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.)