Part 2 ended with Team Clavis Cryptica riding the high of solving two puzzles without hints and without getting stuck. The sun was shining, life was great! And it was about to get a little better for the three math-loving members of the team.
Puzzle #5 – The Lighthouse at Alexandria
Puzzle #5 was three pages. On pages one and two were ten graphics of a shoreline and a ship’s trajectory, bent into strange angles. Page 2 also had a legend for the geometry symbols used in the diagrams, as well as a large compass rose surrounded by hexagon shapes, each with a number and a two-letter combo. Page 3 had more of the hexagon shapes, without letters/numbers but with colors, and three different colored wave shapes with small lettered/numbered cylinders placed along the wave.
The first half of this puzzle was kind of like geometry homework. The objective was to use the diagrams and symbols to determine the final angle of each boat’s trajectory. Geometry was one of my better classes in high school, but I haven’t used it since then and have forgotten pretty much everything. When it comes to most math-related topics, I’m very fuzzy on even the most basic of concepts. So, while given enough time I think I probably could have eventually worked out those 10 diagrams, it seemed best to leave the work to my three teammates who actually knew what they were doing! In the meantime, I tore the legend part off of page two and took up the task of recording the answers and figuring out what to do with them. The angle of each diagram could be used on the compass rose to produce a number and two letters, so I started writing down those results. The majority of the phrase became clear quickly: “BETWEEN BUOY PAIRS”, but we had to do some re-working to get the vital first word correct: ”DIPS”.
Using that knowledge, we turned to the back page. Remember how I said the previous two puzzles felt so amazing because we never got stuck? This is where we got stuck on the Lighthouse puzzle. We tried soooo many different interpretations of the instructive phrase and couldn’t get anything to pan out. Finally, after many fruitless efforts, Nick W saved us and started down the correct path: For each of the colored hexagons at the top, we had to apply the number part of the number/two letters answer we had from earlier to the corresponding colored wave, THEN find the two cylinder buoys on that wave that had that number of “dips” in the wave image between them. Doing that, we got the letters to spell out something like AFTER SUNSET: 4 LETTERS, which would be DUSK, the answer! Leading us via TWILIGHT to the next location.
Another no-hinter, but we did get stuck and it took us a little bit over the GAST of 35 minutes. At this point, it had started getting overcast and chilly again, and the jackets came back on. I checked the time, it was 3:30. Half an hour past when I was supposed to open the envelope for the collaborative puzzle I had signed us up for! Oops! I had also gotten a few text messages from other teams asking for my team name, so I responded to those and tried to read the instructions as we headed to the next location.
A little less than a block from the puzzle #6 site, we stopped at a bench for me to try and read the directions to the collaborative puzzle, called the Colossus Renumeration Advanced Project, or CRAP. Via some phonecalling and texting the people who had contacted me, I learned that my task was to use some data from the second page of the puzzle to decipher phone numbers and call or text those numbers to get the names of teams in other cities. The sign-up info had said this puzzle would be brief, so I was a little bit annoyed when I had to sit and decode 9 different 10-digit phone numbers and then send a text message to each one. It was getting pretty chilly outside, so we decided to move in to a sandwich shop nearby and order some food and warm up. I figured I wouldn’t be able to do anything with the rest of the puzzle until I got the names of all those teams texted back to me, so I put the puzzle away.
In the end, I think I only got two more texts back from other teams with their names, and at some point I decided I wasn’t going to bother with the rest of the puzzle at all. The puzzle had sounded fun when I signed up for it, a way to help connect all the different cities playing DASH, but I think it was definitely too much for us as a first-time team. I felt really stressed out when I was sitting there trying to decipher the puzzle info while we still had four main puzzles left. Since I had signed us up for it, and it was all done on my phone, I kind of felt like it was “my” puzzle, and I was awkwardly holding back the rest of my team while I sat and tried to figure out this new thing by myself. I don’t know, it ended up being a really weird thing for us. I’m sure it was a great puzzle, and fun for teams who had more time, but in our situation we were already running behind, and stopping to work on the collab puzzle really stressed me out and took time that we didn’t have. In the future, I would recommend the organizers discourage first-time players from signing up for the collaborative puzzle. I definitely didn’t feel like it was “lightweight” or took “just a few minutes” like the invitation described. But I don’t even know if I did any of the puzzle correctly, so I might have done unnecessary steps or something, not sure.
Nick P and I decided that the best course of action at this point would be for me to run on to the next puzzle site (really close) and bring it back to the restaurant so we could eat and be warm (and have a table and chairs) while we solved.
Puzzle #6 – The Great Pyramid of Giza
Puzzle #6 was scary. The GAST was 60 minutes, holy crap! We were nervous, and a hint seemed inevitable. But we ended up getting off to a deceptively smooth start…
This puzzle started off with a complicated grid full of triangles on one page, and a list of crossword clues on the next. The crossword clues were split into “Hexes”, all 6-letter words, and “Tiers” of varying (but noted) word lengths. Three of us set to work solving the crossword clues while Nick P kept a numbered list of them to enter into the pyramid diagram according to the instructions. This was an instance where I just stuck to my task and didn’t really even try to understand the grid part Nick P was working on. I thought we managed to solve the crossword clues pretty quickly, though we had to look a few up on the smart phones. (Afterwards, Nick P noted that it took us something like 10 minutes longer just to solve the crossword clues than it took the fastest team of the day to solve the entire puzzle!) Nick W and Snooze had finished their sandwiches, so I decided to go grab something myself. I ordered a bacon cheeseburger and was then told that the restaurant was closing in 10 minutes, so I’d have to get it to go! Oh no! We did what we could on the rest of the puzzle, and by the time I got my food it was closing time, so we left our comfortable solving space and made our way to a bench near the puzzle site. **Side note: I have never seen as much bacon on a bacon cheeseburger as on the one I ordered that day. That almost made up for the fact that it was all way overpriced! **
Nick P was doing most of the grunt work on the latter half of the puzzle, so I took some time to enjoy my food. Once all the letters were filled in, the darker triangles in the pyramid spelled out the phrase “BLACKEN US”, very curious! This was the perfect time to bust out the clear folders and dry-erase markers so we didn’t do any permanent damage to the puzzle while going down the wrong path (which we did several times). First, we tried just blackening the triangles that had spelled BLACKEN US to see if they made some shape or something, but no dice. Then we tried blackening out the triangles that had the letters U or S, still nothing. At this point, we asked a GC to tell us, not a hint, but whether we were on the right track. He looked at our marker-covered puzzle sheet and said “I don’t think you need to do what you’re doing.” Haha. Okay.
We stared at it for a while longer until we finally gave up and sent Nick W and Snooze over to get a for reals hint. Right before they had left, they had been working with Nick P to try and do something with what were apparently leftover letters from some of the tiers (like I said, I wasn’t really paying attention here. See the most bacon-covered cheeseburger I have ever ordered.) , and had written out HUR SE in the margins, then changed the U to an O. I gazed at the paper casually and, in my breakout moment of the day, said, in the least urgent of tones, “Hey, that says ‘horse’….”. Nick P said “You’re right!!” excitedly, and we called our teammates back over, quickly dismissing the GC. No hints for us, good sir!
Once it was apparent that this new information was actually real and useful, I turned my attention to the hieroglyph graphics that bordered the clue page. I had been observing them earlier, thinking they might hold a clue, and while they had looked suspiciously detailed (no discernible patterns, the left and right side were not identical as you would expect in clip-art), I hadn’t found anything. Now I saw horses everywhere and started to blacken them with my dry-erase marker! The other three worked on finding the rest of the missing words, which all corresponded to glyphs on the paper. I had a small setback when I mistook the ferns for feathers, but it got sorted out quickly. It was kind of funny, I had assumed that after blackening out everything we would be left with some non-blackened out glyphs that we would have to then translate like some sort of code, lots more work. Imagine my surprise when my teammates said they could see the answer already before I was even done. It turned out I had been making big letters with my black dots and hadn’t realized it because I was in tunnel-vision mode! Stepping back, I saw MARKER staring back at me, a nice one-word English answer! Woohoo! You can click here to see our dry-erase marker work, though some of it has since been, well, dry-erased.. We took our answer to GC, who confirmed it was correct, and reveled in the feeling of solving the super-long puzzle with no hints! Alright! And we came in just about 5 minutes over GAST. Sweet!
By the time we had our answer confirmed, the rest of the team had figured out that SIGNPOST would lead us to our next puzzle location. At this point we tried to figure out our strategy for the last three puzzles since we were running out of time. The GASTs were 30, 35, and then 80 for the meta. We considered just getting a hint right out of the gate for the next two puzzles in order to solve them quickly and make more time for the meta. I argued that we would almost definitely need massive hints for the meta, so we should try to solve the next two without. The team agreed and we picked up puzzle #7.
Puzzle #7 – The Statue of Liberty
It started lightly raining basically the moment we picked up the puzzle. We looked around for somewhere to take shelter and only found an office building across the street that had a small overhang and a few outdoor tables from a nearby sports bar (totally full of hockey fans, otherwise we might have thought to actually go inside).
This puzzle had two lists of 24 scrambled words each, and each word had one circled letter. We picked up pretty quickly that the words on the left side were cities and those on the right side were countries, but that the left and right sides didn’t match up with each other. We set to work unscrambling, a task that would have taken about 3x as long without the knowledgeable Snooze on our team. Snooze knew city names the rest of us had never heard of, and to make things go faster he could often identify the country name for the cities we had already identified. While we worked on that, Nick P started trying to work out the circles. First, we tried keeping the circle in the same position but applying it to the unscrambled word. After trying this on a few answers, it wasn’t spelling anything and looked like gibberish, so we stopped. Nick P tried a few other fruitless methods, and by the time we had unscrambled all the words we decided it was time for a hint. We were about 15 minutes in and starting to get wet.
The umbrellas came out and we went back over to GC who told us that we could either stay there and solve in the rain, or we could go to the next and last puzzle site, pick up that puzzle, and then be directed to the ending location (the Ballston Mall). It was wet and cold, so the decision was easy! We also went ahead and got our hint, which forfeited any bonus points and relieved us of any penalty from taking extra travel time to make it to the mall. The hint? Do what we had done in the first place! Keep the circles in the same position on the unscrambled words! I think overall we were pretty quick to dismiss paths that appeared to be producing bad results, and that worked out for us most of the time. Not this time though! We would have to wait until we got to the mall to see what we had overlooked.
We walked over to the last puzzle site and found a GC. She was also going to head over to the mall, and said she could give us the puzzle now or we could just come and get it when we were ready. That second option seemed more sensible since we didn’t want to try and keep a new puzzle dry on the way and we still had puzzle #7 to finish. The GC went to tell another team working on the puzzle where she was going and then lead our team and Team Rock Lobster to the mall.
I’d say we lost another 10 minutes or so in the logistics of getting from the #6 site to the mall (not including time we would’ve spent walking anyway), but it was totally worth it when we got there. The mall was actually warm, it was dry, and we got to sit at a nice table with chairs! Alright! There were also lots of other teams around solving, so there was kind of a fun atmosphere. We commented later that although being outside was fun and all, we weren’t sure that we wouldn’t have minded just solving indoors like that the whole day!
It was time to apply our hint knowledge to our answers, and our results were that the left column gave us only As Bs Cs and Ds, while the right side gave us all Ns Ss Es and Ws. This matched up with the second page of the puzzle which had four flag shapes labeled A B C and D, as well as a compass rose labeled N E S and W. There were also 24 boxes on the second page, so we wrote our text results there, being sure to match up each city ABCD with its correct country NSEW, getting answers like AN, BN, BW, etc. Then we got stuck. And we didn’t have time to think about it much more, so we got another hint which told us to try a little harder applying those results to the boxes. Nick W started re-drawing our boxes since we had filled them with letters, and as we drew in the flag shape to each box, rotating it left for West, right for East, and 180 degrees for South, it started to make some sort of image with the black areas of the flags. We moved over to some graph paper, and with a little more work we had the answer: DONKEY, which was correct. Time for the next puzzle, we’re running out of time!
I’ll stop there for now. Check in tomorrow to hear about the respectable progress we made on Puzzle #8 only to end up harassing GC for hint after hint at the end, and see how far we got on the meta (spoiler alert: NOWHERE)! That will leave Friday for wrap-up and analysis, rounding out a nice week of DASH reports!