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The Washington Post’s 2011 Post Hunt: Get Ready!

Would you like to be part of something important and meaningful — something that will truly benefit all of humanity? No? Then you should join us for the Washington Post Hunt.

The Post Hunt is a wild, sprawling three-hour contest that plays out on the streets of D.C. To compete, you’ll spend an afternoon trying to solve big, bizarre puzzles strewn around the heart of monumental Washington. You could win valuable prizes.

Q: How valuable?

A: The top prize is a choice between $2,000 in cash or a mint-condition Stradivarius violin, handcrafted in 1711 by the master himself.

Q: You’re lying, aren’t you?

A: No. But the choice is ours, not yours.

Q: What do we have to do to compete?

A. Mainly, show up. The Hunt begins at noon on Sunday, June 5, at Freedom Plaza, on Pennsylvania Avenue near 14th Street in downtown Washington. (Coordinates H-3 1/2 on the Hunt Map you’ll find on Pages 24-25 of the June 5 issue of The Washington Post Magazine). There’s a Main Stage.

Q. Can I bring my family, friends, defense attorney, etc.?

A. Yes. Team thinking is the best way to solve Hunt puzzles. Your team can be any size, but the ideal number tends to be four people.

Q: Are children allowed?

A: They’re not only allowed, they can be advantageous. Kids often think more creatively than adults. FACT: Gottfried Liebniz first won The Hunt at age 3.

Q: Is there parking?

A: There’s plenty of parking available downtown on Sundays, but we strongly recommend taking Metro. The Federal Triangle station is less than two blocks from Freedom Plaza; the Metro Center and McPherson Square stations are both within easy walking distance.

Q. What do I need to bring?

A. You absolutely must have two things: a copy of the June 5 Washington Post Magazineand a cellphone with texting capability. We also recommend a pencil with an eraser. Also, bring rain gear, if warranted. The Hunt goes on rain or shine.

Q: Is there anything I can do to prepare?

A. It will help a lot to familiarize yourself with the entire contents of the Hunt issue of the magazine. Also, you might want to review puzzles from previous Hunts and try the practice puzzles.

Q: Will there be bathrooms?

A: That depends on your definition of “bathroom.” Do you consider Pez to be “food”?

Q: No.

A: Then there will be very few bathrooms.

Q: So, porta potties.

A: Exactly.

Q: What do I do when I arrive at Freedom Plaza?

A: The first thing is to make sure your team picks up its Goody Bags, which will contain items you will need to solve the Hunt. Two bags per team, max. These will be handed out near the Main Stage.

Q: What will be in the bags?

A: The most important item will be a paint-by-number-style grid that we call — bear in mind that we are communications professionals — The Grid. You cannot solve the Hunt without it. There will also be other stuff, some of which will come in very handy and some of which is simply uoy esufnoc ot tnaem.

Q: Okay, my team has a Goody Bag. Now what?

A. Now you wait for noon, when the three creators of the Hunt — Dave Barry, Gene Weingarten and Tom Shroder — will get on stage, desperately trying to convey the impression that they have everything under control.

Q: You mean they don’t?

A. They are soiling their undershorts. Nevertheless, they will appear calm as they give you information that — combined with your answers to the Opening Questions on Page 23 of the Hunt issue of the Magazine — will give you the map coordinates of the five Big Puzzles that you must solve. These will all be within walking distance; you may visit them in any order you choose.

Q: What are these Big Puzzles?

A: They’re all different. Some puzzles might be performances. Some might be objects to be scrutinized. At some puzzle sites, we might be handing out something. When you get to a puzzle, you’ll know; it’ll be in plain sight. Sometimes a puzzle may require you to go somewhere else to solve it. You will not have to go into any buildings.

Q: How do I solve the puzzles?

A: That will depend on the puzzle. The thing to bear in mind is: THE ANSWER TO EACH PUZZLE IS A NUMBER. This is a very important fact, so we are shouting it in capital letters. We will now repeat it in French, so it attains even greater grandeur: LA SOLUTION AU CHAQUE PUZZLE EST UN NOMBRE.

Q: How will we know if we have the right answer?

A: Usually, when you get it, you know it: It comes as an “Aha!” moment. IMPORTANT: When you think you know the number, check our List Of Possible Answers on the back of The Grid. If your number is there, you are probably right. If your guess is not there, you are definitely wrong. Think again.

Q: Let’s say we’ve got it. Then what do we do?

A: Scan The Grid and fill in every circle containing that number. We advise that you do this in pencil. Then move to the next Big Puzzle and repeat the process.

Q: What if we can’t solve a puzzle?

A. Go on to the next one. You have three hours, which is more than enough time to see all five puzzles, make some mistakes and revisit one or more of them. If you get all five puzzles right, the filled-in circles should take a recognizable shape. The meaning of this shape may not be apparent to you until 3 p.m.

Q: What’s so special about 3 p.m.?

A: At 3, you must be back at the Main Stage. At that point, Dave, Gene and Tom will present the final clue. If you are very smart, this clue, combined with the shape you have created on the Grid, will tell you what you have to do to solve the Hunt. This final portion of the Hunt is called the End Game. It is very hard.

Q: How hard is it?

A: We have to wear special helmets when we think it up, or our heads would explode. Every year, we are amazed that anyone solves it.

Q: What do I have to do to win?

A: We’re not telling. But when you do it, we will know. Whether you figure it out or not, make sure that at least one person on your team returns to the stage at 3:30. At that point, we will either announce the winners, or, if we think it’s necessary, give a hint. The Hunt continues until we have winners; this usually takes less than an hour. After that, we reveal the solutions to all the puzzles, and you boo us in a manner that we take as a humorous and good-natured sign that you worship us as gods.

Q. Any final tips?

A. Remember that, above all else, the Hunt is supposed to be fun. So don’t get stressed; enjoy yourselves and bask in the chaos. Also, use common sense: If you solve a puzzle, don’t shout out the answer (competitors are listening). Periodically check the message board on the Main Stage. If we need to alert you to something, that’s where we’ll do it. You’ll see many logos from our wonderful sponsors around the Hunt, but we haven’t hidden any clues in them. If you have any questions (other than “What’s the answer?”), knowledgeable and courteous Hunt Staff members wearing prestigious Hunt Staff T-shirts will be around to help you.

Q: Will those smug carpetbaggers from Miami be around again?

A: What we hear you asking is, “Will I have fun?” Yes.

MORE TO KNOW:

Want more? Join the Post Hunt on Facebook and follow us @posthunt. If you’re tweeting about the Hunt, be sure to use #posthunt as your hash tag. Dave Barry, Tom Shroder and Gene Weingarten were online Friday to take your pre-Hunt questions. Plus, add your team photo and motto to our gallery (the founders will choose their favorite — you could win a Post Hunt T-shirt!)

On Monday, join us at washingtonpost.com/posthunt for more chatting, photo galleries, videos and more.

© The Washington Post Company