Microsoft Puzzle Day is a one day puzzle competition for interns held in the summer. Each team of interns works to solve a significant number of original puzzles of all different kinds as quickly as possible. The puzzles are usually the work of the regular Microsoft employees who organize and run the event. The answers reveal or form the final metapuzzle whose solution leads to a hidden treasure concealed somewhere on the Microsoft campus. The first three teams (if any) to solve the metapuzzle and retrieve the hidden treasure are automatically the winners of Puzzle Day regardless of point standings. Any places not decided by locating the treasure are decided on points.
It is similar to the Microsoft Puzzle Hunt in spirit but less intense. Whereas the Puzzle Hunt lasts all weekend (40-50 hours), Puzzle Day lasts about eight hours, from about 10 AM to 6 PM. The level of difficulty is lower than that of Puzzle Hunt, but there are still some very hard puzzles to separate the winners from the rest of the pack.
The Puzzle Day is for Microsoft interns (and their spouses) only. Rule number 1 is "Have fun." It's a team competition so people of all different skill and interest levels (hard core and novice puzzle solvers alike) can participate.
The teams of ten to twelve members are allowed a single laptop, internet access, and anything from the Microsoft supply and copy rooms they might need. Teams will receive points for each puzzle they solve. If less than three teams find the treasure, prizes will be awarded to the appropriate number of teams with the most points. Teams are encouraged to try to win by finding the treasure, not by scoring points. It is possible to find the treasure without solving all the puzzles just as it is possible to lose even though your team solves the most puzzles.
When a team finds the final solution to a given puzzle, they email that solution (usually a single word or short phrase) to Puzzle Control. Puzzle Control awards points for each correct solution and bonus points if the team is one of the first to solve a puzzle. As the day goes on, Puzzle Control will distribute sets of hints and clarifications.
Every participant receives a commemorative t-shirt. This is of utmost importance -- the insidious, thinly-veiled purpose of Puzzle Day is to publicise the Microsoft internship progam. Sometimes, the t-shirt itself is one of the hidden/secret puzzles.
The first Puzzle Day was held on July 8, 2000, and its theme was TV. The second Puzzle Day, Puzzler's Clearing House, was July 30, 2001.
Microsoft Puzzle Day is based on the Microsoft Puzzle Hunt, which in turn takes inspiration from the MIT Mystery Hunt which is very similar in concept. Another inspiration is The Game (GameControl.com), which is a race with puzzles as obstacles. Eventually, if the Microsoft legal team can hash out the details, official information about past and future Puzzle Days (and the puzzles themselves!) will be available at puzzlehunt.org.
Personally, I wish more of the puzzles got you out of the conference room. One of the most amusing parts of Puzzle Day was the wrap-up meeting at the end of the day where the solutions to the puzzles are revealed and explained. Almost every puzzle's name was greeted with some applause but mostly "booo"s from members of the audience. The revelation of the solution, however, was often met with the sort of grudging applause that radiated, "damn, I wish I was that clever."