October 3, 2012
Attention Smithsonian sleuths: the second web puzzle is being unlocked today! I hope you are all sitting in front of your computers, wearing deerstalker hats, holding magnifying glasses, and pressing “Refresh” constantly. None of that will actually help, of course. It’s just how I like to imagine you.
I know we’ve already thrown a lot at you, but be warned: the tricks and traps have only begun.
Here are a few (non-spoiler!) answers to questions we’ve received from a bunch of solvers.
“Can we answer the puzzles in any order? Or do you have to solve one before going on the next one?”
Apart from the first puzzle, the password hidden in the magazine, the Great American History Puzzle’s steps can be solved in any order–until you get to the last puzzle, that is, which can only be accessed and solved by finishing the previous nine.
“Is it okay to work in teams?”
We can’t really stop you! This is a Smithsonian treasure hunt, but that doesn’t mean that we have Nicolas Cage hiding in your basement, going through your old stuff and spying on you. I suspect that solvers working in teams will do very well in the contest…but, of course, if they win the grand prize (a free trip for four people to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, or cash equivalent up to $10,000), they’ll have to fight over how they share it!
“How many people are working on the puzzle?”
The website officially opened only 48 hours ago, but hundreds of people have already cracked the first password. That number will probably go up considerably as word of the contest gets out over the course of October. So don’t look back! Someone might be gaining on you.
“Why isn’t my answer to Puzzle #1 working? I’m sure it’s right!”
I mentioned this yesterday, but solvers using digital copies of the October issue of Smithsonian should be especially careful about the first puzzle answer, since pixels are sometimes a lot less legible than print, due to resolution issues and whatnot. We’ve also had reports of solvers having trouble getting the answer to Puzzle #1 accepted until they tried a different web browser. So far we can’t duplicate any of this, so it may just be our old friend “user error,” but if you’re desperate, switching browsers might be worth a shot. Don’t worry about getting in trouble for making multiple submissions: we aren’t enforcing any kind of “guess limit” for the first password, due to the print-vs.-digital issues. (But for subsequent puzzles, that won’t be true, since the Rules specifically prohibit “unsportsmanlike” tampering. Stay tuned to this blog for more details.)
October 2, 2012
Have you found the secret password hidden in the October issue of Smithsonian magazine? Some solvers have written to us in bewilderment, confident that they’ve completed the first puzzle but upset that their password doesn’t seem to work.
To those of you who feel sure that your password is right but have been foiled by the website, I say: look closer–especially if you’re using a digital version of the magazine! You are probably agonizingly close to the correct password. Double-check your work. Look again.
October 1, 2012
“It’s all happening!” as the nation’s Founding Fathers excitedly said to each other at the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Well, maybe they didn’t say exactly that, but I bet they would have if they’d been around for today’s unlocking of the next stage in the Great American History Puzzle. The first puzzle went live this afternoon around 2:00 PM Eastern Time, and the next eight puzzles will trickle out over the coming weeks. I can’t wait until you see what we have planned.
Legions of your fellow treasure hunters are already poring over the first Web puzzle, so don’t get left behind! It’s not too late to dig into the magazine puzzle and sleuth out the password that unlocks the contest website.
Good luck with your hunting–you’re going to need it!
September 27, 2012
Greetings, Great American History Puzzlers. I just put the finishing touches on the contest’s final puzzles this morning, so we are now ready to go here at contest HQ. If you haven’t been carefully perusing your copy of the new Smithsonian and deducing the first password, it’s probably time to get (code-) cracking.
While we’re on that subject: The next step in the puzzle, after deciphering the code, requires skipping through the magazine a bit, and one subscriber wondered if the mailing label stuck to his mailed copy would interfere with his solving. Nope! It doesn’t matter if your copy of the October issue is from a newsstand, or a mail subscription, or even digital. The puzzle works the same in any case.
Just four more days until the next stage in your quest begins! I don’t know about you but I’m getting excited already.
September 18, 2012
Hello, Great American History Puzzlers! I’m Ken Jennings–yes, the 70-something-time Jeopardy! champion, but also a lifelong history buff and puzzle addict. In the weeks to come, I’ll gradually be unveiling a series of diabolically devious enigmas and brain-teasers over at The Great American History Puzzle website. One lucky winner will be headed to Washington D.C. to get a personalized tour to “Secrets of the Smithsonian” that even I don’t know.
The challenge starts in the pages of this month’s issue of Smithsonian magazine–here is more information on how you can get a copy. Watch this space for more from me during the contest, and good luck.