A puzzle hunt, also commonly referred to as a puzzlehunt or hunt for short, is an event where teams or individuals compete to solve a series of puzzles. Puzzle hunts differ from other puzzle collections or competitive puzzles in that each puzzle yields a word or phrase which can often be verified against some answer checking mechanism, and rounds or hunts culminate in metapuzzles that combine these individual answers together in novel ways and which provides an overall conclusion to the narrative of the event (often the location of a hidden object, or the resolution to an initially posited question).
Other common (but not necessary) characteristics of puzzle hunts are:
- An absence of direct solving instructions (deducing the significance of the information provided is often part of the solving experience)
- A sequential unlocking of puzzles in some manner (either via the solving of prior puzzles or the elapse of time)
- A deliberately wide breadth of puzzle type (ranging from familiar crosswords, grid logic, and cryptograms to unique and abstract constructions), form (pen and paper based, multimedia, physical puzzles, or live events), and assumed knowledge.
Puzzle hunts may range in scale from a small group of puzzles and a metapuzzle that is solvable by an individual in a single sitting, to the eponymous MIT Mystery Hunt, one of the oldest and most complex puzzle hunts in the world taking place over an entire weekend and comprising well over one hundred puzzles and multiple levels of metapuzzles.