Melbourne University Mathematics and Statistics Society

Puzzle Hunt FAQs

Who are you? And why are you up in my interwebs?

"We" are the Melbourne University Mathematics Society (MUMS) and we hold an annual, free puzzle hunt that involves solving fun puzzles for prizes.

Your ideas (particularly the use of the words "free" and "prizes") are intriguing to me, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. Do go on...

Over the course of a week, a variety of puzzles will be released. Solving them earns points for your team and will ultimately allow you to solve a "meta-puzzle" that identifies the location of a hidden object on campus. The first team to retrieve this object wins the major cash prize of $300 and priceless (well, highly coveted at least) bragging rights. Minor cash prizes of $200 and $100 are also awarded to the two runners-up teams.

Hmmm. I'm interested, but you mentioned "on campus"? Does that mean that this hunt is only available to University of Melbourne students?

No. The event is open to the public and all of it can be accessed and solved online. We will even accept emailed solutions from teams as to the location of the hidden object if it is correct and accurate enough. The only caveat is that you need physical presence to retrieve the final object, and hence, claim the major cash prize. Remote teams are still eligible for the minor cash prizes...and, of course, those highly coveted (well, sought after at least) bragging rights.

OK then. Before I register a team, can you tell me what sort of puzzles to expect?

You can review the puzzles, and the solutions, of past MUMS Puzzle Hunt for an idea of what to expect. Or those of similar events like the SUMS and CISRA puzzle hunts, which are of equivalent scope and difficulty.

The puzzles are deliberately constructed to span a wide range of areas. These include wordplay, spatial manipulations, pop culture knowledge...the possibilities are endless and every Hunt brings a unique structure and plethora of puzzles. Often the puzzles are so "lateral" that even deducing their purpose is a puzzle in itself. The only commonality is that every puzzle will yield a word or short phrase as its canonical answer.

Challenge accepted, Messrs MUMS! How big should my team be so that I can whoop you and your "plethora"?

As per the Rules, teams are limited to 10 registered members.

However, eagle-eyed participants will realise that there is no rule forbidding the use of "outside knowledge resources" such as other people or the Internet. We encourage teams to use any and all such means at their disposal to ensure that they enjoy themselves through the Hunt. Having said that, we expect all participants to act in the spirit of fair competition and any action deemed unsporting may result in disqualification from prizes...and severely blemish the sought-after (well, self-imposed at least) bragging rights that may have been bestowed.

I have one last question for you, oh glorious MUMS-Puzzle-Hunt-constructors: Can you explain what you mean by "canonical answer" and how forgiving is the online answer checker?

Each puzzle is designed to have a single intended answer which can be submitted, for confirmation and points, via the online answer checker. But we here at MUMS recognise that not all great minds think alike, and so different people may attempt to submit their answer in slightly different forms.

The answer checker is case-insensitive and will strip any non-valid characters (such as numbers and punctuation) prior to answer confirmation. It will also not penalise you for incorrect answers after a puzzle has been solved.

We will also aim to have the answer checker recognise any alternate and acceptable answers so that either full credit (and the intended answer string for use in the meta-puzzle), or a suitable message or hint, can be provided.