Introduction to Puzzled Pint Authoring

Thank you for your interest in authoring puzzles for Puzzled Pint! This document describes the requirements for Puzzled Pint puzzles and puzzle sets and discusses the standard timeline for authoring, playtesting, and publishing a Puzzled Pint puzzle set. Authors are encouraged to adhere to all guidelines, though occasionally the rules may be broken for special cases. Authors should discuss their plans with the Puzzled Pint editing team ahead of time if they are planning to author and submit a set that does not follow the authoring guidelines in a fundamental way.

Puzzle Set Guidelines

An ideal Puzzled Pint puzzle set should:

  • be solvable in under two hours by a team of inexperienced puzzlers who are socializing, drinking, and eating in a pub or restaurant.
  • have a widely known theme but not require puzzlers to know anything about the theme to solve the puzzles.
  • contain puzzles related to the theme that are creative and unique and not just a basic puzzle type.
  • contain puzzles that include an “aha” moment in which solvers experience the joy of suddenly understanding how a puzzle works.


Each Puzzled Pint set has a theme based on something widely known and/or in popular culture. An ideal Puzzled Pint theme should:

  • have wide popularity across an international audience. Broad pop culture themes like Taylor Swift and Harry Potter are good choices. Generic vanilla themes like Dogs, Condiments, and Punctuation are also acceptable if the theme is cleverly incorporated into fun, engaging puzzles. More obscure themes are often accepted as well, but popularly known themes are typically more appreciated by Puzzled Pint puzzlers.
  • be PG-13 rated at most. Adult, offensive, or pornographic themes will be rejected.
  • be new to Puzzled Pint. Occasionally, repeat themes are allowed.

Authors should check with Puzzled Pint to reserve a theme before creating puzzles based on that theme.

Common Set Structure

A typical Puzzled Pint puzzle set contains seven puzzles total: a location puzzle, four main set “feeder” puzzles, a meta puzzle, and a bonus puzzle. An answer sheet is also provided for solving teams.

In addition, a set of hints and a solutions document are provided for live event Game Control volunteers and online solvers. 

Finally, for each set, the Puzzled Pint website typically shows a “polaroid image” of the theme and optionally author pictures and/or biographies.

Location Puzzle

The location puzzle is intended to be solved online by individuals, not teams, prior to the Puzzled Pint event night. An ideal location puzzle should:

  • be one of the easiest and quickest puzzles in the set. This puzzle is meant to entice beginner puzzlers to come to the event.
  • have a simple, short solution that puzzlers will enter into the online verification form, which will then send them to the locations page. 
  • be solvable without requiring a printed copy (though this is not a firm requirement).
  • be solvable without using the code sheet (though this is not a firm requirement).

A location puzzle may use color if it can be easily solved without printing. In rare cases, a location puzzle may make use of audio, video, software or other online-only features. Authors should check with Puzzled Pint first before authoring this type of puzzle.

Main Set “Feeder” Puzzles

The main set puzzles are the puzzles that teams first solve when they are at an event. An ideal main set should:

  • have four puzzles. In rare cases, a main set may have more or fewer than four puzzles. If this is done, authors should ensure that the overall solving time for a typical beginner team is still around two hours.
  • have each puzzle on a separate page so individuals on a team can work on separate puzzles at the same time.

Meta Puzzle

The meta puzzle is a puzzle that is solved by puzzling teams after the main set puzzles have all been solved. An ideal meta puzzle should:

  • use the solutions from the main set puzzles in a fundamental way. The meta puzzle should not be solvable by puzzlers who do not know the solutions to the main set puzzles.
  • not use the solution from the Location puzzle. In exceptional circumstances this rule can be broken, but in those cases the Location puzzle solution should be provided to puzzlers on the meta puzzle itself in case they have not solved the Location puzzle or have forgotten the solution.
  • have a satisfying final solution. Often, the solution will be theme-related, be a humorous pun, or both.
  • be easier than the main set puzzles, since puzzlers solve the meta puzzle at the end of the night and may be fatigued.

Bonus Puzzle

The bonus puzzle is an optional extra set puzzle. In some locations, it is used as an “appetizer” puzzle for team members to solve for fun before the full team has arrived. Other locations use this as a “dessert” puzzle after teams have solved the main set and meta puzzles. An ideal bonus puzzle should:

  • be independent of the main set or meta puzzle (though bonus puzzles still usually follow the theme of the set).
  • be on the easier side if possible. In rare occasions, experimental “hard” puzzles can be used as bonus puzzles as solving teams do not need to solve the bonus puzzle to complete the main set and meta puzzle.


An ideal set of hints should:

  • provide step-by-step instructions for each puzzle in the set to help facilitate playtesting and solving. These can be generated by the author, editor, or both.
  • start with gentle nudge hints towards hidden “aha” mechanisms (e.g., “What might be hidden in all of these words?”) and follow up with more direct hints as necessary (e.g., “The words all have fruit names hidden inside them!” and then “Find the hidden fruit names and match them with the images to extract a letter.”).
  • include partial solutions and final puzzle solutions for each puzzle.

Hints may be submitted in any common word processing format. The final hint document will be provided as an HTML file on the Puzzled Pint website.


An ideal solutions document should include:

  • all solving steps for each puzzle.
  • all answers to puzzle clues (e.g., crossword type word clues).
  • the final solution to each puzzle.
  • any and all graphics required to relay the above information.

Solutions may be submitted in any common word processing format. The final solution document will be provided as a PDF file on the Puzzled Pint website.

Website Media

An ideal Puzzled Pint set should include:

  • a square image of the theme, at least 250 pixels on a side, to be used for the “polaroid” image on the website.
  • a biography of the author if the author chooses to include one. The biography may include links and brief promotional material for the author’s other projects.
  • a picture of the author if the author chooses to include one.

Other Puzzle Set Guidelines

Mix of Puzzle Types

An ideal Puzzled Pint set should:

  • include a variety of different puzzle types (e.g. word, math, logic, pattern recognition, picture, deductive reasoning). Many interesting puzzles incorporate multiple of these elements in a single puzzle.
  • have no more than one or two pure logic puzzles. These puzzles can be very challenging for beginners and are strongly disliked by some puzzlers.
  • not make excessive or exclusive use of crossword style clues and wordplay.  Puzzled Pint events are international and at some locations the majority of puzzlers are non-native English speakers.

Low Difficulty

An ideal Puzzled Pint set should:

  • be targeted at new, inexperienced puzzlers. Puzzled Pint strives to be beginner friendly, even though many participants are experienced puzzlers. It is much better for a set to be too easy than for a set to be too hard.

Not Too Many Pages

An ideal Puzzled Pint set should:

  • require one printed page for the answer sheet, four pages for the main set puzzles, one page for the meta puzzle, and one page for the bonus puzzle. An occasional extra printed page for the set is commonly allowed. Sets that require multiple extra pages are generally frowned upon, as they increase the printing and copying expenses at live events.

Not Too Much Manipulation with Scissors and Tape

An ideal Puzzled Pint set should:

  • have zero (preferably) or at most one puzzle page that requires cutting and/or taping. On rare occasions, cutting and/or taping for multiple puzzles may be allowed.
  • have a minimal number of individual cut pieces per puzzle. It is best to avoid puzzles that involve too many small paper pieces that could be easily lost or damaged on dark, windy, or wet indoor or outdoor pub tables.

Not Too Much Use of Codes

An ideal Puzzled Pint set should:

  • have zero, one, or at most two puzzles that use codes as an important part of the puzzle. Using codes as an extraction method is acceptable, but decoding many letters many times over many puzzles can grow tiresome. Puzzles with 20+ binary, Morse, or braille decodings should generally be avoided.
  • only use codes from the official Puzzled Pint Code Sheet or provide any other code that might be used as part of the set.

Individual Puzzle Guidelines

Puzzle Content

Flavor Text

Flavor text is the introductory text at the top of a puzzle page.  Ideal Puzzled Pint puzzle flavor text should:

  • introduce the puzzle type if necessary.
  • include thematic content as appropriate.
  • provide subtle hints about some of the mechanics of the puzzle without fully revealing the puzzle’s main mechanisms. Often, key flavor text words are bolded to help puzzlers identify solving methods like using a specific code from the Puzzled Pint code sheet, etc. For example: “Billy dashed to the pub to meet his friend Dotty…” might hint that Morse code will be part of the solving mechanism.

“Aha” Moment

An ideal Puzzled Pint puzzle should:

  • include a puzzle mechanism that is not obvious at first glance, but is revealed as the puzzler attempts to solve the puzzle. When a puzzler realizes what they need to do to solve the puzzle, that “aha” moment is often a high point of the solving experience. These opportunities should be provided to puzzlers as often as possible.
  • include subtle flavor text hints regarding the unexplained puzzle mechanisms, to help guide the puzzler in the right direction.


A Puzzled Pint puzzle solution MUST:

  • be an English word or phrase or a very obvious variation. Puzzlers should recognize the solution as a solution. Solutions that are obscure words and phrases, or that are highly theme specific, often confuse puzzlers. 

An ideal Puzzled Pint puzzle solution should:

  • be related to the overall set theme, the puzzle’s theme, or the meta theme in some way. This is not required but it is highly desirable.
  • provide a satisfying conclusion to the puzzle, either by creating a laugh or groan with a pun or by answering a question in the flavor text of the puzzle. This is not required but it is highly desirable.

Other Individual Puzzle Guidelines

An ideal Puzzled Pint puzzle should:

  • not just be a standard puzzle format. Vanilla crossword puzzles and sudokus will be rejected, though clever variations on these and other puzzle types are encouraged.
  • minimize busy work for puzzlers. Once an “aha” moment has been achieved, puzzlers should be able to complete the puzzle without answering 100 crossword clues or decoding 50 morse symbols, etc.
  • minimize internet usage. Some Puzzled Pint live events have limited internet availability. Occasional internet usage for a clue or two is acceptable. Requiring google searching of 20 items or requiring the use of internet puzzle assistance tools is not acceptable.
  • avoid obscure knowledge or trivia. For example, if periodic tables or RGB color codes are needed in a puzzle, they should be provided with the puzzle.
  • be as internationally friendly as possible. Puzzles should not contain idioms, local pop cultural references, region-specific pronunciations or rhymes, or location-based trivia. Pop culture and general knowledge trivia is acceptable only if it’s truly global. An early round of playtesting will include international solvers to help ensure this.
  • include rules or mechanics if they are relevant to a puzzle (e.g., how chess pieces move, Akari puzzle rules, etc.). Providing small sample puzzles and solutions can be particularly helpful for uncommon logic puzzle types, if space permits.
  • not include red herrings. Puzzles should be easy, simple, and straightforward to solve with no intentionally confusing, misleading, or obfuscating elements. Authors often put such elements in to prevent power solving of puzzles by experts, but Puzzled Pint is targeting beginners who need the reinforcement of seeing that their solution process is working. 
  • provide lists of clues in a rational order. Crossword-type clues should be provided numbered, unless determining the answer locations in the grid is part of the puzzle. Lists of clues where the answers are paired or reordered as part of the puzzle should be provided either in alphabetical order by clue or in alphabetical order by clue answer.

Puzzle Formatting

Source Format

An ideal Puzzled Pint puzzle should:

  • be submitted in a shared format that can be edited by the author(s) and editor(s) online.

Puzzles submitted in non-shareable formats will likely be converted to Google Docs or similar formats by the Puzzled Pint editing team.

Paper, Page, and Printing Format Issues

An ideal Puzzled Pint puzzle should:

  • use the standard US-letter 8.5 x 11 size. Additional A4 versions for international use can also be provided.
  • not require anything other than standard cheap copier paper. No use of card stock, colored paper, transparencies, etc. is allowed.
  • not require double-sided printing. Double-sided printing and copying is more expensive and time-consuming to print. In addition, the variations in printer capabilities across events world-wide makes it impossible to ensure that front and back will necessarily align correctly. If a double-sided puzzle is absolutely necessary, simply have puzzlers fold a standard page in half, making sure to have enough alignment markers in place for it to be reliable. 
  • have page margins for puzzles at least 0.5 inches (13mm) on each side and ideally 1 inch on a side. 
  • use portrait or landscape mode, as is most appropriate for the puzzle. A mix of portrait and landscape pages may be used within a set.
  • avoid the use of color in general. Puzzles that contain but do not require color can be used, but they must be fully solvable when printed and copied in black and white. Location puzzles that do not require printing may use color.
  • use large clear fonts that are easy to read, see, and solve in the dimly lit conditions often found in bars. 
  • avoid the use of gray-scale shading that is required for solving the puzzle. Shading in non-puzzle elements on the page is allowed.


A Puzzled Pint puzzle MUST include:

  • a “Bug” – a Puzzled Pint logo stylized for the month’s theme – at the top left of each puzzle. The image is also used for promotional reasons on social media and the like. See examples of bugs from previous sets to get an idea.
  • the puzzle’s title in the top center.
  • a “pint rating” from one to five pints with one pint representing “very easy” and five pints representing “very difficult” in the top right. The actual pint ratings are determined during the playtesting process.

The Bug MUST:

  • incorporate the Puzzled Pint pint glass logo and text in some form. 
  • use the Deutsch (Gothic) font unless design dictates otherwise.
  • include text to indicate the month and year of the set, using the Dakota font unless thematic design dictates otherwise.
  • be approximately 3” x 1” (75mm x 25mm).

The thematic Bug can be designed by the author, the editing team, or jointly during the authoring and editing process.


A Puzzled Pint puzzle MUST include at the bottom:

  • an attribution line of the form: “© 2024 CC BY-NC-SA Intl. 4.0 Author Name(s) (Author City, Author State/Country)”. This is often small and may be in gray to be less noticeable, but it should be easily readable. This can be located on the side of a puzzle if absolutely necessary.

Copyright, Trademarks, and Fair Use


Copyrighted materials should be avoided when authoring puzzles. This is the simplest and best strategy. For images especially, sites that specifically have public domain images should be used.

Most things found on Google Image Search are under copyright. The image search feature Tools > Usage Rights > Creative Commons Licenses can be selected to find freely licensable images.


Trademarks generally include the names of popular properties and their logos. Trademarks or service marks should be avoided when authoring puzzles.

Fair Use

Fair Use will generally protect Puzzled Pint from legal liability as Puzzled Pint works are transformative, use small portions of a work, and don’t harm the property. However, Puzzled Pint strives to not rely on this shield. It’s there only as a precaution. Whenever possible, do original work!

The Puzzled Pint HQ and editing team have the final say on any borderline cases. If the team is  uncomfortable with something, it may insist on a change or removal of the questionable item. More information on fair use can be found here:


All Puzzled Pint puzzles are licensed under the creative commons attribution non–commercial share-alike 4.0 international license. All submissions to Puzzled Pint will be assumed to be under that license! Authors should read the license and make sure they accept its provisions before submitting puzzles to Puzzled Pint. Authors will retain copyright and ownership of their puzzles. Puzzled Pint only publishes puzzles via the rights granted by authors under the CC license.

The Authoring Process and Timeline

Reserving a Theme with Puzzled Pint

Authors may reserve a theme for a Puzzled Pint set by emailing

A Puzzled Pint editor will respond to the email to confirm the theme reservation or report that the theme has already been reserved or used. That editor will be the initial point-of-contact (POC) for discussions about the set.

Puzzled Pint is an all-volunteer organization. As such, it may take some time for an editor to respond to an author. The editing team attempts to respond to all emails within two weeks.

Writing First Puzzles and Working With Mentors

Once a theme has been reserved, authors can begin drafting puzzles for their puzzle set.

First-time puzzle authors are encouraged to reach out to their editor POC for assistance with ideas, mentoring through the authoring process, etc. If extensive mentoring is appropriate, the editor POC contact may connect the author with one or more additional mentors.

First-time authors may want to experiment with writing a simple location puzzle or bonus puzzle first to gain experience, get mentor feedback, etc., before diving into a complex complete set construction.

Writing a First Draft of a Full Set

When writing a full Puzzled Pint set, authors are strongly encouraged to start with the meta puzzle first, finding a fun, thematic puzzle that uses fun, thematic main set puzzle answers to create a satisfying final meta puzzle answer. New authors often start with main set puzzles and then find themselves overly constrained by those answers when trying to write a meta puzzle at the end of the authoring process.

Generally, authors are strongly encouraged to focus on the meta plus four main set feeder puzzles. The location puzzle and bonus puzzle can be written at any time, even occasionally by other authors.

Testing a First Draft

Authors are strongly encouraged to first get their friends and acquaintances to playtest their set before submitting it to Puzzled Pint! Often, small and large problems can be identified early by local playtesting.

Submitting a Draft Set to Puzzled Pint

Authors may submit their puzzle sets by emailing Puzzle sets can be directly attached or links can be provided to online cloud storage of the puzzle set.

Official submissions should be submitted with full sets of seven puzzles, hints and solutions whenever possible.

Authors should read through all bulleted items in this document before submitting puzzles, and be prepared to justify any cases where their puzzle set submission does not meet the guidelines.

All submissions immediately fall under the CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Intl. license. 

Authors should complete the following checklist before submitting an initial complete draft set:

  • Reserve the theme with Puzzled Pint.  
  • Have 2-3 friends have solve the puzzle set and incorporate their feedback.
  • Author all seven puzzles (Location, four Main Set, Meta, and Bonus).
  • Review all of the bulleted items in this document. Prepare to discuss any items where the guidelines are not met by the submitted set.
  • Include the following:
    • Source documents of the puzzles (preferably via Google Docs, Canva, or other free readily available online sharing tool).
    • PDF versions of the puzzles.
    • Hints.
    • Solutions.

Preliminary formatting is acceptable for an initial submission. Final polished formatting (e.g., including a Bug, etc.) is not expected at this stage.

Responding and Revising Based on Editor Feedback

Submitted sets will be assigned a preliminary editor who will have the set playtested by one or more members of the editing team. The editor will then provide feedback to the author with overall comments and detailed requirements, suggestions, or ideas for improvements.

Puzzled Pint editors generally have experience shepherding hundreds of puzzles from draft to final form for Puzzled Pint. The editor is a project manager and is also responsible for making sure all the puzzles meet the Puzzled Pint requirements. As such, editors give authors a great deal of feedback on puzzles, both from their own experience and from the results of testing by others.

As with any criticism of creative work, it can be difficult to hear critiques. Feedback is primarily to ensure the puzzles work for beginner puzzlers and that all puzzlers have a maximally enjoyable experience. While some puzzles may be absolutely perfect for other puzzle hunts, if an editor asks for changes, it’s because the puzzles need to be changed to suit Puzzled Pint. 

After feedback is provided, authors will typically respond to comments, brainstorm with the editor, and revise their set based on the feedback. 

This process may happen multiple times.

Getting Accepted

When the editing team is satisfied with the core puzzles in the set, the set will be accepted and scheduled for an upcoming event month. 

Puzzled Pint often has a backlog of puzzle sets, so it may take many months for the accepted set to go “live” at an event.

Polishing the Formatting

Once the core set is accepted, detailed polishing of the set formatting will begin. Accepted sets may be very polished already or they may require substantial reformatting.

During this period, items like the Bug, website media, polished hints and solutions, etc. will be created if they don’t already exist. 

At this point, a new editor may be assigned to the set or the same editor may continue.

The editing team requires access to the source files so that editors can participate in the formatting and, if an author becomes unresponsive at a later date, complete future edits and formatting changes before the live event.

Responding and Revising Based on Large Scale Feedback

A few months before the scheduled live event, the editor will run a round or two of playtesting with the Puzzled Pint game control volunteers world-wide. This often generates lots of feedback and improvement ideas, and often identifies problems with the puzzles (especially related to international issues). 

General playtesting takes two weeks to one month each round, as playtesters need to schedule time to solve with their teams. Team tests are much more valuable than individual tests, as Puzzled Pint is a team-based event. Authors and editors will likely already have done individual tests during the draft approval stage to test for specific solvability issues, but these team tests will primarily focus on three things:

  1. How long do the puzzles take to solve?
  2. How fun are the puzzles to solve?
  3. How difficult are the puzzles to solve?

The editor will collect feedback with forms and use a spreadsheet to process the results. Often 10-15 playtests occur during this time, resulting in an accurate sense of the puzzle set. Difficulty and Fun are rated on a 5-point scale with 3 being “Typical for Puzzled Pint”.

Targets for Length: The set should take no more than 120 minutes for beginner puzzlers, 90 minutes for intermediate puzzlers, and 60 minutes for experts. If the puzzles are too long, editors may ask authors to reduce the scope of the puzzle set.

Targets for Difficulty: Puzzles are rated for difficulty with scores in the range of 1.5-2.5 for easy puzzles, 2.5-3.5 for medium puzzles, and 3.5 to 4 for hard puzzles. Any puzzle less than 1.5 or more than 4 will be asked to be modified. Ideally, the main set should have at least one easy puzzle and no more than one hard puzzle. The meta should ideally also be an easier puzzle.

Targets for Fun Level: Ideally the playtesters rate the puzzles’ fun scores higher than 2.5 on all puzzles. Additionally, if a puzzle is within these ranges, but ranked above average on difficulty, and below average fun, the editor will likely suggest changes to make it easier.

International Playtesting: International playtesters will discover puzzling elements that may be too difficult across cultures. They will check for things like reliance on pronunciation, idioms, regional spelling, rhymes, and regional knowledge. While typically these issues are resolved by changing the puzzle(s), occasionally they may be resolved by creating a different version of the puzzle for international audiences or by providing additional reference sheets for international audiences to work around the problem.

There is often a lot of feedback at this stage. Editors provide it so authors can make their puzzles as good as possible. 

Authors will work with editors to update the puzzle content and formatting based on this feedback. 

Editors reserve the right to insist on puzzle content or formatting changes if multiple playtesters feel strongly that a problem exists or that a change should be made, or if difficulty is generally rated too high and/or if fun level is generally rated too low. Authors usually have the right to accept or reject suggestions that are made by individual playtesters. 

Usually two rounds of playtesting and revision occurs, though occasionally highly polished sets may only require one round of large scale playtesting.

Going Through Pre-Event Quality Control Checks

About three weeks before the live event, authors and the editing team will review the (hopefully) final version of all documents to make sure everything is up-to-date, hints and solutions reflect the final versions of the puzzles, all website materials are ready, etc.

This QC Checklist shows the list of items that are reviewed at this stage.

Releasing the Set Pre-Event for Printing and Copying

The week before the event, the files are released to Puzzled Pint game control volunteers world-wide for printing and copying.

The Friday before the live event, the location puzzle goes live on the Puzzled Pint website, along with the author bios, pictures, and information about the locations of all of the live worldwide events.

Attending the Live Event!

Congratulations! Your set is being solved by thousands of puzzlers around the globe! Hopefully you can attend a live event and experience the joy of seeing your puzzles be solved by your local puzzler friends.

Post-Event Posting of the Set on the Puzzled Pint Website

The day after the live event, all puzzles, hints, and solutions are posted on the Puzzled Pint website where they will reside indefinitely for future puzzlers to download and enjoy.

Congratulations and thank you for all of your hard work in authoring a Puzzled Pint set!