Part 1 left off with my team having solved Puzzle #1 a whopping 15 minutes early, only to take another 23 minutes to figure out where to go for the next puzzle. Bummer! But Team Clavis Cryptica did not get discouraged, and we eagerly headed over to the next puzzle.
Puzzle #2 – The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
We grabbed the three-page puzzle and found a large planter upon which to set down our stuff, though we soon had to move again due to a very unpleasant smell in that area. We quickly glanced over the flavor text/instructions and found that the puzzle was made up of four grids, each with two different images placed throughout the grid. The puzzle was archaeology dig themed, with a start and end time listed for both a morning and afternoon dig on each grid. Nick P quickly understood that the times could be mapped as coordinates to the grids and began circling the corresponding artifacts. At that point, we got stuck. We noticed both that the items were all either round shapes or long shapes, and for a long time we thought that the fact that some images were rotated had something to do with it, though we had a hard time figuring out which way was up on some of the images. We worked through several different ideas but didn’t get anywhere.
Finally, FINALLY, I took a moment to actually read what was written. The researcher doing the digs was Dr. Ben Issac Nary, or BINARY IDIOT! When I first read the instructions out loud, I had literally said “In the 1800’s, archaeologist Dr. blah blah blah led an excavation..” and skipped over it figuring it would just be a cute, but not useful, pun, or maybe something that wouldn’t be used until later. Nick P pointed out after the game that I was pretty much like that the whole time, feeling like we were super rushed and that I had to read through everything really quickly. Oh the time we would have saved if I had slowed down just a little bit in the beginning! Blah. Once we made the vital discovery, we tried applying what we had learned to what we had already been doing, and unfortunately found ourselves totally stuck again pretty quickly. As we approached the GAST time for that puzzle, 35 minutes, we decided it was time for a hint.
The hint was very straightforward. Where we had been just circling the artifacts at the start and end times of each dig, we actually should have been connecting a line from the start time to the end time artifacts, and catching all the ones in between as well.. Oh! Duh, that makes sense! Doing that gave us more complete binary numbers, though Mike said his team had trouble since the numbers did not have five digits, and the binary numbers on the chart all had five. All of my teammates (excluding me) have computer science and engineering backgrounds, so they knew that binary numbers are assumed to lead with a zero, and so they quickly translated the binary to regular two-digit numbers.
The last page of the puzzle had large grid with boat, flag, and wave symbols. Since the flavor text said “signaled” in bold, it was pretty clear we would need to use semaphore, which was one of the codes on the codesheet. It didn’t take us long to figure out that we would need to use our binary numbers as coordinates on the last grid, and then see what semaphore letter the corresponding ship icon made with nearby flags. Doing this, we spelled out the answer: FIST.
Our answer was correct! That puzzle felt tough, so I was proud of us for only using one hint. **
We discussed afterwards that although the rotation of the icons was a huge red herring for us, we could understand that they probably did it to make the binary less obvious. It’s kind of funny, actually. The rotation made it so that you couldn’t just glance at the image and see binary right away, but the flavor text all but spelled out the word “binary” in the doctor’s name, basically giving it away just as easily and quickly! The funny part is that it took us 10 or 15 minutes to see “binary” in the flavor text! Even if we had noticed the binary early on, I wonder if the rotation would have thrown us off.. I’m not sure I like a puzzle that has to have such a big red herring involved to work. I’d love to hear other teams’ thoughts on this one! ** Thanks to Tyler in the comments below for the explanation! Not a red herring at all, just something we didn’t figure out!
Since we had already found a bunch of words in the Calendar during our earlier debacle, we were pretty quick to find the synonym for FIST, which was “PUNCHER.” Hah!. This lead us to the next colossus, the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.
Puzzle #3 – The Temple of Apollo at Delphi
By now, the sun was starting to come out which was glorious! We got our one-page puzzle (after first walking right past the GC and getting confused!) and found a bench in the sun. I actually took off my windbreaker!
This puzzle had two columns of phrases, a middle column of blanks, and not-equals signs in between the three. There were also numbers next to the blanks. We kind of stared at it for a while, trying to figure out some of the clues until something jumped out at us and started making sense. Someone on our team figured out the connection between the three columns, and we either got METE or CARAT first. It still took my mental gears a few more minutes of turning to actually understand what the puzzle was, since it was kind of mind-boggling! The trick (I think) was that the middle word that filled in the blanks would have to be a heterograph (different spelling/meaning, but same pronunciation) of the words that fit the definitions on both sides. So, for example, a small child is a “tot”, and to be under high tension is to be “taut”. So a heterograph of both of those words is “taught.” Nick P dealt with the numbers (which indexed to the letters in our answers) to try and work out the ending clue while the rest of us worked our way through the regular clues. We got stuck on a few and had to use the smart phones, which was difficult because of the sun (that was at least one perk of a mostly overcast day–easy to see the phone screen!). By the time our work revealed a phrase, it was right at the GAST time. The phrase was LEAGUE OF ARTISANS SLITTED LIKE A FISH. We fumbled around with this for a while before someone finally said “a guild?” which was the correct answer, though GC had to tell us the correct spelling, GILD, which would point us toward EMBELLISH on the calendar and our next puzzle location: the Great Wall of China.
Although the Delphi puzzle took us just over the GAST (30 minutes) to solve, for some reason we felt like we had torn it up! No hints! We also got to sit in the sun and warm up for a while. And GC was also giving out candy when you solved this one, alright! We decided this was a good time for some snacks in general and got out some goldfish and fruit snacks to enjoy on our way over to the next puzzle. Definitely a high point of the day!
Puzzle #4 – The Great Wall of China
We got a little nervous when we arrived at Puzzle #4 only to find Team Dragons leaving! We were either REALLY far behind, or it was a quick puzzle. We hoped for the latter!
We grabbed the three-page puzzle and actually found a picnic table in the sun, by far the best solving-location we found all day. Everyone got to sit down, everyone could see the puzzle at once, we had lots of space for all of our stuff, it was great! I think it was Nick W who expressed he wanted to take the table with us, haha. After we were done enjoying our great location, we got to work on the hopefully quick puzzle. It was actually a little bit similar to the previous puzzle. There was a wall graphic running down the middle of all the pages, and several rows on each page with an image on either side of the wall, and one blank space on the wall itself.
Our “just look over everything first and see if anything jumps out and makes sense” strategy worked great here, as we saw one row had a generic person or “man” symbol on one side and an image of a rake on the other. Just saying those images out loud made the word “MANDRAKE” jump out, meaning the letter that went in the middle blank was a D. The rest of the puzzle followed suit, and it was a fun one! It was good luck that this was the puzzle where we could all see and work on it at the same time, because that turned out to be a great way to solve it I think. We ended up getting stuck on the last few, including Uncle Sam + Nest, and Demons + unidentifiable image (which turned out to be “Rations”). Like the last puzzle, Nick P had taken up the role of gathering the clues we had solved to try and put together the ending clue, both to save time and maybe help reverse-solve or double-check clues along the way. His list of letters looked like gibberish, so those secondary goals weren’t really happening. I looked at the letters for a few moments and noted that the letters wouldn’t look so bad if they were read backwards. Nick agreed, and after we got a few more answers, he was able to extrapolate the ending clue: HUMPTY HAD A GREAT ONE, which could only be FALL, the answer!
I think, again, we met or exceeded the GAST here (25 minutes), but we felt fast and awesome somehow! I think the awesome-fast-feeling factor might have come from the fact that we never really felt “stuck” on this puzzle or the one before it (or the very first puzzle, but we actually did solve that one genuinely fast). There might have been a few clues we had trouble figuring out, but we understood how to work out every step up the puzzle pretty quickly. There was no time spent staring at it, trying to figure out what to do like several of the others. Anyway, the synonymous DESCEND pointed us toward the Lighthouse at Alexandria, where many maths would soon be calculated…
Tune in tomorrow for Part 3 of our puzzle adventure, where I basically sit out an entire math-based puzzle, get slowed waaaayy down by a CRAP-py puzzle, and enjoy half of a bacon cheeseburger outside in the cold! Man, Team Clavis Cryptica is going to have to start getting into a lot more crazy hijinks in the future if these puzzle hunt reports are going to stay interesting! =)