Solution to Physical Challenge

by Joia Hertz, Jeff Cohen, & Ted McCabe

When a team came to take a Physical Challenge, they were assigned at random one of the following four games to play. If they achieved a perfect score on their game, they were given the 14-letter answer RUTHLESS TYCOON. Otherwise, they would be given the answer minus some randomly chosen subset of letters, of size determined by their score. (For instance, if they lost six letters, they might get the string RLESTCON.) If that wasn't enough, they could take another challenge in fifteen minutes (or after all the other teams that were waiting had taken their challenges, whichever was later).

Game 1. Stacking objects. Contestants were given a bucket of Legos. The task was: in two minutes, without connecting or measuring any Legos, select enough Legos as would reach two feet high when stacked one on top of another. Scoring: After the time limit, the Legos were connected and measured. For every full inch by which the total stack exceeded or fell short of two feet, the contestants lost one letter out of fourteen.

Game 2. Color identification. In a darkened room, with a collection of objects of various colors, contestants were given a red LED as their only source of light. The task was: in two minutes, select seven green objects. Scoring: Contestants won two letters for every green object selected, up to and including the seventh. Additionally, contestants lost two letters for every object selected beyond seven. (Thus, seven objects of which six were green earned twelve letters; and so did eight objects of which at least seven were green.)

Game 3. Packing objects. Contestants were given a box and ten large objects. The task was: in one minute, select as may objects as they thought they could fit into the box; and then, in three minutes, fit all the selected items into the box so that its lid could be closed without touching any of the objects, and without deforming any rigid objects. Scoring: For every object it was necessary to remove from the box after the time limit in order to make the box close, contestants lost two letters. Additionally, if the number of objects selected was less than our record for packing the box, contestants lost two letters for every object they fell short of our record. (Note that this task got harder with time! If a team beat our record, later contestants lost points for failing to match the new record. This happened twice: originally, our record was seven; but Codex Dresden successfully packed eight objects into the box, and Setec later found a way to pack nine.)

Game 4. Weighing objects. Contestants were given an assortment of small objects. The task was: in two minutes, select enough objects to weigh sixteen ounces. Scoring: After the time limit, the selected objects were weighed; for every full half ounce by which they exceeded or fell short of one pound, contestants lost one letter.

2006 MIT Mystery Hunt