Welcome to the third edition of PuzzleNation Blog’s newest feature, 5 Questions!
We’re reaching out to puzzle constructors, video game writers and designers, writers, filmmakers, and puzzle enthusiasts from all walks of life, talking to people who make puzzles and people who enjoy them in the hopes of exploring the puzzle community as a whole.
And I’m excited to have Jordan Diehl as our latest 5 Questions interviewee!
Jordan is a Senior Manager for the Great Urban Race, a city-spanning puzzle competition that combines puzzle-solving, scavenger hunts, and physical challenges to create a unique, whirlwind challenge based around the landmarks and curiosities of a given city. (Previous GUR events have taken place in Seattle, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, and many other American cities.)
Teams gather to tackle the numerous mental and physical obstacles in a certain amount of time as they explore the city. Players are allowed to have remote help as well, often recruiting friends as “tech support” to hunt down locations for them en route. (I’ve served as tech support for my sister on several occasions. Check out our previous GUR adventures here.)
It’s a terrific workout, a great mental exercise, and some serious fun.
With the latest edition of the Great Urban Race hitting New York City in two days, Jordan was gracious enough to take some time out to talk to us, so without further ado, let’s get to the interview!
5 Questions for Jordan Diehl and the Great Urban Race
1.) The race is a combination of mental dexterity and physical endurance, often requiring contestants to solve on the fly. How much does each city impact the puzzles the contestants encounter? Do you choose certain cities with puzzles/questions already in mind, or do the cities dictate the puzzles?
Great Urban Race is all about finding the hidden gems of the city we are in, so we like to incorporate interesting and historical facts about the city whenever possible when creating puzzles! We have a group of cities that are perfect for Great Urban Race, and we love visiting those on an annual basis. (Full list on our website here) There are some types of puzzles that we can incorporate in multiple cities, but in general we like to be pretty city-specific.
We do puzzles of all levels of difficulty, but some of our favorites are Sudoku, logic puzzles, as well as word-puzzles. Our site is actually being updated now with some example clues—those can be found here.
2.) The Great Urban Race has held events all over America. Which city offered the most challenging race, either in terms of puzzles or the physical challenges?
The cool thing about Great Urban Race, both as a participant and as an Event Director, is that every year AND every city are completely different and pose their own challenges. Each race has at least one challenge that will put Masterminds (what we call our participants) out of their comfort zone in either a fun or scary way—some past examples of this have been jumping off a 50 ft platform onto a large inflated airbag, rock climbing, walking on fire, and eating some pretty gross things. It’s our favorite to plan but also the most challenging piece of each race for us as well!
3.) How many people contribute to each race’s puzzles? Do you have a resident puzzlesmith, or does everyone get a chance to contribute?
We have a team of eight dedicated Event Directors for Great Urban Race. Everyone gets a chance to contribute to the city’s puzzles, but we do have one “Cluepervisor” who is our resident expert on writing clues and thinking of new and exciting challenges. The Cluepervisor and her team have a pretty awesome job—they take everyday items and think of how to make it a fun challenge for our participants and do a LOT of puzzle solving for inspiration.
4.) What’s next for The Great Urban Race?
Our regular season is in full swing and will conclude November 2nd in San Diego. We are so excited to announce that our 2013 National Championship will be held in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The top 25 teams from each city qualify for this event where the stakes are even higher and the cash prizes are much bigger as well. New this year, we will be distributing the cash prizes as a total of $10,000 between our top 8 teams. We’ve also re-launched several of our 2014 locations and registration is available now!
5.) What is one thing you’d like every competitor (and aspiring competitor) to take away from the experience?
We are focused on providing a fun and unique experience for our competitors. We want you to be challenged both mentally and physically, but also give you a Saturday to remember! The cool thing is that it can really be what you make of it—you could run upwards of 8-10 miles and have a really great body and mind workout or take public transportation and run less than 2 miles but learn a lot about your city and complete some really fun challenges along the way. There’s definitely something for everyone in Great Urban Race!
Many thanks to Jordan Diehl for her time. Check out the Great Urban Race on their website for plenty of race pics and details! I can’t wait to see what they’ll cook up next.
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