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A submission callback is a method of answer checking that was implemented in live puzzle hunts prior to 2020. Dating back to the pre-internet days of puzzle hunts, they involved a member of the hunt organizing team responding to answer submissions by calling the team that submitted the answer and telling them whether or not the answer was correct.
Background[edit | edit source]
The first modern puzzle hunt to include submission callbacks was in TO DO.
In 2020, MIT Mystery Hunt writing team Left Out announced that they would not be doing live callbacks for the hunt, instead replacing them with automatic answer checking and a system that played a celebratory noise on the hunt website whenever a team solved a puzzle. This was not fully true, as the callbacks did return for a single puzzle that year, but between the MIT Mystery Hunt becoming entirely remote from 2021 to 2022 and the change in 2020 being received quite well by the community, it has yet to make a return.
Hunt Application[edit | edit source]
While modern, internet-focused hunts don't benefit much from submission callbacks, hunts that did use the system found it to be very successful for various reasons. For one, it limited the number of guesses a team could realistically make within a short time period without both getting inundated with calls and drawing the ire of the people calling. In addition, solvers wouldn't have a puzzle marked as solved until they received the proper phone call that told them so.
Phone calls also gave the writing team some much-needed contact with the solving teams, allowing them to check in without physically visiting teams. While some organizers would still make the rounds, the calls provided a more consistent form of interaction, letting the writing team ask if teams are having fun, give small nudges, or just generally enjoy not being an unknown presence working behind the scenes.
With the increase in international and digital-only solvers, the increase in overall participation, and heightened focus on hunt websites, phone calls to confirm answers have become less popular. The practice has all but disappeared from the MIT Mystery Hunt and never really existed in the first place for most independent hunts. This is likely due to both the increased cost to hunt runners to make phone calls to teams (particularly ones outside of the US), as well as the staff needed to have dedicated callers for the hundreds of teams that would be submitting answers. However, smaller scale hunts on the local level may still be able to benefit from submission callbacks. By reducing the cost to hunt-runners (both in terms of money and labor) by having participants be local, a hunt could realistically employ the practice, giving solvers an experience that may otherwise be lost to history.
Notable Examples[edit | edit source]
- MIT Mystery Hunt 2019 (web) - The last year the MIT Mystery Hunt utilized live submission callbacks. While hunts since have still required someone to be an emergency contact, answer submission tends to be done automatically now.
- Concierge Services (MITMH 2020) (web) - The one exception to 2020's retirement of the system. When teams submitted an answer to the puzzle (as suggested by the puzzle page), they would receive a surprise callback. That phone call would be where the bulk of the actual puzzle took place, as both a final farewell to the practice and a fitting set piece for the 'Yesterdayland' round the puzzle was found in.