August 9, 2022
We just picked our kids up from three weeks at summer camp. For me, summer camp was a hugely formative experience, where I learned magic, performed in the circus, explored graphic design, and most importantly, got my first taste in designing games. I was part of the Evening Activity team, a group of counselors and campers who designed and ran games for the whole camp to experience. I still have some of my notes from that time (copied long ago from 3.25" floppies that I carried with me across several moves), which I look over from time to time. The genesis of the Mystery League can be traced directly back to those summer nights.
I can also clearly remember the delight in receiving mail at camp — proof that my family hadn't forgotten about me. So I made a point of sending my own kids some mail during these last few weeks, and of course that meant it had to be a puzzle. When we picked the kids up on Friday, I asked my son if he'd gotten his package.
Son: “Yeah, but I don’t understand why you sent me an old Hardy Boys book that wasn’t even the first in the series. And the note was on a library card? And it had all this weird text I didn’t understand.”
Me: “Yes, son, it was a puzzle. That I made for you.”
So, a thought: any interest in seeing how I constructed the puzzle so you can create one for your own camp-bound loved ones? I'll probably recommend including a note that says THIS IS A PUZZLE.
Mystery #4: My So-Called Friends
While traveling in French-speaking Quebec last month, I was re-reading one of my favorite books, Douglas Hofstadter's Metamagical Themas. The first section in the book takes on the joys and paradoxes of self-referential sentences. Several of his examples play with translation, whereby referencing the translation can warp the sentence's meaning, your mind, or both. (e.g. This sentence spent a month last year in Hungarian before being translated into Mandarin.) I love this shit, and it got me wondering if I could make a puzzle around it. The answer is apparently not yet — but stay tuned for a puzzle about self-referential sentences some day! But thinking about language and languages inspired me to write My So-Called Friends, the next Mystery, which is linked below. (NB: none of the above is spoilery, or really even that helpful.)
Meanwhile, the solutions are up for Beneath the Earth and Off the Wall, and I've added more clues to Spoonfuls of Sugar.
As always, if you'd like a hint for any puzzle, reply to this email, or DM me on Twitter, or find me on Discord (Sandy#2642). Good luck!
Paper Labyrinth puzzle books
From the Kickstarter: “The Paper Labyrinth books had a very simple format; solve a puzzle and the solution to that puzzle will send you somewhere else in the book. Usually either a page number or a part of a larger puzzle you are already working on.”
These look really neat, though I haven't played them yet so I can't address the quality or difficulty of the puzzles. But since this is the fourth book the creator has done, clearly they're popular. The campaign ends in 5 days.