Teesside Snog Monster (jiggery_pokery) wrote,
Teesside Snog Monster

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... DASH! DASH! DASH! ...

After a spectacular weekend, there's more than a little come-down to come back to a dull week in which the most pressing engagement is to look after your beloved who has sadly been hit by a nasty infection. After a convoluted and exhausting process trying to get out-of-hours care on a Bank Holiday weekend, Meg has the right medication, but even that's really taking it out of her. Accordingly, I'm going to try to cheer myself up by reminding myself just how good the weekend was.

The main event of the weekend was the fifth edition of DASH, a federated puzzle hunt where (practically) identical puzzles are offered in cities around the world. The first installment was held in eight US cities; the fifth one, this year, was held in 14 US cities and also in London, marking the first time that the hunt had been run internationally. I sounded the alarms as soon as I had heard about the London event and then again in more detail when there were more specifics, so don't say I didn't warn you about it. You can expect me to mention the event again perhaps twenty or thirty more times over the next year, in the context that a few specific gaming/puzzling parents really might find it worth their while to start saving a day's worth of space in their calendars and booking baby-sitters...

The US events had been held the previous week, with participants asked not to spoil the puzzles between then and now, mostly for the benefit of us UK solvers. As far as I can tell, the embargo was completely impeccably observed, and I thank everyone who played a part in keeping it. The puzzles and answers are expected to be posted on the DASH 5 web site soon, but I think it's OK to start discussing things in detail now.

DASH5 in London saw people asked to meet at a green outside one of the buildings of University College London, near Euston Square, at around 9:30 for a 10 o'clock start. I rolled up a minute or two late and was the fourth of my team of five to arrive.

The people I had the privilege to hunt with were Iain, nudged into the experience through my blog postings, Ronald, a veteran UK team member at the World Puzzle Championships and Accumulate!'s Daniel Peake and Gary Male</a>. In practice we were, more or less, a UK online game show fandom team, mostly assembled in a fit of excitement over Twitter. We hunted under the name Riddler on the Hoof, a slight deviation of the Riddler on the Roof team name used by Daniel and Gary for the online MUMS, SUMS and CISRA puzzle hunts... and the fact that they had such experience, and such a name, made it clear that they were absolutely the right people to have as team-mates.

Eight other teams rolled up in the given half-hour. I knew all five members of one of the other teams, the wonderfully-named Two Jesters, Two Lesters and a Bloke from Chester: Dan, Sinead, David and Phil (all of whom had come to my wedding, and who knew each other - and me - from the board games society at university half a lifetime ago) and David's girlfriend Donna. I also knew a couple of members of the Moore or Lesk team from the UK Puzzle Association forums. There were other UK puzzle community members who I was hoping might turn up, but sadly not; perhaps the word hadn't reached them. It would turn out that one of the other teams was named after, and presumably made up from readers and staff of, the Magpie small press magazine of unusually difficult crosswords; there is some crossover with the UK Puzzle Association forum, but I was hoping to get to know the people involved, rather than knowing them already.

We all signed very straightforward safety waivers and handed in our registration fee, a very reasonable £25 per team. We were handed packets of puzzles; we could look at the instructions, but not at the puzzles within. An introductory activity saw each team associated with a three-letter sequence; the teams were to assemble in conferences of three teams, such that the three teams' sequences grouped together to spell a nine-letter word. Teams then portrayed representations of these words; I've seen the photos arising of HICCUPPED and FUNKINESS posted online.

The puzzles were of a very high standard throughout; I'm stating that up front, to set a baseline so that even the relatively less impressive puzzles can be placed in context. The theming was tremendous, spelling out the stages of a spreading pandemic followed by the development of a remedy. The puzzles' answers were often well clued by the puzzles' titles and almost always highly in keeping with the flavourtext, both desirable properties for puzzles, especially if you know to expect them.

In general, the puzzles relied heavily on wordplay, heavily driven by incidental pattern recognition, and much less on logic than many of the puzzles in other hunts. A secondary emphasis was on the genre of puzzle in which part of the challenge is to work out precisely what the puzzle is requiring of you; many of these puzzles had "Aha!" moments that had to be resolved in order to get through. It does take a certain sort of solver to enjoy the either-you-get-it-or-you-don't nature, but spotting the tricks can
deliver tremendous bursts of fun and accomplishment.

The trend was that the puzzles often had large degrees of data gathering at their start first before requiring spotting the "Aha!"s and dealing with them; again, these are arguably desirable properties, because they lead to the puzzles being fairly strongly parallelisable - many (all?) the solvers can work on a puzzle at once, keeping everyone busy, right from the start, rather than requiring people to have the insights first and deal with the mechanics later. Teams usually have 3, 4 or 5 solvers; while more brains equals more fun, a team of five is about as many as you can have without approaching "too many people looking at the same sheet of paper at once" issues, and duplicates are thoughtfully provided for most of the most crucial puzzle sheets.

The puzzles and the structure did lend themselves towards the sense of accessibility that I am led to believe is something of a DASH hallmark. Putting it politely, I am very moderate at logic puzzles by competitive standards (which you might not want to believe if I am one of the only occasional puzzle bloggers you read, but the stats don't lie) and can barely solve cryptic crossword clues other than on the lightest of Mondays, but found the DASH subject matter very much to my taste. Speed at recognising and resolving the "Aha!"s is to some extent a matter of experience so it was nice for all the years I've spent looking at puzzles to have some payoff, though - again - I stress that I am far from particularly accomplished, and you don't at all need to be in order to take part.

The scoring system also is deliberately targeted towards a wide audience. Each puzzle (except the first, more of which later) is associated with a (reasonably generous) par solving time of between 25 and 60 minutes. Solving the puzzle without using hints earns that number of points - so more points for a nominally longer/harder puzzle. Solving the puzzle more quickly than the par solving time earns an additional bonus point per minute ahead of schedule for that puzzle. The Game Control team will generally confirm progress for free, but additionally hints are available, tailored to the progress you have made so far; if you take hints on a puzzle, whether one or a hundred, you are restricted to scoring 90% of the points for that puzzle and no bonus. There is an emphasis on making sure every team sees every puzzle, even those struggling with the format, and that everyone is having fun with the puzzles at all times.

In addition to that, this year saw the addition of Easier Puzzles as an additional option, right from the start. Our team debated whether or not to go for Easier Puzzles when we signed up, and I was 55%:45% in favour of the lighter load. In the end we decided on the regular puzzles; happily, they proved very much to our taste. Seven of the nine London teams went for regular difficulty. I'm glad that the atmosphere was non-judgmental right from the start, designed into the structure; credit to the DASH infrastructure and co-ordinators for bearing barriers to entry in mind.

Traditionally the DASH puzzles take place in different locations. The hunt is not a foot, or transport, race; solvers are only on the clock between collecting puzzles from the members of the Game Control team at each location and eventually handing in your correct solution, whether at the first attempt or at the fifteenth try after six hints. Accordingly, you are not charged for time you spend walking from location to location, or time spent taking breaks to eat, drink or otherwise take care of business. There is a hard deadline for the last puzzle, but the pro-hint atmosphere is firmly designed to make sure that everyone has the fun of seeing everything.

In London, there were five different locations for the nine puzzles, not far from being up and down the Euston Road. One took place pretty definitely indoors and the others offered convenient options for both indoor and outdoor solving. (I think these options would have made step-free access possible throughout.) The weather was overcast and slightly threatening in the morning but cleared up for a lovely, dry day; a little blustery but not too windy and pretty ideally cool without being cold even at the start of the day. (At a guess, the high would have approached 16°C / 61°F.)

Puzzle one probably had less in common with the others in the hunt than all those that followed it; it felt more like a conference room (i.e. MIT, MUMS etc.) hunt puzzle than the others. Specifically, the conferences of three teams from the photo activity worked together to generate an answer per conference, with this being an unscored activity, primarily to spread the team out and mean that later Game Control segments might have a continuous flow of teams approaching them rather than getting them all at once.

The three teams in each conference were each given distinct sheets with ten snippets of dialogue (or trialogue, I suppose) and were each given identical sets of three separate sheets with additional parts of the puzzle. Piecing the snippets together between the three teams to make a sensible conversation that flows naturally, it is possible to identify that the complete conversation includes references to (a) types of food, (b) famous film quotations and (c) two-word phrases with famous abbreviations that begin with I - and identify an ordering in which each of these are naturally encountered. The "Aha!"s were to realise how these references interacted with the information on the three other sheets.

One of these was a fake endoscopy chart with ten pictures and letters between them; while they were a little obscure, you could spot that all the pictures included names of foods mentioned in the conversation. (For instance, pyJAMas included JAM, Sgt. MaHONEY from Police Academy included HONEY, a proCLAMation included CLAM and - er - a nON-IONic bond included ONION.) Joining these pictures together led to the lines going through letters that spelt out a message, giving a clue to the first third of the overall answer to the puzzle.

The second of these was a fake eye-chart, clued as iChart. Taking the parts of the abbreviations other than their initial "I"s in the order that they were encountered and again joining them up with lines, it spelt out the second third of the overall answer to the puzzle. The third of these related to the film quotations but, well, we didn't actually crack it - the first three letters and the last three letters were sufficient to uniquely identify the overall nine-letter answer. There is definitely a skill in being able to identify a puzzle answer from incomplete information, and one that might determine the very fastest teams from the next best.

Now this four-paragraph description of a single puzzle might well sound off-putting; the later puzzles can be summarised much more succinctly and generally had fewer different "Aha!"s. Perhaps the "Aha!"s were more obvious later, perhaps we just hadn't warmed up, perhaps this might not have been the ideal difficulty level for the first puzzle. (On the other hand, the fact that the others were relatively easy by comparison made us feel accomplished.) Sharing the solving experience with two other teams - while apparently a DASH hallmark and definitely a fun addition - also put things outside somewhat outside your control. The decision not to score this first puzzle is wise; it was fun, but definitely a slightly different sort of fun to the puzzles that followed it. Nevertheless, an impressive, intricately-designed puzzle: fair, in terms of there not being that being that many different things that you could do with all the data (though I did look for a hidden Semaphore code that didn't exist!), certainly fun and a distinctive, rare, unusual experience.

All the later puzzles were definitely one-team-per-puzzle experiences. Puzzle two had a grid of black and white squares and nearly two dozen definition clues, with some wordplay, accompanied by lines of blanks into which to place the definition clues' answers. The blanks were numbered; to solve the puzzle, you answered the clues and transferred the answers into the grid. The "Aha!" was to spot that some of the clues had unmatched letters; the first letters of the clue answers spelt out a message like "use unmatched letters", and these unmatched letters gave the answer to the puzzle.

On reflection, this was the warm-up puzzle. The definition clues were fun. There was a very desirable backsolving property that you could also guess at the partly-completed words in the grid and take these as letters within the definition clues you hadn't yet solved. We were delighted to solve this much more straightforwardly and quickly than the first puzzle. Our team's expectation going in was that we were prepared to ask for and take lots of hints; I was hoping to solve all the puzzles over the day with hints as required and to solve at least one or two puzzles without needing to require hints. A clear, clean solution to the first our-team-only puzzle was a great start.

Puzzle three was at the second location, a cafe within UCL's hospital, and we paused to grab a midday snack before we solved. (They saw us coming... not cheap.) We had a long list of statements, each missing a word, or a few words, made by an only generically identified specific medical professional. ("The podiatrist said...", "The dentist's daughter..." and so on.) We also had the names of fictional medical preferences, which were punny, hinting at their specific line of work: Dr. Karve the surgeon, Dr. Youngman the pediatrician, Dr. Peake the meteorologist and so on.

The "Aha!" here was to work out how they matched up; the medical professionals all had names that matched their jobs - and the gaps in their statements could be filled by puns that were anagrams of their names plus another letter. (Dr. Karve wore kevlar, which is an anagram of KARVE + L, that sort of thing.) The additional letters that went to form the anagrams then went on to spell a message which identified the answer to the puzzle. Funny, fun and a neat example of its type, though "anagram of name plus one letter" is possibly not the most innovative design; compare to the first puzzle, "Getafix", in the MUMS hunt just a couple of weeks beforehand.

Puzzle four, in the same location, was the absolute highlight of the day, and one of the very loveliest puzzles I've ever seen. In short, it was Meta-Extreme-Connecting Walls. You may or may not be familiar with Only Connect, probably my favourite UK TV series of the last five-ish years, whose seventh triumphant series is in progress on BBC Four right now. One round there invites teams to arrange sixteen items into four groups of four, such that the groups have a common property, though this commonality may potentially be rather obtuse and lateral.

The counterpart puzzle within DASH turned up the difficulty by inviting us to partition walls of 25 items into five sets of five, though each set was illustrated with two or three items to get you started. Having as many as five walls to work upon kept everyone in the team busy - generally two sub-teams of 2-3, rather than one per solver - and there was the tactile fun of affixing physical stickers to the answer sheets and moving them around as required.

Upon dividing the walls up correctly, and arranging them into row-wise and partly column-wise alphabetical order as requested, the "Aha!" (possibly the only one of the puzzle) was that it was then possible to use the background shading as a simple cipher to generate an instruction to determine which of the stickers should be used to form the source material for a sixth wall, playing by the same rules. The cipher was an only slightly disguised version of one of those given in a cipher sheet distributed to all the puzzles at the start of the hunt.

Determining the commonalities in this meta-wall led to a description of the answer to the puzzle. This was incredibly intricate and a wonderful feat of construction; I doff my cap to whoever devised it, not least because they are surely a US-based composer, possibly less familiar with the show. As it happened, three of the members of my team (not me!) had successfully submitted questions to OC, thus we were on reasonably familiar territory. We cracked this nominally 60-minute puzzle within just under half that time and were absolutely buzzing as a result, though the Magpie team were a shade faster still.

Puzzle five took place at a tall, squat real cider pub just outside Euston station. Game Control were sat outside in the sun, but we solved upstairs, inside, out of the smoke. This puzzle had a made-up paper cube, with Monopoly-grid-like rows of squares (effectively, simple square empty crosswords) at the outside of each side. It also had a list of six sets of short, fairly uncomplicated, quick-crossword-style definitions. It was clear that you had to solve all these clues; again, this was an easily parallelisable process to keep everyone interested.

This puzzle had two "Aha!"s; the first was that in each list, the last two letters of each entry matched the first two letters of the next. Doing this produced six long wrap-around strings of letters. Numbers marked on the cube made it clear how they should be marked onto the cube. The second "Aha!" was to interpret the flavourtext into an instruction that the puzzle answer was to be extracted by spotting the occasions where adjacent letters on sides touching to form common edges matched each other. I know some strong teams really struggled on that second "Aha!", so it may not have been sufficiently well clued in practice - or, perhaps, this sort of pattern matching might arise from experience.

Puzzle six, at the same location, was themed around albums from a particular band indicated by a previous puzzle. We were each given two identical data sheets and six puzzle sheets. The data sheets had track listings for six of that band's albums, with the first ten characters from each of the first ten tracks on each album highlighted. The puzzle sheets were fairly straightforward and each could be answered by using the titles of ten tracks of a different one of the six albums: they were fill-ins, definitions, cryptic clues, definitions of three-letter terms that were substrings of track titles and so on. Once the answers had been matched up to the tracks (in turn matched with the albums), some simple arithmetic - admittedly not too simple for me not to mess up first time - could be used to pick letters out for the overall puzzle out, identifying which track should be used and which character of that track name.

This puzzle was both fun and impressive, but - unusually for this DASH - was perhaps slightly more impressive than it was fun, by virtue of the individual puzzle activities not being desperately original. That said, the constraints imposed by the album theming made it a tremendous feat of design.

Puzzle seven took place at the British Library, a lovely venue. (In practice, we solved in a big courtyard.) The puzzle material was a chart of small cartoon pictures of various sizes arranged in a square grid, with lines running horizontally and vertically through the pictures. The first activity was to identify what the pictures were, which was effectively lots of little "Aha!"s; the second activity was to spot which two pictures in each row or column had similar names. There was a common formula relating the two pictures; take one picture, add a letter and subtract one or two other letters (crucially, A, B, AB or O - the four blood groups) in order to reveal the other picture. The funniest example was CHAPSTICKS -A +O to produce CHOPSTICKS.

Once you had identified all the pictures and created the wordplay formulas, the added letters spelt out messages. Perform the same formula of word processing again, bearing in mind which pictures were unused in the row and column formulas and which blood groups were used least frequently in the rows or columns, to give the overall answer to the puzzle. Highly fun, hugely intricate and beautifully designed; massively impressive.

Puzzle eight, at the same location, was the most abstract of the day. A grid had squares identified in blue and red, with a long curly line from a yellow HQ square through all the other squares. The first "Aha!" is to spot that the yellow HQ square is not marked H.Q. but H,Q - a crucial comma! - and extend this to a 26x26 square grid. (Special difficulty: recognise that the vertical axis goes Z-to-A, not A-to-Z!) The next step - the only conceivable step - is to identify the co-ordinates of the remaining red and blue squares, in order. After that, the co-ordinates of the red squares spell out a message indicating how the co-ordinates of the blue squares should be processed in order to spell another message which gave the answer to the puzzle.

This puzzle was fun and impressive, but I might judge it slightly less favourably than the other puzzles in the DASH if I were to be picky for the sake of it. (I feel guilty about this as it was the one created by the London GC, for whom I have the greatest of respect.) It was the only puzzle (except, arguably, for the first) to have the "Aha!" at the very start of the puzzle and thus risking leaving solvers completely stranded. (On the other hand, if you are going to have a puzzle of that sort, puzzle eight is absolutely the right place to put it.) Its technical merit also suffered marginally from us being able to solve the puzzle without completely understanding all the logic embedded within it; we were able to intuit an answer and go "huh, that is just about in there, looks right and goes with the flavourtext" while not grasping the subtle nuances of the encoding rules - specifically, the part about why some pairs of co-ordinates are to be read forwards and others backwards.

Puzzle nine, at another nearby pub - one from which I have a suspicion I leeched public wifi years ago - was the meta-puzzle, relying on the answers to the other previous puzzles. We were given jigsaw pieces in the form of rows of hexagons in several directions; the hexagons contained letters in various directions, some of which were identified by colour or by encirclement of the letters. The big "Aha!" was to spot that all eight answers all included letter patterns of the form (X) O N (Y), and this gave the clue as to how to link the jigsaw pieces, with the hexagon featuring encircled letter (X) ON - specifically, overlapping - the hexagon featuring encircled letter (Y). (Full credit to cryptic crossword superstar Gary Male for spotting this!)

Once you've done that, it's possible to follow paths from one hexagon of a particular colour to the other and back again, reading the messages spelt out on the way. Following these messages in the order in which their colours were encountered in the overarching structure of the hunt spelt out the master message to be interpreted to generate the final answer to the entire hunt. Very cleverly, the final answer was the name of a molecule and the jigsaw formed the shape of the conventional diagram of that molecule, with the molecule featuring oxygen (O) and nitrogen (N) atoms at its points of intersection to emphasise the ON-nature of the meta-puzzle further still. Brilliant.

The teams stratified wildly over the course of the hunt, pointing at a variety of levels of achievement. With their background in the wordplay of the hardest cryptic crosswords, the Magpie team found things completely to their taste and powered their way through all the puzzles and the meta, setting off for food afterwards before we even got to the final location. (Rumour is that they had got together and worked through every puzzle from every previous DASH already; points for dedication and preparation, and how well it has paid off!) There were fairly considerable gaps between all the other teams' own arrival times afterwards. Happily - and impressively - I understand that all nine teams did make it through all the puzzles, with greater or lesser quantities of hints as required.

The final scoring has not yet been announced (and, indeed, it's impossible to know how long teams took in breaks to deduce their puzzle times from their arrival times) but it seems a racing certainty that the Magpie team must have been fastest on the London leg with what I suspect will be likely to prove a metaphorical Champions' League performance. I know that they were a few minutes faster than us on each of the puzzles where we had times to compare. In a sense, it's not all that important; we've got a rough feeling that they were faster than us, and that's good enough for jazz. I like the old theory that any team that solves the final puzzle can consider themselves to have won, with the highest-scoring team considering itself to be the champion. After all, the job of a puzzle setter is to put up a good fight before losing gracefully.

Sadly the Magpie team had all disappeared by the time we got to the final location to start our last puzzle; if they came back after having eaten, I fear I didn't recognise them. It would have been lovely to get to meet them and find out just who was part of the team that day. I'm pretty sure that one of the Magpie magazine editorial team blogs, or at least has blogged, at thepiemansimon and has written some excellent write-ups of puzzle experiences in the past; if he was one of the solvers in the Magpie DASH team, I'd love to see his own report, either there or at the Magpie's own news section.

If there was a way in which DASH did not meet my hopes - though, I am pretty sure, this was due to my expectations being awry rather than a fault of the design, which worked as intended - it was that I didn't get to spend as much time with other teams as I would have liked to have done. (The first puzzle was a plus point in this regard, to be fair.) The problem is that because teams solve at their own pace, they will finish the hunt at their own pace and so cannot all be guaranteed to be in the same place at the same time afterwards. Some teams stayed behind for food in the final pub; other teams went elsewhere, rather than sharing time with other teams.

Never mind. There was some inter-team mingling, mostly among the outfits who stayed and ate dinner at the pub. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed getting to meet the Game Control team as well. I've been following discussions of puzzle hunt events for over a decade now, particularly the sequential, travelling, elaborate non-stop weekend-length hunts often referred to as The Game; this is the closest thing in which I have had the chance to participate, with a tip of the hat to extravaganzas at board game conferences. The conversation with Game Control people was particularly energising. Someone is trying to develop a puzzle hunt community in the same fashion as exists in the US, which is about as exciting to me as it gets, and the chance to talk with them about it was wonderful. There were some really remarkable claims made about Norwegian gaming culture at one point which I have not yet been able to substantiate, but finding out about them will be fun.

Many thanks to Jordan Smith and the rest of the UK organisers. Jordan was an experienced DASH player in Los Angeles and bravely got up to be the first on the London dancefloor, lighting the metaphorical DASH touchpaper within the UK. Other members of the staff had come across from the US for the event - or, at least, combined a holiday to the UK with bringing their expertise of this particular DASH incarnation from over there to over here. It was a delight to get to meet lots of new and exciting puzzle-y people, not least those whose puzzle experience has manifested itself in all sorts of different ways.

There's a whole lot of work that goes into running a DASH; not only do the cities' organising teams submit their own puzzles for consideration for global syndication, each local organising team has to plan their own route and organise not just a local staff (all of whom must be trained into really understanding their puzzle, or puzzles, and be prepared to stay around to help even the last team through) but also local playtesters to spot special difficulties that might be faced in one city without arising in the others. In the UK, there's also the issue of localising the puzzles as well; not much was required, though we were provided with a list of US state postal abbreviations that proved essential for one puzzle and it's tempting to wonder whether this list was required by the teams solving the same puzzle within the US. I get the impression that the London organisers reflected the delight of the teams solving the puzzles.

If you couldn't make it, you missed a treat. Fingers firmly crossed that people (maybe the same, maybe others) will step up and organise the party to make a DASH event happen in London next year. If you didn't get the chance to play this year, do start considering whether it might be your cup of tea for 2014... and if you're reading this, then I'd bet good money at short odds that it just might be. You'd better believe that as soon as I get a scent of the details then I will sound the alarms here, just like I did last year. Perhaps the ball will start to get rolling again in a couple of months' time, with a call for cities soon after that, and maybe announcement that London might be taking part again not long after that, and so on and so on.

And yet, much as DASH takes place in 14 different cities in the US, there's no reason why it has to be restricted to happening in just a single city in the UK at some point in the dim and distant future. It would be the most natural thing in the world for a DASH, or a puzzle hunt community, to arise in Oxford or Cambridge, much like it has done in the communities around MIT, Stanford and some of the other great universities of the US. (Students are more likely than many to have the time and effort to put into it, too.) There's no reason why the communities in Australia that inspired MUMS and SUMS couldn't host legs of DASH down under. However, I think there are limits to this; even though English is pretty widely spoken in Norway and there is apparently a well-developed, well-organised gaming scene at large there, it would be questionable whether there were enough cultural crossover to make the event accessible to Norwegian solvers playing in English.

Back in the UK, I also get the feeling that Manchester might well prove to be a good place for a Northern hub for puzzle activity - certainly I can think of people who do interesting things there already. I also note that it happened to be the case that the UK Games Expo clashed with DASH this year; while both the UK Games Expo and DASH are rather moveable feasts, if the calendars lined up, it would be awfully tempting to try to make something puzzle hunt-ish happen at what has rapidly become the UK equivalent to GenCon.

Let's be really frank; since DASH, I've really had my imagination caught by puzzle hunt events of this type all over again. I reckon that it's more likely than not that eventually I will run a leg of DASH of my own. I've run puzzle hunt events at cons in the past and enjoyed it; the major disappointment has been the quality of the puzzle material I've put forward, so DASH would seem to be a way to have world class puzzles to have to present. DASH is about half an order of magnitude bigger than anything I've run in the past, but only half an order, so that's not insurmountable. Next year I think I'd like to play again - and my wife Meg has hinted that the wordplay-to-logic balance and competition-to-accessibility balance are such that she might be interested in taking part as well, and it would be lovely to get to share the DASH thing with her. I also know that I'd want to staff an event (maybe in 2015?) to get experience before running my own (maybe in 2016?).

But it's fun to get carried away and be completely impractical. Let's be honest, Teesside does not have a thriving community from which to draw, to the best of my knowledge, and the area is not sufficiently exciting to draw people up for a puzzle hunt. That said, I already have a plan for which non-traditional, completely impractical location I'd like to use to host a Northern UK DASH in a perfect world. (You may be able to guess - but please do so by e-mail!) While DASH is such a big endeavour that it can only practically happen once a year, it's also fun to listen to all the old (and new!) Snoutcast podcasts with discussion of the trend to simulcast capital-G Games, of whatever lengths, to different areas of the puzzle hunt community, there's no real reason why the UK might not end up being another location to which hunts are simulcasted from time to time. Eventually…!

Lots and lots to think about, and all a long way down the line. But what fun thoughts… :-D

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