I promise this will not be as long as the previous post, but I will assume you’ve read it.

First, when discussing calibration in Mystery Hunt, I wrote the following:

If we had ever revisited a Ministry puzzle around the middle of the year, when feeders were getting written in earnest, it would have been very obvious that our difficulty calibration was off. But why would you solve a puzzle from an old Mystery Hunt, when there are a bunch of puzzles to testsolve for the upcoming Mystery Hunt? The clock is ticking, after all. Maybe the answer is that yes, you should actually go solve 1-2 old puzzles in the same conditions as your testsolves to calibrate your ratings. If you ever do this, let me know, because I have never, ever seen it done or heard of it being done.

I’ve since had two people from Galactic tell me that they did this for the Students round in Mystery Hunt 2021. For their big testsolve of that round, 5 Students puzzles were not ready yet, so they took 5 random Fish puzzles from Mystery Hunt 2015 and put them in as placeholders. After the testsolve, they checked solve times and found their Students puzzles were only a little harder than the Fish puzzles.

So, someone has done this before! That being said, I’m not sure what Galactic would have done if it turned out their Students puzzles were a lot harder instead of a little harder. By this point they would have already had 90% of the round written, and I don’t know how much room they would have had to steer difficulty.

Now, on to the main reason I’m writing this post: teammate just announced Admiral Boötes’ Cosmic Discovery Expedition: Further Galaxies.

As the FAQ mentions, the puzzles in that puzzlehunt were originally going to appear in Mystery Hunt 2023. However, as a response to the Hunt going long, huntcomm decided to scope down the Boötes round during Hunt.

This was pretty controversial, since people wanted to see their work in Mystery Hunt, and cutting the puzzles meant that wouldn’t happen. When this decision was announced, team leadership asked everyone to keep it a secret until they had met with the affected authors and decided what would happen to the removed puzzles. Most authors were interested in running them as a puzzlehunt later in the year, so the secrecy stuck until we were ready to announce everything.

Knowing about Boötes made the “teammate should have run the AI rounds as a separate hunt” chatter interesting to think about. Congrats, you’ve (sort of) got your wish. I’ve been told that cutting all AI rounds during Hunt was on the table in huntcomm discussions, but was quickly deemed too drastic. Hopefully you can appreciate how hard it would have been to decide to cut 4 rounds in the middle of Hunt, remake all of endgame and runaround within a few hours, and explain why the already-manufactured coin had characters you’d never seen during solving.

There is the argument that more people would have solved the AI round puzzles if they were run separately from Hunt, rather than nuked by free answers. I think the flip side is that many fewer people would know the AI round puzzles existed. There are plenty of people who only do MIT Mystery Hunt and nothing else. As a reference point, I did four Mystery Hunts before I did my first P&A magazine.

We’ve approached this puzzlehunt from the standpoint of minimizing extra work needed to run it, while still preparing the experience we want teams to see. I’m especially curious what the uptake will be. We talked a bit about writing new rounds that would ramp up in difficulty to ABCDE, but quickly found there wasn’t enough interest to make that happen, so everything is going to be hard Mystery Hunt level. Is there appetite for puzzles this hard at an event outside Mystery Hunt? The closest analogue I know of is CRUMS Puzzlehunt, a hunt with 6 puzzles + a meta with every puzzle targeting Galactic Puzzle Hunt or Teammate Hunt difficulty.

Will big teams reconvene for this, or split up? Will we get new solvers that want to jump in the deep end? When will the first team finish? These are all hard questions to answer, because it’s really unclear what the solve power of teams will be and whether people will be available during a random part of June. One advantage of Mystery Hunt always happening on MLK weekend is that anyone who wants to attend has ample warning time to clear their calendar.

It’s all very unprecedented. I’m excited to see how people feel about it!