Almost 300 people in finance wandered the streets of Manhattan this weekend in the all-night puzzle competition “Midnight Madness.”
From sunset Saturday night to around 2 p.m. on Sunday, 30 teams of 10 tapped on gravestones, assembled an electronic piano and decoded countless ciphers.
The competition, in its second year, lets young professionals raise money for charity while showing off their skills in problem-solving. The challenges are in development for months and feature dozens of clues, cues, keys and experiences.
“It’s a combination of solving puzzles and figuring out the quirky, twisted stuff that goes on in the minds of Game Control,” said Dan Sharfman, captain of Black Gold, representing the commodities group at Goldman Sachs Group (GS:US) Inc.
Game Control consisted of more than 50 people assembled by Goldman partner Elisha Wiesel, who founded the “Madness” and is the son of Elie Wiesel, as well as event producer Lindsi Shine, and game designers Mat Laibowitz and Dan Michaelson.
Their headquarters was Big Daddy’s Diner in the East 20s, where the hint-givers included Alan Solomon, who played the character that planned “The Great Allnighter” in the 1980 film “Midnight Madness.”
The entry fee is $50,000. Employees of Citigroup Inc. (C:US), Goldman and Morgan Stanley (MS:US) turned to their senior managers for donations. Citigroup’s global markets team orchestrated stunts, such as paying to throw a pie at your boss.
The result: $2.9 million raised for Good Shepherd Services, which cares for the poor in New York City. It was more than double the proceeds from last year’s inaugural event.
“I live close to Red Hook and knowing these guys are engaged there in housing and health care makes this meaningful,” said Shahzad Ali of the prime services group at Goldman and a member of team 0xff00, which won last year.
The competition began in the parking lot of an abandoned Pathmark near the Manhattan Bridge. The Alphanauts, a team of Connecticut hedge-funders, arrived after dining at Nobu.
The hints and the clues led teams around the city from Pier 25 in Hudson River Park to the roof of a private event space and New York Marble Cemetery in the East Village.
The West Coast Burninators, with some high-tech types who tackle puzzles like this on a regular basis, came in first. Teams crossed over a miniature bridge printed with the word “Finish,” located at 7 World Trade Center.
Exhausted, many saw the open arms of Sister Paulette LoMonaco, the head of Good Shepherd Services, who was ready with hugs and bagels.
“The connection with ‘Midnight Madness’ is that every day we are working to solve the puzzle of extreme poverty,” Sister Paulette said.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
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