May 24, 2011, 1:15 p.m. | By Valerie Hu | 11 years, 10 months ago

Why sleep in during High School Assessment (HSA) week when you have the opportunity to win prizes? And these aren't just any prizes but huge prizes.

PuzzlePalooza team members showed off their spirit by wearing matching colors, cheering loudly and reciting their team mottos. Photo courtesy of Chester Lam.

Perhaps you noticed masses of juniors and seniors parading down Blair Boulevard last week sporting matching headbands, pasta necklaces and bright colored Puffy Paint t-shirts. To all the Blazers who came to school feeling groggy at 10:47 a.m., no, you were not still dreaming. But never fear, because these bands of highly enthusiastic students were not out to hurt you. They did not possess any firearms or actual weapons, but instead possessed advanced logic and puzzle solving skills, brain power, deadly levels of spirit and limited (or in some cases, vast) knowledge of water bears. In case you accidentally wandered up to the third floor during the HSA mornings and were puzzled (pun intended) as to what to call this madness, we have your answer right here. This is PuzzlePalooza.

The second annual PuzzlePalooza competition was held last week and it is a trend on the rise. A group of teachers known as the almighty Puzzle Lords put together the competition by splitting up the 219 participants into teams of about 15 students each. All teams dedicated three hours of each HSA testing day to solving 14 puzzles created by a number professional puzzle writers and the Puzzle Lords themselves. Team members came together and put their blood, sweat and tears into cracking the puzzles in hopes of walking across the auditorium stage and claiming victory – in the form of huge prizes – at the PuzzlePalooza award ceremony.

PuzzlePalooza participants compete for the highly coveted Spirit Award on the last day of the competition. Photo courtesy of Chester Lam.

Non-puzzlers might wonder why already-sleep-deprived upperclassmen would voluntarily go to school three hours early to solve challenging puzzles. Yes, the puzzles are intellectually stimulating but PuzzlePalooza is more than just a workout for your noggin. The puzzles challenge students' knowledge of everything including calculus, computer science, college sports, artwork, Shakira and other areas of pop culture. The very nature of the competition is one that requires participation from all team members. Even if one teammate is not an experienced puzzle solver, the wide variety of topics ensures that they can contribute to their team.

Some might see the competition as simply a congregation of nerdy, mostly magnet students who run across the third floor to frantically check the PuzzlePalooza score board and try to solve puzzle after puzzle after puzzle. But the truth is that PuzzlePalooza fosters such a great sense of teamwork, spirit and collaboration that thinking and puzzle solving are not the only important aspects of the competition.

Because it requires effort from students of so many different backgrounds and knowledge, PuzzlePalooza is a great way to unite Blair's diverse student body, which is too often divided up among the school's different programs, academies and social cliques. Unfortunately, only a small portion of the school knows what the competition is, and an even smaller portion of the school actually participated this year. PuzzlePalooza has great potential to unite Blazers and raise school spirit. The hallways on the third floor, which were covered in banners and decorated with streamers, and the roaring that came from the auditorium on the last day of PuzzlePalooza are only precursors of the massive amount of school spirit that could result from school wide participation in PuzzlePalooza in years to come. In the meantime, only 358 days left until PuzzlePalooza 2012!

Tags: PuzzlePalooza

Valerie Hu. Valerie Hu loves pasta, beaches and laughing with friends. She draws inspiration from traveling, whether she is in Paris or in Disney World. Like the blog, she appreciates the little things in life. She aspires to one day receive as many candy canes as Glen … More »

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