Key Clues Challenge

What is it?

The University-wide puzzle-solving competition IS BACK for 2023! Organized and run by volunteers from the Faculty of Mathematics, the challenge is designed to be a team-based community engagement and development activity that encourages undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, alumni, staff, and faculty members to work together in groups of 3-6 to solve a series of puzzles over from September 27-30. The first team to solve all puzzles and submit their team’s key at the secret location on campus will be crowned the 2023 Enigma Cup Champions!

How to play


The 2023 Key Clues Challenge will run over four days, from Wednesday 27 September 2023 to Saturday 30 September 2023. In teams of 3-6 players, math students, alumni, postdoctoral fellows, alumni, staff, and faculty will work together to solve a series of daily puzzles over Day 1 and Day 2 in order to uncover pieces of a meta puzzle that they will solve on Day 3. Solving the meta puzzle will provide teams with the physical location of the secret location on campus, where teams can submit their key. The first team to submit their key at the secret location will be crowned the 2023 Enigma Cup Champions at the Enigma Cup Ceremony.


All teams must be comprised of 3-6 players, who are either undergraduate students, graduate students, alumni, postdoctoral fellows, staff, or faculty members from the University of Waterloo. All teams must have an assigned team captain, who is responsible for organizing their team during the 3-day challenge. Interested community members who do not have a team are encouraged to register as an 'Individual player'.


Date Time Event
September 21 2:00 - 3:30 pm DC Fishbowl, Kickoff event!
September 27 9:00 am Batch 1 puzzles released
September 27 3:00 pm Batch 2 puzzles released.
September 28 9:00 am Batch 3 puzzles released and Batch 1 first hints released.
September 28 3:00 pm Batch 4 puzzles released and Batch 2 first hints released.
September 29 9:00 am Batch 5 puzzles released, Batch 3 first hints and Batch 1 second hints released.
September 29 3:00 pm Batch 6 puzzles released, Batch 4 first hints and Batch 2 second hints released.
September 29 9:00 am Batch 7 and meta puzzle released, Batch 5 first hints and Batch 3 second hints released.
September 30 3:00 pm Batch 6 first hints and Batch 4 second hints released.
October 1 9:00 am Batch 7 and meta first hints and Batch 5 second hints released.
October 1 3:00 pm Batch 6 second hints released.
October 2 9:00 am Batch 7 and meta second hints released.
October 3 9:00 am Competition closes.
October 5 2:30 pm  DC Fishbowl, winners revealed and prize ceremony.

Your Team's Key

Each team will be assigned a key, which will have a unique set of number tags attached to it. Team captains are responsible for their team's key and should work to keep both their key and number tags safe, secure, and away from the eyes of other teams. Your team's key is needed when you find the secret location on campus. Team Captains are responsible for picking up and returning their key to the Gamemaster (instructions will be provided following team registration).

Official Rules

2023 Key Clues Challenge: Rules

  • Only students, alumni, postdoctoral fellows, staff, and faculty from the University of Waterloo can participate in the Key Clues Challenge.
  • All teams must have 3-6 players.
  • No team may receive outside assistance from anyone who is not a registered participant in the Key Clues Challenge.
  • No team shall share their team’s key with anyone outside of their own team.
  • No member of the Development Team, or any member of the community who assisted in the development or testing of the puzzles, may participate in the challenge in any form.
  • The format will be a four-day puzzle-solving challenge, in which daily puzzles are released on day 1, day 2, and day 3 and a meta puzzle is released on day 4.
  • All puzzle answers can be checked using our answer checker, and there are no penalties for incorrect answers.
  • Hints will be provided on a set schedule by the Development Team throughout the three-day challenge.
  • The winning team shall be the one who first submits their team’s key at the secret location on campus.

Meet our 2023 Key Clues Development Team

Meet this year's dedicated team!

Key Clue Role Name Department / Academic Unit
Principal Enigmatologist Ty Ghaswala CEMC


Faisal Al-Faisal Mathematics Undergraduate Group
Michael Albanese Pure Mathematics
Sarah Chan CEMC
Zack Cramer Mathematics Undergraduate Group
John Donohue Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC)
Sachin Kotecha Mathematics Undergraduate Group
Paul McGrath CEMC
Peter Nelson Combinatorics and Optimization
Martin Pei Combinatorics and Optimization
Ashley Sorensen CEMC
Christine Vender CEMC
Website Sam Pei Computer Science

What does the Principal Enigmatologist do?

The Principal Enigmatologist is responsible for leading the team of enigmatologists through the design, development, and implementation of the puzzles that will be used in the annual Key Clues Challenge and ensuring that the team of volunteers has what they need to design and develop the puzzles. They organize and facilitate the process by which the team of enigmatologists will design, develop, and test puzzles. They are also the first point of contact for Team Captains and participants.

What does an Enigmatologist do?

The Enigmatologists are responsible for designing and developing each of the puzzles that will be used in the annual Key Clues Challenge. Their primary role on the team is to be the brains behind the puzzles, and they work tirelessly to create puzzles that will stump even the brightest students, staff, postdocs, and faculty members who enter the Key Clues Challenge.

About the Enigma Cup

The Enigma Cup gets its name from the Greek word ainigma, which means: "to speak in riddles", and is awarded annually to the first-place team in the Key Clues Challenge.

This Enigma Cup stands 31.5" tall and is comprised of two parts, a silver cup and a rosewood piano finish base. The cup is recognizable by its lid, which has a topper that resembles the Goddess Nike as the Winged Victory of Samothrace. The Enigma Cup is engraved each year with the winning team's name, the team captain's name from the winning team, and the year that they won. A full listing of the members of each winning team can be found on our website.

The Enigma Cup was commissioned for the first annual Key Clues Challenge in 2022 and is proudly on display for all to see in the Mathematics and Computer (MC) building.


The winning team's name will be added to the Enigma Cup.  Further details about prizes coming soon!

Past Winners

Congratulations to our 2022 Enigma Cup Champions!

2022 Enigma Cup Champions - Not So Great Ideas

Year Participant Name Participant Type
2022 Champions Gautam K. (Captain) Faculty Member (Computer Science)
Dave T. Faculty Member (Computer Science)
Kam Chuen T. Student (Computer Science)
Sara K. Student (Computer Science)
Vijay R. Student (Computer Science)
Sabrina M. Student (Computer Science)
Abhiroop S. Student (Computer Science)
Abhibhav G. Student (Computer Science)

Past Puzzles

Want to see if you have the puzzle solving skills to be a Enigma Cup Champion? Try tackling one (or all) of the puzzles that were used in our previous Key Clues Challenges. The following is a complete listing of all the puzzles that we have used in our previous competitions, by year.

2022 Puzzles Solutions
Puzzle #1 - Math Pack Solution #1 - Math Pack
Puzzle #2 - Connect the Dots

*2022 Puzzler's Award Winner - Most liked puzzle
Solution #2 - Connect the Dots
Puzzle #3 - Don't Tread On Me Solution #3 - Don't Tread On Me
Puzzle #4 - Name that Friend Solution #4 - Name that Friend
Puzzle #5 - Wildlife Crossing Solution #5 - Wildlife Crossing
Puzzle #6 - Perfect Pairs Solution #6 - Perfect Pairs
Puzzle #7 - Mine Field

*2022 Gamemaster's Award Winner - Most difficult puzzle
Solution #7 - Mine Field
Puzzle #8 - META - The Key Clue Solution #8 - META - The Key Clue


What kind of puzzles are these?: Unlike established puzzles like sudoku or crosswords, the puzzles in this competition may not come with instructions. Figuring out what to do is a major part of the solving process! The puzzles in this competition are more like those found in online puzzle hunts like the MUMS, Galactic, and Mezzacotta puzzle hunts (to name a few, although these are far more involved and lengthy than our competition!).