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Endgame Cover Letter

January 4, 2008


Timbuk-Testsolvers, Inc.
12 Riverside Drive
Timbuktu, MALI

Re: Rush Testsolving Request, Three Round-One Puzzles for the 2008 Mystery Hunt

Dear Timbuk-Testsolvers, Inc.:

As we discussed on the phone, I have enclosed the three puzzles from Round One of the 2008 Mystery Hunt, for your assistance with testsolving. I personally want to thank you for your assistance (and very fair price). Given the recent lack of manpower I have found myself with, outsourcing was the only way I could hope to have everything set to go on time. Complicating matters is the fact that, in an effort to cut back on my workaholic tendencies, every weekend of 2007 I took at least one day (Sat, Sun, or both) completely off and away from campus. Given the press of the upcoming Hunt, I unfortunately have had to abandon that practice in 2008.

This dearth of assistance stateside confuses and concerns me. A year ago I had no end of people interested in helping write the Hunt. One week after the end of the 2007 Hunt, seven people -- John Alafontaine, Alan Caster, Elihu Leather, Samantha Oriflamme, Jan Plumb, Marcia Taylor, and Betty Wexter -- attended a dinner at which we discussed the planning of the 2008 Hunt. (I was meeting some of them for the first time.) Thereafter, each of the three Round One puzzles was written by exactly one writer from that group, and all three writers were different. I handed each writer an assignment at noon in my office on the MIT campus on the first day of a month (a different month for each writer), and each writer handed me a finished puzzle in person at noon in my office on MIT campus on the last day of the same month the writer received the assignment. The three enclosed puzzles, at least one of which was worked on in whole or in part during winter, were not changed in any way after they were submitted.

To achieve a diversity of ideas in the puzzles, I made sure that no writer was born within the same calendar year and that the writers were not all the same gender. No one was asked to write a puzzle during the month of their birthday, as I would never want a deadline looming over someone’s natal anniversary celebration. In case you are not familiar, the writing process can sometimes be grueling -- the author of the 3x3 picture puzzle, for example, worked on it a little each day for more than four weeks.

For a while, things ran like clockwork. The writers would keep me generally informed about how things were going. One of the writers started working on her puzzle on Friday the 13th after being inspired by the day to include a traditional bad-luck superstition, and stopped by my office that afternoon to tell me so. I had great communication with all of the writers during the months of their respective puzzles, and for that matter with most of the others from the kickoff dinner during most of the year. But, slowly and increasingly, contact started to drop off. Some of them yelled at me for (as far as I am concerned) no good reason, while others simply stopped returning my calls. As of the date of this letter, all of them consider me -- and I do not say this lightly -- a sworn enemy. None of the three puzzle writers considered me an enemy at (or before) the time they turned a puzzle in and, frankly, all of these events have left me at quite a loss, both figuratively and literally. With no team remaining to help me during these final days before the Hunt, I have no choice but to turn to outside help. How fortunate I saw your ad on Craigslist; I truly hope you can follow through on your promise of impeccable service and a one-week turnaround. It's hard to believe that in a little over two weeks I'll have the pleasure of seeing some team reach the top floor, enter a door marked with the word "KEEP," and find the newly minted coin I will have carefully hidden inside.

Thanks for being such a life-saver!

Very truly yours,

Dr. Otto Awkward

Enclosures: all three Round-One puzzles