A Puzzly Radio Broadcast From the Past… Coming Soon!

As one of the strangest years in recent memory begins drawing to a close, puzzlers continue to adapt and innovate to ever-changing circumstances.

Trivia nights, scavenger hunts, and escape rooms have gone virtual across Facebook, Zoom, YouTube, Twitch, and other platforms.

By going online, crossword puzzle tournaments have hosted more than a thousand participants at the same time. And it’s not only one-day events like Lollapuzzoola and Crosswords Tournament From Your Couch, but larger ventures as well, including the ongoing Boswords 2020 Fall Themeless League, which has now entered its fourth week of competition.

And now, a group of intrepid puzzlers are embracing the technology of the present to take solvers on a journey to the past for a unique puzzly experience coming in December: The Club Drosselmeyer Radio Hour.

Over the previous four years, the organizers of Club Drosselmeyer have hosted an event in Boston set in a nightclub during World War II. The events have featured era-appropriate costumes, music puzzle solving, dancing, and even a swing-time version of the Nutcracker Suite!

But given the current global circumstances, they’ve redesigned their magical December event, and for the first time, folks outside the Boston area can take part in a virtual Club Drosselmeyer event presented as a radio show from the same era.

You can buy tickets online to participate, and not only will you gain access to the radio show, but the puzzles as well. Depending on what tickets you buy, you can get downloadable puzzles or a physical kit sent to your home (the Drosselbox). Either way, you’ll be solving in real time as the radio show goes on, and even interacting with the performers on occasion.

From the FAQ page on the Club Drosselmeyer website:

The Club Drosselmeyer Radio Hour will have three parts: the Radio Show, the Drosselmeyer Industries Switchboard and the Puzzles. As a player, you can plan the ultimate holiday evening gathered around the radio and interact at whatever level you feel comfortable. There will be no video camera watching you (no Zoom!) and our Drosselmeyer Switchboard will respond to how you play. Engage with all three parts of the production, or only with some of it- however you’d like!

The radio show will sound a lot like a 1943 radio show: songs, skits, performances and commercials. (Think of the Jack Benny or Bing Crosby Radio Hour.) However, there may be some surprises during the show and you’ll be called upon to help out.

Yes, you can actually call in during the event as part of the solving experience, engaging with a mix of prerecorded messages and live interactions with the actors.

You don’t, of course, have to participate on the day in question. The puzzles and prerecorded features will continue to run for months, so you can solve at your leisure. But for anyone solving on that special day, you’ll get a unique puzzly experience unlike anything I’ve heard of before.

This should be fantastic fun. Eschewing videocall-style visuals for a fully audio experience is such a cool idea, one that really embraces the spirit of the time period and adds tons of atmosphere. When you factor in the slang and delightful verbiage of the time period — plus the musical element — it sounds like an absolute blast. I’ve already purchased my ticket — and I wanted to spread the word. You can check out more details on Club Drosselmeyer here!

But be quick about it. As far as I know, the team is hoping to lock down their Drosselbox orders by November 1st in order to have everything locked and loaded for early December when the Radio Show takes place.

Will you be participating in the Club Drosselmeyer Radio Hour, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Or do you have other puzzly plans for the rest of the year? Let us know in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!


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Farewell, Forrest.

For fans of Forrest Fenn’s “The Thrill of the Chase” treasure hunt, it’s been a strange and frustrating year.

In 2010, Forrest Fenn hid a treasure chest full of gold and diamonds, purported to be worth millions, somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. The only clues offered — nine, to be specific — were hidden in his poem, “The Thrill of the Chase.”

After a decade of dissecting his poem, searching across a half-dozen states, engaging in hundreds (if not thousands!) of hours of brainstorming, deliberating, planning, and exploring, no one had found a thing.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere during the pandemic, Fenn announced on his website on June 6th that the treasure has been found. The hunt was over.

But there were no details. No revelation of the treasure’s location, no hint as to the lucky treasure hunter’s identity, nothing. The best we got was that he was from “back East.”

As you might expect, many would-be treasure hunters were disappointed, and more than a few cried foul, believing that either the announcement was a hoax, or the entire hunt had been a hoax. Doubters couldn’t decide if the treasure was never buried at all, was buried and then recovered later, or if the finder was an accomplice.

fennfound3

Weeks later, Fenn offered some photos — two of him examining the treasure and one of the treasure chest supposedly in situ, long exposed to the elements — which proved unconvincing to the doubters. If the photos of Fenn handling the treasure were taken after it was found, why did the finder bring the chest and treasure back to him?

It was all very confusing and more than a little suspicious.

Finally, more than a month after announcing that the treasure had been found, in response to many cries for him to reveal the solution and end the mystery for so many, Fenn revealed… the state in which the treasure had been found: Wyoming.

That answer satisfied some, particularly those whose solutions had pointed to other states, like New Mexico, Colorado, or Montana. But others remained upset. Understandably so. Wyoming is a pretty big state, after all.

Unfortunately, the hunt may truly be over, as Forrest Fenn passed away this week at the age of 90.

fennfound6

Fenn leaves behind a complicated legacy. Five deaths have been attributed to the treasure hunt, as well as numerous costly search-and-rescue operations (including one in the Grand Canyon!), several court cases, and even a break-in at Fenn’s house.

Beyond the treasure hunt, Fenn was also associated with federal investigations regarding antiquities and artifacts. In 2009, his home was raided by federal agents and several items seized. Fenn escaped charges, however.

Regardless, many hunters and admirers are in mourning, sending heartfelt messages in celebration of the man who enriched their lives with this curious endeavor.

But, once again, solvers have been left without a definitive solution. In an interview, Fenn claimed there is a way to verify that the chest was found even after he’d gone, but he didn’t specify how.

And now, his passing has reignited the doubters, who find the timing of everything all the more suspect. Exactly ten years after it was first hidden, the treasure is found by an unidentified seeker, a virtual ghost. Then a few months later, Fenn passes away.

forrest fenn

[Image courtesy of The Santa Fe New Mexican.]

The idea that he wanted to end the hunt (or the hoax) before his passing does seem more plausible, given the timing. It’s especially notable given that he claimed on more than one occasion that his dream was to pass away BESIDE the treasure, and achieve immortality by being found with the treasure, as if we were an Egyptian pharaoh or something.

We don’t know if this is truly the end for “The Thrill of the Chase” and all those treasure hunters over the last decade.

What we do know is that an inventive and captivating figure brought his love of nature, the outdoors, and adventure to thousands of strangers through his treasure hunt. And whether it was real or fake, the magic of that puzzle, and the good times they had trying to solve it, can never be taken away from them.

Farewell, Forrest. Thank you for the mystery.


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Another Treasure-Filled Puzzle Hunt in the Works?

When it rains, it pours.

Just last week, after lamenting the (possible) end of Forrest Fenn’s famed treasure hunt, we spread the word about a new treasure hunt based in Michigan that had emerged unexpectedly from the ongoing circumstances caused by the Coronavirus.

As it turns out, Michigan may not be the only place an intrepid treasure-seeking puzzler can look for a challenge that ends with riches.

We recently received a message about the latest cache being hidden by “the Treasure Man” H. Charles Beil, a curious figure who is supposedly hiding caches of gold, coins, crystal skulls, and other valuables all over the country.

His goal is to hide a cache in each of the fifty states, and apparently, the hunt for his fifteenth cache — the Gallows Harbor Treasure Hunt — will soon be underway.

ark of the covenant

[This chest, designed to look like the Ark of the Covenant,
is supposedly already in place, awaiting cagey solvers.]

From the message, which was structured like a press release:

H.Charles Beil has hidden a multi-million dollar treasure weighing nearly a half ton in the Appalachian Mountains.

The treasure consists of six large brass chests, crystal skull signed by actor Dan Aykroyd and six smaller chests filled with gold, silver, precious gems, coins, pewter, jewelry, historical items and custom art objects.

I went looking for more information, and was a little surprised to see mentions of H. Charles Beil confined to treasure hunting forums and other odd corners of the Internet, rather than being reported in the major news outlets, as Forrest Fenn’s hunt was.

That’s especially curious if five of the caches have been found. How were none of them reported in online news sources? (At least, as far as I could tell.)

Of course, Fenn’s treasure hunt was quiet for years before it gained mainstream press, so it’s not impossible that this has flown under the radar, just highly unlikely.

The Treasure Man caches have evocative names like The Lost Cache of Wolf Run, The Secret Lovers Lost Cache, or The Legend of Woodsy Swamp, and they’re often steeped in local lore. (Click here for a rundown of many of the caches.)

Although sites like GallowsHarbor.com and TheTreasureMan.com have some details, they’re more like teases — hints you’d expect in a promotional campaign — instead of fully informational sources. It appears that most of the helpful information for these hunts are tied to the Treasure Man’s Facebook Group, where many hunters post videos and information relating to their efforts to hunt down these caches.

The Gallows Harbor Treasure Hunt is apparently tied to a book that hasn’t been released yet. This does make the websites, as well as all the cloak-and-dagger elusiveness feel like a PR stunt to sell a book, rather than a puzzly adventure. But again, I have no proof one way or the other.

gallows harbor

I wish I had more details to share with you, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers. It seems like the most useful and accessible source of information about the caches is Mysterious Writings, a website and YouTube account dedicated to treasure hunts of all sorts. You can check them out here and here.

If this is all true, then it’s a marvelous endeavor that is bringing joy and excitement to adventurous solvers all over the country. If it’s not, then it’s a fairly elaborate and well-constructed hoax that will hopefully boost some book sales for the Treasure Man.

Either way, it’s an interesting story, one that we hope sparked your imagination and your puzzly spirit.


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Treasures Galore Await Puzzlers in Michigan!

johnny treasure

[Image courtesy of Johnny’s Treasure Quest.]

One famous treasure hunt might finally have ended, but another one has risen up in its place halfway across the country.

And unexpectedly, this new bright spot on the puzzly calendar has grown directly out of the darkness of the ongoing Coronavirus crisis.

I’ll give you the backstory first. J&M Jewelers has been a presence in Washington Township, Michigan, for decades as a local emporium for gold, silver, diamonds, and antiques, but unfortunately the store was forced to close due to the economic strains imposed by the state’s lockdown period.

With plenty of unsold inventory from the jewelry store just sitting around, owner Johnny Perri and his wife Amy came up with an ingenious way to salvage the situation…

A statewide treasure hunt.

Yes, the Perris have prepared actual treasure troves in places all around the state, and they have invited puzzlers and treasure seekers to accept the challenge of their Michigan-spanning “treasure quest.”

If you locate one of the hidden troves — marked by an X, of course — you can either keep the treasure as you find it or exchange it for its cash value with the organizers! How can you go wrong?

There are different quests in different counties on different days, and you need to sign up for your particular quest and pay a registration fee. Also, be sure to join their Facebook group for details.

Several of the quests have already sold out, so new ones have been added, but spots are going quickly!

Honestly, this is a pretty ingenious way to make the best out of a bad situation, allowing intrepid treasure hunters to embark on a puzzly adventure and help out a struggling business all at the same time.

The first of the treasure quests starts on August 1st, with more later in the month and others launching in September. (One was just announced for October as well!)

Good luck to all the aspiring treasure hunters out there. And to Johnny and Amy Perri, thank you for this marvelous puzzly adventure. We here at PuzzleNation wish you and your family all the best.


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Kickstarter Roundup!

Oh yes, it’s that time again.

For years now, crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been hotbeds of innovative puzzle and game design, and I’m always happy to spread the word about worthy projects that I think will delight and intrigue my fellow PuzzleNationers.

So let’s take a look at some projects that are currently seeking funding and see if any pique your interest! (This time around, we’ve got twice as many recommendations as usual! So much puzzly potential!)


atoz crossword

The first is a project by Fireball Crosswords and Fireball Newsflash Crosswords constructor Peter Gordon, entitled A-to-Z Crosswords Volume 2: More Petite Pangram Puzzles.

The project is easy to explain, but mindblowing to think about. Every single day for 24 WEEKS, you get a 9×11 crossword puzzle that contains all 26 letters. The puzzles range from easy to medium in difficulty, arrive by email, and are constructed by Gordon and professional puzzler Frank Longo.

This is a very cool project that deserves your support — they’re a little more than a third of the way there, with 9 days to go — and you should definitely check it out!

puzzle postcard

The next project is Puzzle Postcards: Season Two by the Enigma Emporium.

Last year, Wish You Were Here was part of our Holiday Puzzly Gift Guide, and it’s fantastic to see that the Enigma Emporium is Kickstarting another puzzle postcard mystery this year.

Essentially, an entire mystery is concealed within a handful of postcards, challenging you to mine them for every scrap of information as you uncover a series of coded messages. It’s spycraft in an envelope, very clever stuff.

Already funded with 12 days to go — and carrying a solid track record of previous successful Kickstarter projects behind them — I cannot recommend this one highly enough. I loved Wish You Were Here, as well as the follow-up series.

fuzzies

For a change of pace, our next project is The Fuzzies.

Basically, this is a Jenga-style dexterity game, but made out of little fuzzy balls instead of pieces of wood. And instead of choosing which piece you remove and place on top, that is determined by a deck of cards instead.

I don’t know how it works — actually staying upright in the first place — but apparently it does.

This family-friendly game has already tripled its funding goal with 29 days to go, so it might be right up your alley.

enigmas

The next project we’re sharing today is the ENIGMAS deck of puzzle playing cards.

David Kwong — constructor, magician, and all-around puzzly fellow — has masterminded a puzzle mystery and a series of hidden messages and ciphers, all contained within a deck of cards.

ENIGMAS marries some of the ideas from his Enigmatist show — specifically the historical aspects — with an ingenious puzzle hunt to create an intriguing solving situation. Plus, once you’ve cracked all the puzzly elements, you’ve still got a beautiful deck of cards to enjoy.

This project has blasted well past its funding goal, and with 9 days to go, they’ve added a special limited-run deck of red cards (to compliment the standard blue deck) that will only be offered to Kickstarter backers and never sold in stores. With a pedigree like David’s, you can’t go wrong!

sherlock

Our next project is bigger and no less ambitious. It’s Sherlock’s Mysteries: An Interactive Puzzle Adventure (not to be confused with another Sherlock-based Kickstarter running right now).

Combining board game and escape room elements, this project contains 10 mysteries (described as chapters) that combine into one interwoven narrative where you try to save the life of Sherlock Holmes!

By combining murder mystery-style solving with puzzles like ciphers and deduction puzzles, this project definitely tries to encapsulate the experience of being the Great Detective from the comfort of your own home.

About halfway to its goal with 21 days left, this project isn’t a lock (given the price tag of $135 to experience the entire story), but it’s definitely worth a look. (I’m especially intrigued by the fact that certain levels offer “refill kits” that allow the experience to be played more than once!)

shivers

For something just as puzzly but more immersive from a roleplaying point of view, there’s The Shivers.

In this game, someone has gone missing in the house owned by the Shivers family, and you play one of the family members trying to solve the mystery and defeat dangerous foes at work in various sinister and creepy scenarios.

This gameplay is bolstered by pop-up 3-D models of the various rooms of the house, bringing the setting and different stories to life right before your eyes.

This is a very clever combination of puzzle hunt, roleplaying game, and pop-up book that I’ve never really seen before, and like some of these other projects, it has blown past its funding goal with strong support from interested gamers and puzzlers.

legacy

Following the escape room/puzzle mystery at home template, Legacy: Quest for a Family Treasure is our next project to discuss.

You receive a black box in the mail, and inside, you discover in your estranged father’s will that there is a family treasure hidden somewhere in Europe. And you’ll have to unravel secrets of the past in order to secure your future.

This immersive mystery involves audio and video clues, physical evidence to pore over, and even incorporates Internet searching into the gameplay. I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the level of depth and attention to detail in this one, and clearly I’m not the only one, as the project has already met and surpassed its funding goal with 10 days to go.

The familial element adds a neat twist to the mystery-at-home genre, and I suspect this project will do very well.

labyrinth

The last project we’ll be sharing today is The Labyrinth: An Immersive Multi-Platform Puzzle Challenge.

There’s a lot of stuff included in this one: puzzle boxes, ciphers, maps, tools. They’re sending you a CRATE full of material here. The goal is to move through the various chambers of a labyrinth, solving puzzles as you go.

With 55 puzzles included — and an expected solve time of 8-10 hours — this is a breathtaking amount of puzzly paraphernalia. So there’s cost to consider here. The full puzzle costs $195 (there’s even a more expensive deluxe edition), so although that easily makes it the priciest project we’re discussing today, but also one of the most visually impressive.

And yet, with 14 days to go, they’ve already passed their funding goal nine times over. Check it out and see what you think of the expansive puzzle selection offered here.


Have any of these games or projects hooked you? Tell us which ones you’re supporting in the comments section below! And if there are any campaigns you’re supporting that we missed, let us know!

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Go Big, Then Go Home: The World’s Biggest Scavenger Hunt

ottawa 1

[Image courtesy of Cornell.edu.]

Have you ever done a scavenger hunt, fellow puzzler? They can be a lot of fun.

Some simply challenge you to find a bunch of random items, while others create a laundry list of activities to complete. Over the last decade or so, businesses have even sprung up to fulfill any party, group, or even city that might require a scavenger hunt for an event.

Yes, you can easily gather a group of friends, hit up any city at a certain point in the year, and find a scavenger hunt event waiting for you. They often involve puzzles, trivia, and other obstacles to success, rather than just a list of tasks to accomplish.

I’ve served as tech support for several, as well as an organizer for themed scavenger hunts at various sci-fi, fantasy, and writing conventions. I was supposed to be running one this weekend; that event, like so many others, was cancelled due to preventative measures to contain COVID-19.

So, as you might expect, I’ve got scavenger hunts on the brain. And with ample time to ponder, I couldn’t help but wonder… how big could you go?

ottawa 2

[Image courtesy of Guinness Book of World Records.]

I mean, if we’re talking a city-wide competition, you’d probably need to complete a half-dozen or a dozen objectives, based on previous city-themed hunts I’ve seen.

But what if it was the biggest scavenger hunt in the world? How many would it be then?

If you said as many as you could from a list of 150, then you have some impressive and specific guessing skills.

On September 10, 2017, the city of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, hosted a mass scavenger hunt to celebrate the city’s 150th anniversary. (For comparison’s sake, the one listed on the website for this year involved twenty obstacles.)

ottawa 3

[Image courtesy of Ottawa Citizen.]

So, how many people showed up to tackle 150 challenges for this world-record-setting scavenger hunt?

2,733.

Many of them wearing costumes.

Each of them pitched in on answering trivia, solving puzzles, exploring the city, and taking pictures of specific items or scenarios throughout the area.

It sounds like an absolute blast, one that Ottawa went all out for.

I wonder who will try to topple a record like that.

Well, if they do, I can’t wait to see it.


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