Interview with a Mystery Hunt Winner by Jess K. '10
An interview with Kat '10, a member of Palindrome, last year's winning team and this year's puzzle writers
This is my friend Kat ’10, and she’s one of my very favorite people. My favorite thing about going to a place like MIT is that you tend to meet a lot of extraordinarily cool people, like Kat ’10. She’s got very good taste in music and also a beautiful singing voice, which I know because we were both in Beauty and the Beast last year and both as Silly Girls (you know those three girls who follow Gaston around everywhere? We were Silly Girls #1 and #2). And she’s super generous – last year just as she was leaving for summer vacation, she gave me a peach Snapple. I mean, you just can’t find people who will do that anywhere else.
I also admire her up the heezy because last year she happened to participate as a freshman in Mystery Hunt, and her team happened to finish first.
So I begged her to answer some questions for me, because while we have quite a few Mystery Hunt participant bloggers, we have yet to have a Mystery Hunt winner blogger (my money’s on Evan for next year, though). She of course obliged, because she is just that cool.
“How did you get involved with Mystery Hunt/your team last year?”
The team I joined (Palindrome) plays and joins the hunt every year in the spirit and name of “having fun.” But it was comprised of very few MIT students (I was 1 of 2, the other person was really 2 people who were half contributing, and by half contributing I mean they wrote one puzzle each). Mostly, it’s made up of alums, National Puzzler’s League people (NPL) and their random friends/co-workers. (another interesting tidbit: half of our team can probably be seen in the documentary “wordplay”, including Trip Payne and Tyler Hinman–Tyler’s an awesome person and holds a lot of crossword championship titles, I don’t know trip that well though…). But I joined this team because of my High School Math teacher, who is a part of the NPL and also started a mystery hunt for the HS. I took a lot of his classes and after I got into MIT, he convinced me to join his team ^^
“What was the experience of working on the 2007 hunt like?”
Working on last year’s hunt was a tad bit awkward, but it did have its moments. I went into it only knowing one person, who just so happened to be my math teacher and with whom I always interacted with formally. It was really strange because I was essentially peers with everybody in the room and called them by their first names or nicknames. Coming out of high school, I found this really strange and a weird transition… The first time I entered our HQ, I was surrounded by these old people who looked really intimidating and hardcore solvers, but I just stuck with it and made a few contributions of my own. I think they were just happy to see fresh and current MIT student faces, but after getting to know some of them, we’re really good friends now.
“What was it like to finish first?”
Finishing first was indeed an AMAZING experience, considering it was my first time ever being in the hunt and we won it! We were all just super excited and at our celebration dinner that night with the bombers, we were already starting to brainstorm ideas for Hunt2008.
“How did you contribute to the creation of this year’s hunt?” (note: the prize for finishing the hunt first is getting to write next year’s puzzle)
I felt like I didn’t have enough puzzling experience to write puzzles of my own (which I regret now, I should have been more creative and just written something), but I did contribute a lot in that I handled all the logistics of the hunt. This included scheduling and registering the date, the times, all the rooms for the teams, permission to put a device in lobby 7 (getting ok-ed so they wouldn’t think there was this strange black box bomb planted and so people wouldn’t freak out) and especially getting funding from MIT in order to make this possible. I was basically the person they turned to when they realized there was so much to be done because I already had strong connections with some people on the team and a main factor was that I was basically the only “real” MIT student. Asides from that, I also did some test solving of some puzzles. The most interesting one that I helped test was the final run-around, so I got to see/feel what the winning team of this year’s hunt would when they found the location of the coin.
“How was your experience this IAP different from last year?”
This IAP was super awesome and super tiring. I’ve been really busy because I’ve been organizing this, UPOP-ing, yearbooking, PE-ing, even learning how to belly-dance, and now I have 2.670 and I haven’t really had a chance to do anything for my UROP. But on the whole, it’s the same because I’ve been having a blast, spending time with friends and just reaping all the benefits of MIT without the homework! What has changed is that I’m doing different things, meeting new people, and just doing things that I’ve never done before :D
So that’s Kat, one of MIT’s many extraordinarily cool people. Of course, the downside of meeting a lot of extraordinarily cool people is that you tend to feel inadequate about 104% of the time. Because the conversation pretty much goes like, “Hey Kat, what’d you do this weekend?” “I ran Mystery Hunt. What’d you do?” “Oh, I, uh.. I, uh, accidentally saw Juno three times.” (This is not a lie. I only meant to see it once. Or twice.)
Thanks again, Kat. I owe you a large hug and a peach Snapple.