Correction to This Article
This article about the Post Hunt misspelled the last name of one of the winners. She is Suzanne Schwartz, not Schwarts.

Group of seven wins $2,000 Post Hunt prize

SEARCHING: Players seek clues between 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.
SEARCHING: Players seek clues between 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW. (Evelio Contreras/wpni)
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By Stephen Lowman
Monday, June 7, 2010

Near the Ellipse, Jess Unger was having a moment.

"We're frazzled, confused, directionless," he said of his three-person team. "I mean, I'm a smart guy, but I haven't been able to solve one clue!"

Ninety minutes into the urban adventure called the Post Hunt, the 19-year-old from Loudoun County had hit a wall. Sorry, Jess: no $2,000 prize for you this year.

Several thousand others who descended upon downtown Washington Sunday afternoon probably felt a mental anguish similar to Unger's at some point during the course of the day. In its third year, the Post Hunt challenges participants to solve five ridiculously complex puzzles plus a final End Game in less than four hours. Finding the answers to those puzzles requires following a clue, possibly scrambling to another location, pausing to scratch your head and consider what it all means, then repeating.

Two women in the Agodo family, from Lanham, pronounced themselves totally "bamboozled."

Standing in Freedom Plaza, they were sweating from the afternoon heat and the anxiety that arrives when you're completely lost. They were listening to Style writer Hank Stuever read a clue that involved string theory, the philosophy of utilitarianism and the Kardashian family.

After the third time hearing the clue, the reaction was the same as the first.

"What?" Emefa Agodo, 31, cried.

Nearby, Mike Shal, 29, was sitting down and eating a slice of pizza.

His team, a trio of friends, thought they had solved two of the five puzzles. But now they were unsure how to proceed and decided to take a break.

What was their strategy?

"At this point, it's to walk around, feel stupid, go to a bar and read about it online later," he said.

As they went from Freedom Plaza to the Old Post Office Building to the Washington Monument and back again, participants came armed with The Washington Post Magazine, which held clues and a map of the terrain. Like tourists trying to orient themselves, the hunters held it close and studied it closer, while its pages disintegrated in the steady rain that fell during the second half. But spirits remained high among the approximately 10,000 players, and not everyone was puzzled.

The Hamilton family, who are veteran Post Hunters from College Park, said they had quickly solved several puzzles.

"This is almost a little too easy," said father Elliott Hamilton, although the prizes eluded them.

Second and third-place winners take home $500 each.

A team of seven 20-something Washingtonians took first place this year: John Sanders, Eana Chung, Eric Pilar, Chris Wong, Suzanne Schwarts, Joe Grossman and Katie Elder.

What's their advice to others who want to win next year?

"Be a smartass!" Sanders said.

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