Kimberly’s 37th Birthday Skullduggery: 2nd Time’s the Charm

[Ed. Note: This is the big write up to the Skullduggery (“puzzle & activity hunt”) on 8/2/2014 that I put on for Kimberly’s 37th birthday. If you want to skip to just the clues and/or answers – jump to here. This is the second one I’ve done for Kimberly’s birthday – here is the write up of the first, from last year. NOTE: If you played and don’t want to read all this, at least make sure you skip to the video at the bottom – it’s awesome!]


AdventureConleys! (this shot alone is everything I wanted out of this skullduggery!)
(courtesy of Keri Maijala)


YAY! This year, I pulled it off! This year, my Skullduggery for Kimberly’s birthday was what I hoped: Big fun for Kimberly, big fun for the people who played, and big fun for me to make (albeit exhausting – again!).

I’m writing this a few days later, still basking in the post-creative-glow, that feeling you get when you have created something that you just really love. So, what was the biggest difference between this year and last? 

This time, I realized that there is more awesome in “less grand but really well made” than there is in “super grand but kinda janky”

Last year, I had much less sense of how hard it would be & also aimed to do much, much more. The result was far from what I hoped. This year, I knew exactly how hard it would be & aimed to do what I could. As it was, it was still a little more than I could sanely manage, but I pulled it off nonetheless. There is plenty of room for improvement, but this time it was still great: I had SO MUCH FUN & so did the birthday girl & most of the players!

I’m looking forward to doing another one already! 🙂 Next year, the challenge will be to do it without nearly killing myself (I have a plan!)…

Big THANKS to everyone who came out & played!


Here is my write up explaining all the clues & their answers.

If you want to try to figure it out for yourself, just get the player handouts by clicking here. Note that the pictures are taken to show both the answer and the K-sun marker the player was to find (if appropriate). Click on the picture for more info.


The Map:

The map is a critical part of the game, in addition to showing the players what is in bounds, it contains many clues and and reference materials. 


Click on the map to see the larger version.

1. Between the warrior & his sorrows, there were 18 reasons to bi some flowers, all rite?

Last year, I learned that no matter how many times you tell new players to solve the clues in any order, they inevitably focus on the first one. So, I wanted the first one to be one of the easiest, to build confidence. If you look at the map & read off the big street names, you come across “Guerrero” & “Dolores”, which are “warrior” & “sorrows” in Spanish. Prominent on 18th St between Guerrero & Dolores, is BiRite grocery. In front of Bi-Rite, where they sell flowers, there was one vase of flowers that looked very different because it contained large paper poppies (K’s favorite)… (click on the image to see the closeup)

“GARAGE” was the answer on the vase..

Answer #1

Look carefully for the paper flowers (click for closeup)

2. Who knew that the cacao grew blue so near to home? Ask “Who knew grew blue?”

Answer #2

Chocolatier Blue, across the street from our house.

Cacao is the plant that chocolate comes from. Home refers to our house & home base for the treasure hunt, 937 Valencia. Just across the street & down a few doors at 904 Valencia is “Chocolatier Blue”. If you walked in and asked “Who knew grew blue?”, they would reply “Who cares?” and give you a chocolate of your choice. Yumm. “Who cares?” was the answer.

3. Kimberly always notices the birds of the Mission, and finds them wherever they land!
(Blue-grey fade-icus, pigeons, Stoner Dodo, Owlus Plasticus, the Colorful Indianesque, White Dove (w/ olive branch), Crow (or Raven!), Parrotus Pavementicus)

This may have been the most difficult clue. On the map, you would notice 8 bird icons & if you went to each of them, you would find little K-suns near each as pictured below. The pseudo-scientific names told you what you were looking for. (Remember to click on the image to find the K-sun if you don’t see it)

The Blue-grey fade-icus:

Answer #3.1

A classic Mission mural by the very popular Cirron Norris at 18th & Lexington

The pigeons:

Answer #3.2

Pigeons and a cage on Mission near 18th

The Stoner Dodo :

Answer #3.3

I notice this all the time as I bike home past Mission Playground. Every time, I think how little I like it.

The Owlus Plasticus :

Answer #3.4

There are actually 2 plastic owls here on this fire escape on Valencia at Mission Playground.

The Colorful Indianesque :

Answer #3.5

I really can’t get enough of this mural, we used it in our wedding shots too.

The White Dove :

Answer #3.6

I love this!

The Crow :

Answer #3.7

Finding this is what convinced me to make this entire clue. I had been noticing the various birds around the ‘hood & was considering doing something with them since K loves birds. As I was roaming, I found this as I was looking at the previous one, but I had never noticed this one before. I immediately thought “Everyone should find this – it’s awesome!” and so I went with this clue.

The Parrotus Pavementicus :

Answer #3.8

This might have been the hardest of these to find, but I’ve loved these little nods to San Francisco’s feral parrot population since the first time I saw one on the sidewalk.

Each K-sun had a word with it and when you collected them all, they said “She goes cheep-cheep when she sees a bird” which was the answer.

4. Kimberly never follows instructions & so actually she might have a chance at this one. Piggy to Piggy & Lizard to Lizard – X marks the spot. From 2:30 to 3:30 or so.

This was perhaps my favorite & no team actually got it, though a few stumbled upon the answer. Kimberly is notorious for not following instructions and not reading them. On the map page, the words “Instructions: Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate!” are written. By not following instructions, the player is being told to fold the page. If the players folded together the two pigs (“Piggy to Piggy”) this would make a crease on the page. If the players then folded the two lizards on the page together (“Lizard to Lizard”), this would make a second crease. Where these two creases crossed is where they would find the answer from 2:30pm to 3:30pm. Which was me, at a “Random Act of Kindness Station” where I was handing out free watermelon to anyone who passed by (SO. MUCH. FUN.). I’d tell any player who showed up the answer, which was Watermelon.

Answer #4

I did something like this for a Skullduggery I did for Peat years ago & gave out cookies. This time we went healthy 🙂

Answer #4 (from Kimberly)

In action…

5. At the two, the two, your aim’s true where you can find Kimberly’s favorite plant & her favorite pointy SF landmark.

“The two, the two” refers to 22nd street & the “aim’s” true refers to Ames St. Ames is a small alley & there on the corner of 22nd and Ames is this really lovely mural with poppies & the ever-pointy Sutro tower. Note the K-sun on the pole. The answer was “Poppies & Sutro.

Answer #5

I rigged the entire map so that this would be in bounds since it is such a perfect K mural.

6. In five years, Kimberly will be moving to Kentucky’s second-largest city, but she’ll still be working for PG&E. That being said she won’t like her new office much – it will be gigantic, but no windows? Really? Oh well. At least she has her own door, but why is it marked E, not K?

Five years from now is 2019 & Kentucky’s 2nd largest city is Lexington (after Lousiville). Between 20th & 19th on Lexington Street there is only one interesting building. This gigantic, windowless PG&E building. There is one large door marked E above it. The K-sun is on the nearest pole to that door. The answer was “STAR”.

What actually is this building, anyway? Presumably a substation of some kind – but what is a “substation” anyway?

Answer #6.1

My bike is placed to point out the K-sun.

Answer #6.2

Door marked “E”.

Answer #6.3

The K-sun.

7. Hey There Trusty Players, our dog, Baozi, has been chomping let🐾ers off clues aga🐾🐾. So 🐾o🐾’🐾e going to have to do a 🐾ittle more work DOT But she’s so 🐾ute, h🐾w can you stay 🐾ad at her? She could SLASH my 🐾icycle 🐾ires a🐾d 🐾’d 🐾ti🐾l w🐾nt to snug🐾le her!

If the player looked at the letters obscured by paw prints, they would come up with “tinyurlcombtnislag”, but the prominent “DOT” and “SLASH” in the clue, would make that “” that should have been enough to send players to their phones’ web browsers, but the start of the clue is an additional hint, with the “H”, “T”, “T” & “P” capitalized in “Hey There Trusty Players”. The URL “” would redirect you to our wedding website’s FAQ page which had been changed to feature this image:


Screen Shot 2014 08 13 at 1 59 12 AM

Altered FAQ page from our wedding website.

And also the hint: “The map is a dog’s best friend”.

On the map there is one dog icon & the legend explains that that is Baozi’s pooping grounds. If you go to that site, there the pictured lamppost can be found with a K-sun on it. The answer was “INSTRUCTIONS”.
Answer #7

One third-way up Liberty Street.

8. Back in the mid 1900s, before everything was a parking lot, Kimberly’s Dad used to get up on stage & would sing it his way:

♪”In order to dance The Bamba
In order to dance the Bamba
You need a little bit of grace
A little bit of grace
For me, for you, ah higher and higher
Ah, faster, faster
By you I will be, by you I will be, by you I will be

I am not a sailor,
I am not a sailor, I am a captain
I am a captain, …..”♪

but he stopped because they laughed him off Mission Street, saying
“Señor, you’ve got to sing it right around here. Then you’ll really be ‘the captain‘ & you’ll be flanked by chicas lindas!”

What are their names (the chicas)?

The first thing to notice about the clue is that the song is an English translation of the “La Bamba” but the story in the clue suggests that it needs to be translated back to the “right” way or the Spanish version. The payoff of this is that you will really be “the captain” or “El Capitan” in Spanish. The clue mentions Mission Street & also says the mid 1900s. If the players tried to look up the 1900 block of Mission, they would quickly realize it was off the map (it’s near around 8th St., I think), so then they would be left with the other option near 19th street – in fact halfway (mid) between 19th & 20th. So if the players go to halfway down the block between 19th & 20th on Mission street, they will come across the grand old El Capitan theater (“stage” is an additional clue for theater) which is now a parking lot. On either side of the El Capitan theater, are two paintings of these chicas lindas (beautiful women), and both say “Deb” on them, which was the answer.


Answer #8

The El Capitan is such a beautiful old building & I really liked these flanking murals.

9. Solve the picture on the last page: (all the information you need is on that page)

The picture map clue is always one of my favorites. The most interesting part is the challenge of getting to the first picture, after that the players just need to search for each shot in order. The order of shots is shown in the clue by the way the images overlap (each image overlaps everything that comes after in order.) 

Clue #9

I really love these Pix Map clues!

The first image shows a parking meter with a number displayed prominently. Inspecting any parking meters on Valencia street (including the ones out front of our house) will quickly show that the numbers appear in a pattern of even numbers on one side of the street & odd on the other. The pattern would also show very quickly that 700-08240 is on Valencia Street between 19th & 20th.

I succinctly spelled this all out on the “Extra Hints” page as “The order of the shots can be figured out by their overlap. That order is the order you should walk in. Oh & where to start? Inspect some parking meters at home base.”

Truth be told, I did a much better job with the layout on last year’s version of this – next time I’ll do it that way!

Anyway, from that first parking meter the images would take your through Mission Playground, along the side of the pool building & around back where you would find the pictured telephone pole (below), with the K-sun on it on Linda St.

The answer was “BLUE.”

Answer #9

The view back towards Valencia through Mission Playground.


10. Find the ____(7)___ near the __(9)___ __(6)___ at K’s ____(1)______ . At least TRY to make sure no one else sees you reading them. (This will be more clear if you solve it last!)

The numbers are the previous clue answers. The fact that this clue depends on solving the others first is suggested by the hint “This will be more clear if you solve it last.” 

Plugging the answers to clues 7, 9, 6 & 1 into this clue, you’ll get “Find the INSTRUCTIONS near the BLUE STAR at K’s GARAGE.” If the players went to the garage at 937 Valencia, they would find a blue star on the garage door opener & by flipping it over they would see these instructions:

“There is a time lapse camera set in the window above you (see it?!) Every few seconds it is taking a shot. Get your whole team to the point where the driveway first meets the side walk. Try to get a series of 5 shots of you jumping (so no one’s feet will be on the ground in the shot).”

 The results of which are here 🙂 (Note, I edited down the time lapse footage of the whole day & slowed down the most fun bits!)



The biggest lesson I learned was to try to control scale & scope. I did it pretty well this time & it made the difference between finishing everything in time (just!) and not. The biggest thing I need to improve is related though: I need to improve the process so it is not such a mad scramble of all nighters and super-long work-day marathons. I think this could be accomplished through a pair of management techniques I’ve heard of called “SCHEDULING” & “PRIORITIZATION.” (nods to Liz Pallatto)

  • Set a “HAVE CLUE TEXT DONE” deadline (a week before?) & anything that doesn’t make the cut doesn’t make the cut
  • Have a “Nice to haves list” and be aggressive about moving stuff to it
  • The most fun I had was biking along the route & seeing what players were up to, so make sure that I don’t have many things to do after the game starts.
  • Make the answers easier to remove (get the tape that doesn’t split & always fold a corner)
  • The layout of the pixmap clue from 2013 is better than the pixmap clue from 2014
  • Better & faster to place the answer stickers at night before
  • Printing the clue sheets day of is fine though not optimal. Make sure you hit the “Collate” button (argh!)
  • The extra hints were a big hit! Do them again.
  • Write in the instructions that it is important to have teammates of a similar level of interest & that they should call if they need reassignment.
  • Try to get other non-players to proof read the clues & hints. (Thanks Liz!)


8 thoughts on “Kimberly’s 37th Birthday Skullduggery: 2nd Time’s the Charm

  1. Babes, this was AMAZING!! Everyone had a blast and I loved reading the clues and seeing the timelapse. The jumps are awesome – especially the ones by tourists. 😉
    <3 <3 <3

  2. So fun ‘Deep! Thanks for incorporating the feedback from last time – made a big difference. Look forward to next year! xo JM

  3. Very cool and well put together. Why were the tourists jumping and looking at the time lapse camera. What did they see that caught their attention?

  4. Thx Peat!

    I had set up an iPod Touch on a small tripod in the downstairs window & had it running a time lapse photo app. Unfortunately, you couldn’t tell when it was taking it’s shots so I could ask anyone to do anything in particular because they would need to know when the shutter went. Luckily, the app let you force the flash to go off for every shot – so the tourists and the players could see the little white light going off 🙂

  5. You get points for noticing the Apple-y ness of that quote. I was going to spell it out but decided against. I do hope you come to one!

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