DASH 5 Report Part 2

My goodness, I am terribly behind in my blogging!  I’ll try and keep the rest of my DASH report a bit more concise than last year since I have a lot of other things to catch up on writing about as well.

The rest of these posts will contain massive spoilers (though they will be blackened out), so try to avoid them if you want to solve the puzzles on your own.

In my last post, we had just found our teammates and gotten registered.  GC were all dressed in hospital scrubs and lab coats, following an apparent medical theme.  The DASH 5 website featured a DNA strand in the logo and some micro-text that said “Catch DASH fever!” so we assumed (correctly) that the theme would be some sort of virus outbreak.

The materials we received consisted of two large envelopes.  We were allowed to open the first one immediately.  It contained the following:

  • An info/rule sheet that explained the theme of the event (we would be a team of researchers investigating reports of a viral outbreak), the puzzle-solving process, safety info, rules, and scoring.
  • A map, which this year featured only food and bathroom locations, not specific puzzle locations.
  • A standard code sheet.

I put the map on the front of the binder, the code sheet on the back, and the info sheet in a clear file folder inside the binder.

The second envelope we received was the first puzzle of the day, which we weren’t allowed to open until instructed to do so by GC.

A little bit after 10:00, GC gathered us around and gave a very brief intro summarizing our goals for the day.  It was also explained that the first puzzle would be collaborative, and would not be scored for points.  And with that, DASH 5 began!


Puzzle 1:  Verify the Disorder
Threat Level:  YELLOW

The puzzle envelope was sealed with a sticker that had a QR code printed on it.  Scanning the QR code took us to a website where we had to enter our team login info (which we were asked to set before the event).  Once logged in, a wonderful DASH online app was revealed!  Apparently, this was custom-built by the Seattle DASH crew.  Clicking on the current puzzle showed flavor text and par solve time for the puzzle as well as an input field to try answers.  Some partial answers gave further hints or suggestions.  Entering the correct answer would reveal the address of the next puzzle.  It was pretty cool!

Inside the envelope, we found two puzzle pages — one was full of lines of dialogue, and the other looked like an eye chart (labeled “iChart” ).  After a bit of reading, it became clear(ish) that we were representing Dr. Robert Baby, and we needed to find the two other doctors mentioned in the dialogue.  We saw a lot of teams grouping up already at this point, so we tried to recruit the other necessary parties.  It was a bit chaotic, but we finally got a group together.  A few members from each team read through the dialogue together in the proper order (the lines were mixed up), while the rest of us looked at the puzzle pages.  The other two teams had an EKG chart, which showed two heartbeat recordings on a grid, and an Endoscopy report that was a connection puzzle between images.  A graphic on each puzzle page indicated that each page would give a three-letter answer, and the three would combine to form a nine-letter answer.

The team working on the dialogue noticed a number of phrases that would include the letter I, such as infrared (IR), intravaneous (IV), etc.  We tried drawing lines to each of those letters on the “iChart” in order, but we didn’t come up with anything usable.  (It turned out we had missed the very first phrase, “identification”, or ID.)  Meanwhile, the people with the connection puzzle managed to solve to the letters “MED.”  I never saw what the EKG chart was about.  We were one of the last few groups left at the start at this point, and it was a little bit anxiety-inducing!  Luckily, one member of our group managed to extrapolate the answer knowing that it was nine letters, with MED as the last three letters.  The answer was CONFIRMED, which was in theme with the purpose of the puzzle:  to Verify the Disorder.

We solved this one in 44 minutes, there was no par time.

Pretty much as soon as we solved, I got a phonecall which I thought might be part of the puzzle, but turned out to be unrelated.  While I was on the phone, our big group took a fun photo as an extra task for the puzzle, and then we parted ways.  It was about 11:10 by the time we left, heading to the library for the next puzzle.

Keith seemed to know his way around Bellevue really well, and for the rest of the way he served as navigator between puzzle sites.  It was really nice not to have to think about getting around at all!

By this point, I also concluded that we wouldn’t be getting a list of all the puzzles and their average solve times.  Each puzzle would only show up in the online app once we scanned its QR code on-site, and the par solve time was only visible once the puzzle had been started.  This was a little frustrating for me, since time management was my big goal for this year.  Without knowing the number of puzzles or their target times in advance, we just had to do our best to stay under par for each puzzle.


Puzzle 2:  Identify the Affected Area
Threat Level:  YELLOW

We arrived at the library and picked up the puzzle packet from GC.  I noticed that the pair of them didn’t look so good.  They had red circles under their eyes, and one was coughing and complaining about allergies.  At that point, I wasn’t sure if it was part of the act, or if they were just tired and stressed from prepping the event.

We found a nice place to sit down and got started on the puzzle, which included a list of crossword clues and a grid to fill in each letter of the various answers.  Rachael and I got to work on the clues while Keith filled in the answers.  We got lucky here, as when Keith started trying to finish out some of the words in the sentences without having all the letters, he also gave us back the letters he had inferred so we could put them in our answer blanks.  As we did this, we found that some of the letters he needed weren’t actually anywhere in the crossword clue answers.  This turned out to be the answer mechanic!  Nick started extracting the unaccounted for letters as we went along, and we ended up with PREFRONTAL CORTEX as our Affected Area answer.  This puzzle had a par time of 40 minutes, and we solved it in 25!  That was a great way to start!

We stopped inside the library to use the restrooms and saw Dana doing makeup for a GC member.  From that point on, the staff at every site looked more and more sickly.  It was a great touch!


Puzzle 3:  Discover the Infection Mechanism
Threat Level: ORANGE

The next puzzle was in the plaza of a local pharmacy.  It included a list of doctors and a list of sentences describing each doctor with a key word removed.  Each doctor’s name was sort of a pun relating to their practice (so Dr. Crabbe was an oncologist, for example), and that name could also form the missing word in the sentence about them if you added a letter and anagrammed.  The added letter for each sentence extracted to the answer clue of A MULTIPLE OF A FUNDAMENTAL TONE, which turned out to be HARMONIC, our Infection Mechanism.  This puzzle had a par time of 30, and we solved it in 16.  We were feeling pretty awesome by now!

There isn’t much to say about solving these last two puzzles since we seemed to pick up on the mechanics pretty quickly.  I think Keith was a really strong member of the team and seemed to get us moving right away on each puzzle.


Puzzle 4:  Find Patient Zero
Threat Level:  ORANGE

The next puzzle was handed out at a Starbucks near the hospital.  On our way there, we stopped at one of the special locations on the map where we were supposed to take a picture and post it online, just for fun.  We’re still not 100% sure this was the right place, but it seemed in-theme enough.

We were told this was the long puzzle of the day and were given a few local food options if we wanted to solve it over lunch.  This was extremely helpful and thoughtful of GC and very much appreciated by our team!  We decided to go to the hospital cafeteria, and we actually spent a good amount of time ordering and eating before we decided to get started on the puzzle.

This turned out to be a perfect puzzle for lunch since there were a lot of parts to split up.  The puzzle came with five bingo-style sheets with word tiles we needed to cut out and place in the right order.  The mechanism was that the words in each row were related in some way and presented in alphabetical order (the first column was also in alphabetical order). Some words were already placed on the sheet to help get you started.  Once we got all the pieces cut out, we each just focused on completing our sheet while we ate.

Nick turned out to be really good at this word association-type puzzle, and I think we all ended up having him helping with our sheets at some point.  We got out my scotch tape to affix the pieces to the sheets, but there wasn’t enough tape left on the roll to finish the job!  We tried to just be careful moving the sheets around, but eventually we asked the team at the table behind us if we could borrow some of their tape, and they generously agreed.  Thanks, team at the table behind us!

When we were done, we had five sheets with all the tiles filled in.  Some of the tiles were black.  The flavor text mentioned “bits” so we figured out that it was binary pretty quickly.  Nick was pretty quick at reading the binary, but it was also nice to have my binder standing up on the table with the code sheet.  The puzzle came with a blank grid for filling in this part, and when we read binary across the rows, we got a message:  TAKE DIAGONALS BEGIN TOP LEFT.

This was the first moment of the day where we got stuck.  We tried the most obvious move, to read the diagonal binaries of each sheet, but that produced nonsense.  Then we tried a number of different variations on that idea, but nothing panned out.  We were stuck, so Keith ran back up to get a hint from GC.

It turned out that we needed to take all the words from the diagonals and make a new sheet!  I really liked that, it reminded me of the way all the MIT Mystery Hunt puzzles are kind of recursive and keep re-using the same mechanic at each level of the puzzle.  We figured out a few of the associations quickly, but then got stuck.  I made some new tiles with the remaining words so we could move them around freely, and that seemed to help.  Eventually, we started getting the rest and put them in the right order.  We somehow found the clue LINKS which the app confirmed was important.  I had my big breakout moment of the day when I figured out that the categories for each row would read LEAD SINGER 4 EWE TWO, or “for U2” which would be BONO, our Patient Zero.

This puzzle had a par of 60, and we went quite a bit over time with 84.  I think this was our favorite puzzle of the day, even though we went over and had to take a hint.  It was really well done and fun to work on.


Puzzle 5:  Isolate Infectious Agent
Threat Level:  RED

The next clue sent us to a local dance studio.  Things were starting to get serious, and GC was looking much worse.

This puzzle included six different mini-puzzles that each referenced a different U2 album.  We were given a sheet with the six albums needed and their first ten track names.  We decided to split up into two groups for this puzzle.  Keith and Rachael tore through their puzzles, but Nick and I had a hard time figuring out what was going on.  Each puzzle had a slightly different mechanic, so I won’t go into detail with them here.

Eventually, we ended up with enough pieces to determine the answer: BEHOLD AND WONDER.  We weren’t sure how this was an Infectious Agent until Wikipedia told us that it was the name of a track written by Bono for the Spider-Man musical.

This puzzle had a par time of 30 and we solved it in 24.  We were getting back on track!


That’s all for now, I’m hoping to finish up the rest of the report by tomorrow or Monday.

4 comments on DASH 5 Report Part 2

  • Nathan C

    Wow, sounds like your GC really put on a show! For Find Patient Zero, the Boston GC had the puzzle printed out on reusable stickers, which helped immensely. When talking to a member of GC afterwards, he made it sound like this was a recent change to the puzzle that had been universally adopted, but I guess it wasn’t entirely universal. If teams in other cities didn’t get the stickers, I wonder how much of a difference it made — STDP, the winning team from Boston, solved Find Patient Zero in 20 minutes, which proved to be key in their top finish DASH-wide.

    • clavicarius (author)

      Some of the main GC members here run a haunted house, so it came very naturally to them =)

      The re-usable stickers do sound helpful! I imagine it might have made a difference for some of the faster teams, but in our case I think the time spent cutting out and such didn’t really matter compared to our time sitting and staring trying to figure out what to do next =)

      I was thinking Seattle might have had an advantage because of our online app which let you get seated and ready before starting the clock and confirmed answers and partials without having to go to GC, but we didn’t even break into the top 15.

    • melinda

      Actually, every city except Seattle decided to print that puzzle out on reusable stickers. I can’t imagine the tedium of cutting out all those little pieces.

      -wife of someone heavily involved in national GCing

  • Steve

    We got stuck on the diagonals for a while as well. Actually we never even bothered to cut out the squares, just wrote in all the answers. We circled the black ones. Then we had to re-write all the words again to do the recursive part.

    I also wondered why Seattle didn’t break the top 20. I wondered if somehow the custom-made web site held us all back scoring wise? Perhaps the computer-run timing was more accurate and/or precise? Or maybe it took longer to enter a guess into a phone than to sprint to GC to do so? Or it could be the sticker thing, that would have saved our team a few minutes certainly.

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