Eruditorum Press

Is this Spearhead From Space, cause we’re in color now

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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

18 Comments

  1. Unknown
    January 21, 2014 @ 12:49 am

    I spotted the first trick to Intersecting Personalities too, when I knew the first actress was from Bewitched (normally I am rubbish at picture IDs) and the anagram just leapt out at me. But it took longer to spot the second stage.
    It took us either twelve hours or twelve minutes to solve Safer Sephiroth. (Someone did the chapter IDs in no time, but couldn't see any further. I came along the next morning, saw the hidden message, did some reading and got the answer almost straight away.)
    Didn't even see either of the other two, so I must go and look at them now…

    In passing, I will note that there are three "small" puzzle hunts run by Australians (SUMS, MUMS and Cisra) which are held over a week rather than a weekend and which are slightly more accessible/less intimidating than the MIT Hunt.

    And if I can be cheeky, I'll sneak in a plug for my own puzzlesite/magazine (www.puzzlebrains.com) We're in a bit of a transition state at the moment, so it's not clear, but if you try the button for "Issue 24" you should be able to find some puzzles that don't ask you for a password first!

    Reply

  2. Daibhid C
    January 21, 2014 @ 1:08 am

    Your analysis of how puzzle-solving works strikes a chord; when Mum and I are listening to Round Britain Quiz on Radio 4, it quite often happens that I'll say "Okay, I know what this is about, but I don't know the answer", and once I've explained that, she'll get it. I've got the sort of mind that can do the "a-ha!", but she's better at the legwork because she knows more stuff. (Unless the puzzle is about Doctor Who or something.)

    One of the things that's important to realize about Mystery Hunt is that the puzzles look insane to everybody on first glance. But a lot of what appears to a normal human being to be a completely unreasonable and difficult challenge is, in practice, something that's perfectly reasonable once you've seen half a dozen similar puzzles over the years.

    That's another thing that strikes a chord with an RBQ fan. I remember there used to be a Radio 4 sketch show with a recurring bit where Stephen Frost played an RBQ contestant whose answers were stream-of-consiousness nonsense. And until then it honestly hadn't occurred to me that this was what "Okay, Little Ted was in Play School, which had a round window, and a bullseye is another word for a round window, so…" sounded like to the uninitiated.

    Reply

  3. Anton B
    January 21, 2014 @ 2:36 am

    Oh yes Round Britain Quiz is great. I love it when (and it's usually pop culture references that do this) the teams are completely stuck on something like, for example,'names of all the actors who played the Doctor' and I'm laughing and shouting at the radio. Only then to be followed by some impressive erudition on opera or geography clues where I'm humbled into silence.

    Of course if we're talking stream of consciousness nonsense (and Doctor Who references if we invoke Web of Fear) you can't do better than 'Mornington Crescent' the popular round on BBC radio 4's comedy quiz 'I'm Sorry I haven't a Clue'. For those not in the know this can be an impenetrable source of bewilderment as to why the studio audience are applauding, sharply intaking breath and laughing their socks off simultaneously.
    I'll attempt to describe it.
    The contestants take turns and each turn usually involves saying the name of a London Underground or Tube station. (The title – Mornington Crescent is itself the name of a notoriously abandoned station) The rules are never explained but sometimes arcane sub rulings such as 'Bank Holiday Service' or 'Oxford Circus is wild' are invoked. This goes on with each station name eliciting a response from the other panellists and the audience. Sometimes 'moves' are disputed, e.g. "Can he do that from Piccadilly?" or "No, no the District line westbound is closed on Sundays" and the chairman must make a ruling.
    The game continues in this manner until a contestant successfully reaches 'Mornington Crescent', everyone agrees this is fair, he or she is congratulated on their cleverness and the chairman rules the game over.
    The joke of course is that there are absolutely no rules for playing Mornington Crescent. Each turn is just a totally random station name and any reaction it gets is either for it's comedy value (names containing innuendos such as 'Cockfosters' are a sure source of cheap laughs) or the spirit with which the contestant enters into the conceit.
    I think you probably have to listen to a few to get the most out of the gag as it relies on the humour of repetition and the 'in-joke' but I hope I've done it justice here.

    Reply

  4. Ross
    January 21, 2014 @ 2:56 am

    I was under the impresison that the one rule to Mornington Crescent was that you were only supposed to name "Mornington Crescent" on the turn immediately before your opponent was going to do it.

    Reply

  5. Anton B
    January 21, 2014 @ 3:38 am

    That's only when playing Gentleman's Agreement rules.

    Reply

  6. BerserkRL
    January 21, 2014 @ 4:21 am

    The first thing people do with something like this is try to identify the photos, which is the correct decision. I'm absolutely rubbish at that, however

    Google's new image search function makes that a lot easier.

    Reply

  7. Abigail Brady
    January 21, 2014 @ 5:19 am

    It's so notoriously abandoned that I used it the other week.

    Reply

  8. Daibhid C
    January 21, 2014 @ 5:39 am

    Oh yes Round Britain Quiz is great. I love it when (and it's usually pop culture references that do this) the teams are completely stuck on something like, for example,'names of all the actors who played the Doctor' and I'm laughing and shouting at the radio. Only then to be followed by some impressive erudition on opera or geography clues where I'm humbled into silence.

    They seem to be getting better at the pop-culture ones. I remember in the last season one team (Northern Ireland, I think) got a Doctor Who related question almost as fast as I did.

    (Except the Scotland team, who infuriate us by not seeming to know anything. If it's pop-culture they're doomed, but they don't do very well with the highbrow stuff either.)

    Reply

  9. Triturus
    January 21, 2014 @ 10:49 am

    I had a friend at University who was sure he'd worked out the rules to Mornington Crescent. He used to take out a tube map to work out his 'go'. God only knows what rules he came up with. I don't think he found out that it wasn't a real game until years later.

    Reply

  10. Anton B
    January 21, 2014 @ 11:25 am

    Yeah I had an acquaintance who attempted to get a bunch of people to play it at a party one evening. He didn't tell them the 'secret' and those of us in the know derived some pleasure, in a kind of 'Emperor's New Clothes' way,from watching people pretend they understood the rules. However I remember feeling this rather missed the point of the game as played on the radio show. It is never done as an exercise in being one up on people not knowing the rules. It is rather a more inclusive comedy that celebrates everyone being in on the gag.
    There's a parallel to be drawn here with Doctor Who's obsessive/possessive fandom versus its inclusive pop culture afficionados. But I'm too tired to develop it.

    Reply

  11. Triturus
    January 21, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

    It is a bit mean to deliberately exclude people from the joke, I agree. Reminds me of the Go Johnny Go Go Go Go LoG sketch.

    Reply

  12. peeeeeeet
    January 21, 2014 @ 1:56 pm

    Fang and Vanille! OTP!!1!

    Ahem, yes. As you were

    Reply

  13. Daibhid C
    January 21, 2014 @ 2:08 pm

    But the only way you get in on the gag in the radio show is if you figure it out for yourself. It never explains. (And according to the Clue Bible it may have been originally invented in the pub after a recording for precisely that "one-up" purpose – although the Clue Bible goes to some effort to not actually come out and admit the game is made up either, so that section's a bit vague.)

    Apparently when people write in asking for the rules of Mornington Crescent, they get a reply saying the full rules are too complex to send through the post but just remember it's the same game we all played as children. This usually prompts another letter saying "I don't remember ever playing this as a child" which gets a similar reply, but maybe with a bit more of a nudge in the right direction.

    And then the third letter from the same person is usually something like "Last week Tim went to Goodge Street when Barry was still below the parallel. Surely he should have been in Nid?"

    Reply

  14. aaron
    January 21, 2014 @ 4:40 pm

    I can offer some background on some of these puzzles (since I was the primary author on three of them)

    The Simpsons – Dr. Who puzzle was actually an emergency puzzle. The puzzle for that slot failed the writing deadline, and then the backup puzzle failed too. I got the idea of using couch gags from the answer word, and googling around for people named Sullivan led me to Dr. Who. I know nothing about Dr. Who, so we brought Dave on to do that part. This is a puzzle that I wish we had more time to make spiffy. We probably could have really improved the presentation with more time.

    Safer Sephiroth actually had to go through a lot of revisions. It turns out without some explicit cluing (first letters of the Final Fantasy phrases spell Sephiroth's Book) it was not getting testsolved. I actually was at my wit's end and almost abandoned this puzzle entirely, but Chieu stepped in to salvage it, and I'm glad she did, because I'm happy it made it in.

    (most people should probably skip this paragraph, unless you really like Kabbalah)
    As for the choice of English words, this is something I agonized a lot over. I chose majesty over splendor because, the translations I'm familiar with often use splendor for Tiferet. Majesty seemed more explicitly "not Tiferet", although to be honest, there really isn't a good English word for Hod. I never really thought about how to translate this word into English before this puzzle. Chesed could just as well been mercy. The word I usually hear for it is "loving-kindness" but that's really awkward. I hoped that if people picked up the more obvious ones like "Crown" and "Wisdom/Wise" they'd be able to figure out the rest of them without too much difficulty. None of our testsolvers had any knowledge of Kabbalah. I was probably the only one on our team who did.

    Diplomatic Victory is one of the puzzles I was super pleased about how it turned out. The idea for the puzzle came after Erin and I were talking about how it was impossible to give away some answer words. ARCHDUKE OTTO was constantly getting rejected. Later that day I came up with the idea of Diplomacy, and formulated the basic idea of how it would work. I was extremely excited about it for several reasons. The first was it fit the answer word perfectly. The second was even better. I had really wanted to write a puzzle with Joel, a former roommate of mine, and I knew he liked Diplomacy. So this fit right in his wheelhouse. It was a blast to write it with him and laugh about how ridiculous the game played out. (Turns out it's really hard to make everyone sane given the constraints… and keep everyone alive through 6 years.) We designed the puzzle to be fairly easy for someone who knows Diplomacy, but getable in about 3-4 hours for someone unfamiliar with the game.

    Reply

  15. AJD
    January 21, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

    I don't think the Mystery Hunt LJ community is that dead.

    Reply

  16. Anton B
    January 22, 2014 @ 1:26 am

    @Abigail Brady It's so notoriously abandoned that I used it the other week.
    Whoops! My mistake. I was born and raised in London but haven't lived there for a while. It was always closed in my experience.

    Reply

  17. peeeeeeet
    January 22, 2014 @ 1:35 am

    One of the things I like about Safer Sephiroth is that puzzle aside, the comics are amusing in their own right. The FF universe is often earnest to a fault, so I love it whenever they're jerks to one another.

    Reply

  18. davidglasser
    January 23, 2014 @ 9:41 pm

    There in fact was a Tube-wandering puzzle in the Hunt, too! None of the routes went through Mornington Crescent, though 🙂 http://web.mit.edu/puzzle/www/2014/puzzle/oyster_card/

    Reply

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