Puzzlepalooza 2014: The Year of the Armadillo (Daily Blog)

May 22, 2014, 7:28 a.m. | By Harini Salgado | 10 years ago

Talk puzzles to me

Puzzlepalooza. The biggest high school puzzling competition in America (well it's the only high school puzzle competition that shows up on Google at least). Spanning the four days of the High School Assessment (HSA) week at Blair, the fifth annual Puzzlepalooza brings together more than 320 Blair juniors and seniors into 19 teams to try to win the prizes which are HUGE! Everyone get ready for the most exciting Puzzlepalooza Competition yet. #useyourhead

Current juniors and seniors have been impatiently waiting for this years competition since the end of Puzzlepalooza, which "SS It's Christmas” won (which means this year's t-shirts are red and green; thanks guys). On Mar. 19, the Puzzlelords released their first video of the competition revealing the Puzzlepalooza V is the year of the armadillo. Seniors Michelle McGhee and Adrianne Kehne also created a video encouraging Blazers to sign up.

This year, more students signed up than ever before. The Puzzlelords sent out five mini-puzzles to help contestants get excited and in the zone for Puzzlepalooza with five lucky solvers receiving "not so huge prizes" (red cowbells) for each puzzle. Ten days before the competition, the Puzzlelords also announced that contestants could tweet Vine videos and short Youtube videos about how excited they were to win $5 of Puzzlepalooza cash with a chance of winning double if their video included their mothers during mother's day weekend.

Finally, with Puzzlepalooza only seconds away, the Puzzlelords sent out a deluge of emails, taunting contestants about the theme. They also managed to 'accidently' send out an email which contestants were immediately told to delete.

Puzzlepalooza started with a bang on Monday. Photo courtesy of Harini Salgado.

DAY ONE: May 19, 2014
Puzzlepalooza contestants walked into their assigned rooms to see several pages of instructions taped to one of the tables. Included on the sheets, other than actual puzzle information which is secret and cannot be discussed outside the hours 7:25 to 10:47 for the next four days, was this year's theme: the FIFA World Cup, well, sorta. Teams were told to create a country to enter into the World Puzzling Competition, hosted by Puzzil (haha, get it?). Team names include the "People's Socialist Democratic Republic of Genovia", "Ghana Win", "The Repuzzlic of Chezkyoselvokia" and "Djibooty". Teams also had to come up with a slogan, a flag and a name for this year's mascot.

After three hours of hard work, a majority of the teams completed three of the twelve puzzles and were close to finishing some of the others. The Repuzzlic of Chezkyoselfvokia took an early lead finishing five of the puzzles. They shouldn't get their hopes up to high though; the leader after day one has never won before. But there's a first time for everything!

Puzzlelord David Stein was very pleased after the first day. "The first day went very well. Every team solved puzzles and attendance was very high. It was around 98 percent," he said.

"Puzzlepalooza is the greatest thing that's ever happened", junior Teddy Corrales, a member of Jigsaustralia, said, Things are going to get much harder as the competition goes on, however. "Tomorrow things will start getting tough because all the easy puzzles have fallen,"Puzzlelord Stein warned.

The spirit competition begins tomorrow, when teams will start bringing their all to win the award for most spirited team. "I'm bringing in crates and crates of ballet costumes. I'm so excited for the princess parts," junior and People's Socialist Democratic Republic of Genovia member Megan Houlihan said.

The People's Socialist Democratic Republic of Genovia are all dressed up as pretty princesses. Photo courtesy of The Puzzlelords Twitter.

DAY TWO: May 20, 2014
Spirit was a major part of the second day of Puzzlepalooza. Since teams could only receive their puzzles at 7:25, contestants put up streamers, posters and balloons, and completely decorated their classroom. They dressed according to their team colors and painted their faces. Teams went all out, trying to be crowned the most spirited team in Puzzlepalooza.

Not only did the team members of the "People's Socialist Democratic Republic of Genovia” dress up as princesses, they even had two processions for their captain, senior Robert Martin. "The first procession we wheeled our captain in and kneeled down when got up and then left," senior Nathan Sarkar, who was dressed in a bright pink shirt, said. "The second time we lined the hallways and tooted noisemakers and knelt as he went past," his teammate junior Sarah Wagner added. The Group of Death also had a lot of spirit decorating a large part of the 360s hallways with skeletons and an eerie sign made of black streamers spelling out their name.

The Group of Death decorated the 360s hallway. Photo courtesy of The Puzzlelords Twitter.

Some other teams did not focus on spirit as much. "Our spirits good. I wouldn't say we're spirit award worthy but we have a good level so we can focus on solving puzzles," McGhee, who is a member of Ghana Win, said.

Despite all the spirit, teams managed to make a lot of progress on their puzzles. Ghana Win and Ciphrus are tied for first place. Both have solved eight puzzles and have a total of 116 points. Alex Bourzutschky, a member of Shadynasty and who was a member of the winning team last year is very happy with how Puzzlepalooza is going. "I feel pretty good. One of our strongest puzzlers [Adam Busis] who was absent yesterday was here today letting us solve one of the hardest puzzles first. We've got a decent amount of points," he said. Bourzutschky was also happy that his team hasn't spent any Puzzlepalooza money on clues putting them on track for the Iron Puzzler award.

Tomorrow, it is moving day. According to the Puzzlelords "[it is traditionally on day three] that the winning teams make their move on the leaderboard." Teams will also have to tweet a 30 second Public Relations (PR) video and will become even more spirited to beat out the competition. Also the contestants who had to take the Biology HSA will be back to help their teams out.

DAY THREE: May 21, 2014
FC Breakfast started out the third day of Puzzlepalooza walking down the hall chanting music dressed in orange and yellow. They also set up a waffle maker outside their room to actually make breakfast for the team. Needless to say, most of the teams really stepped up their spirit today.

Junior Jade Liu, a member of United Puzzlers of Pandamonium, really liked how they decorated the hallway for their panda theme. "We had bamboo tied together standing up sort of like a gate in the hallway outside our room. We also had black and white balloons on the ceiling, black and white streamers and green streamers on the door to represent bamboo," she said. They also had a table of stuffed pandas. Two people escorted their captain to the captains' meetings hitting down with bamboo sticks and carrying tiny pandas.

The United Puzzlers of Pandamonium have a LOT of stuffed pandas. Photo courtesy of The Puzzlelords Twitter.

There were also many other interesting ways captains arrived at meetings. Vatican City's captain dressed up as the pope, with a huge hat, and sprinkled "holy" water on people as he walked down the hallway. The North Pole sang "The North Pole", a parody of "Let it Go" with junior Peter Ho dressed as the team's mascot and a snowy owl rolling on a sled, hooting into a megaphone every so often.

The People's Socialist Republic of Genovia continued their over the top captains' meeting entrances. For the first procession, they laid out a plastic pink tablecloth as a carpet and lined up and made a lot of noise and threw glitter and confetti as their captain walked through. The second procession was even more outrageous. "We again lay down the pink carpet and lined up and three people pushed [Martin] in on a mini skateboard as he waved and pretended to drink tea. In the background, we blasted the Genovia's national anthem. He hopped off the skateboard once he got to the carpet and as we were throwing confetti on him, he caught pinata stick and broke the pinata with one hit and candy scattered everywhere," Houlihan said. "We've basically given up on the puzzles and are only focusing on the spirit award," she added.

Three teams solved all twelve puzzles by the end of the day: Shadynasty, Ghana Win and Ciphrus, making them the three biggest contenders for the "puzzle world cup champions".

FC Breakfast actually decided to make their own breakfast. Photo courtesy of The Puzzlelords Twitter.

"It would be an upset if one of those three teams do not win but it will not be a surprise if someone else wins" Puzzlelord Stein said. In terms of points, Ciphrus is ahead with 169 points. Shadynasty, on the other hand, is the only team that has not bought any hints which is an impressive feat.

Tomorrow is the last day of Puzzlepalooza. Teams will have some time to finish up puzzles in the morning before the endgame is revealed. The more puzzles teams solve, they better chance they have at winning. Tomorrow is sure be a fun day. "I'm really excited about tomorrow. I don't think I'm going to sleep tonight," Puzzlelord Stein told his third period Statistics class. "I will tell you one thing," he warned "there are going to be tears tomorrow." But he also encouraged, "Win or lose, cheer loudly!"

DAY FOUR (THE FINAL DAY): May 22, 2014
The emotional last day of Puzzlepalooza started off like every other morning: heading to our assigned classrooms. Except on this day, nobody could decorate their classrooms or hallways. Some people used the extra time to do some last minute solving, other teams used the time to decorate themselves with face paint and/or hairspray. Some teams even used the time to plan out what they were going to do when called up on a stage during the ending ceremony.

Soon teams started getting called to go down to the gym for the end game. Right in the middle of the gym was a huge sheet with lines, big letters and pictures. Contestants could step on the sheet with their shoes off but were not allowed to talk around the sheet. Teams received their yellow envelopes with twenty white double hexagons. Teams had to realize they were building a soccer ball and that to connect pieces together based on clues on the hexagon. They then had to trace the path on the sheet based on the outside of the soccer ball, which in turn spelt out the phrase "SHOUT GOAL". Teams raced to winner's box after figuring out what they had to do, where Budapesto, Hungary narrowly edged of Shadynasty to win Puzzlepalooza V.

The ceremony at the end was filled with lots of noise: cheers, claps and vuvuzela sounds echoed around the auditorium. Puzzlelord Stein started off by talking about how Puzzlepalooza V had broken a lot of records including the most participants, most spirit, most puzzles completed and the closest finish between first and second with a one second difference. "I don't think that [the closest finish] record will ever be broken," Puzzlelord Stein said. Stein went on to thank organizations that donated prizes like the Washington Spirit, parent and alumni teams, our principal and even Dr. Starr and Dr. Lowery for according to Stein "[thinking] of something to do to occupy the rest of the school while we did Puzzlepalooza."

Budapesto won the 2014 Puzzlepalozza competition.  Photo courtesy of Puzzlepalooza flickr.

After talking about the solutions to puzzles Stein asked students to watch a video of teachers singing. Puzzlelord Stein also explained the endgame and what the teachers saw happening as teams tried to solve the puzzle. "We were watching this as it was going on. There were five or six teams who were getting that ball correctly made and it was clear it was going to come down to the last second which it did," he said.

They then invited any teams who did not win one of the awards to the stage, where they received a rubber duck, tattoos and a certificate, and performed each of their routines. "The ducks while not huge have become a Puzzlepalooza tradition. I hope you keep your ducks in an honored place," Puzzlelord Stein said. Then came the teams who won minor awards who received a plastic cup and the other prizes. The Best Name went to Group of Death. Best Motto went to Repuzzlic of Chezkyoselvokia with the motto "Before you wreckyoselvokia". "We had a hard time picking a best motto. In fact, we fought physically over this one," Puzzlelord Stein joked, "Schafer won." Transylvania won the armadillo-naming contest with "Dinner". Best flag went to Pistache QRE and the Federated Hip-Hop States of Harlem won the best PR video.

Then came the major awards with the Iron Puzzler award going to Shadynasty who solved all twelve puzzles without buying any hints and just barely lost to Budapesto, Hungary. They won a book of crossword puzzles. "This was an amazing job they did this week. Incredibly impressive," Puzzlelord Stein said. The first loser award went to Ciphrus, who solved all twelve puzzles first, winning many prizes including Chipotle gift certificates, mugs and rulers. The Spirit Award went to the People's Socialist Republic of Genovia. They won huge inflatable bunny, huge inflatable palm trees, gift certificates, inflatable soccer balls, vuvuzelas, mugs and a framed team photo.

Contestants surround the big clue on the floor trying to figure out what its message is. Photo courtesy of Puzzlepalooza flickr.

The winner, Budapesto, Hungary, only solved 10 puzzles but were still able to successfully finish the ball. They won gift certificates, free tickets to a Washington Spirit game, stuffed armadillos, medals, breakfast with the Puzzlelords, mugs and most importantly their team name on the Puzzlepalooza champions plaque. They also won a huuuuuuuuuuge soccer ball which was bounced around the auditorium. Their team captain is a two time Puzzlepalooza champion who is the second person to do this.

Junior Jake Yamada, a member of Budapesto, Hungary, was excited about winning and by such a small margin. He said, "I was like it was really, really close," about his first thought about winning followed by "I beat Adam [Busis on Shadynasty]".

Everyone was really sad that Puzzlepalooza finished but all the juniors are excited for next year. The Puzzlelords are already working on next year's competition which is only seconds away!

To keep up to date on what's happening check out the Puzzlelords twitter feed .

Tags: PuzzlePalooza Michelle McGhee Adrianne Kehne David Stein Armadillo Megan Houlihan Puzzle Lord

Harini Salgado. Hi! My name's Harini Salgado. My family is originally from Sri Lanka and I lived in Singapore for three years when I was younger. I'm really excited to be one of the Online Entertainment Editors this year because I love keeping up to date on … More »

Show comments


Please ensure that all comments are mature and responsible; they will go through moderation.