round, and given the choice to either submit the same answers again, or try and search for new answers. Doing the latter was required to unlock the 'new' version of the meta.

See Also[edit | edit source]