When he was growing up in Texas, Joe Gantt says his family never flew anywhere for vacation. Instead, they took to the open road. Gantt, now a professor of rhetoric and media studies at Lewis & Clark College in Southwest Portland, would bury himself in books of logic puzzles to stay entertained. That early obsession fueled his rise as the social director of Portland’s semi-underground treasure hunting community.
Don’t get too excited—there’s no chest of priceless gold coins marked with an “X” on an ancient map. But Portland is home to a dedicated group of sleuths who create fiendish puzzles for each other that rely heavily on wordplay, puns, and historical knowledge in the form of clues, which, correctly deciphered and narrowed down over time, usually leading to a park or landmark. There, a pin or medallion—plus the far more important bragging rights—awaits the victor.
Normally, treasure hunting season in Portland reaches its frenzied peak with the annual Rose Festival, with new clues released each day online via the organization’s anonymous and oft-fiendish clue writer. But in woeful 2020, when the city festival barely happened, the treasure hunters took matters into their own hands.
“This is the perfect pandemic exercise,” Gantt says. “It gets your brain thinking, and it gets your body moving.”
Typically, it’s a slow-burn situation, with clues released one at a time over a few weeks, but Portland treasure hunters have been experimenting with changes to the format. On an anxious Election Day, for example, Gantt unleashed an agreeably distracting presidential-history-themed hunt, with clues dropping every hour via the PDX Treasure Hunting Community Facebook group. The prize, an FDR campaign button, was hidden at North Portland’s Pier Park. (Of note: this is different from another popular PNW pastime, geocaching, because of its expiration-date nature—once the treasure is found, the game is over, whereas caches can generally be found again and again.)
Spring is a prime clue-hunting time, Gantt says, when the light stretches on later, but before people scatter for summer. To mark the change in seasons, we asked him to come up with a mini-puzzle just for Portland Monthly readers to decipher. There’s a prize awaiting the first to arrive at the final destination!
Can you solve our press-themed puzzle?
Don’t bury the lede!
Make sure that you graf it out twice
Stay above the nut
Decipher and unscramble, to be precise
1-7, 1-26, 1-29, 2-6, 2-8, 2-26, 2-30, 2-41
He’s from Egypt but not the land of Pharaohs
Nonetheless, here he became the one in charge
His voice kept growing wiser and wiser
Harbor a search west of his namesake by and large.
If you’re making plans for Nigel
Nigel’s breaking news to you
Your alternative keeps it fresh
But stay south of him, whatever you do.
Ozzie and Harriet once had their adventures here
But since then, twice crazy like a fox
Don’t wrestle too much with this location
Keep east of where you’d transmit some props.
One rag’s had many different homes
Its founder strongly climbed and weekly fell
Pick any of its past domiciles
And hunt north of there to do well.
Do you know the room where IT happens
With no exchanges of human interaction?
But meet me outside this neutral bedless hotel
And you’ll have great satisfaction.
Under an awning, on the ground floor
Complete your dominion without care.
With them, record your win—and while you’re in
You could even pick up a few wares.