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  • It's 4am, you've been awake for forty hours,

  • when you unlock a puzzle containing this video

  • of some kind of dance-off between a chicken and a roller-skating beaver.

  • (Laughter)

  • The confusion and delight you're experiencing

  • is a typical moment at the MIT Mystery Hunt,

  • which is basically the Olympics meets Burning Man

  • for a specific type of nerd.

  • (Laughter)

  • Today, I'm going to take you inside this strange,

  • intellectually masochistic and incredibly joyful world.

  • But first, I have to explain what I mean when I say "puzzle."

  • A puzzle-hunt-style puzzle is a data set.

  • It can be a grid of letters, a sudoku, a video, an audio --

  • it can be anything that contains hidden information

  • that can eventually resolve into an answer that is a word or a phrase.

  • So, to give you an example,

  • this is a puzzle called "Master Pieces."

  • It consists of 10 images of LEGO people looking at piles of LEGOs.

  • And to save us some time, I'm going to explain what's going on here.

  • Each of the piles of LEGOs is a deconstructed work of art

  • in the style of a famous artist.

  • So, does anybody recognize the artist on the left?

  • They used a lot of red.

  • I heard "Rothko," yeah.

  • The second one?

  • (Audience) Mondrian.

  • Alex Rosenthal: Yeah, well done.

  • And the third one? This is the hardest one --

  • Yeah, Klimt, I heard it.

  • Well done, the color is the biggest clue there.

  • So the puzzle has various clues

  • that tell you what matters here are the artists,

  • not the specific works of art.

  • And what you need to do is then look at what you haven't used yet,

  • which is the number of LEGO people in each painting.

  • And you can count them

  • and then count into the artists' last names by the same number of letters.

  • So there's three people in front of the Rothko on the left,

  • so you take the third letter, which is a T.

  • There's only one in front of the Mondrian, so you take the first letter, M.

  • And there's three again in front of Klimt, so you take the third letter, I.

  • You do that for all 10 of the original artists

  • and put them in the order,

  • and you get the answer, which is "illuminate."

  • (Laughter)

  • Puzzles like this are about communicating an idea.

  • But where I'm trying to be as clear as possible for you now,

  • puzzles have to navigate the line between abstraction and clarity.

  • They have to be obtuse enough to make you work for it,

  • but elegant enough so you can get to the aha moment,

  • where everything clicks into place.

  • Puzzle solvers are junkies for this aha moment --

  • it feels like a brief high and an instant of pristine clarity.

  • And there's also a deeper fulfillment at play here,

  • which is that humans are innate problem-solvers.

  • That's why we love crosswords and escape rooms

  • and figuring out how to explore the bottom of the ocean.

  • Solving deviously difficult puzzles expands our minds in new directions,

  • and it also helps us come at problems from diverse perspectives.

  • These puzzles come in various puzzle hunts,

  • which come in various shapes and sizes.

  • There's one-hour ones designed for novices,

  • 24-hour road rallies,

  • and the puzzle hunt of puzzle hunts, the MIT Mystery Hunt.

  • This is an event that takes place once a year

  • and has around 2,000 people descending on MIT's campus

  • and solving puzzles in teams that range from a single person to over 100.

  • My team has 60 people on it --

  • that includes a national crossword puzzle tournament champion,

  • a particle physicist, a composer,

  • an actual deep-sea explorer,

  • and me, feeling like "Mr. Bean goes to Bletchley Park."

  • (Laughter)

  • That's actually an apt comparison, because one year involved a puzzle

  • where you had to construct a working Enigma machine

  • out of pieces of cardboard.

  • (Laughter)

  • Each Mystery Hunt has a theme.

  • Past ones have included "The Matrix" and "Alice in Wonderland."

  • It's often pop culture- and literary-based themes.

  • And the goal is to find the coin

  • that's been hidden somewhere on MIT's campus.

  • And in order to get there, you have to solve around 150 puzzles

  • and do various events and challenges.

  • I had done this for about 10 years without ever dreaming of winning,

  • until January of 2016,

  • where 53 hours into a hunt whose theme is the movie "Inception,"

  • we haven't slept in days, so everything is hilarious ...

  • (Laughter)

  • The tables are covered in piles of papers, of our notes and completed puzzles.

  • The whiteboards are an unintelligible mess of three days' worth of insights.

  • And we're stuck on two puzzles.

  • If we could crack them, we would get into the endgame,

  • and after hours of work, in a magical moment,

  • they both fall within 10 seconds of each other,

  • and soon, we're on the final runaround,

  • a series of clues that will lead us to the coin,

  • and we're racing through the halls of MIT,

  • trying not to knock over or terrify tour groups,

  • when we realize we're not alone,

  • there's another team on the runaround as well,

  • and we don't know who's ahead.

  • So, we're a mess of anxiety,

  • anticipation, exhilaration and sleep deprivation,

  • when we arrive at the Alchemist,

  • a sculpture in which we find ...

  • this coin.

  • (Cheers)

  • Yeah.

  • (Applause)

  • And in claiming it, we win the MIT Mystery Hunt

  • by a tiny margin of five minutes.

  • What I didn't mention before

  • is that the prize for winning

  • is that you get to construct the whole hunt for the following year.

  • (Laughter)

  • The punishment for winning

  • is that you have to construct the whole hunt for the following year.

  • At the beginning of 2016, I had never constructed a puzzle before --

  • I had solved plenty of puzzles,

  • but constructing and solving are entirely different beasts.

  • But once again,

  • I was lucky to be on a team full of brilliant mentors and collaborators.

  • So, from a constructor's point of view,

  • a puzzle is where I have an idea,

  • and instead of telling you what it is,

  • I'm going to leave a trail of breadcrumbs so you can figure it out for yourself,

  • and have the joy and experience of the aha moment.

  • This is another way of looking at the aha moment.

  • And what's incredible to me is that this experience,

  • which is very emotional and kind of almost physical,

  • is something that can be carefully designed.

  • So, to show you what I mean,

  • this is a puzzle I co-constructed with my friend Matt Gruskin.

  • It's a text adventure,

  • which is the old-school adventure game format,

  • where you're exploring, going north, east, south and west,

  • picking up items and using them.

  • And you could get to the end of the game part,

  • but you won't have solved the puzzle.

  • In order to do so, you have to recognize a hidden layer of information,

  • and the easiest way of seeing it is by mapping the game out.

  • That looks something like this.

  • Does anybody recognize what this is?

  • Yeah, exactly.

  • This text adventure takes place within "Settlers of Catan."

  • Who here knows what "Settlers" is?

  • Nerds.

  • (Laughter)

  • If you don't know, "Settlers" is a board game

  • where you're competing against other people

  • to collect resources and use them to build structures.

  • And within the text adventure, we hid information in various ways,

  • with which you could reconstruct an entire game.

  • You could figure out the roads, the cities, the towns,

  • the resources, the numbers on the tiles, even the dice rolls.

  • You put all that information together and you could extract an answer

  • in a way that's too complicated to explain right now.

  • (Laughter)

  • But find me afterwards if you really want to know.

  • (Laughter)

  • But what this puzzle emphasized for me

  • is the value of perspective shifts in inspiring an aha.

  • So, in this puzzle,

  • you go from experiencing the world on the ground, as a character,

  • to looking down on it from above as if you're playing a board game,

  • and in that shift,

  • you completely reframe all the information you've been given.

  • The hardest part of construction for me is coming up with a great idea for an aha.

  • Fortunately, the world is a torrent of ideas and information.

  • I've seen fantastic puzzles constructed out of the waggle dances of bees,

  • and the remarkable coincidence that the 88 keys of a piano

  • can be perfectly mapped to the 88 constellations in the sky.

  • Once you find that out, you can't not construct the puzzle,

  • and it's going to be about having the solvers

  • make that connection in their own minds.

  • Whether you give them stars on a keyboard

  • or play the celestial music of the cosmos,

  • you're getting them there, one way or another.

  • Before long, you find yourself staring at a turtle,

  • and asking yourself, "Is this a puzzle?"

  • (Laughter)

  • And also, staring at a turtle and saying,

  • "I never appreciated what multitudes this contains in its shell alone."

  • This might be a familiar experience to you,

  • if you've ever been watching a TED Talk and asked yourself, "Is this a puzzle?"

  • (Laughter)

  • I'm not telling.

  • But what I will say

  • is that puzzles can be found in the most unexpected of places.

  • That brings us back to one of my favorite puzzles of all time,

  • which was constructed by Trip Payne.

  • And this time, I'm going to play it for you with the sound on,

  • so get ready to name that tune.

  • (Slowed-down mock clucking)

  • (Slowed-down mock clucking)

  • (Slowed-down mock clucking)

  • (Laughter)

  • Who knows what that is?

  • Yeah, "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman."

  • (Laughter)

  • So you can identify that and seven other songs and clips,

  • and then look at the videos themselves for clues,

  • where the way that they are filmed and edited together

  • plus things like the cutaways to the panel of five people

  • sitting at a table,

  • which is reminiscent of a panel of judges,

  • all of this can suggest "reality competition show."

  • And either through internet research,

  • or from just recognizing this, you can get to the aha,

  • which is that these clips are shot-for-shot recreations

  • of lip-synch battles from "RuPaul's Drag Race."

  • (Laughter)

  • So, why do we do this?

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • You tell me, I don't know.

  • So, first of all, it's really fun.

  • But I think it also improves our lives in various ways.

  • Being able to solve puzzles, when I'm confronted with a challenge,

  • has allowed me to explore it from multiple perspectives

  • before I lock in an approach.

  • Also, the process of solving is great training for working with a team,

  • knowing when to listen, when to share,

  • and how to recognize and celebrate insight

  • and being able to construct ahas is a very powerful tool.

  • Think of how powerful and exciting and convincing an idea is

  • that comes from your own mind,

  • where you make all the connections yourself.

  • So in January of 2017,

  • after tens of thousands of hours of work,

  • we finally run our Mystery Hunt.

  • And it's a different sort of satisfaction than the quick high of an aha moment.

  • Instead, it's the slow burn of saying something through perplexing abstraction,

  • yet being understood.

  • And when it was all over,

  • in our exhaustion, we turned to each other and the world, and we said,

  • "We're never doing this again. It's too much work.

  • It's really fun, but no more winning."

  • One year later, in January of 2018,

  • we won the MIT Mystery Hunt again.

  • (Laughter)

  • So, we're currently I don't know how many tens of thousands of hours of work in,

  • and we're two months out from the 2019 Hunt.

  • So, thank you for listening, I have to go write a puzzle.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

It's 4am, you've been awake for forty hours,

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【TED】The joyful, perplexing world of puzzle hunts | Alex Rosenthal

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    林宜悉   に公開 2019 年 01 月 16 日
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