Thousands of puzzlers around the country are vibrating in excitement: This Friday, the MIT Mystery Hunt kicks off! Many of us will soon be locked away in uncomfortable classrooms, staring at insane puzzles with no instructions, fighting off exhaustion and trying to have the flash of insight that will turn us, momentarily, into puzzling heroes. For a certain kind of person — and I am one of them — it is one of the highlights of the year.
Like many puzzle hunts, the key to winning is in solving not just the puzzles but the “metapuzzles” — you take all the answers to the various puzzles, do some wordplay magic, and come up with the secret word that will unlock the next round in the hunt.
In preparation for the Hunt, I’ve created a few practice metapuzzles for my team to solve. I’ll post those next week. But as we have learned in the past, some puzzlers are so amazing at solving “metas” that they can do it even when there is no puzzle to solve. You can toss out a few randomly chosen words, and these people will transform those words into a metapuzzle, which they will then solve. It shouldn’t be possible, but somehow, it is.
That’s the game of Spaghetti in a nutshell: I provide you with some words, randomly selected from an abridged dictionary. (The 60K-word New Merriam-Webster Dictionary.) You pretend those words are part of a well-crafted metapuzzle, and you try to solve it. Or, if you can’t figure out a “solution,” you can read other peoples’ attempts, and vote for the ones you like best. (You can vote more than once.)
As a warmup to this year’s Mystery Hunt, we’ll be playing Spaghetti over the next three days. So remove your brain from your head, twist it into a pretzel, but it back inside your skull, and come up with a meta-answer that makes use of the following five words: