Puzzle #28 – Decline and Fall of the Puzzle Empire

Four entries in this puzzle have been left unclued. Good luck with that.

This is what I really look like.

Today’s puzzle is from the Rejected Files. It’s gone through a couple of iterations of gridding, cluing, submission and rejection. Some highfalutin puzzlers could figure out what was going on, so I’ve tried to spell it out for you with a helper entry. It’s finally seeing the light of day now – hopefully you get it. Edit: Solver sandirhodes pointed out a nasty repeat entry in the comments. I’ve rectified the situation, but in doing so have changed a few answers. Don’t go crazy if your answers don’t match the new solution!

Let’s talk MIT Mystery Hunt. Boy was it a long one. (And a long hunt gets a long post! You’ve been warned!) From kick-off to recovery of the coin, it took over 75 hours. Yikes. Our team wasn’t in the running for winning it all, but we still had a great time. Since I participated remotely, I don’t have any great local team anecdotes to share with you, but I would like to share six of the puzzles that I contributed to solving. I’m not sharing any of the puzzles I didn’t enjoy, so these are all good ones. I’ll link to each puzzle so that you can try them yourself (if you haven’t already), and then tell you a little bit about my experience with it (there will be some minor spoilers, but nothing that’ll ruin the solve for you). Google and the rest of the Internet are fair game and sometimes necessary during Mystery Hunt – you’ve been warned! The official solution is linked at the end of each puzzle. (And if you’d like some more notes on the length of this hunt, check out this first-hand account.

First up was Changing States in the opening round of puzzles. When you’re on a team of 40 or so solvers with only six puzzles to work on, you make progress quickly if you have a clue what you’re doing. This one’s a great introduction to the sort of thing that happens in the MIT Mystery Hunt. You get a list of things (clues, pictures, strings of characters, etc.) and relatively NO instructions. We worked on this one (like many puzzles) in an online spreadsheet that everyone can edit at once, and made fairly quick work of it. (Solution)

In the first round proper, I began with Complaint Letter. Again, it’s a puzzle with few instructions. A teammate had quickly discovered what was going on in the first paragraph, but was stumped by the other two. Fortunately, I spotted the rules for extracting words from the other two paragraphs after following her lead. (It also helped that I caught the “90210” reference at the end of the letter. Donna Martin graduates!) This was also one of my favorites because the answer ties into Kentucky, and that’s where I live. (Solution)

From there I moved on to Turnary Reasoning. I’d had luck with a board game puzzle in last year’s hunt, so I gave this one a shot. I had a major disagreement with a teammate over what we were supposed to do on this one, so we recorded different information. I’m not one to say “I told you so,” but if I were, now would be the appropriate time. Can you figure out what to do? (Hint – there’s a purposeful misspelling in the puzzle title!) I’m not very familiar with Magic: The Gathering, so I focused on the chess and checkers games, from which I was able to extract the right numbers of about 6 of them. It was also fairly clear how to convert these numbers into letters (if you’re a fan of base 3), so I left that outlines. Someone came along later and extracted the right bits from Magic as well as the other missing ones, and it all worked out! (Solution)

I made a lot of headway on the “Glee” puzzle, Hap[p]y Days Are Here Again despite having stopped watching the show in its second season. Teammate Ken was an expert at identifying the songs, and if there’s one thing I can do, it’s determine how to index into phrases based on TV show seasons and episode numbers. We cracked the code and more… but it wasn’t until after I went to bed the someone realized there was one more step to take. (Solution)

Despite its length, I think my favorite puzzle was Wordplay. I solved the better majority of these cryptic clues and figured out four of the six extraction mechanics. By that point, we’d been looking at this one for hours, so I just broke the dang thing by running the patterns I was sure of, as well as potential other letters, against a few word lists. See if you can figure out what’s going on in this one! (Solution)

Finally, here’s the puzzle I solved (by myself!) in under an hour on Sunday – Season Changes; No One Ages. Again, TV shows are right in my wheelhouse. That’s the only clue I’ll give you here. (Solution)

Those are some of my favorites. Of course, there were well over 100 puzzles this weekend, and on a team of our size, there’s not the chance to see (much less solve) each and every one. Being remote doesn’t help, nor does failure in general at meta-puzzles. :) If you played the hunt, I’d love to hear which puzzles you enjoyed in the comment section. Also, the entirety of the hunt and its solutions can be accessed here: Coin Heist.

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7 Responses to Puzzle #28 – Decline and Fall of the Puzzle Empire

  1. Norm says:

    Not your best work, in my opinion. 37D is not a term I would associate with “legally” force. 45A should be a plural since it is clued “They …” — no? 36A is a plural form unknown to me, although the cross meant it wasn’t an obstacle to solving. Never heard of 11D (is it sold west of the Mississippi?) and the obscurity of 16A and 19A made that a very difficult corner. And, I just don’t see how 60A fits the theme at all, unless it’s some slang expression.

    • jefe says:

      Sounds like you didn’t grok the puzzle! (addressing 45A and 60A). 11D is the 5th-top-selling beer in the US; it’s produced by Anheuser-Busch. Its cheapness exceeding its awful taste makes it fit the clue to a T. 36A is a valid plural; Looking up 37D on Wiktionary gives “To bind, compel, or constrain by a social, legal, or moral tie. See Synonyms at force”, so no problem there.

      I figured out the theme (which I very much enjoyed!) pretty quickly; it reminded me of PB’s APCT#5 last year. Had some trouble on the right, not knowing my dragster orgs or Bilko’s exact rank. Overall a quite fun solve.

      • Neville says:

        Thanks, jefe – sounds like you figured out the theme exactly! Indeed, last year’s ACPT #5 provided me with a little bit of inspiration for this puzzle. I’ll be sure to cut PB a royalty check :)

      • Norm says:

        Okay, I see the theme now. I only had part of it. Still never heard of Natty Light. ;)

  2. oeuftete says:

    Like the theme, also reminded me a bit of the Blindauer ACPT as I was doing it. But… the combination of clues for 34A (fair, I guess, but threw me today), 28D (which can be almost anything), 29D (not liking the “elec.” part of the clue especially) and 31D (“bands” is a stretch, IMO), combined with the unfamiliarity of the form in 36A made me give up. So the first 5 minutes were great. The last 7 looking at that block made the lasting impression.

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