It's also a daylong contest in which teams, uh, dash around cities, vying to be the first to solve a series of tricky puzzles. Think "The Amazing Race" with no need for airplanes or life preservers and more of a premium on brainpower.
From the DASH website:
Form a team with a few of your friends and be part of an amazing game that is sweeping the nation! From fictitious graveyards to s'mores designed in morse code to music clips containing a hidden message, anything is possible to encounter when playing in the DASH puzzle hunt.
A puzzle hunt, a unique type of treasure hunt, is a fun, interactive, outdoor event in which teams of players race to find and solve creative puzzles hidden in different locations.
DASH (Different Area—Same Hunt) is a puzzle hunt event that happens simultaneously across multiple cities across the United States. The inaugural DASH in September 2009 spanned 8 cities. DASH 3 is currently being planned in 12 participating cities.
Creating the hunt is a collaborative effort of puzzle enthusiast volunteers across the country. Each city contributes a clue to the event, and each event uses all the clues from the contributing cities.
What if I've never played in a puzzle hunt before?
You'd be surprised at how easy it is to start solving. DASH is a great opportunity for first time puzzle hunters. The goal is for everyone to have fun, so you'll get all the help and hints you want!
To my fellow denizens of the Windy City, note that Chicago is a DASH city for the first time.
The best-known puzzle hunt is probably the MIT Mystery Hunt, in which a handful of the world's smartest people concoct a themed series of insanely difficult puzzles for hundreds more of the W.S.P. to solve. Even for the impossibly intelligent Mystery Hunt crowd, it can take an entire weekend of nonstop solving to find the final answer.
DASH players tend to be plenty smart too, but where the MIT hunt is a grueling marathon, DASH is more of a general interest game day that begins in late morning and is designed to be finished by dinnertime. The emphasis is less on competition than on enjoying the novel experience and adrenaline rush of citywide team puzzle solving.
I think of DASH more in the spirit of the late, great Tropic Hunt, a puzzle treasure hunt sponsored by the Miami Herald's Tropic magazine. Hundreds of people would enter every year — some traveling to Miami for the privilege — to indulge in a day of ingenious puzzles leavened with clever witticisms from the Herald's resident humorist, Dave Barry.
If you're in one of the above cities on April 30, or can be, grab a few friends and sign up. More information is available at the DASH website, playdash.org.