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Everything you need to know to compete in, and possibly win, the Post Hunt

Sunday, May 18, 2008

If you're reading this, chances are you're considering participating in the Post Hunt today in downtown Washington. No doubt you have some questions. We will answer them now.

Q. Why do men have nipples?

A. Good question, but at the present time we are answering only Post Hunt questions.

Q. Oh. Okay, what is the Post Hunt?

A. It's a gigantic, challenging, but fun and family-friendly contest that will be taking place in the streets of Washington today, Sunday, May 18, starting at noon. It lasts four hours. Thousands of people will be competing, including Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Colbert and Britney Spears.

Q. Really?

A. No, but we're expecting a crowd.

Q. Sounds weird.

A. Yes. But you could win big prizes, such as luxury vacations for four in South Florida.

Q. Okay, I'm in. Can you tell me anything more about the Hunt?

A. It was created by Dave Barry, Gene Weingarten and Tom Shroder.

Q. So, beer was involved?

A. Duh.

Q. What will I have to do to participate?

A. First, just answer the Opening Questions on Page 19 of the Magazine. Go do it now. We'll wait right here.

Q. You won't talk about me while I'm gone?

A. Of course not!

Q. Okay.

A. That person needs a nose-hair trim.

A. I'll say.

Q. Okay, I'm back.

A. Great!

Q. Those riddles were easy! Bizarre, but easy!

A. Don't get cocky. We want everyone to get those right. Things will get much tougher. Your next move is to assemble a team of two to four people.

Q. Can't I do it alone?

A. Yes, but this gets tricky, and group thinking is a big advantage. Your team needs to be around the stage near the intersection of 10th and H streets NW no later than noon. (You won't need a car to participate in the Hunt, so we strongly recommend getting there by Metro. The location is convenient to the Gallery Place-Chinatown, Metro Center or Mount Vernon Square-Seventh Street-Convention Center stations.)

Q. Will there be somewhere to eat?

A. Yes. It's a booming neighborhood loaded with restaurants.

Q. What do I need to bring?

A. A cellphone, a pen or pencil, a copy of this Magazine and a highly developed appreciation for the absurd. (For anyone who doesn't want to spring for the price of the Sunday newspaper, we'll have some free copies of the Magazine at the site.) If it's inclement weather, dress appropriately. The Hunt goes on rain or shine, and it all takes place outdoors. We'll supply port-a-potties and free whiskey.

Q. What?!

A. We'll supply port-a-potties.

Q. Okay. What's going to happen at noon?

A. Dave, Gene and Tom will be onstage. They will deliver a clue. Combined with your answers to the Opening Questions, this new clue will divulge the location of the five main Puzzles -- all within easy walking distance of the stage. The Hunt Map on Pages 24 and 25 will be very helpful in finding the location of the Puzzles and is essential to solving the Hunt. You can visit the Puzzles in any order you wish.

Q. How will I know I'm in the right place?

A. At each location, the Puzzle should be obvious; nothing is hidden, and nothing is small. You won't have to go into any buildings to solve any of the Puzzles. Hunt staffers at each site will confirm you're in the right place.

Q. How do I solve 'em?

A. You must get naked and wrestle a giant otter.

Q.

A. No, our insurance company nixed that plan. You won't have to do anything physically risky. This is a cerebral event. The biggest danger is turning your brain into oatmeal.

Q. So how do I solve the Puzzles?

A. Each Puzzle has a single answer. THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS A NUMBER. We are shouting in capital letters because this point is crucial to solving the Puzzles. Study the Puzzle until you think you've figured out what the number is. Then go to the numbered list of word and picture clues on Pages 20 and 22 of the Magazine. If the number you guess doesn't match the number of one of the clues on that list, your guess is wrong.

Q. What if it does match one of the numbers?

A. You might still be wrong, but probably not; the Puzzles are designed so that when you solve one, it's an "aha!" moment, and you'll have a strong sense that you are right.

Q. What do I do after I've solved a Puzzle?

A. Go on to another one, in any order. As we mentioned, the number solution for each Puzzle will match one of the numbered clues on the Clue Pages. When you've solved all five Puzzles, you'll have five clues.

Q. What if I can't solve a Puzzle?

A. Go on to the next one. You have three hours to solve them all, which allows for extra time to double back and try again. In general, work quickly, but don't run. You'll be traversing city streets, so maintain ordinary walking-city-streets caution.

Q. What about all the other numbers and clues on the Clue Pages?

A. They're decoys, put there to confuse you.

Q. Like the tax code.

A. Exactly.

Q. Okay, so I've solved the five Puzzles. Then what?

A. Go back to the stage where it all began. At 3 p.m., we'll deliver a Final Clue. Combined with the clues you got from solving the five Puzzles, this Final Clue will in some way reveal what you have to do next to win the Post Hunt. We call this part of the Hunt "the Endgame." It's sneaky and devious and mean and diabolical. We could never solve it ourselves if we hadn't created it, and even so, we keep forgetting what the answer is. Fortunately, the winners will be way smarter than we are. Not that that's difficult. This Hunt is modeled after a similar event Dave, Gene and Tom created in Miami, and there are always winners.

Q. What sort of thing do you have to do to win, in the Endgame?

A. You'll have to figure it out on your own. Whether you figure it out or not, make sure you return to the stage at 3:30. 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 an additional hint. The Hunt continues until we have winners -- the first, second and third teams to figure out the Endgame. If you know you're hopelessly befuddled, then hang around at the stage. Kick back, enjoy the music, wait for the dramatic moment when Dave, Gene and Tom explain the answers and everyone boos.

Q. Is there any way we can bone up for this experience, to increase our skills?

A. Yes. You can read the examples starting on Page 26, or try out some virtual clues, reproduced from prior Miami Herald Hunts. You also can, and should, familiarize yourself with all the contents of the Magazine. Essential Hunt hints may be hidden in any part of the Magazine.

Q. Can children participate?

A. Yes. In fact, children are often the ones to see something so obvious that their rocket-scientist parents missed it.

Q. Can a team be larger than four people?

A. Yes, but remember that the prizes pay only for travel for four.

Q. Are there any tips for how to win?

A. Remember, above all else, that the Post Hunt is supposed to be fun. So don't stress. But also be smart. If you solve a Puzzle, don't shout out the answer (competitors are listening). Periodically keep track of 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 logos from our wonderful sponsors around the Hunt, 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 will be around to help you.

Q. How will we know they are Hunt staffers?

A. Uh, they will be wearing Post Hunt T-shirts that say "Staff." Running out of good questions, are we?

Q. Why do people say an alarm goes "off," instead of "on"?

A. Okay, we're done here. Please read the boring legal language of the official rules .

THE ESSENTIAL INFO

1. Answer the five Opening Questions on Page 19. Familiarize yourself with the rest of the Magazine.

2. Dig up some people to hunt with you -- family members or friends -- and head downtown.

3. Before noon, arrive at the Hunt Stage near 10th and H streets NW (located at coordinates 10-XII on the Hunt Map on Pages 24 and 25). At noon, we will make an announcement from the stage that, combined with the answers to the Opening Questions on Page 19, will give you the map coordinates for the initial locations of the five Puzzles.

4. Visit the Puzzle sites in any order you wish. The solutions to each will be a number. Each number will correspond to the number of one of the clues on the Clue Pages, 20 and 22. These five clues will be essential to solving the Hunt.

5. Gather by the Hunt Stage at 3 p.m. The Final Clue will be announced from the stage. Use the Final Clue, along with the five clues you already have, to figure out what you need to do to win.

6. After the Final Clue is announced, either solve the Hunt, or decide that you can't solve it and relax around the stage area until we present the Hunt winners and all the solutions.

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