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Brute Force

This is a term you’ll hear almost any experienced Escape Room group say at some point.

“I can brute force this puzzle.” “We decide to do it the right way, but we totally could have brute-forced the lock puzzle.”

What does it mean?

Brute-force (I’m using it as a verb here) is when a puzzle has a small enough number of possible solutions that it is easier to try all the solutions without any thought whatsoever than to actually work out the puzzle itself.

For instance, recently I was playing the room at Reason Future Technology Escape Room where I encountered a very complicated technological puzzle. The puzzle had a 3-D holographic map that matched up a logic puzzle – you now the type – Birds only on odd numbered streets. Dogs will chase away birds on streets that start with A,B or C, etc. You had to figure out which street had both dogs and birds or something like that.

I’m bagging on this puzzle in particular because it’s fresh in my memory as well as the fact that the owner seemed cool when we were there, but ignored me after we left. The lesson, as usual, is I’m petty. Ignore me and at your own peril My 6 readers will hear about it!

Anyhow, back to the puzzle. Looking at the map, the puzzle had 4 possible streets! I could do this long, involved logic puzzle (not a ton of fun anyhow) or I could just enter the 4 possible solutions into a computer and see which one was right.

You might ask “Why would you want to cheat yourself? Why not just do the puzzle, EVEN though you know you COULD solve it quicker?” Reader, you are blaming the victim. I should not be tempted to “cheat” the puzzle. A good puzzle won’t invite the solver to work on it in a fashion wholly unintended by the creator.

Sometimes this is called "hacking" a puzzle, but I think that's just putting a positive sheen on a negative concept. Make sure your puzzles have enough possible solutions so as to not be hackable. 

Have you used brute-force as a verb?