Puzzle University FAQs

What is a puzzlehunt? How do I solve these puzzles?

If you’ve never heard of puzzlehunts before, here’s a very brief summary: in a typical puzzle, you receive some information and have to extract an answer out of it, which is almost always an English word or phrase. Puzzles can come in many different forms; the only real commonality is that you usually receive no direct instructions, so it’s up to you to figure out how to make sense of the information you’re given. You can read a longer introduction to puzzlehunts here.

Do I need to have a 12-person team?

You certainly don’t need to, and we believe the hunt will be fun for teams of all sizes. However, there will be a sizable number of puzzles, so we recommend having close to the maximum if you want to finish the hunt.

[nervously] How sizable?

There are about 100 puzzles.

That’s a lot! How difficult are the puzzles?

Microsoft Puzzlehunt is significantly harder than other Microsoft puzzle events like Intern Puzzleday or Puzzle Safari. We think the average puzzle difficulty is between Puzzle Potluck and Teammate Hunt, and we expect the winning team to take somewhere between 12 and 24 hours to finish the hunt.

Do I have to solve all of the puzzles to win?

No! You have to solve all of the metapuzzles to unlock the meta-metapuzzle and solve that to win. Metapuzzles are puzzles that use the answers from regular puzzles, but you can usually solve a metapuzzle while missing one or more answers. The more puzzles you solve, the easier the meta-metapuzzle will be.

Is the art on the website a puzzle?

No. The art accompanying the lists of puzzles is purely for theme, and not relevant to any puzzle or metapuzzle.

What exactly happens when the hunt ends?

When the hunt ends at 5 PM PDT on Sunday, May 7th, 2023, the scoreboard will be frozen and solutions for all the puzzles will be released, and we will prepare a wrap-up to be available soon after. However, if you have not finished and still want to experience the whole hunt, you’ll still be able to register new teams, submit answers on the website, and progress through the hunt until Sunday, May 28th, 2023. The only difference is that we will be slower to respond to hint requests.

After Sunday, May 28th, 2023, you can still do the puzzles and check your answers spoiler-free, but you will not be able to track your progress on the website.

Who’s running this hunt?

We’re a diverse group of authors who have written for Microsoft Puzzlehunt and other large and small-scale puzzle events.

How does this hunt differ from previous Microsoft Puzzlehunts?

Most recent Microsoft Puzzlehunts have used a modular or threaded system, where different parts of the event were constructed by individuals or small groups, who are otherwise unspoiled on the rest of the event. This hunt is written by a single fully-spoiled running team.

This website seems different, too. How does the tech differ from previous years?

We’re using gph-site! A few things to notice that are different from previous years:

  • Your team has a single login, rather than each individual registering separately.
  • You cannot change your team name after registration.
  • You use the site to ask for custom-made hints.

In some previous Microsoft Puzzlehunts, it has been possible for teams who aren’t going to complete the event to skip ahead and see the ending. Is that an option this year?

No, we think the conclusion to the hunt is best experienced after all of the metas have been solved. For the same reason, the time unlock system also does not open the endgame. If your team would like to see the ending but you don’t get there by 5 PM on Sunday, we encourage you to continue solving afterwards! The site will still be fully functional until May 28th, 2023.

Is there an in-person component to this Puzzlehunt?

No, the hunt can be completed fully remotely. No part of the hunt will require your team to visit the Microsoft campus or any other physical location.

Is there a minimum number of Microsoft employees required for my team to register?

No, registration is open to everyone this year.

Is there an archive of previous Microsoft Puzzlehunts?

Yes, here, but it’s restricted to current Microsoft employees and guest accounts within internal Microsoft groups. There is no public archive of previous puzzlehunts.

I think there’s a mistake in this puzzle!

Please describe the error in an email to msph2023@gmail.com and we’ll try to correct it.

I’m stuck on a puzzle. What should I do?

Here are some general puzzle tips that might be useful:

  • Thoroughly check the work that you’ve already done. Fixing a small mistake or incorrect assumption can greatly help with getting unstuck.
  • Get fresh eyes on the puzzle, or conversely, take a break and look at something else.
  • Consider what information you haven’t used yet.
  • It can be useful to put everything you have into your favorite search engine.
  • Look at similar examples of the puzzle type you’re working on.
  • Have you tried…

Remember that after hints are released, you can also use them to get a nudge in the right direction. Please use them if you’re stuck!

I have a question that’s not on this list!

Contact us at msph2023@gmail.com and we’ll do our best to answer it.