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One Long Night in Puzzle City -

Stashed in: Caltech, Puzzles!, Black Swans!

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Where there are puzzles, there are Techers — and, in this case, in the winner’s circle! ;)

The first puzzle turned out to be one of the hardest, causing the game to get off to a slow start. … The San Francisco team, the Burninators, solved it in 45 minutes in the Pathmark parking lot.

The Burninators had already arrived at the final puzzle, located on the steps of the Elevated Acre, a rooftop park, at 55 Water Street in Lower Manhattan. Still, they had no idea they were ahead because of the ambiguous structure of the game.

“We have our five keys!” a co-captain, Wei-Hwa Huang, 38, announced. They saw boxes with five locks arranged in rows, ascending the stairs. “Maybe it’s 5-bit binary?” Mr. Huang said.

They could not find a cab, so they walked, unaware of a team gaining behind them. Most of the Burninators were from the San Francisco Bay Area, so they were guided by the only full-time New Yorker, Gregory Rae, a former Google executive turned theater producer.

While they walked, Rich Bragg, 37, a former engineer at Google, spun the wedding twerking story from early in the hunt.… Did this really happen? Dan Egnor, 39, the other captain, proved it did with footage from his shoulder-bag camera.

Finally, at 12:21 p.m. on Sunday, the Burninators crossed the “Finish” bridge in an 11th-floor room overlooking the World Trade Center memorial. Three minutes later, players from Recovery Lox arrived, panting. 

There was a trophy, of sorts, for the Burninators: an origami black swan. Mr. Huang laughed, knowing that in finance, a black swan is an event that deviates from normal situations — one that is extremely difficult to predict. He stuck it in his bag and headed back to California.

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