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Campus & Community

Brain Teasers—and Freezers

UMD Puzzlehunt Puts Terps' Problem-solving Skills to the (Clever) Tests

By Lauren Brown

Puzzle here

Illustration by Creative Strategies

The third annual UMD Puzzlehunt on Sunday will attract together scores of Terps to solve brain-busting riddles, cyphers, logic tests and more.

The first myth of the UMD Puzzlehunt is that it’s quiet.

Imagine a room, or three, of students lined up at tables, hunched over thick packets of mind-bending word, pictorial and number games. They read the directions, their brains start running, then POW! Someone jumps up to ask if anyone has a deck of cards, or to suggest checking a stanza in Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” or to just offer—or reject—a possible strategy.

The third annual event, to be hosted on Sunday by the University of Maryland Puzzle Club, will bring together scores of Terps to solve cyphers, conquer Morse code and tackle quip-filled logic tests.

“It’s cerebral. It’s creative. It’s collaborative,” said Ryan Thomas ’20, a computer science major and club treasurer who wears the enviable title of a “puzzlemaster.” “Sometimes it feels nerdy, like something only five people would enjoy, but then so many come out.”

The competition starts with club members deciding on a whimsical theme—in previous years, it centered on libraries and a criminal investigation, and this year it’s space adventures.

Competitors, in teams of up to five, are handed a pile of 22 to 25 student-crafted puzzles broken into four modules. Most can be solved as one-offs, but “meta” puzzles, which combine elements from the solutions of other puzzles in the modules, are worth more points. And the “meta-meta” puzzle, the overarching one for all four modules, is the real jackpot.

The winner is the team that solves the meta-meta first. But the second myth may be that the Puzzlehunt is about prizes, rather than pride. This year, the award is a packet of Neapolitan-flavored freeze-dried astronaut ice cream.

Want to try your hand (or brain) at a few puzzles? Check out these original Terp-designed puzzles (followed by answers) below—but don’t hurt yourself!

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