We really like games. There is some kind of board, card, or video gaming going on virtually every day at our office. Games help improve our lateral thinking, our logical reasoning, and our team cohesion. And—oh yeah—they’re really fun.
Some of our favorite games involve puzzles. For instance, a group of us collaboratively solve a crossword puzzle or two every day (NYTimes Thursday through Sunday, and the excellent Fireball Crosswords when we run out of the former). We even had a custom Everlaw crossword created by the editor of Fireball: check it out!
Our favorite type of puzzle game is the Escape Room: it’s a collaborative endeavor in which your whole team is locked in a room and given a fixed amount of time (usually an hour) to explore the room, solve the puzzles found therein, and devise a way to escape. The puzzles can be physical, word-based, mathematical, graphical, referential, or anything in between. Typically, there are no explicit instructions, and everything from determining what is actually a puzzle to figuring out how to use each answer is part of the challenge. It’s tremendous fun and involves a complete team effort. I’m proud to say our best Escape Room SF performance resulted in us escaping the room in the 4th fastest time out of the 917 teams that had attempted the room. (Only 17 teams escaped at all!)
Enough bragging—we needed to be humbled. So our own puzzlemaster extraordinaire and Lead Engineer Zach Travis decided to make an entire escape room, just for us, at our office. On the appointed day, the rest of us filed into the room to meet our fate. Zach had spent an incredible amount of time and thought constructing a story line and a devilish array of puzzles to go along with it.
The challenges came in all forms—from solving a logic puzzle, to figuring out not the answers to a set of crossword clues, but who on our team would be most likely to know each answer, to using the wiring of an office network switch to navigate a maze, and more. Each puzzle’s answer was used in some fashion to proceed through the room. One set of puzzles led us to discover a key hidden outside of a window; another set’s answers provided a four-digit code for opening a lockbox.
The highlight of the night was extracting a set of ten innocuous numbers from a (slightly-modified) transcript of one of our team chats, recognizing that they composed a phone number, and then calling the number to get a robotic message giving us the next clue!
In the end, we made it out in three hours. The event is already popping up as one of the favorites in our company’s history.
Many of the puzzles require some amount of Everlaw cultural or institutional knowledge to solve, but here are several that don’t (though some require expert knowledge of some of the games we play!). Hint: all the puzzles save the brainteaser and logic puzzle yield single-word answers.
Word puzzle (Hint: for each story, the description is relevant, but the titles and authors are not)
… I said they were hard! Many thanks to Zach for the heroic amount of effort and ingenuity he put into creating the Everlaw Escape Room.