Treasure Hunts with Puzzles: The warmup

Moomin had two parties this year; one big one at his dad’s house and a small treasure hunt at the houseboat. He had read and immediately re-read the Elizabeth Enright book “Melendy Maze: A Spiderweb for Two”, which has a very exciting treasure hunt with rhyming clues, hard enough so that the full hunt takes months.

So, for weeks I scouted out possible locations and thought of doggerel that wouldn’t be completely obvious but would give enough hints for Moomin to understand. There should be elliptical references phrased in over-fancy language – which was part of what he admired about the Enright poem-clues. The hunt should also get him used to the idea of wandering around the harbor and immediate area without adults. (Though, we were all so interested in their puzzle solving thought process that we hovered nearby.) In the Melendy Maze clues, the results were often in the house or yard of nearby kindly old people in quaint cottages who enjoy baking cookies and reminiscing about the old days. So the point of the hunt was for the kids to end up in a huge group of friends who live all around them. Too lofty of a goal, so I stuck to my subtext of noticing things in the geography around us and wandering independently over the territory – for Moomin to come to think of the territory as his.

Since this hunt ranged over a large territory rather than just being in a house and small yard, there was a risk that the clues might be disturbed or stolen. And that happened in one case – sadly, the cookie tin with lollipops and Clue 3 was looted by pirates.

If you’re me, or at all like me, you’ll need to get over your fear of writing horrible doggerel. The kids won’t mind or even notice.

This will now become a very long post, even though it’s the warmup hunt!

The day before the party I had a very short, easy treasure hunt just for Moomin and Oblomovka’s daughter. That was so that they would work well as a core team, and so that we could give Moomin his new kayak. Here are the clues, which were all on or very nearby the boat:

(Clue 1. The compartment under the seat cushions at the kitchen table.)

Near a place where you might sit to eat
Is where I like to hide.
Can you keep a secret?
I can. I stay inside!

(Clue 2. Outside pinned high up to the piling next to our boat and the floating dock.)

Pelican’s perch,
here I stand
as you go up and down.

Slimy or dry,
It’s nicer here
Than it is in town.

Put in a pin to mark the tide
And look up high — find what I hide!

(Clue 3. In my big Spanish dictionary.)

A veces estoy abierto,
A veces estoy cerrado.
Levanto aquí con muchos hermanos,
Y estoy muy, muy pesado.

Tengo muchos palabras
Y tengo muchos páginas.
Soy una cosa, no soy hombre.
¿Conoces tú cual es mi nombre?

(Clue 4. On top of the roof taped to the winch.)

Go aloft to a place to sit or lie
To watch the ISS go by.
To haul up a boat a foot or an inch,
You might need to use a winch.

(Clue 5. In the aft hold, in the vacuum cleaner or taped to it.)

You’re going to need a bit of luck
And here’s what you have to know.
My main purpose is to suck
And I live below.

(Clue 6. Slip 8 is 2 slips down from us where I have tied up Moomin’s new kayak!)

If you should feel like going faster
Then here’s the key for you to master.
Hurry up and don’t be late.
And go to see what’s at slip 8!

The kids ripped right through these clues. They got super excited! At the end, Moomin actually got into the kayak at slip 8 and hunted around in it for the next clue for a few minutes, until we explained that the kayak itself was his birthday present! He was stunned!

Spring Break

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