By Mollie Jo Swendrowski
About a month ago my boyfriend, Adam, and I took a big step in our relatively young relationship: we got a Grand Rapids Public Museum (GRPM) membership.
I know, right? Momentous occasion. One of the first things we discussed doing together when we started dating was going to the museum to check out the current visiting exhibit called Mindbender Mansion, which is all brain teasers and puzzles. After some internet research I discovered the exhibit coming in November, “Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids” (my nerd heart is ecstatic about this) and quickly realized that a membership might be worth looking into. So we bit the bullet, went all in and are officially card carrying museum members.
The next step was to find out how to get the most out of our membership, because DARN IT ALL we paid for it and we are determined (and by that I mean that I am determined) to get the most bang for our buck. My shameless plug to encourage you to get a membership is that one of the many perks is receiving admission to over 340 other museums across the country, including some of the famous ones in Chicago, which is an easy day trip. Oh, and free rides on the carousel. Just saying.
Another thing I discovered while being thrifty was an upcoming event called Puzzles and Pints. The GRPM has a series titled “Beer Explorers” and frequently hosts events that pair the booming breweries in the city with a bit of history and learning. Puzzles and Pints allowed guests of drinking age to come try their hand at the Mindbender Mansion while enjoying adult beverages (more on the impact of those later).
Now, I’ve always fancied myself an independent person. Asking for help is not something that comes easily to me, and I would rather struggle under the weight of 17 oddly shaped bags and packages than let someone help me bring in groceries or, gasp, make two trips. I moved across the country twice, took a solo trip to London last summer (I’ll tell you all about it some time), and have grown very comfortable being alone and figuring things out on my own.
However, there are some things that require teamwork and asking for help. One of them is being in a relationship, and another is the Mindbender Mansion.
The day leading up to Puzzles and Pints was a busy one for both Adam and I. While he was busy running around scouting locations for projects, fellow N3 writer Alexis and I took six kids to the zoo. We managed to not lose any of them and no one got a sunburn, so overall it was a great success. Let me tell you though: wrangling six kids ranging in age from two to ten (no matter how well behaved they are) in public and surviving it relatively unscathed is enough to make any person want a glass of wine.
Needless to say when we showed up to the event the first thing I did was locate the advertised “pints” portion. Armed with beverages and admittedly tired brains, Adam and I decided to tackle the “puzzles” part.
According to the GRPM website, the exhibit has over 40 individual brainteasers and five larger group activities. The goal of the Mansion is to solve the puzzles and enter the answers in the “vault” in the labeled rooms to gather clues that then give you passwords. You then enter at least three of four passwords in the final “vault” to join the Mindbender Society. Disclaimer: Adam and I are both fairly competitive so NOT being inducted into a “secret society” was an option we were not willing to give ourselves.
After (hastily) reading the instructions we started attempting to solve some of the individual brainteasers. I’d like to say it’s because all of the ones that give you the aforementioned passwords were being used, but the reality of the situation was we were so tired that we did not fully understand what we were doing. Re-examination of the instructions led us to discover we needed to enter the rooms of the Mansion and look for symbols on puzzles that would aid us in getting the passwords needed for entry into the secret society, not just complete any puzzle we found, which was the original strategy.
I consider myself fairly well versed in brain teasers and puzzles. Each night from 7-8 pm is a personal challenge to outsmart the contestants on Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, but I am absolutely horrendous at anything pertaining to numbers and math. This is where the teamwork comes into play, and lucky for me my teammate is much better with numbers than I.
Since we both had long days we got to the event with roughly an hour left until it ended. Once we figured out exactly what we were supposed to be doing to “win”, it was game on. It went with unspoken agreement that Adam handled anything to do with numbers (hint: practice your Sudoku before you go) and I gave my all at the puzzles regarding shapes and creating things.
We each only had time to consume one drink at the event, and that was probably a good thing. Being exhausted, combined with alcohol and the pure adrenaline that comes with being AMAZING at solving puzzles together, started giving us both foggy brains after a while. We did not get inducted into the Mindbender Society (yet), but we already have plans to head back this week to finish all the puzzles and get our certificates and our picture on the wall.
The greatest thing about this exhibit is the ability for people of all ages to participate. It could not come more highly recommended for anyone looking to do something a little out of the ordinary with a family, partner, or friend. But, if you want to join us as members of the Mindbender Society then you’d better get there quick, because the Mansion will be making room for “Dragons, Unicorns, and Mermaids” on September 17th.
Or — just become a museum member and do both.
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