In the previous post, we had just isolated the infectious agent that was spreading the disease at DASH 5.
Puzzle 6: Determine Transmisson Vector
Threat Level: BLACK
Our next stop was The French Bakery where we were given the next puzzle, which included a wooden cube with crossword-style blanks running around the edge on all six sides. And this is the poor soul who handed it to us:
The clues on the puzzle page were a bit tough until we figured out the first puzzle mechanic: each answer could connect to the one before and after it using the first and last two leters. For example: against, steam, ambled, edo, dopiest, stag. We still had to look a few things up, but it got a lot easier after we realized that. Next, we had to figure out how to use the cube. Keith and Nick mostly tackled that and figured out a way to write each set of answers on the cube. And then we got stuck. We had a cube with letters written all around the edges, but we couldn’t figure out what to do with any of that data. Eventually, we went up and got a hint, which was to find the letters that had a twin on the adjacent face. Taking each of those letters, we could anagram to BIRDSONG, our transmission vector.
The par time for this puzzle was 25, and it took us 31 minutes with a hint. I don’t remember spending a very long time stuck on that last step before getting the hint, so I think we were just slow in figuring out the initial mechanic and solving the clues.
Puzzle 7: Develop a Cure
Threat Level: BLACK
The next puzzle site was near a blood center. Dana and Kenny were there handing out the puzzles, urging us to hurry and find the cure. You can see why for yourselves:
This puzzle was fun and used a big grid of images which we had to pair up. I forget the specifics of the matching criteria, but it had to do with being able to change one word to the other by adding or removing the letters A, B, O, R, and F, which fit with the theme of drawing different blood types to develop the cure. So, for example, images for BROWN and FROWN were a match. Nick and Keith started entering our answers on the second puzzle page, and before we had found them all we decided to start trying to extract the answers. We hadn’t been super speedy solving the clues, but this is where we really hit a wall. None of us could seem to correctly interpret the instructions for the last step of the puzzle. We kept going through cycles of perceived enlightenment, which usually lead to trying to brute force an answer out. We considered going back for a hint, but FINALLY made sense of the instructions and found the solution, which was PEONY ROOT, whose extract would be a vital part of the cure.
The par time for this puzzle was 30 minutes, and we took 33, but it felt like so much longer! At this point, I was starting to get a little nervous because we weren’t sure how many puzzles were left and we knew that last year’s meta was extra-long with an 80-minute par time. Since we had taken a pretty long lunch break and had gone over par on a few puzzles, it definitely felt possible that we might not finish in time!
Puzzle 8: Plan a Distribution Method
Threat Level: BLACK
We went to the next site and picked up our eight puzzle, which included a grid with different points along a path for distributing the cure. DASH headquarters was marked with an (H, Q), which tipped us off to label the 26 boxes accordingly. We took down notes of the coordinates at each point on the path, some of which made state names, but we weren’t able to make sense of anything. We decided to go ahead and take a hint pretty early on, partially to see how it would work out and partially because we were worried about time. This time, GC basically pointed at Nick’s notebook and said we already had it! Sure enough, where he had taken down some of the coordinates, you could read a sort of twisting message that said to take the flyover states we had gotten. Rearranging those letters, I came up with CILANTRO, which I thought was a pretty good distribution method (except for people like me who can’t stand it), but it turned out to be CONTRAIL.
The par time for this puzzle was 25 minutes, and with our early hint we managed to solve in 21.
Meta: Complete the Cure
The next clue was at Rock Bottom Brewery, so we figured it had to be the meta puzzle. We picked up the puzzle with about 1 hour left in the event and go to work, and the par time only turned out to be 30 minutes this time. This puzzle consisted of a number of paper “molecular fragments,” which were made up of hexagons with letters in each space. The flavor text said we would need to assemble them correctly using some guidelines about the borders and shapes. It also said the key was to use what our previous solutions had in common. We noticed that some of the hex borders were the same colors as the threat levels of the puzzles (an element we anticipated needing later on), but we couldn’t really work out what to do with that. We spent quite a bit of time just trying to guess at the assembly method with no luck. Finally, we realized that the thing that each of our answers had in common was the letters O and N. Unfortunately, we didn’t make much progress after that breakthrough. We tried to connect the pieces so that Os ad Ns were always touching, but nothing really worked. At some point, I tried writing the letters before and after the ON in each answer, hoping they might read something vertically, but no luck.
Since we had a full hour to work on the meta, we decided to wait until the par time had passed to go get a hint. Again, GC pointed at our notebook and said “do that.” Where I had written out the letters before and after ON, that was actually an instruction of how to connect the molecule fragments. So, for the answer BONO, we needed to put the B hex on top of the O hex. Wow! I really wish I had noticed that the letters matched the connection points of the molecules. It was pretty quick work at that point to assemble the fragments, and we ended up with a very molecule-looking thing. Starting from the first threat level color of Yellow and reading every other letter (I forget how we figured that out), we got a message about various the elements that would make up the last step of the cure. It turned out to be CAFFEINE, and if there had been any chemist smarties on our team, we might have noticed that the shape we made was actually the structural formula for caffeine.
As I mentioned, the par time for the meta was 30 (so short!), and we solved it in 41. I think we could have been a bit quicker, but it just didn’t “click” for us that time.
Overall, we came in 109th out of 295 nationally and 17th out of 49 in Seattle. Above average! I was very pleased.
There was no wrap-up for Seattle, so we parted ways with Keith and Rachael, thanked GC, and went to get some much-needed dinner at Rock Bottom.
First of all, I was hoping it wouldn’t be this way, but I think my write-up has definitely suffered from the amount of time I’ve let pass since the actual event. I’ll try not to make a habit of this! Then again, maybe it’s best not to recount every single detail! =)
My thoughts on the event itself: excellent! I thought the puzzles were fantastic, even better than last year’s (though I might just have a greater appreciation for good puzzles one year wiser). I didn’t really care for the collaborative puzzle, it made me feel stressed out to rely on other people and split up the puzzle that way. I know it wasn’t scored for points, but I was more concerned with the time it was taking out of the rest of the day for us. But everyone else I’ve spoken with thought it was great, so I’m probably in the minority. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the cube puzzle, but I don’t have a good reason for that. But I really enjoyed the rest, especially Find Patient Zero. And although I kind of liked having to solve something to find the next location last year, I didn’t really miss that element this time around. I really appreciated getting duplicate puzzle pages to split up among the team. Even though we were only a team of four, this was super helpful. (This might have been a Seattle-specific bonus, props to them if so.)
I think Seattle GC did a great job (especially considering they didn’t really have a central group to start with and sort of rounded up on the fly). The visual effects were so fun to look forward to, and the app was really convenient and worked almost flawlessly. Seattle also did a great job of finding super in-theme locations around various hospitals and labs. I was definitely sore that I didn’t get a list of puzzles and par times at the beginning though (I heard that other non-app’d cities did get one), so I’d like to see that corrected next year. Although, admittedly, it was a bit exciting not knowing what was coming up next. I’m a sucker for mystery, even at the expense of planning and strategizing.
As for my team’s performance, I was thrilled that we finished! Since I think Keith was a really strong member of the team and carried us in a lot of ways, DASH 5 wasn’t really the litmus test of my puzzling abilities that I hoped it would be. I am okay with that, and I’ll take the victory! (Besides, SEAHOP is coming up, and that will be the true test with my basically all-rookie team.) It was also great to spend the day with people who were easy to get along with. We didn’t really have any internal conflicts, puzzling or otherwise.
I’m always big on organization, and I think this year was a bit better than last. I didn’t bring as many just-in-case supplies (I think because the event was so close to where we live), so that saved some space. I brought apples and we actually ate them. I’m amazed we didn’t need our umbrellas, but I certainly wouldn’t consider leaving them home next year. The binder was great again, though this year it seemed like I had too many things to hold all the time, and other people ended up picking up my stuff a lot. I made a habit of putting away the puzzle materials after each solve, and that was great for organization.
Overall, it was another great year at DASH! I wish I had some more insightful things to say about the experience, but I guess that’s what I get for putting off my write-up for so long =( Expect more this week: Real Escape Game and Shinteki 8!