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More puzzle/contests

(Just in case you weren't already sick of reading about this stuff.)

I was so intrigued by the Perplex City concept that I kept digging and uncovered more history on solve-a-puzzle-win-a-prize style games. Perplex City fits within the categories of two broad genres: Alternative Reality Games (ARGs) and Armchair Treasure Hunts. Masquerade is the first major armchair treasure hunt, which used clues from a children's book to point out a 22 carat gold hare buried in the real world. The book was published in 1979, and the golden hare was unearthed in 1982.

The ARG movement began after the advent of widespread Internet access, with a project code-named The Beast. If you'd like to read more about alternative reality, Gibson's Pattern Recognition explores a similar concept in novel form. G. K. Chesterton lays the foundation for a type of proto-ARG in the first chapter of The Club of Queer Trades. I mention this one because I thought the idea was clever when I came up with it as a business concept in my Entrepreneur class. Chesterton beat me to it, again.

The Isis, shown left, is described as the "hardest puzzle in history." Supposedly, only 5% of the people who own one will manage to open it (what's the success rate on Rubik's Cubes?). A few have already been cracked. I wonder how hard can it be if it has already been solved, but then again each ball has its own individual cipher and solution. It's a beautiful artifact, which it ought to be for $200. The twist is, if you do manage to crack it, inside you'll find "a uniquely coded key that will open one of several golden pyramids" that "contain silver and gold coins worth thousands of dollars." We'll see how that plays out, I suppose.

One final thought before I lay this topic to rest. I realized today that my love for puzzles is part of why I love web design so much. I enjoy the creative aspects of high-level design, but what I really like is the nitty-gritty. Poring over source code, learning a new language, figuring out how something works, or why it doesn't. And then finally, the "ah ha!" moment when all the pieces click together, and I solve whatever problem I'm working on. It's not called HTML "code" for nothing!

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