I'm a member of the National Puzzlers League
, a cool organization of folks who are into word games and word puzzles and such.
The League's annual conventions are glorious geekfests, where people create games that 100 to 150 people can play at once. One of the centerpieces of the convention is the "Extravaganza," an event consisting of interrelated puzzles with some sort of colorful backstory. Folks form teams to solve the Extravaganza, which usually lasts from 1.5 to 4 hours.
For the 2003 Convention in Indianapolis, the Extravaganza was created by me and two collaborators -- Rick Rubenstein and Andrew Hertz (known as "Rastelli" and "atoz" in the NPL, respectively; I am known as "Murdoch").
The Extravaganza was contained entirely in an 8-page tabloid newspaper, the Greeneville Gazette, from the fictional town of Greeneville, IN. The newspaper, which we designed ourselves and printed on an actual printing press, is full of puzzles -- in the articles, the headlines, the ads, the photos, the horoscope, the comics, etc.
The event, presented on
July 12, 2003, was a smashing success. The three of us, dressed as small-town cops, presented the situation -- a longstanding family feud in Greeneville -- and appealed to the NPL's help in unraveling a bunch of hidden messages in the Gazette. The fastest team solved it in about 1.5 hours; the last team finished it in about 3.5 hours. Fun was had by all.
We don't know if we'll be making the newspaper available for download, but for those who took extra copies and need the Police Chief's letter (the prologue to the event, including the basic instructions), here it is: