On the hunt… for treasure!

We’re well into summer, and you’re probably looking for great puzzly summer activities to share with the kids. And I have just the thing for you. Have you considered a treasure hunt? (And I’m not talking about spotting a chest at the bottom of your fish tank.)

You could organize one yourself! My friend told me a story about a treasure hunt her uncle masterminded for her and her siblings one year. He went out at low tide with a small chest of fake jewels (plus her mother’s actual pearl necklace, which she tossed in for fun), and buried it, prepared to bring the kids back a day or two later with a treasure map and let them “discover” it.

Naturally, a storm came through the next day, so they couldn’t dig it up. It was a few days before they could organize the treasure hunt, and when low tide came, the storm had so changed the landmarks and sandbars that they never found the treasure chest.

I don’t want to discourage you from embarking on your own treasure hunt adventures… just make sure it’s a place you have maximum control over.

Of course, you could always pursue one of the real-life treasure hunts lurking out there for the industrious amateur adventurer. We’ve written about a few of them in the past, but they’re hardly the only examples. For an aspiring Indiana Jones or lost member of the Goonies, real treasure awaits you.

One, surrounding a bronze statue of an owl, requires a trip to France, though. A man named Max Valentin buried it, and whomever unravels eleven clues and finds it can exchange it for a second statue valued at one million francs. (As long as you don’t get too overzealous and blow up a chapel in your quest to find it, as one amateur treasure hunter did.)

For one with an American twist, you could try to solve the mystery of the Beale ciphers. Three encrypted texts from the 1800s detail the location of a hidden cache of gold, silver, and jewels, and astonishingly enough, The Declaration of Independence is supposed to be the key to cracking the code!

While the ciphers and the story might be a hoax, you could still be the one to solve the mystery! (One group of treasure hunters stumbled upon Civil War artifacts while digging in the wrong place.)

Whether it’s a Dead Sea Scroll or the last missing treasure from a brilliant tie-in to a book, treasure could be yours this summer, even in your own backyard.

[Thanks to IO9 for inspiring this post.]

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Links aplenty today!

Today’s a day for sharing the puzzly wealth, so I’ve got a few links for your perusal.

First up is this terrific article from IO9, recommending a number of science-themed apps and games with some seriously crafty puzzle elements to them.

From RNA molecules and gene structures to brainmapping and animal classification, these will fascinate AND inform you all at once. Marvelous stuff.

Next up is a great post by Dan Markowitz on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, exploring what Rube Goldberg could have created if he was a little more petty and meanspirited. It’s Rude Goldberg Contraptions!

A series of dominoes fall, knocking over a marble that rolls off a ledge, landing on a seesaw that tips downwards, dangling a piece of cheese in front of a gerbil that runs on a hamster wheel, unfurling a roll of toilet paper into a trash can, leaving an empty cardboard tube in the bathroom that you’ll have to replace even though you weren’t the person who used it up.

And finally, a little something for the puzzlers in the audience who like some magic and swashbuckling in their solving. The creative titans behind Dungeons & Dragons are filling the gap between now and the launch of their newest system (D&D Next) by releasing dozens and dozens of out-of-print and retired modules, sourcebooks, and adventures from earlier editions of the game.

You can relive some of your all-time favorite dungeon romps, riddles, and puzzle traps at D&D Classics — they’ve already posted the first edition classic The Temple of Elemental Evil — and any you can’t find there, you can probably track down in downloadable form at DriveThruRPG.

This is impossible!

There are puzzles out there for every skill level, from super-easy to staggeringly challenging. And every once in a while, you will come across a puzzle that feels expressly engineered to be as difficult as possible, if not borderline mind-meltingly impossible, even for an experienced solver.

If you’ve ever suspected a puzzlesmith of such diabolical shenaniganry, you’ll probably feel vindicated by Sean Adams’s post on McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, a bitingly funny introduction from a (hopefully) mythical puzzle book.