BAPHLed!

This past weekend, over 200 puzzlers made their way to a small park in Boston’s Davis Square for the start of the sixth running of BAPHL: The Boston Area Puzzle Hunt League. Teams raced to finish fifteen word and logic puzzles over the course of the day, plus a “meta” puzzle that made use of all the previous answers.

I was one of the people who helped construct and run the event, and I was a touch nervous going in. For a start, 200 people is approximately double what BAPHL events usually attract. And the weather reports were all over the place, with most of them predicting at least some rain. At least one report used the terrible word “thundershower.” BAPHL was going to happen rain or shine, but the latter was vastly more preferable.

In fact, BAPHL went off without a hitch. There was a smattering of rain in the early morning, but by the time teams started running around Cambridge and Somerville, it was sunny and breezy. BAPHL 6 had a rock ‘n’ roll theme (“BAPHL of the Bands”), and quite a few people showed their enthusiasm by showing up in full rock regalia. My favorite was the guy who showed up with purple hair gelled up into a faux Mohawk, a ripped T-shirt, and a kilt. I have no idea how he did on the puzzles, but he certainly had the right attitude.

My favorite moment of the day concerned a team in need of a hint. The six college kids on this team had all gotten into the spirit of things by wearing black heavy-metal T-shirts. You know the kind: Grinning skeletons wielding scythes and riding motorcycles. IRON MAIDEN, said one. SLAYER, said another. The puzzle they needed help on required them to know the names of various rock bands, and despite their T-shirts, they were absolutely lost at sea.

I gave them a little clue about one of the answers. They thought about it. “Black Sabbath?” said the guy in the Iron Maiden T-shirt. “Is that a thing?”

In response to another nudge, the guy in the Slayer T-shirt — a shirt that had a pentagram on it, and a skeleton playing electric guitar — this guy said, “Metallica? That’s a band, right?” He looked around to his teammates for confirmation.

The winning team completed all of the puzzles in about 2:20. How impressive is this? Let me tell you. We had the puzzles testsolved by two different groups of very smart solvers, and neither group completed the set in less than 2:30. Our winners solved it faster even though they had three extra puzzles to solve, “walkarounds” that required the solvers to be on location in Boston. That is some seriously fast solving.

But enough chatter. If you didn’t get to Boston for BAPHL 6, you can still solve the whole event: All of the puzzles, and all the explanations you’ll need for solving, can be found here. If you don’t want to solve the whole thing, but just want to sample a few of the puzzles, allow me to be your guide:

Dining With Disaster is a traditional logic puzzle, and Big Show Tonight is an interesting “visual” logic puzzle, and both are… well, I won’t say easy, but they’re definitely both graspable. (Let me put it this way: I’m not great at logics and I solved both of these without much hassle.) Ropin’ Raisin’ and Rushin’ is three logic puzzles in one, and a bit more of a challenge.

Word lovers will enjoy The Vinyl Countdown, a straightforward, if tricky, anagramming puzzle. Off Our Rockers also involves anagrams but is slightly less clear-cut — you’ll need to have a small a-ha! before you catch on to what’s going on. Angry Words is easy and fun, at least to start — if you’re inexperienced at these kinds of puzzles, it might take some serious thinking to come up with the final answer. Double-Crossed, on the other hand, is a perfectly understandable crossword-with-a-twist, suitable for just about anybody who can handle a New York Times puzzle.

I had two word puzzles myself in the event: Fun Size (kinda like a crossword combined with a jigsaw puzzle) and Close Enough For Jazz (a tricky variety crossword — but at least we tell you up front how to solve it).

Expert solvers who want a real workout can take a look at Chemistry Between Us (hint: you’ll need a periodic table), Evil Genius Teenage Cubists, and Calendar Guy. I constructed that last one.

If you solve enough of these and want to try your hand at the full event, here’s what you need to do: Each of the puzzles above results in a one-word answer. Each answer can complete a lyric seen on this answer sheet. Once teams had enough of the lyrics completed, they were given the final puzzle: Can you come up with your band’s ideal set list, plus a great encore?

All of the answers can be found on the BAPHL Web site. If you attended the event, I hope you had a great time. If you’re first getting to these puzzles now: Happy solving, and rock on!

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