“That was shoddy work,” the mythical Norse craftsman Wayland texts us. “Your answer is not what I was looking for. Try again. I won’t penalise you this time but I will remember this.”
Taken aback by Wayland’s harsh words, we stare down at our screens and re-read his riddle, but come up with no new ideas. Where on Earth – or more specifically, where in King’s Cross – can we find a “square which is both visual and mathematical”?
We (that is, me and three of my most intrepid friends) are on a 21st century scavenger hunt led by a mysterious medieval blacksmith who only communicates by text message. His cryptic clues have taken us all over King’s Cross in search of London’s “Makers”, from perfumers to ice-cream artisans. Each riddle leads us further on our path, and each answer unlocks the next hint.
At the end of the trail? A “tavern that befits your challenge”. I won’t spoil it for you… but there may be alcohol involved.
But the real joy of HiddenCity’s Mind of the Maker trail isn’t solving our 19th and final clue and getting the glorious text, “drink to me and to the makers of this city”. Instead, it’s the afternoon that we spend getting to know the city we thought we knew already.
Eleanor (far right) and friends on Regent’s Canal towpath
That’s the thing about London: it always has more to give. All four of us are lifelong Londoners and none of us has ever visited the London Book Barge, or wandered along the towpaths of Regent’s Canal looking for colourful fish. We go to new pubs and cafes, we try surprising ice-cream flavours, we find a hidden community garden that is an oasis of calm in a frantic city. “We must come back here,” we promise each other earnestly.
But we can’t delay, because we are up against a ticking clock. For the price of £60 per group, teams of up to four players are challenged to make it to the end as fast as possible, and every time you ask for a hint you get a time penalty. Team Radio Times takes a leisurely three hours and 41 minutes, putting us in… um… 49th place. It’s not the winning, it’s the taking part – right?
In truth, the concept is a little garbled. It is never entirely clear why the whole thing is being directed by a Norse craftsman, or why we are carving “the ice trail” across London, or how the “Makers” fit into everything. The whole narrative is conveyed in a barrage of text messages, but some of the clues and answers just don’t seem to fit the theme, leaving us slightly baffled.
That said, we are having so much fun that it doesn’t matter all that much. Sure, the price tag might seem a little steep for the chance to be berated for your ignorance by a fictional Norse blacksmith. But each time we solve the riddle we get an endorphin rush and it doesn’t feel silly at all. Instead of sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon, we are getting to know our city together, and that’s worth at least £15 each.
So, where exactly is the “square which is both visual and mathematical”? After finally cracking Wayland’s fiendish puzzle, we are about to move on to the next clue when we spot another team looking around them in bewilderment.
We debate: Shall we take pity on them and give them the answer? No – that would be no fun. Likewise, we will leave it to you to find out.
Mind of the Maker is currently booking until 30 November. For more information and to book tickets: inthehiddencity.com
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