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Brown Puzzle Club gears up for second annual puzzle hunt

Members hope to build on wildly successful inaugural hunt

Ready, set, hunt!

In two weeks, teams at Brown University and remote teams from across the nation will race head-to-head to solve puzzles written by the University’s puzzle club.

Brown Puzzlehunt 2024 is the Brown Puzzle Club’s second annual puzzle hunt. On the weekend of April 13 and 14, teams will solve a series of puzzles that build upon each other and progressively increase in difficulty.

“When you solve a puzzle, you unlock more puzzles,” said Nishka Pant ’24, one of the club’s founders and the general director of the hunt. “The goal of the hunt is to be the first to get to the end — to solve all the puzzles … and unlock the story that goes along with it.”


Each team that enters the competition pretends to be a novice detective group working to solve new cases — which come as a series of puzzles — that are passed onto their desk. The team that first finishes solving all of these “cases” wins the “Brown Investigation Bureau’s prestigious ‘Detective of the Month’ award,” according to the website.

The hunt features a diverse range of puzzles designed to appeal to different interests and niches, according to Lorenzo Mahoney ’24, a puzzle writer and organizer of the hunt. 

“We’ve designed this hunt to be a relatively easy introduction to puzzle hunting for beginner teams, while also showcasing what makes puzzle hunts so fun,” the website reads. 

Last year, Brown Puzzlehunt 2023 featured 248 teams, 652 participants and 1919 total solves, according to the website. Thanks to a successful hunt last year, the team is excited to create an even bigger and better puzzle hunt this year, according to Pant.

Despite last year’s supersized turnout, Brown Puzzle Club is one of the newest clubs on campus. The club emerged after a dinner discussion among a group of friends interested in puzzles, according to Pant.

“At our first activities fair, when we weren’t even a real club yet, we had 150 signups, which was quite crazy,” she said. “We’ve really grown since the three of us had that off-hand dinner.”

The group began planning this year’s hunt in September 2023, with the combined efforts of the puzzle construction, tech and design, testing, and art and story teams, along with countless puzzle tests by general club members. 

The diverse skill set of the developers means that the club can bring unique perspectives to the puzzles they write. “There’s a puzzle for everyone,” Mahoney said. “And if that puzzle doesn’t exist, you can write it.”

The one thing that all members appear to have in common is a love for puzzles. 

“The reason I love puzzle hunts is because they show what we can make when we are not constrained,” said Thomas Gordon ’26, the puzzle construction director for the hunt.


“Puzzles are the art of designing the experience of showing people interesting things,” Gordon added.

When developing puzzles for the hunt, it can be difficult to strike a balance between a puzzle that is too easy versus one that is too difficult, organizers said.

“A lot of puzzle construction works around this language of canning these ‘Aha!’ moments that you want the person to have,” said Orion Bloomfield ’24, one of the club’s founders and the hunt’s tech and design director.

This year, the Brown Puzzle Club aims to create a more accessible puzzle experience for students.

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“Anyone can come to kick off, look at the opening puzzles and have fun,” Gordon said. “We’re really trying to make the hunt as casual and (as) easy as possible for anyone, regardless of experience, to get into.”

For Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Dan Katz, it’s also the “intentional ‘Aha!’ moment” that appeals to him when solving puzzles. 

Katz, who participated in last year’s puzzle hunt, expressed excitement about this year’s event. 

“I think the best way to get people interested in (puzzles) is to have something in their backyard,” Katz said in an interview with The Herald.

Like Katz, the hunt’s developers are also excited to see how this year’s event plays out. 

“There’s not been a new event on campus in a very long time,” Bloomfield said. “So it’s very terrifying, but also so exciting to make something new and that’s, at its core, very unserious.”

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