David Kwong’s Inside the Box [Reaction]

I love words. During this year at home, I’ve really embraced collaboratively crosswording with friends, family, and especially my coworkers (Crossword Meeting is the best meeting).

Inside the Box was the show for me. In so many ways.


Cruciverbalist and magician David Kwong strung words together over Zoom… in, around, and through puzzles, both for and with his audience.

Kwong told a story of the history of puzzles, and presented puzzles along the way, in both obvious and more obscured ways.

A red book, a griffen game piece, a mechanical pencil, and th inside the box puzzle pack.


The show is intimate and genuine. While it’s scripted and performed, it’s also interactive, and in this way, more human.

We solved along the entire time. Like a gameshow, we could play from our side of the Zoom. Not only did I get to try to solve faster than others, I got to meet them.

We had tickets for a (West Coast) matinee, packed with families… and impressive kids eager to solve! It happened to be Oscar’s 11th birthday and we were all thrilled to be celebrating something together – whether we were his old friends, or, as was the case for me, meeting him for the first (and likely only) time over Zoom.

The puzzle types in Kwong’s show weren’t novel, but the Zoom adaptation enabled new tricks that we truly enjoyed.

The show’s biggest miss was leaving out a piece of the narrative, one that seemed to have lent the most inspiration to the puzzles we solved in the show.

Additionally, the pre-show onboarding emails were aggressive and confusing. Emails told me to download and print my puzzle packet at least 24 hours before the show, but not why… until I scrolled significantly further. Don’t bury the lede! And somehow the theater made a mistake and the multiple emails had different show times on them.

That said, the in-Zoom onboarding was stellar. The representative from the Geffen Playhouse took the time to make sure each participant was prepared to have the optimal Zoom experience, and wouldn’t detract from the experiences of others. This introduction went a long way towards making the audience feel comfortable and ready to participate.

If you enjoy puzzles – especially word puzzles – and magic, Inside the Box is a wonderful way to spend an evening.


Inside the Box has been extended through February 14. Extension tickets go on sale to the general public this Friday, November 27 @ 10 am (PST). Visit the Geffen Playhouse website for details.

David Kwong @ RECON 2020

We invited David Kwong to speak at RECON because of his deep knowledge of puzzles and magic. If you enjoyed Inside the Box, or are eagerly awaiting an upcoming performance, I recommend you check out David Kwong’s RECON ’20 talk. All RECON ’20 talks are free to watch!

In fact, one person who learned about David Kwong at RECON was at the same performance of Inside the Box as we were.

2020 MIT Mystery Hunt “Escape Room” Puzzle

This year’s MIT Mystery Hunt featured an escape room-themed puzzle that was as brilliant as it was hilarious.

A portion of the wizard's hollow land in the Mystery Hunt.
The Wizard’s Escape was one of more than 175 puzzles in this year’s Mystery Hunt.

The Wizard’s Escape

The Wizard’s Escape was a 30-minute audio recording of 4 people playing an escape room horribly. You can hear them roughly describing the puzzles… and then you hear how they break, guess, and luck their way through the game.

It was up to the puzzler to use their audio cues to figure out how they were supposed to solve the game. I loved this puzzle on so many levels and it is freely available:

Attempt The Wizard’s Escape.

Whether you solve it or not, it’s worth listening to the audio. It’s really funny.

The solution and walkthrough are also available.

Puzzle Hunt Puzzles

If you aren’t familiar with puzzle hunts, they are their own beast… and the MIT Mystery Hunt is the annual final boss of puzzle hunts.

A couple of years ago I wrote a puzzle hunt primer specifically for the first Cryptex Hunt. That primer will help you get a handle on the concept. (You can disregard all of the Cryptex Hunt-specific information.)

A Personal Note on this Puzzle

The Wizard’s Escape is kind of special for me because after a few years of supporting other people in solving Mystery Hunt puzzles, this was the first puzzle that I was able to finish for my team.

I’ve been working hard to level up my puzzle hunting abilities and at this year’s Mystery Hunt, it really felt like my efforts had finally yielded tangible results.

Find us at Up the Game!

Greetings from Breda, The Netherlands.

We’ve had a wonderful few days exploring escape rooms all over The Netherlands. We can’t wait to tell you more about them!

We’re here to meet new folks and have interesting conversations. If you’re in attendance, please come find us and introduce yourself.

We’ll be speaking tomorrow at 15:55 local time on the North Stage: Lessons from the Best and Worst Escape Rooms Around the World.

After the conference, we’ll be seeing a bit more of this country and its escape rooms. We’re excited!

Solve The Patchwork House Puzzle

One evening in March I fired up the Cryptex Hunt at 8pm Eastern to see the new puzzle.

A blue door locked by an old golden padlock labeled LIVID.

I approached the newly unlocked puzzle and read:

“You arrive at a porch in front of a bizarre looking dwelling that looks like it was thrown together. You wouldn’t exactly call it a normal house. It reminds you of a house a child built, if that child built it out of LEGOs but didn’t have all the right pieces or colors.

In the middle of the porch is a large golden padlock, hanging open and mounted like a trophy.

You can see a Golden Padlock here.”

My interest piqued I typed “LOOK PADLOCK” into the MUD, and then my jaw hit my keyboard as I read:

“A golden padlock engraved with a brand name: LIVID.”

Feeling shocked and honored I proceeded to puzzle through what I thought was one of the stronger puzzles in this very strong puzzle hunt. (I am completely willing to admit bias in this opinion.)

While the entire Cryptex Hunt is still available to play in full, it’s a big commitment. Darren Miller, the creator of this puzzle, made the Patchwork House puzzle available as a standalone for Room Escape Artist readers.

If you are unfamiliar with MUDs, I suggest reading the rest of this post before tackling this puzzle.

Patchwork House

This puzzle was originally intended to function as one of the stages in the finale of the Cryptex Hunt. That plan went up in smoke when a calamity struck the Cryptex Hunt server and the finale had to be completely rebuilt. I interviewed the Cryptex Hunt team about this when I guest hosted the Room Escape Divas Podcast.

As a result, this puzzle became a bonus puzzle in the interim week while the team furiously created an almost entirely new series of puzzles for the finale.

Because it became a bonus puzzle, only 156 of the 560 players solved it.

MUD Basics

I wrote a full primer on how to play this particular puzzle hunt. If you’re brand new to puzzle hunts, I strongly encourage that you look this over before attempting this puzzle. I will, however, pull a few key excerpts out to help explain how to control this puzzle.

“This game exists in a MUD (Multi-User Dungeon). MUDs date back to the 1970s. They are a text-based way for multiple players to interact with a game environment. While they aesthetically don’t look like anything at all, MUD-based games like Colossal Cave Adventure are some of the most important early forerunners of escape rooms.”

Basic Commands

The only MUD commands that you’ll need to solve this puzzle are:

  • Movement – Type, northsoutheast, or west to traverse the world.
  • Inspecting – To look at an item described in the game, type look name of thing you want to see (eg. look sign).
  • Opening the Cryptex – The puzzle concluded by opening a cryptex. Type unlock cryptex solution (eg. unlock cryptex star).
  • Hint List – Should you need a hint, type hints to view a list of all possible hints.
  • Hinting – If you need a particular hint, type hint # (eg. hint 2 to summon the second hint).

That’s about all that you need to solve this thing. Good luck solving Patchwork House.

I hope you enjoy it. If you do, consider trying the full Cryptex Hunt. It’s epic.

Thank you to Darren Miller for rebuilding the puzzle outside of the full game. Thank you to Brett Kuehner for hosting it.

Escape Immerse Explore New Orleans: Sold Out!

Indiana Jones gesturing out the window saying, "No ticket."

We are kind of shocked – and incredibly excited – to report that Escape Immerse Explore New Orleans 2018 is officially sold out!

We sold the original 24 tickets in pre-sale… and then sold an additional 18 tickets, adding a second bus.

We’re really excited to meet all of the new people, spend time with the returning folks, and show off so many of our favorite escape rooms.

Please contact us if you’d be interested in future escape room tours and events.