(Illustration by Kagan McLeod)

Join us for the fifth annual Post Hunt on Sunday, June 3, in Washington, D.C.’s Franklin Square Park (bordered by I Street, K Street, 13th Street and 14th Street NW). The game kicks off at noon, but get there early!

Good morning.

You are no doubt excited about joining us for The Fifth Annual Post Hunt because you have heard that The President of the United States is going to throw out the first pitch. We’d like to tell you that’s true, but it betrays a complete misunderstanding of the event. The first pitch will be thrown out by Johnny Depp.

What is The Post Hunt?

It is, simply put, an obelisk weighing ninety thousand tons. No, wait, that’s the Washington Monument. The Post Hunt is a large insane puzzle that will be set up in various locations around downtown. We’re challenging you and your friends or family to form a team and try to solve this puzzle. If you’re the first to do it, you’ll win two thousand American dollars — more than enough money for you to retire for life in the late eighteenth century. Because that’s the kind of high rollers we are, here at The Washington Post. Winners of the second and third prizes get five hundred dollars each.

So if you have nothing important to do (Hello, Mr. Vice President!) we urge you to get a team together and be at the Hunt stage in Franklin Square Park in Northwest Washington before noon Sunday. The Hunt starts at noon
sharp and lasts about four hours.
It is
a lot of fun. But don’t take our word
for it! Take the word of our celebrity spokesperson, the Dalai Lama:

The Dalai Lama: The Post Hunt

is a lot of fun. And, yes, this

really is me saying this.

What You Will Need

A team. You can Hunt alone, but a team is more fun, and group thinking is a big advantage. Centuries of Hunt experience have taught us the optimum team size is four people, but any number can participate. (Remember, though, that you’ll be splitting the winnings among yourselves. A team of six thousand people might find this a bummer). Children are welcome and can be helpful, since little Johnny often finds essential clues that Ma, with her PhD, is too sophisticated to see, and Dad doesn’t notice because he is distracted by the undulating ocean of shorts and tank tops that often blossoms at this early summer event.

Pen or pencil, and cellphone. Each team must have at least one cellphone with your basic modern set of capabilities. (You will NOT need Internet access.)

This magazine. The magazine is filled with essential Hunt items, most important, the Hunt Map and the official list of possible Hunt Clues. Other parts of the magazine might also be important. We guarantee that the winners will have read the magazine carefully and thoroughly before the Hunt begins, and translated Weingarten’s column into German. That very last thing won’t be necessary, but we’re betting someone will do it, Just to Be Sure. Hunters are Intense.

Comfortable shoes. The Hunt will take you throughout the area depicted on the Hunt Map, so unless you plan to hunt via Segway, you’ll want to be kind to your dogs. Canines are also welcome.

Appropriate clothes and gear.
The Hunt goes on, rain or shine.

A sense of humor. The Hunt is a competition, but it is mostly just nuts. An appreciation of the absurd will go a long way to making the Hunt fun for all, even if you lose, which, let’s face it, you will.

But that doesn’t mean you won’t have fun or even solve some of the puzzles. We’re feeling generous, so here’s a tip: This year as always, your greatest enemy will be linear thinking, except in the technical sense that if we pull a 180 on you, it is, by geometric theorem, still “linear.”

How to Begin

A nswer the Opening Questions in Sunday’s Magazine. They are painstakingly engineered to be stupid but also easy, like Paris Hilton. They’re designed to be solvable by anyone who has ever achieved a body temperature of 98.6, which pretty much means they’ll prove difficult only for dogs, cats, lizards and, possibly, Paris Hilton. Once you’ve got the answers, get down to Franklin Square Park before noon.

The Locations of the
Five Hunt Puzzles

At noon, Hunt designers Dave Barry, Gene Weingarten and Tom Shroder will be onstage in Franklin Square Park to deliver the aptly 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. Franklin Square Park, bordered by 13th, 14th, K and I streets NW, is easily accessible by Metro (it’s directly catty-corner from the McPherson Square Metro 14th Street exit). All the Hunt puzzles are within walking distance of the park, and easy to locate using the Hunt Map. You can visit the puzzles in any order you wish.

You will know the puzzles when you encounter them. No puzzle sites are hidden or hard to see. You will not have to go into any buildings to solve a puzzle. It is important to note that for several 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.

Solving the Puzzles

The most important thing to know about solving Hunt puzzles is this: THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS A NUMBER. Since the very first Hunt (late Pleistocene) 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 in the Magazine. 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 ten minutes to three, when we start to disassemble the Puzzles. At that point, you should return to the main stage. Be sure you get there by three o’clock.

How to Use the Clue Pages

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, put there solely to slow you down, like Metro escalators. But even if you find all five genuine clues, they will make no sense until you are back at the main stage at three o’clock, when Tom, Gene and Dave will present the Final Clue. It will give you the last information you need in order to begin to make sense of the five clues from the Clue Pages. All this knowledge combined will launch you on the final stage of the Hunt, the part we call the Endgame and which is mean and sneaky and convoluted, like Newt Gingrich’s brain. Some of you will have no idea what to do. Some of you will know exactly what to do, but you will be wrong. A small number of you will Get It. The ones who Get It First, and get it for the right reasons (we will interrogate you), win.

The final step of the Endgame changes year to year. In the past, it involved things like making a phone call to a secret number, delivering a code word to an actor impersonating a street person, dropping a Ping Pong ball in a little hole, squatting naked for a patdown by a street person impersonating an actor, etc.

Whether you figure out the Endgame or not, make sure that at least one person on your team returns to the stage at half past three. 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 Dave and Gene and Tom explain the answers and everyone boos.

A Few Tips

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). 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.


Live Q&A: Friday, 11 a.m. ET

Join Post Hunt on Twitter ( — use #PostHunt on your own tweets!) and on .

Official rules for 2012

Video: See last year’s puzzles

Photos: Pictures from last year’s event

Full coverage: Everything about Post Hunt