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The MIT Mystery Hunt is an annual puzzlehunt, held at MIT (and with an online presence as well).

Teams must solve puzzles, the solutions of which help to solve the meta-puzzles, which then help to solve the meta-meta puzzles, and so on. There are also some events that take place on the MIT campus. The goal of the Hunt is to use the solutions to the puzzles to help find a coin of some sort somewhere on the MIT campus.


Early Hunts were around 30 puzzles long, but they have since grown to be around 100 puzzles long, with 10 to 20 meta-puzzles. The winners of the hunt gain the right to design the next year's Hunt. A general intro to the Mystery Hunt can be found here. Puzzles can involve a variety of elements, from traditional puzzles/games like chess and (cryptic) crosswords, to a huge variety of trivia that can be recombined to spell out answers in certain ways.

The hunt is unique among many puzzle hunts in a few ways. There is no cap on team size, leading to a lot of really large and really small teams participating. Also, most of the puzzles for the past few years have been available online, meaning that people who can't be at the MIT campus in person can still participate.

Hunts these days often come with an Excuse Plot in the form of an Alternate Reality Game to explain why people are going around solving puzzles. Past plots have included a murder mystery, a journey through hell, and a 30(0)th anniversary celebration of the Hunt.


The Hunt is held every January during Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, beginning at (around) noon on Friday, and running continuously until a team recovers the coin, usually 40 to 50 hours later. In recent years it's been customary to keep running the hunt a little longer after the coin gets found, if the coin gets found relatively early.

Beware, the tropes list below spoils the solution to some past puzzles. If you want to solve them on your own, you may want to avoid reading the list.


The MIT Mystery Hunt contains examples of:

  • Alternate Reality Game: While it did originate as a non-web puzzle, it is now primarily a web hunt with non-web components (i.e. the kickoff, the MIT campus runarounds, endgame and wrapup).
  • Blessed With Suck: Congratulations! You won the Hunt! Now design next year's Hunt!
  • Excuse Plot: The reason teams are solving puzzles. "The path through the Mushroom Kingdom is full of puzzles."
  • Expy: Not of characters, but of puzzles. Every year there's at least one "tons of tedious and confusing but technically unambiguous directions about modifying a sequence of letters" puzzle, as well as a puzzle involving box puzzles (such as nurikabe or thermometers). Puzzles containing smaller Mystery-Hunt-style sub-puzzles are also popular.
  • Guide Dang It!: The entire point, really, is that you're supposed to figure all this out as a team. Also, there is no guide until the end.

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