David Kwong’s Enigmatist [Review]

A Gold Bug

Location:  New York City

Date Attended: January 12, 2019

Duration: 120 minutes

Price: $95 / $125 / $150 per ticket depending on seat

Ticketing: Public

REA Reaction

The Enigmatist was a night of puzzles, magic, and storytelling. It was as quirky as it was phenomenal.

It was a performance, not an escape room, but it included escape room-style solving.

The Enigmatist has just extended its run of Friday and Saturday evening shows through March 2019. If you read this blog, and you are near New York City, you should purchase tickets immediately.

The Enigmatist sign.

Who is this for?

  • Story seekers
  • Puzzle lovers
  • Magic fans

Why Attend?

  • Wonderful feats of magic and word play
  • Good puzzles
  • Lots of hidden layers and meaning


The Enigmatist was a one-man show performed by magician and New York Times cruciverbalist (crossword constructor) David Kwong.

Throughout the evening, Kwong explored the story of Riverbank Laboratories.

The performance was an unusual mixture of magic, puzzles, cryptography, crosswords, and storytelling.

Instructions for how to approach the four initial puzzles.


The Enigmatist was set on a small stage at the High Line Hotel. Upon arrival we were presented with 4 puzzles to solve in the lobby.

Once we took our seats within the intimate theater, we spent the rest of the evening enjoying the performance and solving the puzzles within it.

A map of the Fabyan Estate Street Car.


David Kwong’s The Enigmatist was a performance with gameplay. There were multiple puzzles to solve throughout the evening. The audience’s ability to solve the puzzles shifted the energy and dynamics of the show.

Core gameplay revolved around observing, deciphering, and making connections.

Lisa and David bundled up in front of a tree covered in lights.
Winter is here.


➕ The opening puzzles were lovely. They generally struck the right difficulty balance. They set the tone for how to approach the puzzles in the show.

➖ Of the initial 4 puzzles, one was noticeably more involved than the others. Unfortunately it was also the most compact and hardest to see. This led to a an uncomfortable crowd around it. Having an extra copy or spreading it out more would solve the problem.

➕/➖ There were self-service hints available for the opening puzzles. This kept solvers of all levels engaged with the puzzles. That said, more granular hinting would probably have helped alleviate bottlenecks.

➕ Kwong has an impressive gift for sleight of hand. In general, the magical moments of The Enigmatist were really well produced. He put a fresh spin on everything by integrating the tricks into the story. In the process he gave both more meaning.

➕ Kwong played with words a lot… and I don’t mean puns. I mean he manipulated words and letters in mind-bogging ways. My biggest takeaway from the night was to never play a word game against David Kwong.

➕/➖ Throughout the performance, Kwong told an intriguing story of cryptography. He integrated a lot of charm and historical facts. At the end of his tale, however, he made some questionable decisions. I think I get why he did it, but I didn’t like it. I still don’t.

➕ There were layers and layers of hidden meaning and hidden magic. The last few minutes of The Enigmatist were 🤯.

Tips For Visiting

  • Parking: It’s New York City. Good luck.
  • Food: It’s Chelsea. You’re spoiled with options.
  • Arrive early and enjoy the puzzles.

Book your tickets with David Kwong’s The Enigmatist, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.


  1. Yessss I have tickets for Saturday but hadn’t seen any reviews yet. I’m psyched

    1. I think you’re going to love it. It’s a fantastic show.

  2. So excited to go! Any advice on where to sit? Do you think the higher priced seats are worth the extra money for this kind of show? Thanks!!

    1. The theater is small, so there aren’t any bad seats.

      Sitting at one of the tables was lovely (the side was fine). It was nice to have a surface to work on for the puzzling that was involved, although it wasn’t necessary.

    1. Yup. You can attend alone without any issues whatsoever.

  3. Where is the entrance to the room, near the front of the stage of side table seating or at the rear general seating area near Row E? Thanks in advance!

    1. It’s in the back of the theater, stage left.

  4. Going this Saturday. The promo video on the homepage mentions there is a secret message (separate from the first one earlier in the video) that “for those who find it, there’s a fun surprise.” Did you tackle this, and if so, would you say it was worth it?

  5. Hi David. Are there seats on the main floor. I assume so but I think I read something somewhere that said standing room on the main floor. Is this true?

    1. To the best of my memory, there were no standing tickets.

  6. Hi David,

    I’m trying to decide if I should splurge for the table seats or do you think the seats on the main floor are just as nice? Just trying to see if i’ll miss anything by sitting on the main floor.

    1. The tables are just a bit closer and more comfortable.

  7. Great but would it still be worth my money if I did the main floor? There’s no food or drinks that comes with purchasing a table right?

    1. It’s really just a closer seat and a more comfortable place to solve puzzles.

  8. Two years after the last comment and I have front-table-center tickets to see The Enigmatist at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. The four pre-puzzles are outside in a garden which should be lovely (in October, I hope it is well lit). This version is 90 minutes with no intermission. Was there an intermission in the NYC version?

    1. I’m so glad that the show is running again.

      Lisa and I don’t recall an intermission in the original run, just the pre-show puzzles… but it has been a couple of years, so we might be misremembering.

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