March 16, 2021

Carmen San Diego Mystery Heist Birthday Party

I hosted this party four years ago and figured I should document the clues and game play before I forget something. 


My Passport Sticker Books (12)


3 Digit Custom Combination Lock (1) 

Four Digit Custom Combination Lock (3)

World Party Favor Boxes (12)

Safari Around the World TOOB





Safari WorldLandmarks TOOB

International Travel Posters

Large Suitcase with Outer Pocket (Generic)

Backpack (Generic)

Ping Pong Eyeball or another “eye” object like an Egyptian Eye of Horus charm etc.

Object or picture depicting “Full” I crafted a fuel gauge with a 2 oz metal tin and a red tooth pick

Tow Truck Toy/Picture

Hershey Chocolate Bar (in half) only showing the letters HER

The Invitation Back before I had two young kids…. Every bit of care was given to customizing the travel ticket, from the departure airport code to the arrival city. I picked Rome because I had reserved the party room at a pizza place since it fit the international theme.  The corners were rounded with a circle punch and I even switched out my regular scoring blade for a perforated one to make it truly a tear off ticket. In the present day…  I would feel pretty proud of myself if I remember to tell my husband what I want for my birthday in time for him to order it from Amazon Prime and have it delivered by my actual birth date. 

Blank for your own use! 

Passport books: Each page was meticulously thought out and I took special care to match the pictures and clues with the stickers. The clues must be placed in order. In hindsight, I needed to make the capital letters more pronounced as it was not clear that the capital letters spell out a message. Also, it is best to try to make sure each book is identical so guests don’t think that the differences are clues. The passport books were placed on each chair 

This was the message inside the front cover. Why does ermine frosting matter? It doesn’t, it’s only my personal favorite. 

I removed the sticker insert from the middle of the book and glued in a second message:

Tip #1: The passport book scripts say:  WEST TO EAST, but this wasn’t obvious how I originally printed them with just the capital letters in bold, so if I did it again, I would use the larger capital font version below: 

·      Walked through the largest museum in the world

·      Explored the world’s deepest blue hole 

·      St. Paul’s cathedral

·      Took a trip up the Yangtze river and visited the Terracotta Warriors

·      There’s a caribou on the quarter and beaver on the nickel 

·      Over half of the world’s cork is produced here 

·      Europe’s most populated city is Moscow 

·      Ancient Theater of Epidaurus 

·      Saw the Neuschwanstein Castle and Bradenburg Gate 

·      Three vertical stripes and a picture of an eagle eating a snake on their flag Next, I taped the cipher below to the back of the Pisa/Italy poster with a corner of the cipher visibly poking out as a clue.  The other posters were taped up for decorations.   

  Tip #2 Use cardstock with a pattern or picture to make it easier to know which direction faces up, not solid black.  Tip #3 : For personal use, cut out the ” ‘s  and not the “i” in the space for the name. 

The cipher reveals the message:  the weight is the answer. 

The landmark figurine Buddha of Lantau/The Big Buddha was placed in the outer pocket of the suitcase. The suitcase was locked with the smaller three digit combination lock.  The figurine is goldish so it was a little confusing because some of the guests were mistaking it for the Golden Buddha in Bangkok. They eventually figured out the mix up. 

weight is 250 Tons

The weight ( #250)  is the code which opens the three-digit lock on suitcase. Inside the suitcase I had the backpack (more on what’s in it later), the dozen world boxes, and this clue:  

Sometimes when you’re puzzled it’s best to retrace your steps from the beginning.

(This was a hint for them to go back through their passports and to decipher the message WEST TO EAST.)

World Boxes

Landmarks have color-coded numbers.

Each box had a map that fit in the bottom of the box identifying the famous landmark. (I did not use all of the landmarks, only the ones listed below.)  On the back of each map, I wrote the latitude and longitude of the landmark for faster reference.

Originally, I had the boxes numbered on the bottom, but these were easy to mix up once the maps were removed. If I did it again, I would number the landmarks (as pictured) instead of the bottom of the box. 

Sample numeric code from West to East: 201703182021 2 Easter Island: 27.1130 S, 109.3496 W

0  Mount Rushmore: 43.8791 N, 103.4591 W

1  Temple of the Inscriptions: 17.4836 N, 92.0470 W

7  Statue of Liberty: 40.6892 N, 74.0445 W

0  Stonehenge: 51.1789 N, 1.8262 W

3  Big Ben: 51.5007 N, 0.1246 W

1  Arc de Triomphe: 48.8738 N, 2.2950 E

8  Leaning Tower of Pisa: 43.7230, 10.3966 E

2  Colosseum: 41.8902 N, 12.4922 E

0  Parthenon: 37.9715 N, 23.7267 E

2  Great Sphinx of Giza:  29.9753 N, 31.1376 E

1  Great Wall of China:  40.4319 N, 116.5704 E

The more random the code the better, especially if they’re color-coded as this makes it easier for the guests to group the numbers in fours and guess the code instead of figure it out. It’s okay to do all black numbers but then it might be hard to know which code goes with which lock. The Backpack The backpack had the three, four-digit combination locks on the zipper to keep it closed. If I had more lockable containers, I suppose I could have done a box within a box within a box etc… When the backpack was opened, inside was the Hershey bar, tow truck, eye ball, fuel gauge, and cryptex.    The elements together represented the words “Eye-Full/Fuel-Tow-Her” (Eiffel Tower) obeying a loose phonetic similarity scheme.

As an alternate, one of my guests guessed THIEF (Tow-Hershey-I/Eye- Empty/Full) following a pattern where each object represented one letter. 

The word PARIS opens the Cryptex and reveals the message: 

ask for the “czech”  The deal I made with the server was to bring out the cake when I asked for the check. This ended up being better than I expected as  one of my guests was really into the mystery and asked the server to bring out the to-go boxes and checks with a super heavy Russian accent.  I’m not sure it could have been better if I’d made the key phrase something ridiculous like, “Bring me your biggest meatball on your smallest plate.” As a backup plan,  I could have locked the cake in the car if  they didn’t allow outside food and drink in their serving areas and used a license plate number as the next clue.    Final note on the cake box said:  

Let’s be honest, who has room for cake after a pizza buffet—especially Brick Oven’s super delicious dessert pizza? Good job, detectives, until next time

Carmen Sandiego


Who is Kimberlee Turley?

Kimberlee Turley grew up in California where she earned a degree in Fashion Design from FIDM in 2005. Soon after, she married her husband, who was neither Mr. Darcy nor Edward Cullen, but he’d read her atrocious first novel and said it was “good” with a straight face.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This