Amazon Puzzle Hunt 2013!

2 Aug

Last Saturday James and 7 coworkers did the Amazon Puzzle Hunt. It was an all day event where teams of 6-8 tried to complete puzzles for fame and glory. James’ team was Jol-Nar’; DROP TABLE TEAMS; which is jibberish to me, but apparently the Jol-Nar refers to some board game and the rest of it is a programming joke.

OK James just explained it to me. It’s a SQL injection attack against the other teams to try and delete them all from the table. Not that they needed it because out of 70 teams Jol-Nar’; DROP TABLE TEAMS; came 2nd!

They won sunglasses and googly eyes. 1st, 2nd and 3rd all got the same prize and I’m sorry but what super lame prizes. But James said it wasn’t about the prizes; it was about the glory.

Their secret weapon was Mehal, whose team is reigning champion at a scrabble charity competition (Scrabble For Cheaters – check them out!) and does a lot of puzzles. James said he had good puzzle-related advice (One Weird Puzzle Tip: a lot of the time the trick is determining the encoding scheme of the clues).

Two people on their team owned projectors and brought them in, so they had a sweet puzzle-solving setup going.

There were 15 puzzles in total. Their team completed 13 and were really close to solving the last 2 when the time ended. Here are some of the ones that James remembered.

Introduction to Puzzles

In the first room Amazon explained the rules of Puzzle Hunt and each team got 4 clues for the first puzzle. They were supposed to trade with other teams to get more information but James, Luke and Mehal much ran around the room peeking over other people’s shoulders to find out their clues. Then they left so nobody could get their clues.

James: They didn’t understand about protecting their knowledge.

Puzzle Hunt 2013: Play to Win.

The Star Thingy

This one involved printing out a puzzle with words and an origami diagram and folding the paper according to the instructions. It made a zig-zaggy triangle shape and James figured out you had to insert tab A into slot B based on word association (like “sword” into “stone” and “stitch” into “time”) to create a star.


But that wasn’t the end of it! Each face of the star had a number of 4 letter words with one letter in common between them. Each common letter formed one letter of the final word (which FYI was “autoimmunity”).

It took them a little while to figure it out. This was one of their attempts that amounted to nothing.

James said that after the competition he saw people walking around with long strips of paper because they hadn’t figured out the first step. Team Jol-Nar’; DROP TABLE TEAMS; got into the elevator with another team that had turned theirs into a cube. The other team looked over, saw the star and were like “ohhhh”. I got the impression that they were very proud carrying their star around.

Crazy Mirror Puzzle

The crazy mirror puzzle began with a grid of letters. They had to place mirrors in a way to make a laser bounce for a certain number of squares. Based on where they put the mirrors they would mark which letters were important, and in the end it spelled out “magical user interface assistant” which they figured out was a clue for “wizard”.

They entered their answer into the server, and were told that they needed to find the wizard on level 2.

But again that wasn’t the end. Behind the wizard you can see a piece of paper taped to the whiteboard. They had to hold mirrors on a certain angle to spell out crossword clues.

Then they took the clues back to the team room and wrote them up on the board to work on together. The first clue “gentle wine” is actually supposed to be “gentle wind”. The “rosé?” makes me laugh.

They were stuck until John noticed that most of their answers had 3 repeating letters (not rosé though). Those letters spelled out another word. James showed me their anagram attempts which were, in order:

danish center
christen dean
danish center

I don’t think “christen dean” is even a thing.

Googly Eyes

James wasn’t involved in solving this one but I like the googly eyes so I’m including it. =)

The letters that the eyes were on were significant, and as were their eyeball directions (kind of a semaphore flag thingy).

They got a spare pair of googly eyes as a prize and put them on their beer fridge. Today James went to get a photo for me but they were gone! Stolen!

When I was writing this post James showed me some of the puzzles they completed and they were really hard – I wouldn’t even know where to begin!

Me: If I were on your team I would be dead weight. I would be the one getting everyone coffee.
James: That would be good! I had to go get coffee when I could have been solving puzzles.

So yeah, that was the Amazon Puzzle Hunt. James said it was really fun and he’s definitely up for it next year. Mehal, who used to work at Microsoft, said that the Microsoft version is hardcore: apparently it’s held over a weekend and their team slept in shifts so they could work on puzzles round the clock. But maybe they had better prizes than plastic sunglasses and googly eyes.

Yes, yes, glory.


3 Responses to “Amazon Puzzle Hunt 2013!”

  1. Shiva August 3, 2013 at 12:22 am #

    It seems they really do have fun:) we are still waiting:(

    • pamperedhousewife August 4, 2013 at 8:37 am #

      Good luck! Hope it happens soon for you guys =)

      • Shiva August 6, 2013 at 1:54 am #

        I hope so, still waiting, it’s exactly now one week:(

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