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Physical Puzzles are puzzles that involve physical objects given to teams.
Background[edit | edit source]
Puzzle Application[edit | edit source]
Physical Puzzles are most prominently featured in major in-person puzzlehunts like the MIT Mystery Hunt, where they can be easily distributed. Often, puzzlers will need to signal HQ that they wish to receive the puzzle by submitting a special phrase to the answer checker. The 2021 and 2022 MIT Mystery Hunts were special exceptions; due to restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the physical puzzles were instead mailed to solvers wishing to do them ahead of time, with explicit instructions to wait until the corresponding puzzle was unlocked before interacting with it.
Some hunts have featured rounds consisting entirely of physical puzzles; these include the Treasure Chest round from the 2015 MIT Mystery Hunt and the Build section of Hacking Island from the 2018 MIT Mystery Hunt.
Physical Puzzles can come in basically any form; media from food and floppy disks to balloons and balsa wood have been used in the past.
List of puzzles known to involve a physical medium[edit | edit source]
This table only documents puzzles after the 2000 MIT Mystery Hunt. Puzzles involving paper printouts are not noted if the physical nature of the puzzle is irrelevant to solving the puzzle, so as not to include entire pre-Internet MIT Mystery Hunts in the definition of "Physical Puzzle".
|Medium||Puzzles using medium||#|
|Assorted miscellaneous objects||Lost in a Maze (MITMH 2003), Yellow Meta (MITMH 2005), Yellow Supermeta (MITMH 2005)||3|
|Balloon||Baby Shower Balloon (MITMH 2020)||1|
|Balsa wood pieces||Wood (MITMH 2015)||1|
|Blocks||Fowlty Towers (MITMH 2018)||1|
|Book||Dossier 6 (MITMH 2008), The Puzzle at the End of This Book (MITMH 2017), Send Yourself Swanlumps (MITMH 2019), Where the Wild Things Are (MITMH 2022)||4|
|Candy, assorted||Bloodbath at the Rainbow Room (MITMH 2007)||1|
|Cardboard||King's Ransom (MITMH 2020)||1|
|Chocolate||Incredible Edibles (MITMH 2012)||1|
|Coins||Coins (MITMH 2015)||1|
|Deck of poker cards||Casino Lobdell (MITMH 2013), Marked Deck (MITMH 2018)||2|
|Dice||Game (MITMH 2015), Diced Turkey Hash (MITMH 2022)||2|
|Domino Maze (board game)||Domino Maze (MITMH 2020)||1|
|Dunkin' Donuts||Funkin' (MITMH 2019)||1|
|Electronic Components||Investigator's Report (Ben Bitdiddle) (MITMH 2013)||1|
|Escape From Zyzzlvaria (board game)||The Board Game (MITMH 2009), all seven "outer" metas (MITMH 2009), The Great Escape (MITMH 2009)||9|
|Floppy disk||Blue Steel (MITMH 2006)||1|
|Fortune cookies||Fortune Cookies (MITMH 2020)||1|
|Jigsaw puzzle||Is There a Draft in Here? (MITMH 2018), Theater Pieces (MITMH 2019), Star Maps (MITMH 2020), The Greatest Jigsaw (MITMH 2021)||4|
|Locks||Locks (MITMH 2015)||1|
|Marshmallow chemistry kit||Model Kit (MITMH 2018)||1|
|Nail polish||Blood of the Creatures (MITMH 2001)||1|
|Old data storage media||Redundant Obsolescence (MITMH 2011)||1|
|Optical filter||Go! (MITMH 2018)||1|
|Paper pieces||Shredded What? (MITMH 2003), Jigsaw Puzzle (MITMH 2013), Safety First (MITMH 2014), Paper Jigsaw (MITMH 2015), American Icons (MITMH 2019), King's Ransom (MITMH 2020), What’s in the Box? What’s in the Box?! (MITMH 2022)||7|
|Paper printouts||Dossier 7 (MITMH 2008), Ganon's Lair (MITMH 2011), Get Smart (MITMH 2013), Treasure Chest Meta (MITMH 2015), Blocked Lines (MITMH 2018), A Tearable Puzzle (MITMH 2019), Penny Park Guide (MITMH 2020), Dance Party (MITMH 2020)||8|
|Pasta||Carb Pool (MITMH 2012)||1|
|Piggy bank||Squee Squee (MITMH 2021)||1|
|Plastic block||Refreshment Stand (MITMH 2020)||1|
|Plastic pieces||Caterpillars (MITMH 2012), Events Meta (MITMH 2019)||2|
|Powder bags||Powder Monkey (MITMH 2011)||1|
|Pressed pennies||Workshop (MITMH 2020)||1|
|Ropes||Ropes (MITMH 2015)||1|
|Rubik's Cube||Cube (MITMH 2015)||1|
|Spices||Vial Odors (MITMH 2002), 11 Secret Herbs and Spices (MITMH 2013)||2|
|T-Shirt||The Misspelled Insects (MITMH 2015), Green Tee (MITMH 2021)||2|
|Tea||Common Flavors (MITMH 2019)||1|
|Textiles||Knit Square (MITMH 2015), Don't Look (MITMH 2018)||2|
|Transparencies||Godzilla vs. Hedora (MITMH 2001), Compass and Straightedge (MITMH 2019), Film Clips (MITMH 2020)||3|
|Water bottles||Water Bottle (MITMH 2021)||1|
|Wooden spoons, wooden shield||Arts and Crafts (MITMH 2018)||1|
Strategies[edit | edit source]
Physical puzzles vary wildly in constitution; as such, no one strategy can apply to the whole set at once. Strategies for solving them are highly similar to strategies for solving their non-physical counterparts, with the only difference being that all manipulation takes place in physical space as opposed to the more familiar digital medium.
There is, however, no easy undo button in most physical puzzles. Accidentally up-end a physical jigsaw and it will take just as long to recover the original state; mutilate a part of an object and it stays that way forever. Care must be taken around irreversible actions; this is particularly relevant if the puzzle eventually asks the solver to destroy the object to obtain a hidden clue.