CTU TPS Report # 102906
Agent Assigned: Chloe O’Brian
Location: South Miami, The 2006 Herald Hunt
I was assigned to observe the event called “The Herald Hunt”, which is a puzzle game held every year by the Miami Herald. My purpose there was to observe the best and the brightest the South Florida has to offer, to see if we had possible candidates to recruit to help us at CTU.
(And before you ask, yes, I lost the cover sheet for this TPS report, but I did get the memo, so I don’t need another one).
Saturday, October 28th, 2006:
Saturday afternoon I went out to find a copy of the first edition of The Miami Herald. After fighting my way through a large crowd of people and tasering one or two of them, I was able to get my hands on a copy. It was nothing I couldn’t handle by myself, but I briefly considered calling an extra unit in if this was any indication of what I was going to see the next day.
I went through The Herald and found what I was looking for: a large picture of Antonio Banderas. I also found a cartoon map. After reading through the clues, I concluded that Dilbert does indeed have a very strange boss, and that I was looking at the wrong cartoon map.
I finally found the Herald Hunt special section, which included a cartoon map of the area in South Miami where The Herald Hunt was going to be held, along with a list of numbers matched with very cryptic sentences. None of this made a single bit of sense to me, which is probably a good thing because only a few of these numbers and sentences would be used to solve the final clue to solve the Herald Hunt.
I did take the time to solve some of the “easy puzzles” that are used to tell people the locations of each of the puzzles. I was surprised to find that I was able to solve 46 of these puzzles quite quickly, until I realized I had solved half a page of classified ads. When I went back and looked for the puzzles associated with the Hunt, I was able to solve those just as quickly, although I did forget what the capital of Montana was and had to open a port to ask someone at CTU. I don’t know why they had to be so rude to laugh at me like they did.
The main thing for me to do at this point was to study the cryptic clues very carefully so that I would be fully prepared for the Hunt the next day. I took my picture of Antonio and went back to my hotel room to study the map and clues.
Sunday, October 29th, 2006:
11:30 a.m. – Despite the fact that the Hunt stage is still being setup, they’re having a costume contest, with Dave Barry and Tom Shroder doing the judging. I narrowly escape being judged as the “Best Chloe O’Brian” costume, but was able to slip off in another direction before they dragged me in front of the stage and blew my cover.
12:00 Noon – Dave Barry arrived on stage to a chorus of boos from the crowd, which seemed odd as he enjoyed it profusely, egging the crowd on for more. Then he announced the first clue to the beginning of the Herald Hunt.
Immediately, I saw a team spring in to complete confusion. They hailed a cab, and asked the driver to head for an auto dealership. It seemed to me like they were using the wrong map. Strike this group out of consideration for CTU employment.
Using the first clue, I located the first puzzle J8 in front of a store window. I was sure I was in the right place because there were many people standing around and pointing at it, and writing detailed notes about everything surrounding the puzzle, but not the puzzle itself. It’s almost as if they had never seen a naked mannequin before.
Inside the store windows, there were several mannequins. The first set was dressed in ridiculous clothes that were way overpriced. A woman in strange leather/fur getup for $125, a guy in a dress, pink boots and a hat for $245 and a woman in a strange, Oriental towel-looking wrap for $405. Around the corner, a second set of mannequins were there, and people were pointing and giggling, because some of them were naked. You would think that with all the naked mannequin websites out there, people would be used to them by now. Well, they weren’t all naked. The first one had trains for a belt, the second one had a vest, the third was wearing a tie, and the last one was wearing a Hunt t-shirt.
Strangely, several people were taking very detailed notes about some appliances and furniture displayed in a nearby store window, and this seemed to draw quite a crowd. I found out later the note takers were members of the South Miami Oven and Recliner Enthusiast Society. (S’MORES)
I, of course, took one look at the puzzle and immediately deduced the correct answer.
Using the map to locate the second puzzle, I had to move quickly down Sunset towards the puzzle at C6. There were many people there too, some of them trying to act inconspicuous, as if they have no idea it was even a puzzle location at all. Usually these people would write a few notes, look around to make sure no one was watching them, and then make a mad dash over to the rest of their group to compare what they had seen.
This behavior was despite the fact there was a large crowd and Hunt volunteers handing out a Herald Hunt Antique Automobile Association flyer to anyone who wanted one. I took notes about this group of people...they may make good agents after all.
Looking back at the handout, there’s four cars with their names and coordinates under them and one that just has ‘Ford’ and no coordinates. The four with coordinates also had circles with slashes through them, so it appears I’ll need to find this Ford somewhere. I make a note to keep an eye out for it and move on to the next puzzle when I came across the Ford. It’s a Mustang, as it turns out, located at E-8 on the map.
After giving it some thought, I was able to solve it and move on.
The third puzzle had people milling around Sunset Place trying to figure out what was going on, and these people dressed in numbered football jerseys were singing opera. There were a number of Herald Hunt volunteers that were obviously in on the puzzle itself, but they weren’t talking. They’d probably make pretty good CTU agents. I saw a few Hunters trying to listen in on conversations, but when several of them leaned over so far that they all fell over in a pile, they realized that they had been seen, and gave up.
Most people appeared to be taking this puzzle on directly, and were focusing on the opera singers. One of the Hunt volunteers handed me a flyer for a “Moon Over Miami” presentation, which appeared to be what everyone was watching. There was a guy with a silly hat singing and eating a turkey leg, a fat woman with a Viking helmet, another skinny guy with a funny top hat, and a woman with something that looked like a veil. Above them, as part of the set, was a moon. The plot seemed typical, however, as each performance always ended with the fat lady singing and the others standing about.
Despite the fact that I speak in hexadecimal better than Italian, I was able to use my powers of deduction to figure out this answer too.
The fourth puzzle took me by surprise. I was standing near the puzzle taking notes about what I was seeing.
When I first walked in, I was given a flier for a Hunt Cinemas presentation of A Clockwork Orange and North By Northwest. I determined where I needed to go from there, which was the other end of Sunset Place. When I got there, there was a large crowd, and they were standing near a large orange and were looking a movie posters that were positioned on the walls around us. Taking some careful time and measurements, I documented everything I was seeing.
When I looked up to observe what the puzzle participants were doing, and almost everyone was gone! I was pretty impressed that a crowd of that size could solve the puzzle so quickly, and I continued to write notes. I heard a cough behind me, and the crowd of people that had been at the puzzle were all pushing and shoving, trying to get the notes I was writing to see if they could get some kind of hint! I told them I wasn’t part of the Herald Hunt, and that I was as lost as they were. (Of course, I wasn’t). After I convinced them I didn’t know the answer, I went off to the fifth puzzle.
The fifth puzzle was by far the hardest puzzle, mainly because no one could figure out what the heck was going on. I saw several people asking passersby if they had the answer to the puzzle, but since they had nothing to do with the puzzle or the Herald Hunt, all they got was bewildered looks. One guy made the mistake of saying that he did know the answer, and at least twenty people followed him around for forty minutes until they realized he was just kidding. I tasered him for good measure.
Arriving at M20 on the map, there appeared to be a toga party going on. Except that the Hunt volunteers don’t really know how to have a good time, as they didn’t seem to be doing anything close to Delta Tau Delta-style partying. They still treated me nice and gave me a handout which said I could take half off their entire store! But there was no store name on the handout…just a picture of the Coliseum. I knew I had seen the Coliseum before…now where was it.
3:00 p.m. – After solving the fifth puzzle, I headed back to the main stage. The wait for the final clue was finally over. There were a number of people that I could tell had solved all the puzzles, and were confident that they would be the big winners of this year’s Hunt. Finally, at 3:00pm, Dave was back on stage with the final clue.
First, Dave told us that everything we knew was wrong, specifically that all the clues we had from solving the first puzzles needed to be ignored, except that the real clues we needed were the ones that preceded these wrong clues. Thank you, Dave! No wonder the crowd started to boo you again!
Next, as a second part of the final clue, 8 costumed people walked on stage:
Dracula, a mummy, a skeleton, a witch, a pumpkin, a devil, a cat and the Grim Reaper.
The people that were confident just moments before had stunned looks on their faces. A few people in groups yelled, “I know the answer!” and went running off. Interestingly enough, all of these groups ran in different directions. I followed one of these groups to the final puzzle location.
The costumed people had led everyone to a telephone number, which I dialed and heard people coughing. And that was it. I called again, and I stick by my diagnosis…they were cougin’. Coughin’? COFFIN! That’s where these people were headed, they were heading to the coffin on the map! When I got there, a man with a shirt that said “The Undertaker” asked me why I was there. Getting ready to use my taser, and I said I was there about a coffin. He gave me a flier that said “Key Funeral Home, Helping Families In Time Of Need”, except that every other letter was in a different font. I may be a senior technical CTU agent, but even I can tell what bad marketing is. At this point, I determined that it was time to go back into observation mode and let the others solve the Hunt.
Shortly after the puzzle was solved, an announcement was made on the main stage, and prizes were awarded. I had heard a rumor throughout the day that they were going to award the grand prize winners 2,500 pounds of lunch meat, but this rumor appeared to be a bunch of baloney. Dave Barry went through all of the puzzles and explained how each of them was supposed to be solved.
I have to say that I was very impressed with the winners. The winning teams had all the smarts, know how, and drive that would make them all great CTU agents. I suggest that we contact them as soon as possible before Jack accidentally shoots them in the thigh.
(Special thanks to Steve Pietrowicz in conjunction with the Tropic/Herald Hunt Archives team for helping to declassify this report quickly! Steve also files more reports here.)