Puzzle Elements

A puzzle element is a piece or building block that goes towards construction all aspects of a successful puzzle.

Structure Elements[edit | edit source]

Structural elements inform how things function outside of the solving process. At their core, they're basic parts of many puzzles that rarely get a second look by solvers since they're expected to be there and their presence, even when they're conspicuously missing or different, is often overlooked in favor of bolder changes and flashier elements found among the content elements.

Hunt Structure[edit | edit source]

Elements related to hunt structure help to differentiate hunts from each other via the way they play with what makes a hunt a hunt. If a hunt has a unique way of unlocking puzzles, round-exclusive gimmicks, or simply plays with the expected features of 'normal' puzzle hunt, chances are those things will be found listed under 'hunt elements'.

Puzzle Presentation[edit | edit source]

Elements related to puzzle presentation tend to inform how a puzzle looks and functions beyond the solving process. They end up covering things like accessibility aids, changes to some basic puzzle features like grids and clues, and any alternative media formats found in hunt puzzles. Since many of these elements tend to fall outside of the actual solving experience, when they do manage to have a major impact on a solve path it usually makes for an interesting puzzle.

Content Elements[edit | edit source]

Content elements deal primarily with how a puzzle looks and acts while being solved. Clever extraction methods, tried-and-true puzzle types, and all of the ways a puzzle expects you to get from start to end will be found in this category.

Puzzle Types[edit | edit source]

Puzzle types are specific, established, replicable, and often easily-identifiable puzzle formats used again and again in hunts, newspapers, and puzzle collections the world over. Importantly, being an 'established' puzzle type doesn't require any amount of historical basis. Instead, it just requires being featured a few times in major sources and having a clear set of rules to go along with them. A new puzzle type may be created one year and become significantly well-known by the next, leaving historical precedent by the wayside.

Word Puzzles[edit | edit source]

Word puzzles are, as the name suggests, puzzles based on words and linguistics. Common word puzzles include clue-based puzzles like crosswords, word transformation puzzles like NPL-style flats, and rearrangement-based puzzles like dropquotes.

Logic Puzzles[edit | edit source]

Logic puzzles deal with logical deduction and lateral thinking, requiring solvers to solve a problem or determine a puzzle's 'final' state based on limited information. Common logic puzzles include grid-filling and path-drawing puzzles like sudoku and slitherlink puzzles, respectively, as well as looser deduction-based puzzles like zebra puzzles.

Spatial Puzzles[edit | edit source]

Spatial puzzles often involve navigation, mapping spaces, or being able to manipulate (or simulate manipulating) objects and files. Common spatial puzzles include mazes (which can be physical, virtual, or represented 2-dimensionally), jigsaw puzzles (which can be virtual or physical), and databending (a wholly virtual experience).

Miscellaneous Puzzles[edit | edit source]

While most puzzle types can be categorized as word, logic, or spatial puzzles, some just don't fit in. Those puzzles are instead considered miscellaneous, and are grouped together on that page. These puzzle types include all instructional puzzles as well as hunt mainstays like metapuzzles and scavenger hunts.

  • Events - Pre-scheduled, puzzle related tasks to which every team is invited, often with the intent of providing a break from the usual puzzle-solving. Sometimes, they also provide vital hunt information, or some sort of Hint Currency.
    • Ballroom Puzzles - Events where teams receive puzzles and solve them within the same shared space.
  • Instructional Puzzles - Puzzles in which solvers are given a set of instructions to follow, usually complicated by the nature of the instructions or the thing the instructions are applied to.
    • Conundrum - Intentionally complicated or silly-sounding instructions hiding instructions that can only be correctly followed in one way.
    • Gimmick Road Rallye - Intentionally confusing instructions that could be interpreted in different ways, but have a particular intended meaning. Often performed while actually driving.
    • Runaround - Instructions that send solvers exploring in either the physical locale of the hunt, or in a virtual space (like a map, a website, or a video game).
    • Transformation Chain - Instructions that help to transform a string multiple times, resulting in a brand new (and often unrecognizable-as-the-original) string at the end.
  • Metapuzzle - Puzzles that utilize the answers or content of other puzzles within the same round, in order to get a final, 'conclusive' answer.
    • Spaghetti - A game in which someone takes a set of random words or phrases and devises a metapuzzle that would involve all of them.
  • Tasks and Challenges - Any kind of non-puzzle task that needs to be accomplished in order to receive an answer. These may be part of a larger puzzle, or be entirely self-contained.
    • Scavenger Hunt - Tasks that involve the collection of certain items, the building of certain projects, or the demonstration of certain skills.
  • Trivia - Questions that pertain to facts about various topics, either with open-ended or multiple choice answers.

Solve Path[edit | edit source]

Solve path elements relate to things done or encountered between starting to solve a puzzle and reaching the end (excluding any forms of extraction). This includes common puzzle-solving steps, like reordering and identification, as well as puzzle-like elements that don't meet the criteria to be considered a 'puzzle type', like transformation and build-your-own-puzzles.

Extraction[edit | edit source]

Extraction elements deal exclusively with the various ways of getting an answer or message out of a puzzle, including decryption methods like a Caesar cipher, visual extraction methods like QR Codes, and more traditional extractions like indexing and diagonalization.

Miscellaneous Puzzle Elements[edit | edit source]

Similarly to puzzle types, some elements don't fit into the other Content categories but still feel like content elements. In those cases, they'll be sorted as miscellaneous elements. These elements include elements that don't contribute directly to the solve path or extraction, such as Progressive Difficulty, and things that would normally not be elements but can/have been used as such, like various solving strategies.

  • Item Categories - Sets of items that all share a specific quality. These may be semantic, wordplay-based, etc., and could be used to assist with identification of other obfuscated items, or be the subject of identification themselves.
  • Letter Bank - The set of letters used within a word or phrase, not including duplicates.
    • Word Bank - A set of words that can be used to fill blanks or answer questions in puzzles that involve those two tasks.
  • Number Generation - Methods to produce numbers that are then used in a puzzle for things like givens or indexing.
  • Progressive Difficulty - Puzzles that increase in difficulty the further you go into them, either by way of scaling difficulty in interactive puzzles or ordering elements of a puzzle by difficulty to begin with.
  • Solving Strategies - Common methods of approaching puzzles outside of the normal 'solve and submit'.

Puzzle Flavor[edit | edit source]

Flavor elements deal with puzzle topics, themes, and anything else that goes into differentiating puzzles that are otherwise mechanically identical. Anything that a puzzle is 'about' or 'based on' will usually end up as a flavor element.

Puzzle Topics[edit | edit source]

Puzzle topics are any area of knowledge that a puzzle relies on solvers having experience with, being able to look up, or knowing someone who is versed in, in order to solve it. Since the amount of information in the world is constantly expanding, not every specific topic will have its own element page, but the larger categories of topics certainly will.

Arts and Media[edit | edit source]

Arts and Media topics cover a lot of ground. Prominent topics include music, performing arts, and literature, among others. Essentially, any kind of pop culture and classical media will be present here.

Culture and Geography[edit | edit source]

Culture and Geography focuses mostly on human and physical/political geography, as well as any types of human culture not contained in consumable media. This includes linguistics, religions, and cultural trends.

STEM Topics[edit | edit source]

STEM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, refers mostly to things that fall into one of those categories. Science is a broad topic, and so it also includes things like chemistry, biology, and astronomy, among many other subtopics.

Sports and Recreation[edit | edit source]

Sports and Recreation topics deal heavily with competition-based activities. As such, it includes all sports, games, and competitions involving either. However, it also includes non-competitive activities, such as various craft hobbies like papercraft and yarnworks.

Miscellaneous Topics[edit | edit source]

As is often the case, not everything can fit into a finite set of categories. Miscellaneous topics include everything that doesn't fit into one of the previous categories, meaning it includes things like celebrities, general knowledge, and various other odds and ends.