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Recovering from the 2010 Post Hunt

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Tom Shroder and GeneWeingarten
Post Hunt founders
Monday, June 7, 2010; 12:00 PM

You survived the 2010 Post Hunt! Founders Tom Shroder and Gene Weingarten were online to take your questions, comments and abuse. The transcript is below.

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Full coverage of the 2010 Post Hunt.

Video explanations of each puzzle: The Credentials | The Interpreter | The Abstract Shapes | The Comic Strip | The Feet | The End Game

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Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon. This is the chat to dissect The Post Hunt, in which you tell us how cruel and stupid we are, and how you would have won had we not been so unfair to you specifically.

So, to review, in this chat you will be posting about the Post Hunt, and this is all happening post-Hunt; ergo your challenge here is to "post post-Hunt 'Post Hunt' posts." Haha. We are professional wordsmiths here.

The first Hunt, in Miami, was in 1984, and there have been 21 of them since, 18 in Miami and now three in Washington D.C. Dave and Tom and I are pretty sure that yesterday's drew the biggest crowd ever: We're estimating ten to twelve thousand. We're wondering just how mammoth this can get -- whether there is some sort of Hunt Invisible Hand, a self-limiting Godlike force that will keep the crowd at a certain barely manageable level. We are empiricists; we think not. Plan on even greater havoc next year.

Okay, we're ready for your whiny abuse now.

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Gene Weingarten: Our Chatmistress for today is Amanda McGrath, who is also responsible, with Evelio Contreras and Andrew Mach, for the amazing post-Hunt Post Hunt videos and explanations, linked to right here:

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washingtonpost.com: 2010 Post Hunt: Video explanations of the puzzles

Gene Weingarten: Here.

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Two Shoes, DC: While members of my team were each wearing two shoes, there may have been Post Hunters who could not wear two shoes. How many complaints have you received from amputee participants?

Gene Weingarten: We cherish our amputee participants. And we know they all are smart enough to have figured that one out.

We actually did discuss, briefly, whether people wearing "crocs" might not define these petroleum products as "shoes." But then we decided, to hell with people wearing crocs.

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North McLean, VA: This was our first Post Hunt and we had a blast. Like many, though, we hit a wall with the Hank and Rachel show. We watched for well over an hour and still couldn't achieve that "aha" moment.

Seriously, we thought a good case could have been made for "61" "8" and even "15" in addition to "66" and the forbidden "35." But we would be fooling ourselves that this would have made that much difference.

Besides, it was a hoot watching Rachel's interpretive dance and observing the way Hank's delivery became ever more manic.

But here's my question. How did you realize that there was a problem with this puzzle? I thought and communication about answers was verboten.

Tom Shroder: The TD puzzle was this year's big Hunt controversy, obviously. I have NO idea how you got 61 or 8. What we heard most often was 7, 77, or 14. 7 was not a possible answer, but 14 and 77 were. All of these solutions were based on the idea that a touchdown was 7 points. So you either took the two touchdown signals and added them together (14) or considered the two touchdowns as digits (77). All of which is excellent thinking! Except A TOUCHDOWN IS NOT SEVEN POINTS. As any football coach will tell you: Never assume the extra point.

A touchdown is six points. Period.

Now, the two touchdown signals COULD have legitimately been interpreted as touchdown plus extra point which WOULD have been 7, and that is precisely why 7 was NOT a possible answer. It also could have been 6 (two field goals) or 9 (a touchdown and a field goal), which was why neither 6 nor 9 were possible answers. Two touchdowns count for 12 points, and 12 was also left off the clue list, leaving 66 as the only possible correct answer.

EXCEPT . . . .

During the Hunt, Dave, Gene and I always discretely corner a sampling of Hunters at each puzzle to survey what they are coming up with. When we realized that some people were counting the number of times the performers were doing the two touchdown signals, and then multiplying seven (touchdown plus extra point) times 5 (the number of times it happened during each performance) we realized that was a legitimate answer, and a POSSIBLE answer on the clue page. We hadn't thought of that. So we had to let people know not to pick 35.

The thing about the Hunt is, it's far from a well-oiled machine. The only oil basically comes in the form of fermented grains that Gene, Dave and I consume while inventing the puzzles. We have always depended on the fact that Hunters seemed to understand this, and participate in the success of the Hunt not just by playing, but by rolling with the rough edges in a very good-humored way. It's all a big freaking experiment in group insanity, basically, and we immensely appreciate the good will.

That said, A TOUCHDOWN IS NOT FREAKING SEVEN POINTS.

Sheesh.

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Virginia: You recommend that teams solve the Hunt, but in case people can't find teammates, I just want to point out an advantage to solving it by yourself. Big teams don't "see" you. You can stand within earshot of a group of people (not deliberately) and they'll loudly discuss the answers to the puzzles. I had already solved the "500" puzzle, but a few minutes later a team walked past me practically yelling to each other, "The answer is 500!" I don't think they'd do that if they were near another team.

Tom Shroder: That probably explains why, when Dave asks for a show of hands for how solved the puzzles, there were 10,000 hands waving in the air.

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Silver Spring, MD: How about this for coincidence? Our team, upon seeing the touchdown symbol, went to the football on the map. Once there, we found a memorial stone for a guy who lived 77 years. Upon further thought, we conjectured that 77 made perfect sense for a pair of touchdown symbols. What are the chances?

Tom Shroder: Wow. Something like this happens every Hunt. The universe conspires with the gods of the Hunt Map to create completely unlikely connections. However, and I may have mentioned this, A TOUCHDOWN IS NOT 7 POINTS.

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Woodbridge, VA: First and foremost, we had a fantastic time at the Hunt again this year. Thanks to you all for putting so much time and effort into putting together a day of so much fun for everyone!

My one comment/complaint: We were a little slow figuring out the beginning of the endgame, and by the time we got there, the "menus" were gone. We realized that by then we had no chance of winning, but we really wanted a chance to finish it out and see if we could do it. (This year we actually solved all 5 puzzles and were feeling a little smug, I guess). Anyway, could you next year limit handouts to one per team? We walked by a bunch of teams who had 4 or 5 copies of the menu and we were a little frustrated.

Thanks again for a fun day. See you all next year!

Gene Weingarten: Yep, we should have had more menus. We printed 500, which seemed like more than enough, but y'all proved smarter than we anticipated, and yes -- there seems to have been some menu hoarding by early teams.

If this makes you feel any better, by the time we ran out, the first-prize team had already won, and teams #2 and #3 were minutes away. You would not have won, but the menus would have been nice souvenirs.

For those of you who didn't get em, here are the menu items from "The Eww Street Cafe -- Restaurant and Lounge."

Mouse Mousse with Ratatouille

Salmon-head stew in snail butter

House cat casserole with caper sauce

Baby eels in whale saliva with pearl onions

Lobster bisque with a garnish of fried stinkbugs

Cassoulet of dog in chocolate sauce

Sauteed kangaroo armpits in kumquat puree

Caracked crab confit with slug-slime coulis

Raw flounder with goldfish entrails

Pig in its own mud with truffle-butter flambe

Baked squid eyeballs on a bed of tortellini

Cornmeal-crusted jackass with cornichons

And for our less adventurous guests:

Filet o' fish on white bread with mayonnaise

--

As it turned out, only the "c" foods -- the items containing the letter C -- were significant.

Gene Weingarten: There was something else unprecedented about this Hunt, and it speaks to what I believe was the ultimate no-biggie of the Great Menu Stampede of 2010.

We've never had a Hunt where so many people got the first part of an endgame so right, and so few managed to suss out the rest of it. A huge disparity. The many hundreds of teams who got to the Menu then proceeded to hit a brick wall. (The brick, we think, was figuring out that "dog" meant map coordinate "K-9")

It looked for quite a while as though we would either declare only one winner or that -- this happens sometimes, but we hate it -- we'd have to give out an additional clue from the stage at 3:30. This was the frantic conversation Dave and Tom and I were having onstage at 3:25.

The brilliant winning team got to the final part of the endgame -- a woman wearing a Crab T-shirt -- at 3:12. This team was on fire. But it took an excruciating six more minutes for Team Two to arrive.

And that was it! Of the 450-plus teams getting to the menus, only two did everything right. The third-place winner was the first and best of a handful of other teams that found the Crab lady but did not have everything else done perfectly (they hadn't circled the word "restaurant.")

Hunt trivia: The Menu team was Lisa Shroder (Mrs. Tom the Butcher) and two Butcher progeny, Emily and Jessica. The Crab Lady was Mary Hadar, revered assistant managing editor and long-time erstwhile editor of Style. Her assistant was The Rib.

Tom Shroder: Gene forgot to mention Sam the Butcher, my son. He was the one with the huge guns and the six pack.

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Bethesda, MD: I noticed that there was a mouse included in the puzzle comic strip of "Barnie and Clyde", obviously put there to throw off inattentive hunters. However, in the online version of the puzzle, there is no mouse.

Was the mouse a last minute addition?

Gene Weingarten: See the next post.

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Learn to count or draw: There appeared to be 14 cats in the comic strip that was shown on Saturday. You can see in the video description of the puzzle that there is a set of eyes in the trashcan that disappears in the static video where the numbers are counting up. Upon very close scrutiny, it looks like it might be a mouse, but it sure looked like a little cat in those difficult viewing conditions. Kind of annoying after solving all the other aspects of the puzzle to get messed up on that.

Gene Weingarten: This is interesting: We had two versions of it drawn, one with a mouse as a decoy, and one without. In the end, we decided to use the easier one, but that message apparently never got through to the banner maker.

But most people saw that was not a cat. This was a puzzle most people solved. So we're glad we used the harder version.

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Rockville, MD: Is there a way to stop half the crowd from just arbitrarily following people that start running after the final clue is announced? Teams that could have been serious contenders didn't even have a chance to get a menu. And even our team, that did get a menu, kept getting asked by other people how we figured out to run to where we were. Thanks for another great Hunt!

Tom Shroder: You make a good point, and get to a central challenge of Hunt design: avoiding the stampede of people who have no clue, but are following someone they hope DOES have a clue. One thing we will probably be sure of in future Hunts is to try to make it essential to find, and solve, all five real clues before you can figure out the first step of the endgame. In this case, the first endgame step could be figured out by people who had solved none of the five original puzzles.

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Gene Weingarten: Basically, every Hunt is a learning experience for the next one. It's like the oil spill cleanup. It's all new, all the time.

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Vienna, Virginia: Has Dave lost weight? If so, what's his secret? The warm ketchup diet? The refrigerator diet?

Gene Weingarten: Dave has lost weight, and it's because he won't eat foods that look like they once might have been alive. He confessed to me yesterday that he MIGHT one day eat lobster if the shell was NOWHERE VISIBLE and if it was diced up into pieces that DID NOT RESEMBLE ANY PORTION OF A LARGE INSECT.

I do wish to say that I did libel Dave in the pre-Hunt chat. Acting on old information, I reported that he won't eat olives because they resemble eyeballs. It turns out that that was only true for 61 years. Last year, in Spain, his wife Michelle insisted that he try olives on the grounds that these were among the greatest olives in the world. He tried them. Like Mikey and his cereal, Dave LIKED IT.

I witnessed him consume an olive on Saturday night.

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Greenbelt: Five Hundred. That was IT?

Good grief. At least couldn't you have made it 250? At least that would have added the tiniest bit of a greater challenge to it.

Gene Weingarten: The was a puzzle that we created without any real idea of how hard it would be. We didn't know how much the milling crowds would affect its visibility. And yes, we gather that for many of you it was the easiest puzzle to solve.

However, we talked to several people for whom it was the hardest, and not because they saw the Five Hundred and figured there had to be more to it than that. They simply could not make sense out of the fifteen separate while sculptures.

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Fairfax, VA: It was obviously a very good idea to thoroughly examine the WP magazine. Heck, I had suspicions about that fellow with the pink umbrella from the get go. But here's the thing, if you look too closely you can fool yourself.

Some of Rachel's actions looked like skiing. There was a picture of skis in the WP mag. Next to that picture was a picture of a gentleman wearing a shirt with vertical stripes much like the shirt worn by Rachel. In the middle of the messy floor shown in that picture was a magazine that -clearly- showed the number 40, which was a possible unused clue number.

Coincidence?

Well, actually, yes.

Gene Weingarten: Indeed. One thing we have learned over the years is a corollary to one of my favorite medical quotes, from the famous proctologist(!) J.P. Mummery, who in 1930 did a study once on objects that had been surgically removed from people's rectums:

"Anything that can be inserted into a rectum has been inserted into a rectum."

The corollary is, "If there is any way to misconstrue a puzzle, it will be so misconstrued."

Okay, that was a stretch but I really wanted to quote Mummery.

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Bogus Clues: Is there any rhyme or reason behind the selection of the numbers for the bogus clues? For instance, you seem to have listed 14 as a possible answer in case people added 7 plus 7 as the sum of two touchdowns. My teammate and I came up with 10, and we knew it was a weak longshot. But we just did not get that the on-stage puzzle was something about touchdowns. If you do have reasons, please explain why you listed 10 as a possible clue. Thanks very much!

Tom Shroder: A lot of the numbers are random. But we have a list of numbers to avoid, numbers that would be reasonable but wrong answers for one of the puzzles -- like 9 for the two touchdown signals (touchdown plus field goal). We leave it off the clue list to avoid that unfair confusion. But sometimes we intentionally leave a tempting, but wrong, answer on there: Like 14. We knew some people insist on thinking of a touchdown as an automatic 7 points. Oh so disastrously wrong. Just ask the New Orleans Saints, whose hopes for the 2003 playoffs were famously crushed by a missed one-pointer.

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Fairfax, VA: What I learned from this experience is that it really is essential to have several people. For example, only one of us had eyes young enough to see the "nineteen plus" in the bar code. This has nothing to do with IQ but everything to do with presbyopia.

Gene Weingarten: There is something else I have noticed, over the years, about the winning teams.

1. Kinda young and kinda fit. Okay, by "young," I mean younger than I am. Same with "fit."

2. Men and women. I think men and women have different brains, and both come in useful. This year's #2 team was all male, but that is a bit of an aberration. Also an aberration was the number 3 team, in that it only had two Hunters. But they were a girl and a boy!

Tom Shroder: I've always said, the Hunt should be a training ground for any company hoping to impress upon their employees the essential value of teamwork. In solving Hunt puzzles, the way people coming from different angles all contribute pieces to the puzzle that in turn spur further inspiration in their partners becomes stunningly obvious. The same is true in creating a puzzle. You'll see that in this account of how Dave, Gene and I came up with a puzzle for the first Post Hunt here: http://www.storysurgeons.com/2010/06/04/hunting-for-solutions/

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Towson, MD: Bravo Gentleman. An excellent hunt. And thanks for hanging around afterwards to shake hands and sign programs, etc. I didn't expect Pulitzer prize-winners like Gene Weingarten and Dave Barry to stay late, particularly after a long day of hard work. But that just goes to show what great guys they are. In fact, Dave Barry kindly agreed to photograph our hunt team for us. Speaking of which, would you ask him to give me back my camera?

Tom Shroder: I think he sold it.

Gene Weingarten: I think he ate it. It didn't look like it was once alive.

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Absolutely True Story: The craziest thing about the Hunt happened before we had even parked the car. We weren't sure it would figure into the clues or not, but the coincidence was too strange not to mention here in the chat. At a stoplight behind the Willard Hotel, we were stopped next to a shiny black Escalade. We looked over and saw none other than LIONEL RICHIE get in the car. A good celebrity sighting for DC any day, sure, but minutes before the Post Hunt with a magazine that featured his photo? You've got to be kidding!!! If only the end game had you walk up to him and say, "Hello," and he responded with, "Is it me you're looking for?" Just in case, we didn't tell anyone about our sighting until the hunt was over. Thanks for a great day! Also, what are the dates for the Tropic Hunt this year?

Tom Shroder: Actually, Lionel Richie was the first one to solve the Hunt, but he was disqualified when he showed positive for Human Growth Hormone in the post-Hunt urine test.

Gene Weingarten: Tom's response is probably technically libel, but fortunately he is a Public Figure. We can lie about public figures all we want!

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Rockville, MD: DOG does NOT contain a C!!!

Gene Weingarten: Read the menu!

The entire dog dish read: "Cassoulet of dog in chocolate sauce."

The key was that in all the non-C items, there were no c's at all.

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Sobbing, D.C.: Hi, um, so this is probably going to blow your minds with its ridiculousness, but it actually happened, and I am SO SAD about it and I want it to not happen again. This was my second time at the Hunt, and I still didn't get to play. It's not that I couldn't figure the clues out; it's that I couldn't find them! I took the numbers you gave, matched them up with the answers in the order they were given, and then circled each point representing the intersection of the respective lines. The feet one and the comic one matched up enough with the map, but when I went to the other coordinates, there was nothing there! At D3, there were two plastic bags of garbage hanging from a tree, and that was it! And that is what we thought the clue was. We didn't know what the five hundred thing related to, because where it was didn't match up to any map coordinate. I REALLY REALLY REALLY want to actually play next year, and not just wander around cluelessly (ha, ha) wondering where I am and where the clues actually are. Can you explain how the map corresponded to the real world, and how the actual locations of the clues corresponded to what the coordinates were? Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease

Gene Weingarten: They did correspond. Did you not notice TEN THOUSAND PEOPLE walking from one clue site to another? Might that not have sent you in some promising directions?

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Arlington Park, VA: We had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the WaPo people. Poor Hank seemed like he was about to collapse with frustration towards the end. Rachel was brilliant and seemed indefatigable. Caitlin was charming. Gene is -not- fat, although he did look a bit stressed out. Tom is far better looking than one might assume giving his vicious reputation. And I think that Dave Barry kid has a future.

Okay, not that you are all softened up, I must ask why the Hunt was held so much later than before? Having it in May seems far less risky weather-wise.

Gene Weingarten: But April is the month of showers!

We decided to move it forward because the two previous Hunts had unfortunately coincided with college final exams. It seems to have worked: There were a lot of college people.

Gene Weingarten: As far as our appearance, I had several people inform me that I should not say I am fat, but that I should say I have jowls like a bloodhound.

Tom Shroder: On the date: We were viciously scarred by the first Post Hunt in May 2008 when the forecast called for hail the size of schnauzers.

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Edit, OR: The answer to preliminary Question 3 was incorrect. The question asked which of the titles was NOT real. The answer should have been "All of them," not "None of them."

Please invalidate the hunt and start it over again next week.

Gene Weingarten: You are correct. Tom noticed this just before The Hunt, and we talked it over, and decided that it didn't really matter because the Hunt sites were clear, and that only one person would be weenie enough to notice this. Thanks for weighing in, though!

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Arlington, VA: I know you are getting heat over the "football" contest, but, in retrospect, "66" was obviously the best choice because the associated clue made the most sense. Look, when you have clues that talk about the "first," "third," and "fourth" it doesn't take a Rocket Scientist to figure out that the clue that mentions the "second" is probably one to seriously consider.

Gene Weingarten: True enough. We are not backing down: 66 was the best answer. But in fairness, 35 was not unreasonable, so we warned you about that. All the rest of you are grousers, pouters, bellyachers, carpers, grumblers, mewlers, cavilers, and snivelers. But we like you.

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Thanks for the Miami weather, Dave: High point of yesterday's Hunt: seeing the Barney & Clyde comic (KNEW that had to be part of the hunt), correctly solving it and hearing Tom's voice over the phone. Low point: after solving the Interpreter puzzle (or so I thought), my 9 year old daughter said "I sure am glad we have a guy with us, cause he knows how many points are in a touchdown". I guessed 14. Humbling to say the least.

Did Hank get hazardous duty pay for reading that speech for three hours straight?

Gene Weingarten: Hank and Rachel had the horrible jobs this year. Next year we'll have to put them on a throne, getting fanned by fronds, or something.

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washingtonpost.com: Eww Street Cafe Menu from 2010 End Game (PDF)

Gene Weingarten: Y'alls can print it out and pretend you got it at the Hunt!

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Chantilly: So of those 10-12 thou, how many actually got to The End Game?

Tom Shroder: Definitely more than 500, possibly a thousand.

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Barneyandcyl, DE: I couldn't answer the Barney and Clyde puzzle because no matter what order you put the panels in, they aren't funny. Why did you make it so hard?

Gene Weingarten: Our goal is to make "Barney & Clyde" as unfunny as possible. With comic strips, it's all about finding your "niche" and there are already enough funny ones.

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McLean, VA: A question about the feet: what happened to the feet? Could I have gotten one of the feet if I'd asked?

Tom Shroder: You could have gotten 555 and one-half feet if you asked.

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Arlington, VA: Had a great time despite spending 20 minutes trying to relate the word "clear" to Rachel exposing her bellybutton.

Gene Weingarten: See, you weren't looking carefully enough. Rachel was wearing some bellybutton bling that CLEARLY had "66" embossed on it in agate type.

Actually, for those who complained they had no idea this was about football: We added a subtle element, for your Hunting pleasure. Rachel was wearing a zebra- striped shirt. considered adding a whistle -- she'd brought one -- but decided that you weren't THAT thick.

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3rd place team?: The third place team didn't circle "restaurant"? They probably just followed the hordes there without knowing why. Shame. I guess there were only two "real" winners, and I'll make sure to follow the running hordes next year.

Gene Weingarten: No, they had it all but forgot that. They were not horde followers. In fact, they were the second to the finals. They were following no one. They had a cat, they made a sound like the jackass.

Horde followers NEVER win.

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Reston, VA: As much fun as last year's Post Hunt was, this one was a miserable frustrating experience, due to poor organization. You ran out of final clue cards at the end!!!!! We finally made it to the "restaurant" and there were no cards left! We couldn't even try to solve the final puzzle! We wasted 3 hours running all over town only to be deprived of the final clue. That really put a damper on the whole experience. Thanks for nothing.

Tom Shroder: I'm so sorry you had a bad experience. We certainly try to make all the schlepping around during the Hunt the point, the fun of it, rather than a mere means to the end, and that didn't happen for you. But remember, the endgame of the Hunt is a race to be the first to solve it, and you had a chance to solve it first like everyone else. Just 500 teams beat you to it.

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tropichunt.com guy, FL: Tom and Gene (and Dave, in absentia): Thank you! A great day for the Hunt! Thanks for driving us all mad for another year!

Looking back at it, if there was something you could tweak/change about it, what would it be and how would you have changed it? What do you think worked the best?

Gene Weingarten: 1. More than 500 menus.

2. We wouldn't have had 35 as a possible answer.

I think that's about it.

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I <3 you guys!!: We thought the comic made perfect sense when the panels were put in numerical order--well, maybe not perfect sense, but enough so that we thought we were right (and in the actual answer, the majority of the panels were in numerical order, so...). So then we were like, "What does it mean that things were out of order?" Then we remembered that the numbers on the map were also out of order. So we thought that if we put those numbers back in order, it would give us new coordinates. So off we went to B1, where we found...a protest being staged in front of the White House. A man was singing and there were Israeli flags. Then I remembered that Gene had said offhandedly during the other chat, "Jews tend to win this thing." Then I remembered that Tom had said something about how they had "taken a huge gamble -with something for this Hunt]." So I was like, ...did they...did they fake a protest?? is this the clue?? complete with police officers and all??? Is this even politically correct??? But while we're on the subject, why were the numbers on the map out of order?

Gene Weingarten: I go back to the Mummery quote.

The coordinates on the map were out of order because we needed to fit K-9 in a certain place. Please do not assume that there is a similar reason if we do this again. Because in the past we have made the coordinates out of order for no reason at all. We might well do it again.

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Sterling, VA: Great job!!! Next year, the stage needs to be higher or the End Game needs to be repeated several times so those of us who are not of Yasutaka Okayama's stature can see ... rain = umbrellas = whaaaa???

Tom Shroder: Next year . . . maybe we'll rent the Nationals stadium, and do the Hunt during the seventh inning stretch.

Gene Weingarten: We ARE actually thinking about Nationals Stadium.

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Fairfax, VA: Enough already with the kvetching and other Yiddish words about the Football contest. From the context of the other clues the correct interpretation of "66" and not "61" or "35" or even "8" was obvious.

I mean, the clues from the other puzzles mentioned first, third, and fourth. Does it really take a super-genius to figure out that the correct clue for this puzzle might mention second?

And I hope Hank is all better now.

Tom Shroder: Hank didn't even lose his voice this year! Like he did last year when he was the crazed debater.

Gene Weingarten: Also, we are kidding the kvetchers, but it is okay to kvetch. Kvetching helps us for the next year.

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Arlington, va: What was the deal with the Austrian Airlines chocolate bars? Were they part of the hunt?

Gene Weingarten: What?

Uh, Tom?

Tom Shroder: They were only part of the Hunt in the sense that I ate two.

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The Scoutmaster: OK, so I'm basically evil. Were you concerned that a bunch of idiots like me were going to show up wearing Boy Scout shirts and giving out bogus directions? Not that I did, but the thought did cross my mind...

Gene Weingarten: No, but I was concerned that people were going to think that my column in the magazine was a clue. Totally coincidentally -- this was written weeks in advance, and I wasn't really conscious of what mag it was going to be in -- it was all about directional impairment, finding things, maps, GPS, etc.

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NoVa: Those gigantic half-letters on the Ellipse that spelled out "FIVE HUNDRED." What were they made of?

Tom Shroder: They were a pastiche of chicken wire and plaster on a core of solid platinum.

Gene Weingarten: Either Tom doesn't know what pastiche means, or he is being ironic. I choose irony.

They were actually made, mostly, of hollow plywood with a sort of stucco facing. Done by MCS Designs, a brilliant group of people.

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Washington, DC: All the solutions are posted in video form! What about those of us who are blocked from watching videos at work? I can't be expected to wait until the end of the day to find out the solutions...I couldn't sleep last night as it was.

washingtonpost.com: Too bad you weren't checking the site at 3 a.m. when we finished them!

Gene Weingarten: You need to quit that dead-end job, anyway.

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Alexandria, VA: I'm thinking of starting a Rock Band. If I name it "A Touchdown's not 7 Points" Can we play at the Post Hunt next year?

washingtonpost.com: "a touchdown is not 7 points" appears to have been a Googlenope ... until thsi chat.

Gene Weingarten: Wow!

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New York, NY: Do you guys regret the touchdown puzzle at all?

Tom Shroder: We only regret the distressing lack of understanding that A TOUCHDOWN IS NOT 7 POINTS.

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Red Light of Fate from Washington, DC: Tom, Gene, and Dave! Thanks for hosting another fantastic Hunt! I'm really happy that our team was able to bring the trophy to DC where it rightfully belongs :) That being said...we're talking about trying to pull off a repeat performance this year in Miami...how have DC teams in the past performed in the Herald Hunt? Any words of advice?

Tom Shroder: Out of state teams have competed well in Miami, but be warned: it can be intensely hot and humid, with a real risk of severe storms in the vicinity, sometimes even tornado warnings.

Oh wait, that was yesterday in DC.

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Menu-less in Vienna: My team was among those who showed up at the restaurant after the menus ran out. Granted, we might have been too far behind the frontrunners to catch up, but it sure did put a damper on the fun. (We were having our best year yet, having gotten to the End Game with a sliver of a chance of figuring things out before the announcements were made...by which I mean just that, not that we would have actually WON.) Did the Post do a thorough cost-benefit analysis to determine that 500 menus was the right number to print? I would have happily PAID FOR a menu. Perhaps you could consider that kind of pricing structure next year. (Note: I am a Post print edition subscriber.)

Tom Shroder: Yes, but would you have paid $9 for Sauteed kangaroo armpits in kumquat puree?

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Arlington, VA: What degree of difficulty do you think the 2010 Post Hunt was, compared to the first two?

Tom Shroder: The hardest thing about designing a Hunt is it is impossible for the designers to be absolutely certain about how difficult a puzzle is going to seem to people who are coming on it cold, and prey to a host of unanticipated distractions. So we really rely on people to tell US how it ranked. I will say our main concern coming into this Hunt was that it might be too easy. We are aware of the huge range of disparity in Hunting experience we are dealing with each year -- from neophytes to lifers. Almost every year, at least a few of the old hands will say to us that the puzzles were too easy while many newcomers will pronounce themselves completely baffled. This year is the first time I can remember not running into a single "too easy" as I walked around the Hunt. For what that's worth.

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Bethesda, MD: I'm not even remotely smart enough to solve the end game puzzle. What advice do you have for me for next year?

Tom Shroder: Partner with a couple of Nobel winners, and an 8-year-old.

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Richmond, VA: I visited the Washington Monument about 2:30pm, and there was no man wearing a dodger's shirt, and no pink umbrella. Granted, I probably should have figured it out earlier, but still ... what time did he leave?

Tom Shroder: At 2:35 the National Park Service force them to leave because of lightning threats.

Gene Weingarten: I guess the monument is a pretty big lightning rod.

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Sterling, VA: My husband thought "circle the word that got you there" meant to use the sheet from the first clue (since that was the answer to the first clue) and so you were supposed to write on that card and circle "shoes."

Pretty clever, I thought, but we didn't get the whole K-9 thing anyway, so the point was moot. But would you have accepted that? (Please say yes so I can console him.)

Tom Shroder: No way! (I hope that's consolation enough.)

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dazed and confused: so the answer to the interpreter for the clueless is 66 and not 35. OK. Was this the first time you all had to give a hint/rule out an answer in the Post Hunt? Do you test the clues before the hunt (on something other than hullucinating weasels)? What does it say about the Post Hunters that they can come up with better answers than the Post Hunted?

Tom Shroder: As noted earlier, if you imagine the Hunt has ever been anything close to flawless, please take a moment to consider the source.

Gene Weingarten: And no, hints and such are an unfortunate staple.

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DC: Two requests for next year - please move it back to May when it will hopefully be cooler and please bring back matching people up who don't have a team.

Tom Shroder: Thanks for the suggestions. We may even take you up on both!

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Weingarten Frizzy Hair: Dude, use some conditioner. I've seen less frizzy hair on a show poodle.

Gene Weingarten: I am embarrassed by my hair, but I'd be more embarrassed if people thought I was the kind of person who cared what his hair looked like. It is hell being me.

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La Famiglia, VA: More of a comment: I joined my friends this time for my first Post Hunt. We all had so much fun running around and finding the clues and the answers (even though the TD clue messed us up a little). I think what made it more fun for us was that we really got into the game. We made t-shirts the night before, had a team name and a cheer, and gave ourselves nick names. I think that if more people thought of it as more of a fun brain game and less of a boring brain competition, there would be less disappointed people in the end because even if they didn't win, they would have at least had fun with friends and family. The Post Hunt is definitely a tradition that my friends and I will continue . We have already made a pact that no matter where we are, we will always come together for the Post Hunt.

Gene Weingarten: See, now that is the spirit.

You also need to spend a lot more money on the thing. Matching bling.

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Miami, FL: In addition to "restaurant", if you rearrange star, ear, and nut, you get "start near U". Intentional or coincidence?

Tom Shroder: coincidence

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Gene's column was a red herring: Gene, your column totally threw off our End Game. Your bit about "east, south, north and that other one" had me on a compass kick that fit the "first, 2nd, third, fourth" of the clue list. Then when you all presented "Ear, Star, Nut" and juggled them in the air (to resemble a compass rose, in my mind)... well, that was the end of our team. Thanks a lot for the misdirection (pun of course intended).

Gene Weingarten: Ah, there we go! I KNEW some peopel would be bamboozled.

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G'burg, MD: This year's Hunt sucked- not because we didn't figure out the "speech" clue but because we didn't have a chance at the final clue. Some of us can't run anymore. You need to give us older folks a chance. I did like the feet clue though.

Tom Shroder: That's why God invented the Segway!

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Gene Weingarten: Okay, the questions are starting to repeat themselves, so we are going to call the game here.

Thank you all -- it was a delight doing this; I hope we get to do it again next year.

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Arlington, VA: The phone numbers used during the Hunt and the End Game -- how long do they stay operational? Because it's kind of fun to listen to the messages, especially Shroder saying "clowder."

Tom Shroder: Ha! I think they are still operational, so get your clowder fix now.

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Future of the Hunt?: Will it continue to happen even though you all took the buyout or whatever?

Tom Shroder: It will take an effort similar to the one ongoing to shut down the BP deepwater well to stop the Hunt.

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Themed edition of the hunt: Ever thought of having teams register and breaking the winners up by category? You could have a winner in the collegiate team division, a winner in the federal government teams division, etc ...

Tom Shroder: I like it. Maybe a Hunt bureaucracy could actually become a branch of the federal government.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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