Wednesday, October 26, 2005


How do nerds deal with crises? By milling around a lot, apparently. Last weekend we did something we've long wanted to do: played in the annual all-night-long puzzle-solving scavenger hunt around New York. This year's game was constrained to Brooklyn, and had a twist that involved an elaborate game of tag among teams. Basically, the idea was this: you're given clues that seem impenetrable but yield to various logical interpretations and/or manipulations, and thus you're given the rough location of the next clue. And so on, until you reach the finish line at dawn. There were four sets of clues: a subset of each team would be assigned to each, and the final clues in each set would combine somehow to form the final clue. In practice, this involved a lot of cab-riding, cellphone-gabbing, anagramming, and searching through garbage-strewn streets for a symbol or icon at 3am. A laser was involved in the final clue, which made it all worthwhile.

This shouldn't have surprised me, but it did: most teams seemed to operate with incredible inefficiency. (I should stress that I was pretty much dead weight to my team.) The actual solving of puzzles went pretty smoothly, but a typical interaction went like this:

Person A: Ok, I've got it! The next clue is inside the spleen of the fourth monkey we find in the bucket under the MTA employee at Borough Hall.
Person B: Ok, great.
Person C: Let's go.
Person A: Ok.
[mill around aimlessly for the next 10 minutes]
Person B: Should we get a cab, or what?
Person C: Sure. Or we could walk.
[mill mill mill, murmur murmur]

You know, in retrospect, this wouldn't have bothered me so much. But our team finished behind the first-place team by 15 minutes, which meant that I was treated to the spectacle of the new High Priest of Nerds raising his arms in triumph, crowing "That's what I'm talking about" several times, and making various "in-your-face" pouts.