I am working again on the puzzle race. I got distracted six or eight months ago with a paying programming gig but I’m free now and I want to have the puzzle race next Spring. In case no one reading this knows anything about a puzzle race or my intended puzzle race, a puzzle race is like a scavenger hunt but instead of finding things, you solve things. It is still a race and usually requires a specific location. I have been working on puzzles for my own race that I want to have in Truckee as a Girl Scout fund raiser.

I was thinking of a sample puzzle to include with the race instructions and rules. The sample would be a real puzzle but the solution would be provided. Here is what I have so far:

I was thinking of a sample puzzle to include with the race instructions and rules. The sample would be a real puzzle but the solution would be provided. Here is what I have so far:

Animal Parade

I was at the zoo and saw the most unusual animal parade. The animal walked by in rows and it was a very unusual set of animals for sure.

Leopard, Tiger
Leopard, Dalmatian, Appaloosa Horse
Zebra, Skunk
Appaloosa Horse, Skunk
Tiger, Dalmatian
Leopard, Leopard
Dalmatian, Zebra

What country was I visiting when I saw the parade?

I don’t really want to show the answer because it’s actually a fairly interesting puzzle. Still, an example is going to be very helpful to anyone who has never done a puzzle race puzzle before. Keep in mind that a puzzle should have something to do with the location of the race. This would be good for a zoo race although this puzzle is not really location specific at all.

The Answer


To solve this, the player must first find out what the animal names mean. It is probably a terribly hard puzzle but often, a group of four people can solve a puzzle like this in less than 15 minutes.

Go backwards from the answer to determine what is hidden in the clue. In this case, it is not more than one or two words so the clue is likely to hold letters somehow. A whole word per animal would just not work and even a whole word per line seems like too many.

Look at the animals and look for a pattern. The animals come in rows but there are only a few different animals. Each animal is not a letter because the resulting word would be pretty odd indeed. Still, it would be worth a try to see if there is a way to use the first letter of each animal or maybe the last letter. A few failures at this should lead a player or team to try something else.

If each row is a letter then there needs to be a way to convert the animal names to letters. An experienced player might think about translating from numbers to letters with A=1, B=2, and so on. The count per row is not a useful number and no other numbers of this sort are obvious.

After much frustration, the player or team would figure out what is interesting about the animals. It is a specific list. Zebras have stripes as do tigers and skunks. If anyone mentions the spotted skunk, just send them home! Dalmatians and Leopards have spots as does that one type of horse.

If the answer that this is Morse code is not obvious yet then change the names to the appropriate word “stripe” or “spot” and then maybe it becomes clear. Figuring out the Morse code encoding is the trickiest part of this for many people because encoding things is not common in the real world. At least not in this way.

In the race, the players would be given a translation sheet with Morse Code, Braille, ASCII, number translation (A=1, B=2,etc.), and maybe semaphore and a few others. There is no guarantee what will be needed, but in this case, the Morse code translations are what the players need to solve the puzzle.

So that’s my example. I hope it helps when it comes time to race.


Update! We now have a domain name and a blog for the puzzle race. The domain name is really for sending in answers during the race but it made a little sense to try to keep a blog about the race using that same domain name. The blog is here.