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  • Writer's pictureJacob Cohen

[insert puzzle hunt party here] (Part 1)

3/2/24, around 5:00pm

When Yapa walks up to me — holding a scrap of paper with the letter C and the phrase “we’ve chromatized the conflux” — and asks whether his team wins, I’m baffled.

I didn’t think any of the teams were close to winning! And certainly not his: I’ve just spoken with his two teammates, and they've been sinking the last thirty minutes into a red herring involving a fountain and the number 75. So how is Yapa about to win on their behalf?

Then I remember: he’s been illicitly solving the puzzles out of order. But I technically forgot to ban that in my kickoff presentation, so…gotta be consistent, I guess it’s not cheating. Plus, he was given the “Cheater /hj” secret role (earning him a style point for every two people who genuinely accused him of cheating), so it’s pretty funny. But that doesn’t mean I want to give him the win. 

(What I don’t realize at the time, though, is that his strategy was much simpler: he’d found an uncut sheet of Jacob Facts — which reveal the way to claim victory — lying around the room. A massive oversight by me, leaving such a critical piece of paper unattended.)

Luckily, I realize that Yapa’s made a typo — he should’ve written “chromaticized” instead of “chromatized.” So I tell him no, he hasn’t successfully claimed victory.

He changes something unrelated about the paper and asks again. I tell him no again. But I’m worried that any moment, he’ll find the mistake and swindle a win.

I leave the room to check on other teams, and soon receive multiple phone calls from him — which I ignore. I even get a phone call from another player. “Yapa’s looking for you,” she says.

“I know,” I respond. “I don’t want him to find me.”

I can’t run forever, and sooner or later he’s presenting me with the piece of paper again, typo fixed. But I think back to what the Jacob Facts said. “To claim victory, give Jacob a piece of paper with your team key and the words ‘we’ve chromaticized the conflux.’”

I can decline to accept his piece of paper! How could he be said to “give” it to me if I haven’t officially accepted it? Okay, maybe this is dubious, but so are his tactics. Magnanimously, I offer a deal relating to absolution of a favor owed, but he declines. 

Maybe I’ll accept the paper in the future, if their team makes more progress, or maybe I won’t and some other team will beat them. I’m running this event, after all.

But soon he hands me a folded Caltrain schedule with a note and a bow on it. “Luci’'s present for you!” It is, so like a fool, I accept it, because I’m managing a gazillion things. 

Of course, inside it, Yapa has placed a scrap of paper with the letter C and the phrase “we’ve chromaticized the conflux.” And just like that, he’s given the piece of paper to me, and trickery or not, Team C becomes the first team to claim victory in [insert puzzle hunt party here]!

Let’s go backward a few hours. 

3/2/24, around 2:00pm

As they walk in, the guests know there will be puzzles. They know there will be inside and outside components, even though it might rain, and that the scheduled programming is supposed to conclude around 6 or 6:30. They know I’ve been planning this for months, the Jacob Cohen special to end all Jacob Cohen specials, and they’ve (mostly) filled out an Interest Form and Chaos Form. They know it’s called [insert puzzle hunt party here]; “iphph” for short, officially pronounced “iph and only iph.”

They don’t yet know that the event will start with everyone trying to predict what will happen—

…hey, wait, why not try your hand at the same prediction — now retrodiction — form? It’s pretty quick, just fourteen yes/no propositions. And I’m curious how well y’all will do, with your vastly different context! I suggest you don’t read any more before filling it out…

Would you believe that I actually designed the logo colors to match my nail polish?

—and they don’t yet know that the event will end with a mini game show.

They don’t yet know that they’ll each be assigned a secret role.

They don’t yet know that they’ll be attempting to amass “Jacob Facts,” small colored pieces of paper with true facts about myself (from “Over the years, I composed a cycle of songs in all 12 major keys. One of my favorites is titled ‘An Exercise in Humility in A.’” to “I put shaving cream on the back of my neck this morning. I’m doing great.”) 

They don’t yet know that there will be twelve puzzles, which they’ll solve in teams of 2-4 people: five “Evergreen Events,” which will be self-contained and which they’ll have about an hour to focus on at the beginning, and seven “Cyclic Conundrums,” which will lead them, scavenger hunt-style, around the area where the event is happening … actually, there’ll be only six, because of a snafu at the library.

They don’t yet know that they can earn a penny in Jacob dollars if they find a typo.

They’re enjoying chatting, and I’ve been scrambling to get everything set up, so it’s past 2:30 when I give a presentation — including editing a slide in real time — explaining how everything will work. 

And then the teams start solving puzzles. Hey, don’t you want to solve some puzzles too?

In this precious now, whenever “now” is for you

As I just mentioned, there were twelve (well, really eleven) puzzles in the actual event. Some of these make no sense outside the context of the event, or are infeasible to solve if you don’t know me personally. But I’ve curated and adapted five puzzles, all enjoyed by live solvers, for you all!

So here’s a link to the first one, an iphph-themed Capsules (Suguru) logic puzzle: 

Now, you may be asking, “Where are the other four? What are they?”

To which I respond: that certainly might be an issue…

(Okay, fine, I’ll say this: they include a Building Blocks puzzle and a cacklingly chaotic crossword. Regardless, it’s your task to find them! Beware, the third puzzle is probably the hardest, but I believe in you.)

Enjoy! If you reach the treasure at the end, there may be some bonus content.

Next week, in Part 2, I’ll release the answer key and maybe some hints...if I’m feeling generous, mwahaha.

I will also tell the rest of the story of the event: my process as I came up with everything, how it all unfolded, and my latest thoughts about puzzles and progress. It’s an incredible story. See you then!

Until then, may your life be pleasantly puzzling.


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