You’d think after five straight years of repeating essentially the same information here, we would have run out of exciting new ways to do it. But that would be underestimating our talent, originality and butt-clenching desperation.
This year we have written the instructions in Uzbek, then put them through Google Translate. Please to let us be concerning if you will be hard of hearing it!
What is the Post Hunt? Perhaps it is better to begin by saying what it is not. It is nota scavenger hunt, okay? No matter how many times we make this simple distinction, certain people, and we’re not trying to cast aspersions here, but let’s just call them “moronic,” keep trying to jam that “scavenger” in there. Sometimes our own publicists do it. In the Post Hunt, you don’t scavenge for anything, except, perhaps, your dignity.
In the Post Hunt, you’ll spend this wild June 2 afternoon running around downtown D.C. trying to untangle five twisted puzzles inserted into the urban landscape by the rapidly aging team of Dave Barry, Gene Weingarten and Tom Shroder. When you solve the five primary puzzles, you will have earned five clues that will help you solve an even more twisted and demonic final puzzle we call “The EndGame” (trademark pending).
We challenge you and your friends and family (or you might just want to rent some smart people) to form a team and compete to be the first to crack The EndGame, thereby earning five minutes of exceedingly cheesy fame and $2,000 — darned near enough to eat lunch in this town. The second and third teams to solve the final puzzle will win $500 each.
Clearly, thousands of people don’t put down their remotes, stow their mobile devices and flock downtown for the cash. They do it because the Post Hunt is challenging, it’s fun, it’s weird, and it’s an adventure in three actual dimensions (four if you are operating in the space-time continuum, as so many of our Hunters are). So come and join us before noon on Sunday, June 2 at Freedom Plaza downtown for an event you’ll need a lobotomy to forget.
Now we will switch to a convenient question-and-answer format in which we pretend to be you, then answer our own questions.
Q: How did you guys get to be so smart and good-looking?
A: Also manly.
Q: How long does the Hunt last?
A: We give out the puzzle locations at noon, the Final Clue at 3 p.m. — delivered from the main stage in the plaza — and we usually have a winner and explain the puzzles around 4 p.m. Definitely before 5.
Q: Is there an entrance fee?
A: Call us beneficent, or possibly magnanimous, but the Post Hunt is free to all comers.
Q: How many people do you need for a team?
A: Centuries of Hunt experience have taught us the optimum team size is four people, but we say that randomly. The truth is, any number can participate. (Remember, though, that you’ll be splitting the winnings among yourselves, which means that with large groups, your share of the prize money, which you hoped would buy a fancy lunch, might not be enough to purchase even a street pretzel. Children are welcome and, indeed, can be helpful, since little Mikaela often picks up on essential clues that are way too obvious to be noticed by anyone who can drink legally. Coincidence? We think not.)
Q: What else do we need?
A: First of all, you’ll need this magazine. The magazine is filled with essential Hunt items, most important the Hunt Map (on Pages 16-17) and the official list of possible Hunt Clues (Pages 14-15). Other parts of the magazine might also be important. We’re betting that the winners will have read the magazine carefully cover to cover and, possibly, even translated it back into Uzbek.
Also: A pen or pencil and scratch paper will come in handy. A cellphone is a must. Internet access may be helpful, but it is not as necessary as are, say, comfortable shoes.
The Hunt will take you through large portions of the area depicted on the Hunt Map, so unless you have access to Marine One, you’ll want to be kind to your dogs. Canines are also welcome. Several have actually won.
Q: What happens if it rains?
A: If history teaches us anything, it is that the Spanish-American War began in 1898. Also, that the gods would never dare to rain on the Post Hunt. Except that year the forecast called for damaging hail or that other year when the Mall was evacuated for a tornado threat. So bring clothes and gear appropriate for the forecast. The Hunt goes on, rain or shine.
Q: How do we get started?
A: Answer the Opening Questions on Page 13. They may sound as if we wrote them while on acid, but they should be solvable by anyone who can fill a T-shirt. Once you’ve got the answers, get down to Freedom Plaza, the location of the main Post Hunt stage (Map Coordinates F-6), before noon.
Q: What happens at noon?
A: At noon, Barry, Weingarten and Shroder will be onstage in Freedom Plaza to deliver the mysteriously named Noon Clue. This simply consists of five numbers, which, combined with the five letter answers for the Opening Questions, will provide the Hunt Map coordinates of all five Hunt puzzles. Freedom Plaza — bordered by 13th, 14th, and E streets NW and Pennsylvania Avenue — is easily accessible by Metro (it’s between the McPherson Square Metro station’s 14th Street exit and Federal Triangle’s 12th Street exit). All the Hunt puzzles are within walking distance of the plaza and easy to locate using the Hunt Map. You can visit the puzzles in any order you wish.
Q: Are the puzzle sites hidden or hard to see?
A: No. And you will not have to go into any buildings to solve a puzzle. It is important to note that for at least one of the puzzles, the initial location is only a starting point. To solve the puzzle, you will have to go elsewhere, “elsewhere” being a place to be determined by you based on hints we will give. Here’s a hint right now: Don’t blindly follow People Who Seem to Know What They Are Doing. Such people, the ones who preen and strut around with confidence, are almost invariably wrong.
Q: How do you solve the puzzles?
A: The most important thing to know about solving Hunt puzzles is this: THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS A NUMBER. Since the very first Hunt (when dinosaurs ruled Earth and won the Hunt) we have shouted this fact in capital letters. That’s how crucial it is. Study the puzzle until you think you’ve figured out what the number is. Then go to the numbered list of clues beginning on Page 14. If the number you guessed doesn’t match the number of one of the clues on that list, your guess is wrong. If it does match, it may still be wrong, but your chances are a lot better.
We’ve designed the puzzles so that when you solve one, it’s an “aha!” moment, and you’ll have a strong sense that you are right. If you can’t solve a puzzle in a reasonable time, go on to the next. There’s plenty of time to double back later. You’ll have until 10 minutes to 3, when we start to disassemble the puzzles. At that point, you should return to the main stage. Be sure you get there by 3 p.m., when we deliver the mysteriously named Three O’Clock Clue.
Q: How do you use the Clue Pages?
A: When you solve a puzzle, you’ll have a number that matches one of the numbered clues on the Clue Pages. Only those five clues are real. All the rest are decoys, about as much use to humanity as reality television. But even if you find all five genuine clues, they will make no sense until you are back at the main stage at 3 p.m., when Weingarten, Shroder and Barry will present the Final Clue. The Final Clue and the Five Real Clues from the Clue Pages work together to deliver the information you need to discover the Ultimate Solution to the Hunt. The first team to act on that knowledge wins.
Q: What kind of things will we have to do to win? Anything illegal?
A: Not since 2002, when you had to steal the Declaration of Independence. Mostly, the final step of The EndGame is merely absurd. In the past, it involved things such as making a phone call to a secret number, delivering a code word to an actor impersonating a street person, or dropping a Ping-Pong ball into a little hole (a perfectly legal hole). We try to keep you guessing, but when you solve The EndGame, you’ll know it.
Whether or not you figure out The EndGame, make sure that at least one person on your team is at the stage at half past 3. At that point, we will either announce the winners and reveal the solutions to all the puzzles, or, if we think it is necessary, we will announce additional hints. The Hunt continues until we have winners. If you know you are hopelessly befuddled, then hang around the stage. Kick back, enjoy the music from the Really Big Speakers, and wait for the dramatic moment when Barry, Shroder and Weingarten explain the answers and everyone boos.
Q: Got any hints to impart that you couldn’t figure out how to jam in above?
A: Yes. Periodically check the message board on the Hunt stage. If we need to alert you to something, that’s where we will do it. You’ll see many “sponsored by” logos from our wonderful sponsors around the Hunt and on the map, but just to keep people sane, we’ll tell you upfront: No clues are hidden in the sponsor logos. If you have any questions (other than “What’s the answer?”), knowledgeable and courteous Hunt staff members wearing prestigious staff T-shirts will be around to help you.
Q: That about wraps it up, unless you still have some important final points and/or pet peeves you want to get off your manly chests.
A: Now that you mention it: Remember that, above all else, the Post Hunt is supposed to be fun. So don’t stress. But also be smart. Don’t shout out solutions or be obvious when you discover an important clue (competitors are watching and listening). Also, if you think that you have somehow blundered into the solution to The EndGame by seeing what others do, but you haven’t really solved it, please don’t bother: We will quiz everyone to make sure they solved the Hunt legitimately. No one wins until we are satisfied they truly solved the puzzles.
Q: How old are you guys, anyway?
A: Combined, we are as old as Emily Dickinson. And nearly twice as manly.