Along 11th Avenue, women in stiletto heels wobbled home in the misty hours after midnight.
They paused on a corner at 23rd Street, puzzled by the sight of young men and women wearing lights strapped to their heads, crouched over spiral notebooks.
Just another Saturday night in New York? Not for the 300 bankers, hedge fund managers, lawyers and software engineers solving puzzles on sidewalks and traipsing all over Manhattan for more than 16 hours as part of an infuriating, exhilarating, night-bleeding-into-morning competition called Midnight Madness. An elaborate scavenger hunt put on by Goldman Sachs, the event raised $2.9 million for charity and cost about $360,000 to produce.
This was the second time that Goldman had staged the hunt. Half the teams came from outside firms and various hedge funds. Each team had a fundraising minimum of $50,000.
The money went to Good Shepherd Services, a youth-service company, to finance after-school programmes.
The competition requires knowledge of military alphabets, ‘80s songs and video games, and historical spots. At one point, a team of seasoned puzzle hunters twerked at a wedding. They thought it was part of the game.
Elisha Wiesel, a Goldman Sachs partner and the game’s producer, announced the theme: “Total Eclipse.”
Then the teams were each given a closed steel white box, a packet that contained cards of movie scenes, a key on a ring, and five foam eggs that players could exchange for hints.
There were two rules: No tampering with clues and no using private vehicles. Then Wiesel jumped into a taxi and raced to Game Control. The game was on.
At 4 pm on Game Day, Wiesel, marched into Big Daddy’s diner and seized control of a balcony - his command centre. He directed volunteers to set up workstations with digital cameras, iPhones, iPads and computers.
The first puzzle turned out to be the hardest, causing the game to get off to a slow start. The movie stills were supposed to be placed on the grid in a specific order. The San Francisco team, the Burninators, solved it in 45 minutes. Around 9 pm, when Game Control opened for hints, desperate-looking players bustled into the