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It's my first time playing in a puzzle hunt. Any tips?

  • Google has plenty of sofas and couches spread around, but they don't supply pillows and blankets, so you might want to bring those if you're planning on spending the night.

  • If you're sending someone to an external location, make sure they have a way to communicate back with the folks at base, and vice versa. You might find yourself needing something that you won't want to trek back to get.

  • Some puzzles have a clear gather-the-data first step (e.g., solving crossword-style clues, filling in a grid, etc.). This is a great thing to do first, obviously, but it may be useful to think about the next step as you're doing the first. For instance, once the grid is filled in, what are you going to do with all those letters? Coming up with the next step early can often save you a lot of time, especially since it might allow you to shortcut the first step.

  • Sometimes puzzles will decode to locations or phone numbers. Usually this fact is indicated in some way so that you don't call up some random schmuck at 3 in the morning. If you're not sure if you should dial a particular number or visit some location, you can check with GC first and we'll tell you if it's a bad idea. (Puzzle hunt slang: "GC" stands for Game Control, the people organizing the puzzle hunt.)

  • It's a good idea to have everyone on your team taking a look at every puzzle. It'll be more fun for everyone and you never know who may make the key insight to crack a puzzle. This is especially important when a puzzle requires some specialized knowledge (e.g., "those are host cities for the Winter Olympics") or skills ("this is French - I can read that").

  • We've found that all too often the correct idea is mentioned by someone pretty early, but then isn't tried. Sometimes this is because someone pooh-poohs the idea, or because it was tried "for a few letters" and the letters "didn't look promising." It's not inconceivable that the puzzle designer has set up a trap along these lines; try not to let it catch your team!

  • Google HQ has a lot of office supplies but not everything. Some of the non-standard office supplies that we've found useful in the past: tracing paper, graph paper, X-acto knife, wet-erase markers, permanent markers, good erasers, compass, ruler, colored Post-its. (This is not to say that all of these will be necessary in the Googol Conglomerate, but some definitely will be useful!)

  • Software tools like Microsoft Excel and Google Spreadsheets can be good for collecting and exchanging data and trying out ideas quickly. Many of our puzzles will be provided electronically as PDFs; Acrobat Reader is useful not just for printing but also for cutting-and-pasting data to other applications and for zooming in on small details.

  • During the course of the game we will be contacting you periodically to check in on how you're doing. We'll probably be doing this for every team.

  • Different teams tend to have different philosophies on asking for help. Some teams are very "hardcore" and refuse to ever ask for help; other teams will ask for help as soon as they get stuck. We've found that new teams often aren't sure when to ask for help. Here's some guidance that we hope helps:

    • The point of the event is to have fun. We don't know for sure what you find fun, but not making progress on a puzzle isn't usually fun for us — consider asking for help when that happens.

    • Although every individual puzzle can be solved without help, we expect nearly every team to be stuck at some point or another; there's no embarrassment in dropping us a line.

    • You don't have to wait until you're stuck to contact us. For instance, if you're about to try an idea that will be tedious and time-consuming, drop us a line and we'll be happy to let you know if you're on the right track or heading down a dead-end.

    • There's no reward at the end of the game for having never spoken with GC. We're your friends, we're here to help.

    • If you find yourself really not enjoying a certain part of the puzzle, feel free to ask us to skip it. Usually we'll cooperate, although sometimes we might be reluctant because it'll mean you'll miss a fun "aha!" moment.

    • We will happily confirm partial progress or analyzed data from individual puzzles. Just ask (usually via email is best).

  • If you go to a location and find several identical things, take only one. If you go to a location and find several non-identical things, don't take any. Feel free to contact GC if you're not sure.

  • Hacking puzzles is not in the spirit of the hunt and is strictly prohibited. This includes: hacking into any computer system to find the answer; modifying something needed by other teams to solve the puzzle (e.g., moving an object referenced in a puzzle); giving false information to another team; or trying to purloin answers from another team. Colluding with other teams is also prohibited. Writing a computer program to solve a puzzle is fine.

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