We were running out of time and the only thing that could keep us in the game was finding a bejeweled royal mistress and a dwarf with psoriasis. Since our day had already involved levitating sheep, the world’s shortest marathon, fictitious political candidates, and Julie Andrews singing on an endless loop, this didn’t seem far-fetched in the least. This was Herald Hunt 2008 in beautiful downtown Miami, and my fourth time competing. They say the third time’s a charm, so the fourth was Ed McMahon at the door with a million-dollar check. We couldn’t help but win with a three-person team of graduates from The University of Miami’s Music Engineering program, especially if Sigma-Delta modulation or the Nyquist Theorem were involved.
Maybe it was because of the threat of rain, but the turnout seemed poor this year as we made our way to the portable stage that had been set up on the grass at Bicentennial Park. Dave Barry had already taken the microphone when we got there, and appeared to be welcoming us to another Herald Hunt, though the PA was not loud enough for us to make out his words at first. We moved closer and I started to dig out my portable recorder for the purpose of getting some of his quips from the opening ceremony on tape. It was a new recorder that I was still learning how to use, and I was so busy watching the levels that I didn’t notice it was still in record-ready mode and I wasn’t actually rolling. So that’s what the blinking red light means.
Dave thanked some sponsors, told us the rules, and gave us the last half of the map coordinates to the puzzle sites. We took a few minutes to note things down on this year’s colorful Otis Sweat-drawn Hunt map which featured elephants, donkeys, and a bevy of bikini-clad cartoon ladies. Again this year, there seemed to be a puzzle at the main stage. We decided to go to the furthest one first and work our way back, as the huge crowd in front of the stage last year ended up blocking a key part of the puzzle and sending us in the wrong direction.
We happened upon our first puzzle location at the entrance to American Airlines Arena. A sign told us that this was the “ING Marathon Finish Line”, and soon enough an official blew his whistle to signal the start of the race. About 10 feet away, three runners each wearing signs with letters on them took off and 15 seconds later, the runner wearing “K” took first place, “BL” was in second, and “FL” limped in for third.
Since this was the ING finish line it seem likely that ING should be added to the winner to get our answer. We couldn’t find a king on the map or in the surrounding area, nor could we force a punned number out of it. We stuck around to find out that the non-winners were always in the same order, so results were invariably King Bling Fling. Our next course of reasoning was that we were supposed to finish the line, probably from a nursery rhyme or popular song. Nothing came to mind that made sense, though we wondered what Old King Cole was smoking and whether he’d been sharing it with Dave and Tom. Remembering that K is the symbol for potassium, I wondered if a more elementary solution was in order, but as there weren’t any Hunt volunteers handing out periodic tables, that seemed a tad unlikely. The one other possible lead we came up with was a spot on the map with a building shaped like the letter K. This seemed like a classic red herring, but we decided to give it a look the next time we were in the area. Continue reading