Hunt Wrap-Up

1) Hunt Summary

A big well done and thank you to all the teams and solvers that took part in SGPH2023. Great job to the 15 teams (all the full ranking team, and especially the 3 partial ranking teams) that solved the Round 1 meta, achieving the milestone of helping Rachel with meeting the relatives at the gathering, and figuring out what they liked.

Congratulations to the 4 teams that solved the Round 2 meta (in order 🍆, Hee-Ho, White Maria and McGriddles Fan Club), completing the entire hunt and helping Rachel to join the ranks of a Puzzle Rich Asian!

And of course, top props to 🍆 who finished the hunt on Saturday 28 October 8:42pm. They were the fastest team by far, solving the Round 1 meta after less than 2 hours despite having only 3 members.

The next group of lead teams on Saturday comprised Sort Alphabetically, Yeoh Men and Women, McGriddles Fan Club, White Maria, as well as a partial ranking team Han Wei & Koh. They were doing well and took turns leap-frogging each other in terms of number of solves, all solving the Round 1 meta within a 2.5-hour spell from around 6pm.

Solving activity continued through the night for many teams, with solves coming in even close to 4am, and at least one team ._. pulling an all-nighter before finally solving their meta.

On Sunday, Hee-ho picked up their pace while the other lead teams slowed down considerably. They eventually solved the Round 2 meta at 6.46pm. White Maria and McGriddles Fan Club made late surges and solved the Round 2 meta at 10:45pm and 11:57pm respectively.

21 teams took part in the hunt, comprising about 120 solvers. A total of 221 puzzles were solved, 683 guesses submitted, and 130 hints answered.

The solve progress graph for the teams who have solved at least 12 puzzles is shown below, and the summary of the hunt timeline, including key solves, is included after that.

Date/Time Hunt Timeline
28 Oct 12:00pm Hunt kickoff and initial puzzles released
28 Oct 12:15pm 🍆 first to solve a puzzle - The Triplets (second - Sort Alphabetically, third - SGoats)
28 Oct 12:31pm 🍆 first to solve The Host puzzle (second - Sort Alphabetically, third - Kaya/D)
28 Oct 12:36pm Han Wei & Koh first to solve The Record Keeper puzzle (second - Phoenix, third - Yeoh Men and Women)
28 Oct 12:49pm McGriddles Fan Club first to solve The Children puzzle (second - Han Wei & Koh, third - 🍆)
28 Oct 1:00pm 🍆 first to solve The Imperfectionist puzzle (second - McGriddles Fan Club, third - Sort Alphabetically)
28 Oct 1:09pm 🍆 first to solve The Logician puzzle (second - Sort Alphabetically, third - Yeoh Men and Women)
28 Oct 1:16pm 🍆 first to solve The Joker puzzle (second - Han Wei & Koh, third - Sort Alphabetically), and first to unlock Round 1 meta
28 Oct 1:58pm 🍆 first to solve Round 1 meta - Meet the Relatives (second - Sort Alphabetically, third - Yeoh Men and Women)
28 Oct 3:14pm McGriddles Fan Club first to solve The Fraternal Twins puzzle (second - Kaya/D, third - Yeoh Men and Women)
28 Oct 3:56pm 🍆 first to solve Decorating puzzle (second - White Maria, third - Yeoh Men and Women)
28 Oct 4:19pm 🍆 first to solve Cooking puzzle (second - McGriddles Fan Club, third - Han Wei & Koh)
28 Oct 4.33pm 🍆 first to solve Building puzzle (second - White Maria, third - Yeoh Men and Women)
28 Oct 5:08pm 🍆 first to solve Overseeing puzzle (second - Han Wei & Koh, third - McGriddles Fan Club)
28 Oct 6:00pm 🍆 first to solve Gossiping puzzle (second - Sort Alphabetically, third - Han Wei & Koh)
28 Oct 6:04pm 🍆 first to solve Performing puzzle (second - Han Wei & Koh, third - Phoenix)
28 Oct 6:38pm 🍆 first to solve Sewing puzzle (second - Hee-ho, third - White Maria)
28 Oct 7:45pm 🍆 first to solve Gardening puzzle (second - Hee-ho, third - Han Wei & Koh) - first to unlock Round 2 meta
28 Oct 7:56pm 🍆 first to solve Marketing puzzle (second - White Maria)
28 Oct 8:41pm Han Wei & Koh first partial ranking team to solve Round 1 meta - Meet the Relatives, and all Round 1 puzzles
28 Oct 8:42pm 🍆 first to solve Round 2 meta - Final Engagement Challenge, and complete the hunt
29 Oct 2:20am Hee-ho first to solve Cleaning puzzle (second - McGriddles Fan Club, third - Phoenix)
29 Oct 6:12am White Maria first to solve Organizing puzzle (second - SGoats)
29 Oct 4:12pm Hee-ho first to solve Dressing puzzle (second - White Maria)
29 Oct 5:08pm Hee-ho first to solve Baking puzzle (second - Kaya/D, third - ._.)
29 Oct 6:46pm Hee-ho second to solve Round 2 meta - Final Engagement Challenge, and complete the hunt
29 Oct 10:45pm White Maria third to solve Round 2 meta - Final Engagement Challenge, and complete the hunt
29 Oct 11:47pm McGriddles Fan Club fourth to solve Round 2 meta - Final Engagement Challenge, and complete the hunt
29 Oct 12:00am Hunt closed

2) Puzzle Rich Asian Awards

First guess answer submission - MID-LIFE CRISIS by 🍆 for The Triplets on Saturday 28 Oct 12:03pm

Most repeated submission attempt by a teamMala Xiangguo submitted the clue phrase for The Triplet 8 times in succession (the auto-responder did say "Keep going!")

Most common incorrect answer attempt – DREGS for The Logician by 14 teams

Favorite incorrect answer submission – ASIAN NINJA by McGriddles Fan Club

Favorite failed backsolve attemptsWhite Maria submitted a few backsolve attempts, before they realized they were using an answer for a puzzle they had already solved! They did eventually manage to backsolve the only other backsolvable Round 2 puzzle though.

Most entertaining hint request - Han Wei & Koh sent us a "hint request" on Sunday 29 Oct 11:55pm to invite us to "watch them panic live" on their online spreadsheet as they scrambled to solve the Round 2 meta before hunt closes (a commendable but ultimately fruitless endeavor)

Buzzer-beater answer submission - McGriddles Fan Club solved and submitted the correct answer for the Round 2 meta just in the nick of time before the hunt closed on Sunday 29 Oct 11:57pm (without any hint prompting!)

Sniper award for highest submission accuracy - Sort Alphabetically solved 13 puzzles with only 1 incorrect submission, for a 93% submission accuracy rate.

Commendations for dedicated Saturday night-owl solvers._. solved the Round 1 meta at 3:57am, Hee-ho solved Building puzzle at 3.46am, White Maria solved Gossiping puzzle at 3:15am, Han Wei & Koh solved Decorating puzzle at 2:36am, and SGoats solved the Round 1 meta at 2:32am. Phoenix, McGriddles Fan Club, Sort Alphabetically, Orchid Lovers and Kaya/D also solved puzzles between 1am-2am.

Top award for partial ranking team - Han Wei & Koh, who were the first to unlock and solve the Round 1 meta, and came within inches of solving the Round 2 meta before the hunt closed

Most entertaining team interaction._., whose entire team were solving together out of the team captain's home, cheeringly took part in the post-meta interaction with the Puzzlesmiths after pulling an all-nighter. While looking around the house for ideas for the gift, the team captain said, "How about an apple of your eye? ...Oh but that's not really a pun." And another team member replied, "It is if you used an iPhone instead!"

As part of the interaction, teams had to help find us a gift that the Puzzle Rich Asians might like. Other thoughtful gifts we received included a lamp to brighten up the day from 🍆, tea-shirt in a cup from Phoenix, and mark-er of apology from Sort Alphabetically

Top engagement challenge team submissions – As part of a submission task, teams shared with us pie charts showing the hunt time spent by each team member. Here are the creative and wonderful pie charts from Kaya/D and ._.

3) Hunt Philosophy

I realized that I had been sharing/repeating various points about SGPH's hunt philosophy quite a bit in past wrap-ups. So have now put together a pinned reference on these underlying objectives for SGPH, for anyone new who is interested.

4) Hunt Writing and Theme

As usual, organization of SGPH started around the end of last year. We were brainstorming book-based themes which would be familiar to solvers, and Crazy Rich Asians came up as something suitable due to its recent movie adaption and localized theme. Celestine then came up with a nice thematic pun answer for a meta. But more importantly, we were still lacking a round structure and story narrative to firm this up as the theme, and stalled quite a while on that. Eventually, Celestine had the idea of the relatives gathering, which formed the intro round 1, while I used a twist of the engagement challenge trope (typicially for the groom) as the round 2 theme, including the original meta answer.

However, the round 2 meta itself took quite a bit of time. There was the idea to use mahjong (a memorable scene in the movie) as the theme early on, but it turned out to be a challenging theme to write a good puzzle on. There were limited possibilities using mahjong, and I wanted to make use of the iconic tiles and rules to do justice to the subject. The first meta draft turned out less ideal than I desired, so I spent some time coming up with a different idea and rewriting the meta completely, which set the timeline back. Fortunately, writing had concurrently started on the round 1 puzzles first.

5) Hunt Changes

For SGPH2023, besides making the puzzles shorter/easier, I also wanted to include more puzzles so that teams could have the satisfaction of scoring more solves (since they are shorter). The round 2 meta was designed with this in mind, though it also meant more puzzle writing was needed, and the constructing team is always small. So that was another challenge that delayed the hunt release this year. And we didn't want to reschedule a firm date until the puzzles were mostly done, so as not to rush through the important processes like test-solving. But there was a hard stop to avoid year-end, and a longer delay also eats into the constructing timeline for next year's hunt. We are appreciative of the many alumni who checked in with me to find out when SGPH would be held, and apologies that we couldn't provide a clear estimate until registrations were open in September.

Alumni solvers would hopefully have felt quite a change in the puzzles this year. The feedback from solvers, as well as experiences from the recent MIT Mystery Hunts (MH), influenced the direction of the puzzle writing for SGPH2023. In the early years of SGPH, the direction was largely driven by modeling after MH, and giving the local community exposure to a standard puzzle hunt (vis-a-vis other puzzle-related games more popular here). Over the years, SGPH has achieved a steady following, with the majority of solvers annually being alumni, much like MH. This has established a clearer audience profile, which may not necessarily fit the writers' ideals (somewhat like in MH2023). With a larger proportion of casual solvers/teams, certain puzzles and puzzle types are likely impractical to be incorporated into the hunt. This is something we had been mindful of for some time, and considered during the start of annual hunt planning.

Not unlike MH, SGPH undergoes an iterative process annually attempting different approaches to indirectly tackle this and improve the solver experience (such as a shorter initial round milestone, hinting system, larger team sizes, longer hunt duration). Invariably from the feedback (and our observations), it still came down to the length of individual puzzles. This year, we reduced the difficulty of ahas and initial steps across both rounds, as we found many solvers stuck on puzzles at these junctures, which is understandably frustrating. With enlarged team sizes, and the likelihood for more novice solvers, we also incorporated some puzzles with identification steps like Baking, Organizing and Building, where even those with less experience could easily be involved in and contribute to the solving. These puzzles also enabled (and encouraged) more team members to collaborate together to solve them, which is the hive-solving approach that is both fun and allows new solvers to learn first-hand from their more experienced peers.

6) Hunt Tech

Celestine as usual is our tech chief, without whom the hunt website would not have been possible. As usual, big shout out to Galactic for open-sourcing gph-site. It worked pretty well for us in 2022, so we stuck with it. There were not many changes required to the site – the main thing that was changed is the addition of automatically gated hints: puzzles that only allow hints after X teams have solved it. Previously, we had to manually refund hints and reply that we would not be able to answer the hint at that time.

7) Interactions and hints

This year, we did away with the live hunt kickoff, and only had the SGPH2023 Discord server set up for post-hunt discussions, following the model of other online hunts. So the post-meta interaction was the only opportunity for us to see and catch up with our solvers. We also made use of hint responses to interact with teams, although the priority was to assist on the puzzle in question, so we usually did not have the time to craft particularly interesting or witty replies to lighten up our responses. Perhaps we will try to do this more consciously next year :) And we also encourage teams to send interesting hint requests to engage us in future as well.

What I did try to incorporate into hint responses, especially to teams with solvers new to puzzle hunts, is to share on some common hunt puzzle conventions and general techniques which would be very helpful to them. These include looking for flavortext hints, entry points, knowing what to sort, spotting anagram indicators, etc. These are often second-nature to experience solvers already, as we have encountered them so often in hunt puzzles. So the good news is that while there is a learning curve to solving hunt puzzles, the more you have tried, the more likely you would know exactly what to do next time. New solvers can also try reading the puzzle hunt guide, and there are some examples of hunt puzzle solving strategies in the videos here.

8) Final Note

Come join us at the SGPH2023 Discord server to discuss your hunt experience with fellow solvers, or ask us any questions about the hunt. If you are keen to take part in more puzzle hunts (remember more experience helps solving), definitely join the SG Puzzlers Discord server (and the SG Puzzlers Facebook group) to keep in touch and hang out. Details of upcoming recommended online puzzle hunts are posted in the Discord server, and you can also form bigger teams with other solvers there to tackle these hunts. We look forward to seeing you all there, and hopefully at other online puzzle hunts too. Till SGPH 2024!

Hunt Editor
Ong Kah Kien
on behalf of Celestine Lau and Sim Hong Jhun (Puzzlesmiths)