Puzzles All Around You, Chapter Two

Chapter 2: Focus On the Solution, Not the Problem

In a puzzle room (or an escape room) one is often presented with riddles and mysteries that at the outset seem nearly impossible to solve. Escaping a room is a fun thing to do on Friday night, but in real life these quandaries tend to wax more frustrating than entertaining. In both cases, however, the best approach is the one that often times is most easily forgotten: Focus on the solution (not the problem). 

Here’s an example from our own lives from not too long ago. We hope you like adorable moppets with a penchant for mischief...

This is our son, Jackson. He’s an adorable moppet with a penchant for mischief. 

Flash back to the end of February. Elizabeth and I were camping out at Sherlock & Company, pulling 22-hour days to get our puzzle rooms ready for our first gamers. We’d been awake (from our 1-hour nap) for approximately 15 hours. It was 6:00pm on Saturday when my dad called. My parents, bless them, were watching our two sons so we could work uninterrupted. They’d just returned from a trip to the park when they noticed that I had yet to remove Christmas lights from a tree in our yard. Naturally they set out to take them off for me. The problem was, they also had to account for the aforementioned moppet. 

Puzzle: How do you take Christmas lights off a tree when you have a two-year-old who likes to run (everywhere)? 
Solution: He also likes apples, and pretending to drive cars. Give him an apple and put him in the driver’s seat of the car. He munches and honks the horn some; you can work quickly and efficiently knowing he’s safe. 
Lesson: Sometimes the solution is the easy one, even if it’s not the ideal one.

They’d gotten through one of three strings of lights (I like Christmas lights) when they heard an ominous click. A quick investigation revealed the inevitable…

“Justin! Hi! Say… uh… you wouldn’t happen to know a locksmith in Brookings, would you?”

Now, as a parent of this child, I immediately knew that whatever was locked was related to Jackson (see: adorable moppet, mischief). In the midst of attempting to make one of our awesome “magic” props work, I had little time to panic, but I did spare a moment to sigh tiredly and roll my eyes. 

“I can find one,” I said. “What happened?”
“Well Jackson locked himself inside our car.”
“Is it running!? He can't put it into gear, can he!?” (visions of him somehow driving off down the street began playing through my sleep-deprived mind)
“No, no. We shut it off since it’s pretty warm out. We’re trying to get him to unlock it again but he’s not hitting the button right.”
“Okay. I’ll call someone. Is he panicking?”
“No, he's fine. He’s munching on an apple and working his way through a pack of gum I had in there.”

That kid. 

Puzzle: How do you keep a two-year-old from freaking out while locked in a car?
Solution: Gum. Lots and lots of gum. 
Lesson: Sometimes puzzles solve themselves if you let them.

I ended the call with my father and entered into a 10-second debate with myself as to whether or not one of us needed to make the hour drive back to our house. We were on a time crunch and every single moment in Sherlock & Company mattered to the extreme, but one of my kids was locked inside a car. Still, my parents were there and he didn’t seem at all concerned about his predicament.

Puzzle: What do you do when your parents are dealing with an issue with one of your children an hour away?
Solution: Trust them to know what to do.
Lesson: Sometimes you have to let someone else solve the problem.

I opted to call the locksmith instead.

Puzzle: How do you get a two-year-old out of a locked car?
Solution: Try to get him to push the button that unlocks the door, then call the locksmith.
Lesson: Sometimes you need help from someone who knows. 

Big thanks to the locksmith, by the way, for rushing out after hours.  

In the end, nobody was hurt and the problems were solved. But they were solved primarily by nobody panicking and instead immediately focusing on the solution to the problem presented. Different things were tried, and in the end we got expert help to get the puzzle solved.

This principle is the foundation of winning an escape room or puzzle room. You have sixty minutes to solve puzzles and win the challenge. That pressure is real (if extremely fun) and it’s easy to hit a wall and focus on the fact that the puzzle exists rather than how to solve it. But if you ever get to that point, don’t worry. 

We offer hints (help from someone who knows!). 

Hope to see you soon!