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FAQ

General Questions

What is the ΣUMS Puzzle Hunt?
It is an online competition run by the Sydney University Mathematics Society (ΣUMS) where teams compete to solve 20 puzzles over 5 intense days to gain as many points as possible.

When is the ΣUMS Puzzle Hunt being held?
The 2015 Puzzle Hunt was held during the week beginning Monday the 2nd of November, 2015.
The 2016 Puzzle Hunt is planned for 26 December of this year. Drop us a line if you'd like to be included on the mailing list.

Does the Puzzle Hunt require physical presence?
No, the Puzzle Hunt is held completely on our website so anybody with access to the internet will be able to participate.

What kind of puzzles are these? Are they all maths questions?
This is not a competition full of maths questions! There is a huge range of puzzle styles ranging from cryptic, picture, word, logic and a whole lot more. The aim of each puzzle is to reveal a hidden word or phrase - it is up to you to figure out how! The Puzzle Hunt is aimed at a general audience, so you don't need to have any specialist knowledge about any particular subject.

You can access our previous puzzles from the archives page.

You should also check out the MUMS and CiSRA hunts for even larger archives of puzzles.

What if I'm not very good at puzzles?
The only way to improve is through practise! We also progressively release hints starting the second day of the puzzle week. However, if you wish to score maximum points then you'll need to solve each puzzle before any of its hints are released.

Who can enter? Does it cost anything to participate?
The Puzzle Hunt is absolutely FREE for anyone to take part. Each team can have a maximum of 5 members but there is nothing stopping you from registering as a solo team. Additional team members can always be added afterwards as long as there are fewer than 5 members.

What's that about prizes?
Yes, you heard right! Teams must contain at least one Australian resident to be eligible for prizes. First place wins $300, second place $200 and third $100 (in the form of Mastercard gift cards)! The first team to solve the Meta puzzle wins a special prize, and we also award a random prize to a non-placing team that's solved at least one puzzle from each Act.
See the rules page for details.

Do I need to register to solve the puzzles?
The puzzles and hints will be accessible by anyone, however you will need to register a team in order to check your answers.

This sounds awesome! How do I join?
Simple! Go to our registration page and fill in your details.

I have a technical problem. I don't like my team name, so I want to change it, or I want to remove a team member, change an email address or modify the password.
Please email us at: sums(at)maths.usyd.edu.au and our webmaster will help you out. Please do not register multiple teams in an attempt to fix the original problem.


Puzzle Solving Tips

What is the aim of each puzzle?
The aim is to find a hidden word or phrase in each puzzle. However, the main challenge is figuring out how to do this!

How do these puzzles work?
Each puzzle consists of three distinct parts: The title, part of a story and the puzzle itself.

The puzzle title may provide a strong lead as to how to do the puzzle, or is perhaps a cryptic clue that only becomes clear once you reach a certain stage or when the puzzle is solved. In other cases, it may be there just for descriptive purposes.

The story may contain some hidden clues but is not required to solve the puzzle.

I'm stuck! I don't even know where to begin!
Don't panic! These puzzles deliberately don't come with instructions.

Think of it as piecing together a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the final picture looks like. The first thing you would do is look for patterns or if any aspect of the puzzle resembles anything you've seen elsewhere. Try different ideas - often things aren't clear until you've actually given them a go. If you're on the right track, things should begin to fall into place as the puzzles are designed to provide affirmation when you make progress.

Somewhere along the line, you might need a flash of insight to proceed or see how everything is meant to fit together. This may come from, perhaps, realising a hidden meaning in the puzzle title or by discovering an important mechanism. By this stage, you will have understood how the key components of the puzzle combine and all that is left to do is to add in the final touches.

Once done, the ultimate answer shall reveal itself quite naturally - you should know that you've found it if you are indeed correct!

This hint is useless! It doesn't tell me anything!
Try reading it again. We try to make sure our hints are helpful for teams stuck at any step in a puzzle, but you can expect hints for the later steps to be more hidden/cryptic.