ATH 1999:

Armchair Treasure Hunt 1999

Title: Armchair Treasure Hunt 1999
Setter: Steve Hames
Themes: Time, John Harrison

Steve Hames writes...

Some Notes on the Hunt

After many years gap, I was persuaded to put myself in the frame again because there was a danger of nobody producing a quiz. Paul had left the company, Dave Kee and Brian Mills had recently done one each and I had an idea that seemed appropriate with the Millennium coming up.

I knew the sort of look that I wanted - questions certainly, but accompanied by a huge number of pictures, puzzles and other things to catch the eye and provide additional interest. Desktop publishing and the web made producing the thing far easier than previously and I could be much more ambitious.

The Time theme was obvious given the Millennium fever sweeping the world and the Greenwich connection was provided by me reading a book called Longitude by Dava Sobel in late 1998. It was hugely pleasing to me that this was televised in late November so that it would be fresh in people's minds. The various sub-plots involved calendars and Dr Who, the famed Timelord, to create a multi-levelled quiz yet again. There were no new codes; all of them were historical and invented by people already mentioned in the histories of the calendars, longitude and time. An example was the code that Sir Christopher Wren used to put in his entry for the longitude prize in the Eighteenth century.

Like Brian, several red herrings were put in to divert people away from the treasure site. I loved the idea of people wandering around Greenwich Park trying to find the landmarks mentioned in the detailed directions to the treasure. I had deliberately not gone to Greenwich, but apparently, you could find most of the features that I described at Herstmonceux. An ATH setters delight!

However, in retrospect, I became too ambitious and the idea of putting a combination lock on the treasure box was a complication too far. It really distracted people from the hunt; when they were already fatigued finding it in the first place, the idea of having to unlock the box to get to the end of the hunt was maddening. One group actually jemmied open the box in frustration. This taught me a lesson - don't elaborate too much.

Was I pleased with the overall result? Yes, I was, very. It came closest to the ideal that I had thought up at the beginning; it was holistic, in that all pieces of the puzzle related to all other pieces and that you could go off in loads of different directions to solve the puzzle. The teams finding it all used different routes through the quiz. The only slight disappointment was the number of entries, again, well down on previous years - although I understand that the average team size is growing steadily.