Solutions to the 2019 Hunt

Flyer

Across campus and all over social media, the following poster was posted.


The graphic in the center of the flyer is a diagram of the drillfield drawn as a clock. Ideals, the Pylons, are at 3, health, War Memorial Gym, is at 6, and the Duck Pond is at 9. The thousands of people who looked in the Burruss tunnel found a QR code attached to the ceiling that led them to a hidden webpage that let them create an account and begin.

Twitter

The first clue found on the site was the following picture.


The image is a Twitter logo made of sand. By going to the Twitter of President Timothy Sands and looking at tweets from April 7th, 2019, Hunters found this Tweet.

The key, and the answer, was REFLECTION.

We’d like to thank Dr. Sands for lending his personal hype to the VT Hunt.

Blocks

Inputting the answer to the previous puzzle unlocked this one on the site.


This puzzle is Braille; the numbers list which blocks should be raised to form each letter.

Translating it gives FOLDING, the answer.

Gateway

After completing Blocks, puzzlers were given the instruction:

“Your gateway onwards waits on cool breeze, at 37.224089°, -80.418650°. Return to this page once you're through it, then return again when you know the answer.”


At those coordinates, next to Lee Hall, hunters found this cryptic message taped to an AC unit:


A wifi router had been located, with the VT Hunt symbol as it’s address, and “fighting.” as its password. Once logged on, hunters were shown this message:


Hidden under the gazebo (and a small, taped moon), hunters found a strange locked box, with the VT Hunt symbol on it. The combination ‘MOON‘ opened the box, revealing the next puzzle.



Wise hunters found their way to the octagonal interior of Burruss hall, notorious for its bell chime. The college banners proudly displayed the shapes on the clues above, and trying the word number and then letter number of the college gave ‘PENDULUM.’ Finally, pushing this to the website yielded the next clue.

Love

Our Love puzzle started off with a poem, which we thought was quite fitting


As most people noticed, this poem references Tinder. The poem mentions that the answer’s ancient and uses ‘she’ to describe it, and Hunters who looked found a very old female bisexual Tinder profile named Answer.

Our next section will detail how to proceed once you've found the profile.

On the profile, five pictures were found:











Each of these photos of three of the creators contains one very prominent letter in sign language. Decoding them gives DECAF. Entering DECAF into the website gives the following response:

“That sounds reasonable, but you’ll have to check for yourself. An emerald emissary waits outside Bollo's. Open his mouth, then speak. He's a moderate conservative, so when you speak, lean to the right.”

The famous green piano had been moved to outside Gillies! In asking permission to use the piano, hunt makers found out that the beloved piano was likely going to be thrown away due to its owners losing their lease. After determining a new home for the piano outside Bollo’s, creators moved the piano to its new home.



Hunters found they must play the keys corresponding to “DECAF” in the correct octave. Conveniently, the 8x8 LED display shows which key had been pressed.

When DECAF had been correctly spelled, the display reads “good job! Match symbol ^”, which points to a shape to be made by the array. The buttons on the top and sides choose a row or column, and the three buttons on the bottom toggle, turn on, or turn off that entire selection. When the user correctly makes the shape, the display reads “Congratulations! Clue: MATTRESS”.

After inputting MATTRESS into the site, we gave users the following incstructions:

You’re making excellent progress. Truly, you are the elephant standing astride the giant turtle of society. To advance, you must be an asset to humanity: donate $10 per team member to a charity of your choice and send a screenshot to vthuntoverseer@gmail.com with the subject THISISAREALDONATION. If you're unsure where to start, there's a list of extremely effective charities at https://www.givewell.org/charities/top-charities. If you don’t want to choose, you can also send $10 via Venmo (@VTHunt) mentioning charity and we will donate it to the Christiansburg Humane Society at the end of the Hunt.

Life Support

Once teams had indicated that they followed our last request, we emailed them back the following:

Your altruism is appreciated. You'll find your next clue below.


This puzzle contains 20 triangles laid out in a path, with a backwards character in the center of each triangle at some angle. The question is what kind of object could leave a path like this.

The answer is an icosahedron, a 20-sided die with letters instead of shapes. If it rolled along a path with each letter leaving an imprint, it would leave a path like shown with backwards letters at various angles. The trick here is to reconstruct the icosahedron. Because the path shows each of the 20 faces exactly once, you can just print a mirrored version of the path and fold it into an icosahedron, or just print it normally and fold it backwards, with the letters on the inside.

When you roll the icosahedron along the path, the letters along the top always have the natural orientation to be read. Reading the icosahedron like this, as if reading a die, gives the message GOODWINLOT97DOT3FM. Taking a radio, in a car or otherwise, to the Goodwin parking lot revealed the next clue, a temporary radio station that broadcast the same audio file on a loop continuously throughout the three weeks of the Hunt.

Once tuned to 93.7 FM, an audio recording could be heard playing in a loop. The recording began by playing a creepy, detuned melody reminiscent of WWII numbers stations, indicating the beginning of the broadcast.

A voice read some instructions, including the phrase “if you want to help your Uncle Sam, you'll need My Dear Aunt Sally” before reading a series of numbers 1-9 grouped into 5 digit chunks. The trick here was to use the operations of PEMDAS in order on each group of numbers to reveal an answer that corresponded to a letter by its index in the alphabet.

For example, given the first 5 numbers {4, 9, 2, 1, 3}, 4*9/2+1-3 = 16 = P. After repeating this process for each group of letters, the answer “PLANTER” could be found. This revealed the next puzzle on the site.

Here is a video of one team tuning in and starting this section of the puzzle.

Searching

The website revealed the following stanza for the start of the next puzzle:

“You are a lost ship. Seek out your lumen-house.

The path there is paved with our intentions. Orient yourself towards BF.

When lost or at an impasse, Let your perspiration fall on the stones. Water works too.”


At the on campus Lumenhaus, the stones pointing towards Bishop Favro had been both chalked and neverwetted. Hunters had to follow the arrows (or otherwise find the brick that stood out) and pour water on the final brick. It then clearly showed the VT Hunt symbol and “turn me”. When picked up, hunters were pointed towards a harp and told to show it their “BAGGAGE”. The harp was moved from the Frith lab bookshelves to the top of Goodwin’s NE stairwell to appease Rod, the Frith Lab manager.





Once there, teams discovered this harp, with seemingly invisible strings. It was tuned to play a single octave (C4 to C5). When “BAGGAGE” was played, one of two messages played, both featuring the voice of the VT Hunt’s original creator.

Either: “Do Re Me Fa Sol La Ti Do Ti La __ __ Me Re Do”

Or: “Me Me Me    Meee Meee Meee    Me Me Meee Me    Me Meee”

Both the Solfeg and morse code led hunters to the solution, to be typed back into the website: SOFA.

A Dark Queen

The website returned to lead hunters about:

Your next clue lies out in the world, crushed by the dark queen, ruling over her eight squires. Dethrone her, and return here when you have solved it.


Squires has a giant public chessboard on the first floor. The next puzzle was hidden under the black queen:


As alluded to by the quote from the Wikipedia page on flares, each of these chemical processes produces light, the missing piece in each equation. As might be guessed by the colors surrounding the quote, the solution was encoded in the colors of the light produced, whether by reaction with oxygen or just heating of compounds and resulting emission of light as in fireworks. They were as follows:

combustion of Mg (white), combustion of Na (yellow)
heating of BaClO3 (green), combustion of Ti (white)
combustion of Al (white), heating of SrCl2 (red)
heating of CaCl2 (orange), heating of borax (green)
combustion of butane (blue), heating of Tl (green)

The combustion of Na is actually yellow-orange, but Na is yellow in a flame test, so solvers easily found that Na should be associated with yellow.

Using the pairs of colors as row and column coordinates to choose letters from the Wikipedia quote gave SHADE, the final answer.

Fireplace

Nearing the end, the puzzles got dastardly difficult. All the website gave hunters was:

For this puzzle, you'll have to start elsewhere. Near the wispy, figurative wires, across the road, your next clue lies between fence and stone. Light your fire; continue forth. Also, a note: advancing past a puzzle without understanding its answer is cheating.


This direction references ‘wispy, figurative wires,’ a phrase that references the poem that led to the wifi. Following the directions, Hunters found a fireplace across the road from Lee Hall near Cassel. Behind it, they found a box with a QR on it leading to this Subreddit.

This subreddit contains four stories from a news source called The Petrified Hokie. This, Hunters noticed, was a reference to the Hokie statues scattered throughout Blacksburg and beyond. The Note From The Mods states that what’s important is everything but words of action, and it turns out that when you split each post title into blocks by removing verbs each block corresponds to one Hokie statue.



Ordering the digits by the numbers given in the posts gives 8127, the combination to the lock. Inside the box Hunters found the next puzzle:


This clue uses every letter of the alphabet at least once. That’s for a simple reason: each letter is made of a unique network of nodes and lines (a graph). To find the solution, solvers had to break the word ANSWER into its component parts, each of which is a graph, and find the letters in the puzzle’s text whose graphs match them. As the clue states, form is irrelevant - all 26 letter graphs can be bent and twisted while still uniquely mapping to the same letter.

To demonstrate, here are the first two letters of the solution:



Doing this for all the parts of the word ANSWER gives OPPOSITEOFDARK. The answer, then, was LIGHT.

Tabs

The second to last puzzle started off with a quote and a link:

"The true beauty of music is that it connects people. It carries a message, and we, the musicians, are the messengers." -Roy Ayers

https://youtu.be/Xr7Vv-rPsjc


The prompt from the website lead to a youtube URL which played a series of notes played in a specific sequence. The first 6 notes served dual function in identifying the sound as a guitar and demonstrating that it was in standard tuning. Following a pause, the low E string was played open, followed by rising notes played at a specific fret along that same string. Once complete, the audio file moved to the next string, plucking it open and then fretting specific notes along that string. The process repeated for all 6 strings.

The trick was to mark the notes played on a visualization of the fretboard, and once this was completed the word “PILLOW” was visible, as shown below.


Terminus

The last puzzle of the hunt was a meta-puzzle, trickier than all those that came before it.

After entering the solution for Fireplace two puzzles before, the website’s automatic response was as follows:

Fantastic work. In the barren North of society, truly you are the Scandinavian islands, with the serenity of Karlsö, the bustle of Kungsholmen, the placid beaches of Tjøme, the overawing remoteness of Myken, far from work, the beauty of Fredön drawing men away from puzzle deadlines; wait, this actually sounds like a good trip - then Fejø, Fejan, and Gåsgrund, then Hästö... What? Ah, my bad - your next puzzle has been revealed.

All you got on the Terminus Puzzle Page itself was this:

Our apologies - the Hunt isn’t finished. Our clue writer left, one puzzle unmade except its answer and its all-important boxes. Here is the thing: he was mumbling about going to Scandinavia, but he didn’t leave a clear address. He should be back in a few months, but you could always try to retrace his path - he usually leaves something hidden everywhere he visits.


In the clue maker’s response about Scandinavian islands, he gives a sequence of nine islands scattered across Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland. As it turns out, the author of this puzzle did literally move to Sweden, but knowledge of the area isn’t involved. The locations are irrelevant; the trick, as people found by googling, is that every island is also the name of something sold at IKEA. Swedish writes ‘ø’ as ‘ö,’ but the products were easy to find. Karlsö, for example, is the name of a line of parasols and pavilions. Kungsholmen is outdoor furniture. Tjöme is a mattress.

The key is this: all of these products match one of the final answers to a puzzle in this VT Hunt. For example, Karlsö matches SHADE, Kungsholmen matches SOFA, and Tjöme matches MATTRESS. The puzzle then mentions following the clue maker’s path and things he’s left at the places he’s visits; these were the three-character codes at the end of each puzzle’s URL (A Dark Queen was https://www.vthunt.com/puzzles/CLI, for example - but the puzzles no longer exist on this site). Put in the order of the islands, these codes spelled the final instruction. The full map from islands to answers to codes is below.



When Hunters entered CLIMBAT37DOT2312N80DOT4161W into the website, they were given a response stating that “when you've ascended, use the combination DARTH.” If they didn’t think to enter it into the website, after the first week of the Hunt there was a note on the box saying to find the combination in the same way as the piano was found; this was an instruction to enter something into the solution box.

VT’s annual Christmas tree, a massive pine, stands at (37.2312 N, 80.4161 W). High in its boughs waited the final box. In it was a message to go to a certain reference number in the library to sign the Book of Victors and claim the finishers’ prize. There, in a hollowed-out book, waited a small booklet with the following message.



Emailing DENOUEMENT was how the 2019 VT Hunt was won.

Congratulations to all the winners of the 2019 VT Hunt!

We had a total of 537 teams with 1810 total participants.

Of these 537 teams, 66 completed the Hunt, garnering a total of 266 Victors.

The medal-finishers of the hunt were the teams SparTau, Batmansnygma, and Hunterz.

We'd like to give a special shoutout to team kbbc_vthunt, who had the most answer submits (at 701!) - congrats on a victory well-earned.

At the end of the hunt, here's how many teams were stuck on each puzzle:

Twitter: 64
Blocks: 30
Gateway: 139
Love: 64
Life Support: 69
Searching: 6
A Dark Queen: 10
Fireplace: 49
Tabs: 20
Terminus: 20
Finished the Hunt: 66

We had a total of 28078 answer submissions, split up as follows between the puzzles:

Twitter: 1053
Blocks: 1445
Gateway: 7050
Love: 8496
Life Support: 1031
Searching: 434
A Dark Queen: 1583
Fireplace: 1623
Tabs: 775
Terminus: 4588