<< Back

Which division should my team be in?

The first thing to remember is that help is always available during the race so no matter how stuck you are, you can always get help to move on. So if you choose to be in the CHALLENGE division you can always request help that essentially will give you the information that you might otherwise get up front from the BASIC division (at the cost of a possible penalty of course). Divisions are NOT competing against one another, but only against others in your same division.
That said, we urge you to read all the examples below to fully understand the differences that may occur between the two divisions.

NOTE TO PAST PLAYERS: If you have participated in past Puzzle Pursuit events there was only one division and it most closely resembles the CHALLENGE division. However there will be a wider range of puzzles (easy to difficult) in this division so in general it will be a bit easier than in the past.

NOTE TO NEW PLAYERS: A large majority of teams in past races had previously NEVER done a race like this before and they were all in something the equivalent to the CHALLENGE division. While many of the teams thrived and enjoyed the challenge, others indicated a slightly easier game might be more attractive and hence the BASIC division was born.

    If you enjoy the challenge of figuring out how to put together a piece of furniture you bought at IKEA (good luck), or you enjoy the mental challenges of Sudoku, crosswords, who dunnits, etc., then you might like the CHALLENGE division.
    You enjoy the mental challenges of jigsaw puzzles, card games, etc. You prefer to be handed a set of instructions on how to assemble your IKEA furniture rather than trying to figure it out on your own. The Basic division will have its share of challenges for sure, so don't assume this will be a walk in the park(pun intended).



The BASIC division will contain puzzles ranging from EASY to MEDIUM DIFFICULTY. This division is best for novice players who can follow directions and get from point A to B to C with only minor leaps in thinking between them (see examples below). You will almost always be provided with directions on HOW to solve the puzzle(as opposed to having to figure out on your own how to solve it), so your actions will be to actually implement the instructions given(which may include hunting for a certain statue, taking the letters from a sign and transscribing them into a given code, etc.)
This will certainly not be a walk in the park. Just because you are told:
Find the 5 statues of horses and add the year on the plaque from each one
doesn't mean it's going to be easy to find those 5 statues, it just means it won't take you 10 minutes to figure out that that is what you are supposed to do based on hints and clues for that particular puzzle.


The CHALLENGE division will contain puzzles ranging from EASY to MIND-BENDING. This division is best for those that love recognizing the clues and figuring out how to do things from those clues. You do NOT have to have raced a puzzle race before, nor do you have to be someone who plays Sudoku and does logic puzzles all day long. However, if those things are not something you think you would enjoy the mental challenge of, then perhaps this division is not for you. It will be necessary to employ an out of the box style of thinking. To solve a puzzle you MAY have to first figure out how to solve the puzzle (see examples below). You do NOT need to know Morse code or what a pigpen cypher is (stuff like that will be provided to you if used). In fact you will NOT be required to have any special knowledge in order to solve puzzles, but you will be required to use reason, logic, and deduction.


For the following examples we will assume that ALL teams regardless of division have been given the following items at the start of the race(but not told what they are to be used for):
  • 5 feet of string
  • a paper clip
  • An obviously fake newspaper page with headlines, advertisments, etc.
  • A Morse code decoder
Teams are also given the information that each and every puzzle will pose a question of some sort that will have a definite one or two word answer. For example:
What year is on the statue with two horses? Answer: 1965
It is important to know that every puzzle will ultimately lead to a very definite question like this and will never be a vague idea or something that can be easily mis-interpretted. This way all teams know when they get a puzzle that somehow the puzzle will offer a SINGLE QUESTION that they must answer.

Example 1 (From PuzzlePursuit: The Fugitive)

Teams are given a slip of paper that says: It's time to go interview for that curator position you were hoping to get
Teams will need to figure out that there are Job Listings in the fake newspaper they were given and they will have to search through them and find one for a museum curator position. An address is given for the museum and teams have to figure out that they need to go to that address in order to get their next clue.
Once at the museum teams find themselves in front of a closed and locked jail cell. Puzzle clues lie on the floor inside the cell but are out of reach. Teams must realize they need to bend the paper clip they were given into a hook, tie it to the length of string they were given, and use it like a fishing line to try and hook one of the clues from inside the cell.

Demonstrated Skills

  • Out of the box thinking
  • Making the leap in thinking from "job interview" to the newspaper you were given
  • Realizing how to use the items you have on you (String,paper clip) in a given situation

BASIC Teams are given a slip of paper that says: It's time to go interview for that curator position you were hoping to get. You'll find a listing for a museum curator in the newspaper. Report to the museum for further instructions.
Once at the museum, teams are taken to the front of a closed jail cell and told they will need to use two of the items they were given in order to Hook one of the clues from inside the cell.

Example 2 (From PuzzlePursuit: The Fugitive)

Teams are given the following puzzle: Click to view This was perhaps the hardest puzzle from last years race and only 1 or 2 teams completed it WITHOUT a hint.

Teams are given nothing more than the one page. They must first figure out that GUM SAAN is the name of a store that is very nearby. In fact there were clues in the fake newspaper to this affect, and the store was actually visible from the location they got the clue. Once at the store teams must figure out that there are crates in front of the store with Chinese characters that match those on the manifest. The crates also have English translations for the characters and you are to fill them in on the manifest. Once the English letters are filled in teams needed to decode the message. In order to do this there were several clues if you looked for them. First you can see that in all of the two number codes on the page: 7:6, 24:3, etc. the second number is ALWAYS unique. This is a common indication that this number is a position of some sort. In this case it is the position of a letter in a sentence.
Secondly teams would have to figure out that the other number in the code is always less than the number of letters in the word that it sits below. For example the 5th word down on the manifest is FRUIT. The code 3:5 below that word indicates that the 3rd letter in the decoded message is represented by the 5th letter in the word FRUIT: a T. So 9:1 would mean the 9th letter in the decoded message is the 1st letter in FRUIT: an F If you continue along this path you would get a phrase like:
Name of the judge in the portrait in the courthouse?

Demonstrated Skills

  • Recognizing there must be a clue in the puzzle itself as to where to go: The Deliver To line on the puzzle.
  • Recognizing subtle clues within the puzzle: ie the numbers in the code are unique (indicating position) and always less than the number of letters in the word they are below
  • TRYING different things, not just thinking about them. That is, you see the numbers, you know they must be used for something related to the letters you just filled in, start using them to rearrange the letters to try and spell something. Don't just TALK or THINK about it, DO IT. This is probably one of the most important differences between teams that succeed and those that don't.

In addition to the manifest teams would be given detailed instructions on how to go about solving this puzzle. Therefore teams would only have to go through the various steps, rather than have to figure out what those steps were.

Example 3 (From PuzzlePursuit: The Dresden Codex)

Teams are given a given an oddly shaped, clear plastic sheet (about 5 feet long and 2 feet wide). There are various short vertical lines as well as seemingly random placed dots on the sheet. This was perhaps the favorite puzzle for this race

Teams are given a slip of paper indicating you may want to take a seat in the Alcazar garden and think about this one. That is all they are given. Teams must figure out first that they need to go to the Alcazar garden. Once there the clue to take a seat will lead them to realize the sheet of plastic they have exactly matches the shape of the benches that line the garden. If the sheet is placed on the top of the bench the vertical lines will line up with the tiles that make up the top of the bench. The DOTS on the sheet sit inside either a square tile or a rectangular tile. Teams must figure out that this is, in fact, Morse code and the dots in the SQUARE tiles represent a DOT and those in the RECTANGULAR tiles represent a DASH. So you get DOT-DOT-DASH etc. and decoded you get a question like: In what year was the garden renovated? The answer to which sat on a nearby plaque.

Demonstrated Skills

  • Out of the box thinking
  • Realizing the dots represented a code of some sort. And in fact were Morse code, a type of code you were given a decoder for earlier in the race.
  • TRYING different things with regards to decoding. IE trying a square as a DOT, and if that didn't work try a square as a DASH, etc. etc.

BASIC Teams are told to go to the Alcazar garden and place the sheet atop one of the benches to line up the lines. Teams are given further instructions that the squares are DOTS and the rectangles are DASHES in Morse Code and they need to decode the message and then answer it.