Joshua Tehee

Test your brain power with the downtown Fresno Puzzle Hunt

Daniel Hoult likes brainteasers.

There is satisfaction in having a challenge set in front of him; in being able to puzzle out an answer.

“It validates your ego,” says Hoult, who organized the Fresno Puzzle Hunt, which takes place Saturday, Oct. 3, downtown on the Fulton Mall.

Competitors, in teams of up to six, will work to solve a set of brainteaser puzzles that will guide them to different locations on the mall with a final mega puzzle determining the hunt’s $500 grand-prize winner.

This kind brainteaser-as-social gathering is popular in certain circles, Hoult says. Microsoft hosts a competition. So does MIT. There are even national DASH events — the acronym for Different Area Same Hunt.

Hoult modeled the Fresno hunt on the Washington Post’s annual event, which was created by Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry, along with Gene Weingarten and Tom Shroder, as a renamed version of their Tropic Hunt. That competition had a long run in Miami.

Hoult participated in so-called Post Hunt while visiting the Washington, D.C., area in May. The Post Hunt draws crowds of 10,000 or more and is known for its quirky, complicated puzzles and the fact there are no obvious instructions on how they are to be solved.

For instance, the Bubbli (photo app) puzzle from this year’s event: “Hunters will be given a link to Bubbli image, a 360 degree photograph of F Street at the intersection with 9th Street. Along with the link will be an admonition: ‘Check for most significant difference.’ ”

To solve the puzzle, hunters must figure out they have to go to that corner of Washington, D.C., and compare the image to the real world spot. Then they must spot the most significant difference – a sign for Pi Pizzeria. In the photo, the Pi symbol is altered into a checkmark.

Knowing that “check” is the operative word in the clue and that Pi is equal to 3.1416, the hunters should be figure out the answer.

It’s 3.1416.

Hoult came up with his own set of brainteasers for the Fresno hunt, though some are based on puzzles he’s seen before. They vary in difficulty, though at least two will be “relatively difficult,” Hoult says, with an emphasis on the word relative.

Hoult won’t give hints, but says the puzzles could include anything from a drawing on a piece of paper, to people acting out a scene. The hardest part will be figuring out what to do with what you see or hear. You might be directed to a separate location (and another element of the puzzle) or to call a phone number for further instructions. He chose the Fulton Mall because it offered the physical space he needed.

The teams will have three hours to solves the five puzzles, before regrouping for the final brain teaser. The first team to complete all five will receive a prize. There will be several opportunities to win prizes during the event, Hoult says.

At the end of the hunt, the winning team must be able to explain how they arrived at all the answers. Only then will Hoult explain the solutions to the puzzles.

Organizing the hunt certainly tested Hoult’s skill as a puzzle maker. But it served the dual purpose of allowing Hoult to create something for his community.

“I just moved to Fresno and I’m looking for great things to do,” says Hoult.

Before that, he lived in Corpus Christi, Texas, a place where people complain that there’s nothing to do and do nothing to change the fact, Hoult says.

“That attitude is pervasive down there.”

It sounds all too familiar.

Organizing the puzzle, was Hoult’s attempt to get out of the mindset of simple wallowing. To do something.

It’s a gamble, he says.

There’s a chance the idea just won’t take hold or that people won’t show up.

But high risk yields high rewards, he says, and there is also a chance this could become a popular downtown event.

“If I’m not happy, I’m going to do something about it,” he says. “Let’s move beyond me and make something bigger.”

Fresno Puzzle Hunt