I think I should get my kids T-shirts that say “I survived Mom’s Marvel-ous egg hunt of 2022”
If you don’t already know, I don’t do candy. So egg hunts are always a puzzle-fest in our house. When the kids were little, it was easy – can you read this word? This map? Can you figure out this riddle? Now that they’re young adults, our hunts are much more complex. They’re always made by me and always themed on whatever they’re into at that point in time. This year, it was the MCU. The whole thing.
This hunt was a record in so many ways:
- it used all 133 plastic eggs that I have gathered over years of attending public egg hunt events (I don’t think I’ve ever actually bought a plastic egg)
- every egg had two objectives: who is it (which Marvel character) and where to go to find the next egg
- it took them two full days to complete – and I might add: we have exceptionally long attention spans in our house, so when I say days, I mean many hours per day from awakening to evening
- This was the most complex one I’ve ever done – I had to create several spreadsheets to keep track of all the details, and it took me three days just to print out the puzzles and place the eggs – and lots of props, not just paper puzzles.
- some eggs had clues to more than one additional egg, so the flow chart was definitely a tree with multiple branches, which they had to recreate as they went
- it followed the story of the MCU, in order, with checkpoints, even though they had choices about what to do next and which path to follow
- More games incorporated than ever: Wingspan, Hoopla, Battleship, Dominion, Chess, Dominoes, Bananagrams, Chronology; and tangible items: golf clubs, America jigsaw puzzle, global jigsaw puzzle, digital 18-track recording studio, monitor cables, colored stones, wooden sword, dance shoes, Carvel ice cream cake …and the list goes on.
- I actually bought an ice cream cake from a store (instead of making it myself)
My Favorite moments
Orientation puzzle: Included a Two No Touch, which is a puzzle with a 10×10 grid and 10 boxes, where you have to put two – and ONLY two – Xes in each row and column and box, so that none of the Xes are touching any other X in any direction. So I make a 10×10 grid where a 20-letter message has its letters land on the same boxes where the Xes are – but I don’t tell them which way is up on each grid. Last year it was too easy to figure out the 20-letter message placement, so this year, I made 18-letter messages with initials on each end (one of them was “S I could do this all day R” and the other was “M Stan Lee cameo moment C” but Stan’s moment came much later in the hunt). In orientation, “I could do this all day” (which you have sing in your head as the song from “Rogers: The Musical!”) let them know that 1) this is a Marvel themed egg hunt, and 2) it will take all day (which they already knew – my son made plans to be home for the whole weekend in anticipation of our hunt – yay!!).
From my son – The clue for Phil Coulson’s egg was a Double Duty egg (which meant it clued the identity of the egg as well as the location of the next egg) with the One Shot “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer” but I didn’t write the whole title, so they had to remember or pull it up on Disney+ to get the whole title and watch it to get Phil Coulson – it clued to looking for a hammer, which I keep in the garage. Also in the garage I stashed a 3 foot square slab of very thin plywood, on which I had arranged some puzzle packets for later use. When my daughter went out to get the hammer egg, I made sure she knew to bring in the wood board. When we’d brought it in, she said to her brother “look at this” and he took one look at it and simply said “oh no.” lol – love that young man.
From my daughter – I had placed a few Hoopla cards in the orientation packet (side note: Hoopla cards are all categorized as “who” “where” and “what” which is also a clue to what you’re doing with each egg) that included: Pinocchio, Hamlet, Berlin Wall, baggage claim, a firefighter. These served as hints for later. When they got to the part of the hunt that corresponded to Civil War, they had a puzzle called “casting call” in which they had circles with the names of the actors who play the 12 Avengers that fight at the Berlin airport and they had to put them in the same blocking as in the movie scene. Each actor had another letter next to their name. When arranged correctly, the actors’ letters spelled out Falcon’s line to Cap America when they arrive (he says “What’s the play?”) My daughter read this out loud – “‘What’s the play?’ What do you mean, like, Hamlet?” I said, “Funny you should say that” and pushed the fanned Hoopla cards closer to her, with Hamlet showing – because the next puzzle was located in our copy of Shakespeare’s plays and yes, you had to open it up to “Hamlet” (that puzzle was a Drop Down, telling you to collect the infinity stones – which you couldn’t do until you’d found all the pieces of tiny homemade jigsaws, which were scattered inside the eggs of the characters who had possessed the stones, not all of which pieces had been found yet at this point).
For family togetherness: When I make my puzzles, I like to include some puns and obscurity. I love the groans of “Nooooo! Boooo! You didn’t!” and I rate the success of the game on how many of those I get (the more, the better). This year, I had made a set of two magazine puzzles (magazine puzzles are where I have a big sheet of paper and words cut from magazines and use them ransom-note style with my own handwriting in between, using outline boxes for them to match which magazine word goes where). The sentences don’t usually need to say anything substantial, because what matters is the magazine pieces (every year it’s a different code or process for what to do with the words once they’re arranged). This year I had made one magazine puzzle with the words arranged visually in groups of three (and I had a double three Domino in there to further indicate some importance about threes) and the other magazine puzzle with vertical lines that had tiny arrows on them. So in the first one, you’d read every third letter in each magazine word and in the other, you’d read the magazine letter that landed on the center vertical line going from bottom to top (following the arrows). As my daughter was looking at the magazine words trying to figure out what to do with it and not finding anything that worked yet, she noticed the little arrows. She began to read out the letters on the center line – A-S-S-E-M…” then she narrowed her eyes at me and said “what did you do?” Heh heh – wonderful moments! (in case you’re wondering, when put together, the two puzzles said “Avengers Assemble”)
Wondering what the other hints mean?
Pinocchio was a hint to Ultron, mainly because his identity puzzle was extremely oblique and I felt guilty about that. I ended up giving them the hint clue for him, which was a piece of red string. The string represented the cables, which I had labeled with a number on one end and a colored string on the other – a piece of colored string in an egg indicated using this puzzle – the numbers on teh cables corresponded to the track numbers on the digital recorder (yes, I own 90s tech that still works), on which I had recorded 7 different tracks, each 25 seconds, to clue a character (so Ultron was that creepy Pinocchio voice singing “I’ve got no strings to hold me down”; Iron Man was a snippet of Back in Black, Spiderman was the lady playing violin in the subway, etc). But I had tangled the monitor cables into a big spaghetti pile, so they had to untangle it to know which track went with which colored string, then listen to the track to figure out who it was (and only that track – all together it was like white noise). When my daughter pretend complained about it, I reminded her that having a tangible musical puzzle was her idea (because it was – thank you!!)
Other favorite puzzles
I try to vary the type of puzzles as much as I can and with so many eggs this was a challenge, but it offered me the opportunity to do some puzzles with groups of eggs. So when they did the Spiderman path, it lead to a friendly neighborhood puzzle: a dozen eggs in one tray, and each had a number on it (3, 5, 31, 11, 1, 1, 2, 6, 4, 9, 7, 2). My written hint said “This is your friendly neighborhood….but it’s in danger. Open only the 6 eggs that include Tom Holland Spiderman characters, not those coming in from the Multiverse. It should be easy as pie, and not at all like finding a needle in a haystack. After all, the odds are in your favor. If you open the multiverse, end this trail immediately.” They debated with each other – is it the Fibonacci series? Is it Pi? Is it prime numbers? They first opened the numbered eggs that were in common to all of those since they had to be right. I reminded them that the odds were in their favor – which is a big hint, since Pi is the one with the most odd numbers in this particular set. Of course, later in the hunt, Dr Strange’s egg opened the Multiverse and picked these others up anyway.
The Falcon egg was also a Double Duty clue – it was a Wingspan card (of a Peregrin falcon), so that part was obvious. But the next egg? Where to go? Wingspan, which we affectionally call “the bird game,” is a machine-building game, where the parts are birds. They have particular habitats, build particular nests, have different powers, different numbers of eggs, etc and there are icons to indicate these on the cards. The peregrin falcon builds a platform nest, which has a little icon that looks like pile of sticks. So I made a little tag with that icon on it and taped it to the shelf/ledge that sits above our front door (great for placing decorative holiday garlands). The next egg was “in” the nest above the icon (on the shelf over the door).
Identity eggs: I like being able to recognize quotes from favorite movies. But it’s also too easy for people who have seen said movies so many times that they’re practically memorized (that would be us). So if the identity clue was a movie quote, it was usually coded – and that could be any number of codes: Morse, navy flags, Braille, translation, PigPen, etc. Or a cipher, like Playfair, which is our family favorite, since it needs the code and the key. But I also did fun things like write the quote where the words are in alphabetical order instead of spoken order. Or each letter of each word in the quote was alphabetized. Or I added a second sentence where the quote and the second sentence alternated word by word (so you read every other word to separate them).
I think what I love about these kinds of puzzles and games is the unlimited (seemingly unlimited?) ways of arranging puzzles. Variety is certainly the spice of life. And this appears to be how I show my kids that I love them: every year on Easter, I give them the gift of my quirky love for puzzles in the form of my time and energy creating these egg hunts and I sit with them through it, giving hints and trying to avoid spoilers (I get so excited, I just can’t help it – my interjections have become as much a part of the event as the eggs); also homemade cinnamon rolls (with whipped cream and strawberries). Who wants candy? Not us.