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Get a clue: WTJU Puzzle Hunt hides fun in plain sight

Do you have a knack for putting the pieces together? Picture all of downtown Charlottesville as your game board for a Saturday afternoon of collecting clues, meeting new friends and solving some satisfyingly crafty puzzles.

The WTJU Puzzle Hunt returns from 2:30 to 6 p.m. March 16, and there’s still time to sign up your solve-or-die squad for an afternoon of searching for clues to five cleverly designed puzzles. The immersive, multimedia experience, the community radio station’s third, will begin at 2:30 p.m. March 16 at Ix Art Park with an opening clue that’ll send teams scurrying to solve puzzles together.

“It’s friendly competition, but it’s a collaborative effort,” said Nathan Moore, WTJU’s general manager. “All of the clues are within walking distance. The clues will be embedded in places you didn’t expect.”

Clues from past Puzzle Hunts have included a realistic fake movie poster at Violet Crown Charlottesville, a QR code that linked listeners to a song by local songwriter Devon Sproule and even a hint hidden in a podcast.

The afternoon will come to a close at 5:17 p.m. back at Ix Art Park with the End Game, a gathering filled with spinning vinyl records, the solutions to the five puzzles — and one final brain teaser. Plan to keep track of the solutions you hear; in each puzzle, “whatever the solution is does play into the End Game,” Moore said.

The Puzzle Hunt’s inaugural outing lured about 700 participants, and last year’s event drew between 800 and 900, Moore said. The fact that this year’s hunt is scheduled for March means that organizers have been taking puzzle lovers’ suggestions to heart.

“The feedback we got all across the board was that August is too hot,” Moore said. “But spring is so busy in Charlottesville; spring and fall both.”

The event originally was inspired by the Washington Post’s Post Hunt. “What we do in Charlottesville is very much based on that,” Moore said. “It scratches the same itch, but it’s on a much bigger scale.”

The puzzles themselves are created by game designers Greg Ochsenschlager and Emily Patterson, the husband-and-wife team behind the company Puzzled Bee. On their website,, Ochsenschlager and Patterson describe themselves as “lifelong pub trivia fans and board game nerds,” so puzzle aficionados will know they’re among friends.

“We like bringing people, and the community, together in different ways,” Moore said.

Teams may be of any size, but Moore suggests three to six members as just right. It’s a great way to do something different with your friends, and perhaps make some new ones along the way.

There isn’t really a minimum age. “We’ve had teams of teenagers, and even tweens,” Moore said. He recommends that puzzle solvers ages 11 and younger include at least one adult on their teams. It also is helpful to have at least one smartphone on hand, too.

Local gift certificates, WTJU swag and bragging rights will go home with teams of any age that come out on top.

Advance registration is requested online at The event is free; suggested donations of $5 per person will be accepted.


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