When first opening this puzzle, solvers see a blank puzzle page. What's going on here? Highlighting the page doesn't reveal any hidden text, the answer box looks the same, and the page source doesn't have any hidden content either.
Without any puzzle content, the only thing to consider is the title, "Puzzle Not Found". This is similar to "404 - Page Not Found", the error message websites give when the user requests a page that doesn't exist. This hints that we should look at the 404 page for the hunt site. Visiting any undefined URL, like https://2020.teammatehunt.com/thispagedoesnotexist, gives this error page:
Turns out the 404 page is a puzzle! The missing letters in each line combine to give MATE. Submitting MATE gives the following response:
You've solved one part of the puzzle! The remaining parts will not be confirmed by the answer checker. Refresh the page to see an update.
Upon a refresh, the rest of the puzzle appears. There is a list of diary entries, each with a date and a snippet of text. Each snippet looks like puzzle content, except for the April 4th entry, which says "There doesn't seem to be anything written here." This is similar in flavor to a "Page Not Found" error, and hints at the true mechanic of the puzzle: HTTP status codes. April 4th goes to the 404 status code (April 4 = 4/04 in the United States date format), and the other entries are all 4xx status codes, where xx is the day. Each status code is a minipuzzle, and MATE was the answer to the 404 minipuzzle.
To solve the other parts, one more insight is needed: much like how the 404 minipuzzle required visiting the 404 error page, each minipuzzle requires getting the hunt site to trigger the corresponding status code. The remaining parts are explained in order.
|402 - Payment Required
|403 - Forbidden
|404 - Not Found
|415 - Unsupported Media Type
|429 - Too Many Requests
The diary entry mentions four different money values, with the comment that "their value will fluctuate over time, but today they're worth $7.00, $16.30, $3.02, and $4.12". The 402 status code is "Payment Required". This is a free puzzlehunt, but on the FAQ page, under "Is there a tip jar?", there is a link to a Donate page. Attempting to donate $0 or less gives the Payment Required error page.
Please enter a donation amount larger than $0. If you did not expect to see this, please contact us at email@example.com.Back to donation page
These are four currency symbols, for the US Dollar, Euro, Turkish lira, and Israeli shekel. Take each dollar amount, and convert it into the indicated currency symbol according to the April 2, 2020 exchange rate. We used X-Rates as our source, since it was one of the top search results for historical exchange rates, and it agreed with XE Currency Tables, another top result.
When rounded to the nearest integer, the money converts to $7, €15, ₺20, ₪15. Doing A=1, Z=26 conversion gives GOTO.
Finding the "403 - Forbidden" error page depends on your ability to do a spot check. After submitting MATE, a "View Solution" link appears in the top-right corner of the puzzle. This is certainly something that would be forbidden to teams while the Hunt was live! To better indicate it was part of the puzzle, the solution link only appeared for this puzzle, and only after the 404 minipuzzle was solved.
You are not allowed to access this page.Back to puzzle
The 403 page gives a picture of a big chessboard divided into 4 sections, each with a king that's very badly checkmated (or forbidden from moving). The diary entry mentions that "a farmhand helped point me in the right direction", and "no horses were allowed". After removing the knights from each board, each king is no longer mated, and can move in exactly 2 directions. Reading as semaphore gives the letters TEAM.
This is the "404 - Page Not Found" error code, and as explained earlier, the answer is MATE.
The diary entry has a link to a short story, a TXT file of a bunch of garbage text. The 415 status code is "Unsupported Media Type", which occurs when a client uploads data in an incorrect format. During the hunt, teams were allowed to upload a team photo, and the site said "Photos should be of file type JPEG or PNG". Attempting to upload a file that doesn't end in .jpg or .png gives an error picture saying "BAD TEAM PHOTO".
Since this part is about media types, perhaps the short story is also in the wrong format. It's actually a JPEG file, which can be found in one of two ways. The first way is by opening the TXT file and noticing a "JFIF" appears near the start. This is part of the JPEG file header and is short for JPEG File Interchange Format. The other way is to brute force image formats until one works. Reading the TXT story as JPEG gives an image saying "APPLE!! RED IMPACT"
Combining the images together gives "BAD APPLE!! TEAM PHOTO RED IMPACT". If we go to the Guest Book, there is a team named Bad Apple!! with a suspicious team photo.
The letters in red Impact font are TEA.
The diary entry is a reference to the Nutrimatic drinks dispenser from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. For puzzle solvers however, Nutrimatic associates much more strongly with the reverse word lookup tool at https://nutrimatic.org.
The instructions in the diary entry match up well with things you could do on nutrimatic, but they require a starting letter pattern to carry out. The 429 status code is "Too Many Requests" and triggers when "the user has sent too many requests in a given amount of time (rate limiting)".
The Rules page describes a rate limit of 20 guesses per 24 hours, to prevent "dictionary attacks that spam too many requests". After working up the nerve to deliberately use up all 20 guesses, solvers got this comic about enthusiastic guessing from loose constraints.
You submitted too many guesses in too short a period of time. If you did not expect to see this, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The comic mentions nutrimatic as an extra confirmation, and provides the starting letter pattern: 9 letters long, first letter P, last letter E.
|4th entry = "part in the". The 5th letter is I, and the last word starts at the 7th letter.
|13th entry = "proactive". The letter after the O is A, and the 2nd consonant is the 2nd letter.
|3rd entry = "pantomime". The letter before the O is T, which goes in the 6th letter.
|8th entry = "palmatine". The letter after the last A is T, which goes in the 6th last letter (or 4th letter).
|2nd entry is PARTY TIME.
The answer to this part is PARTY TIME
The answers in status code order are GOTO TEAM MATE TEA PARTYTIME. We've gone all over the hunt site to solve this puzzle, and need to do so one more time. Going to teammatehunt.com/teammateteapartytime or teammatehunt.com/teapartytime gives the status code "418 - I'm a Teapot!", and clears any rate limit on this puzzle.
Unfortunately, I'm all out of tea. The tea I prefer is quite rare - you may need to go offsite to find it.
(As a one-time courtesy, any guessing rate limits on this puzzle have automatically been cleared.)
Start by solving the clues. The left image is of ADAGIO Dazzle. The middle two images are a FAN and DOM from Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and the last image clues BLEND, so the clues solve to ADAGIO FANDOM BLEND.
Next, note the bottom image of the Teapot error page matches the home page of Teammate Hunt. Take the word covered by each box, and read in 1-5 order to get MATT & EMMA's MATE TEA. A few searches should turn up Adagio Fandom Signature Blends, where there is a fandom tea named Matt & Emma's Mate Tea. Unfortunately, Adagio's tea search only does exact matches from the start of the string. Searches by name needed to be done for "Matt & Emma" exactly, with ampersand. To make this more robust, we tagged the tea with "matt and emma", and used the creator name "Matt and Emma", so searches by Tag or Creator for "matt and emma" will also turn up the tea page.
The tea page has several sections, each with content for a do-it-again step. Much like how the first part combined the puzzle page with error pages from the hunt site, we now need to combine the puzzle page with the Adagio tea page.
|402 - Payment Required
|403 - Forbidden
|404 - Not Found
|415 - Unsupported Media Type
|429 - Too Many Requests
402 Payment Required:
In the Lore section (under Ingredients), four money values are given. Converting to other currencies in the same way gives TEAS.
The tea description says "Matt and Emma's Mate Tea is sure to be a great hit! At least for everyone except the clergymen, who have banned it from their premises". Take the chessboards, this time removing all bishops instead of all knights, and repeat the semaphore extraction to get LIST.
404 Not Found:
This one is bit different from the original puzzle. In the Video Review for Matt and Emma's Mate Tea, there are six spoken lines, whose lengths match the PAGE MISSING, NOT FOUND error page.
The 404 page was missing letters in a few locations. Take the tea review letters in those locations to get LAST.
415 Unsupported Media Type:
The tea box image can be combined with the 415 error picture to give BAD BLOOD TEAM PHOTO GREEN COMIC SANS. Looking up the team photo for Bad Blood, the green Comic Sans letters gives LETTERS.
429 Too Many Requests:
Adagio Teas has an interesting feature: custom tea blends can be shipped into a relationship with other tea blends. Matt & Emma's Mate Tea is in a ship with "bAAAAAAAAs". This is a nutrimatic query, and is confirmed by bAAAAAAAAs's tea description: "A liquid that's almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea". This is a quote from Hitchhiker's that also appears on nutrimatic.org.
|4th entry = "building is". The 5th letter is D, and the last word starts at the 9th letter
|13th entry = "both worlds". The letter after the first O is T, and the second consonant is the 3rd letter.
|3rd entry = "by the lords". The letter before the last O is L,which goes at the 6th letter.
|8th entry = "by tabloids". The letter after the A is B, which goes at the 6th last letter, or 5th letter.
|2nd entry gives BOTH BLENDS
The full cluephrase is TEAS LIST LAST LETTERS BOTH BLENDS. Matt and Emma's Mate Tea is made of
while bAAAAAAAAs is made of
The final answer to the puzzle is DIY TEA.
Alex: I first got the idea for this puzzle after seeing a hunt site with a custom 404 page that said "This page is not a puzzle." That meant someone needed to turn a 404 page into a puzzle! This was going to be a puzzle in My Little Pony: Puzzles are Magic, but the tech requirements were scary, and I had a hard time theming status codes to ponies, so it was cut, and the idea was revived for this hunt. Like the farmhand says, there are no horses allowed in this puzzle, but the farmhand never said anything about sirens. I'll take what I can get.
My original vision was that this would just be about status code names, but we quickly decided it would be cooler if we could repeat the 404 step for other site errors. Picking the other codes was surprisingly difficult - a lot of status codes are designed for web developers and don't show up outside a programming context, so finding ones that could be triggered by teams interacting with the site was trickier than expected. I'm pretty happy with the five we came up with.
Some of the error pages needed to be finalized before the hunt site went live, and we didn't want to overly reward teams for digging around the site ahead of time. After some brainstorming, we decided on a setup where the error page had half the content, the puzzle page had the other half, and neither half would be solvable by itself. Our aim was to reduce pre-solving, and to make the error content look as innocent as possible until the puzzle page told you what to look for.
One side effect of making a hunt-site based puzzle is that that your puzzle has a heavy influence on the site's design. Team photos were added because of this puzzle (we really needed a file upload field), and the Donate page got split into a two-stage process to let us add a Payment Required redirect.
Of the error codes, the 429 - Too Many Requests code was the most controversial. Any change to answer checking behavior impacted this puzzle, and there was disagreement about the fairness of the spend-all-guesses mechanic. Our decision was that once teams solved a few parts, even accuracy focused teams would accept that deliberately using all their guesses would help them solve the puzzle, and the FAQ + Rules did enough to indicate that burning guesses was the way to solve this step. A lot of MIT Mystery Hunts have physical puzzles where you need to break apart the puzzle to solve it, and we thought it'd be cool to replicate the "doing something you can't take back" feeling in an online setting. Hopefully you weren't too scared! Our rules page really tried to emphasize that we'd refund guesses if you used them for good reasons.
During the hunt, when a team ran out of guesses for solving this puzzle, we decided not to refund their guesses. The reply on submitting MATE explicitly told solvers we wouldn't confirm partials, and keeping teams rate-limited made it easy to for anyone retrieve the 429 error by submitting another guess. We felt that having no guesses also helped indicate that GOTO TEAMMATE TEA PARTY TIME should be interpreted as an instruction, not an answer. After a few teams emailed us asking why they didn't have guesses back yet, we modified our policy to grant guesses, but only if a team wanted them badly enough to email us.
The tea picture for bAAAAAAAAs is the same photo that appeared on the Facebook page for the REDDOThunt puzzle Site Visits. I picked a random filler image when setting up the tea blend, and after I realized what happened, I decided it was too cute to change. The tea step required going to an external site; why not reference another puzzle with the same requirement?
I did actually buy both tea blends, if only for the meme. Adagio Teas is a highly rated company - they were ranked #8 in r/tea's 2016 vote of the best tea vendors. However, the teas in the blends were picked for the puzzle, not to work well together, so there was no guarantee the blends would fit my tea preferences. I ended up not liking Matt and Emma's Mate Tea, but I did like the bAAAAAAAAs blend. If you decide to buy some tea, I would recommend bAAAAAAAAs first. MANY GRACIAS, TEA DRINK.