NIT 2000 New York City, June 19-20, 1999

The Pink team, winners of ISETV the year before, hosted NIT 2000 in New York City in summer 1999. (Unfortunately, their website seems to have disappeared.) Team Grey reunited for this event and added NYC resident (and my undergrad buddy) Rod Harl and Microsoft guy George Stathakopoulos.

NIT stood for "National Institute of Terrorism"; the plot revolved around a government agency (the NIT) attempting to stop a terrorist attack. The pregame was fairly involved so I'm sorry their web page disappeared, but it had a couple of really cool puzzles: a James Bond one that used Web error codes and a Scrabble one that told us we needed a magnifying lens. We were comfortably in last place after the pregame.

The Game started at Horace Mann School in the auditorium with a terrorist video and presentation. We were then handed a standardized-looking test, which brought us to Central Park for several clues, including Belvedere Castle, the big fountain right in the middle, and the chess area. We then met mimes at Columbus Circle and climbed a wall at Extravertical to pick up the next clue. We got a wooden burr puzzle at Grand Central Station and then headed for the coolest site of the weekend, the International Home of Pop Art in the Soho district.

All we knew was the name of the art gallery and we all rushed in there. "You have a clue for us?" we asked the staff member in charge. With a broad smile he replied, "Look around, boys." We went behind every plant, every corner, even in the bathroom ... and found the clue hanging on the wall. Asking about the artist gave us some info on him, but the clue was actually the painting on the wall (in link, puzzle at top left).

Rod picked up the next clue at the subway station and then we had to find a Mr. Scorpion at Manhattan's biggest hotel, which we found was the Marriott right in the shadow of the World Trade Center. I went upstairs with George and Marc and found a completely thrashed room with masked men inside. I'm still a little hazy about what went on, but George evidently had been kidnapped by them and taken elsewhere.

Despite taking George's wallet and cell phone, he still bribed his taxi driver to borrow the driver's cell phone. George called us and told us he was at Lucky Cheng's. We drove there to meet George and found ourselves in first place ... except that we were supposed to go somewhere else first. Drat. That place was the weirdest bar I've ever seen, the Korova Milk Bar. After solving the clue in the ingredients of a Pringles can there, we headed back to Lucky Cheng's to get George.

This took us north past a skipped clue at Columbia and into Riverdale Park, where we never found the clue after multiple calls ... GC read it to us over the phone. It took us across the river into Jersey where we got microfiche with the Unabomber Manifesto. Sure would have been nice to have a magnifying lens. Instead George's son woke up and looked it up for us. We were pretty far back at this point. Headed north all the way to West Point and got a CD with James Bond videos on it. Lacking a video-capable laptop, we solved it with the audio alone and came back down the other side of the Hudson. Visited some ruins and picked up a clue with our pictures on it. We needed a Bible at this point and, not having one in the car, I "borrowed" one from a local church. I thanked the minister when I returned it, as it was approaching the time of his service. He was a little surprised.

Eventually we made our way to Flushing Meadow, home of both the US Open (tennis) and the Unisphere (as featured in the Men In Black finale). It's got tiles in front of it that were the basis of the clue (good clue! too bad we misinterpreted it and I climbed around in the fountain under the sphere first); it led us to a duct-tape-cryptogram clue under an overpass about half a mile away. We next hit an abandoned warehouse on the southern edge of Long Island (Floyd Bennett Field) and finally ended up back in Greenwich Village at a pub for the finish line. We finished right in the middle, 6th out of 11 teams, with Team Silver taking first prize. Had an interesting conversation with Seattle reporter Paul Andrews at the finish line.

The event got no small amount of press because one of the bottles we'd received at the beginning (marked "radioactive", although it only contained Palmolive) was left in the Marriott, leading to the evacuation of an entire floor. The director of the World Trade Center mailed Bill Gates about it (there might be some evils in the world for which Bill Gates is responsible, but this sure wasn't one of them). Top quote (from a security officer): "Microsoft must be working these guys way too hard if this is the way they blow off steam." (Press coverage: NY Times article, gif; Seattle Times article; Village Voice article)

Other links: [ clue locations | Team Silver's win | Team Purple's pictures ]


  • Everything in Central Park. Good clues and great locations (esp. the mime)
  • Int'l Gallery of Pop Art. So cool to find the clue on the wall!
  • Korova Milk Bar. So strange.
  • West Point (a wrong turn on our part, but West Point is gorgeous)
  • The Unisphere in Flushing Meadow

John Owens | Game Home Page | Last updated .