Ken Jennings


September 25, 2012

When I was a kid, I loved puzzles. Specifically, I loved big, elaborate treasure hunt-style puzzles. I’ve written here before about my love for lavishly illustrated British puzzle books like Kit Williams’s Masquerade and Mike Wilks’s The Ultimate Alphabet. When Games magazine ran one of their “hidden contests,” ingeniously squirreled away somewhere in the fine type of the magazine, I’d spend hours trying to find it.

Over the summer, the folks at Smithsonian magazine asked if I’d be interested in doing something similar for them–a serious of puzzles for an elaborate contest they were planning. I jumped at the chance, and have spent the last few months feverishly designing my own attempt at a Masquerade-style treasure hunt. Today I can finally unveil the results, since copies of the October issue started showing up in subscriber mailboxes last weekend.

The mystery begins on page 39 of this month’s issue of Smithsonian, the one with the cool Thomas Jefferson collage cover. (If you don’t subscribe, this page will tell you how to get a copy, even letting you download a digital one free.) Solving the code on page 39 will lead you on a merry chase through the magazine, culminating in the password you need to solve the puzzle.

But that’s just the first step. Beginning next Monday, October 1, that password will allow to access the Great American History Puzzle website, where we’ll be posting a series of ten brain-bending puzzles throughout the month. You’ll have to solve the first nine to complete the tenth, and the first player to e-mail us a correct answer after October 22 (when the last two puzzles will be available) wins the $10,000 grand prize: an all-expenses-paid trip for four to Washington, D.C., including a personalized, behind-the-scenes tour to the “Secrets of the Smithsonian.”

I’ll be blogging about the Puzzle–and possibly giving hints, if any of the puzzles prove intractably tough–over at throughout October. I know that some of the readers of this blog are also puzzle fans. Hopefully this contest should scratch you right where you itch. I’m just bummed that I’m the only person in America who can’t have the fun of playing along.

Posted by Ken at 9:38 am