Your long wait is, er, half over! After the jump is Part 1 of my recap of the Shinteki Decathlon, which I did on May 19th. Read on to follow Team Cluemosity's triumphs and tribulations, although you'll have to wait until Part 2 for the above title to make sense. (Oh, and there's a whole mess of spoilers here, but you knew that.)
My team this time around was a little different. I broke from the League of Extraordinary Puzzlemen to join up with my girlfriend Amy, my co-worker Pam, and her boyfriend Josh. While all of us brought robust brains to the table, I had the most experience in these events, so I was hoping I could be a good leader.
This year's theme was a trip around the world, with each clue location symbolizing an international destination. Accompanying us on our journey would be LEON, a Palm Pilot (yes, in this arena, these things are still useful) that would give us hints, verify our answers, and direct us to the next clue site. We also had a "passport", which contained small bonus puzzles for a few extra points each. Each was associated with a particular clue site and wouldn't be solvable until we hit that site, but we weren't told which puzzle was associated with which city. Good fodder for travel between sites.
Our trek started at the Oakland Zoo, which stood in for Nairobi. This was a scavenger hunt of sorts; we had to explore the zoo to answer questions and somehow derive our final solution from that. Every answer was an animal, but, as we gathered answers, we weren't sure how to distill that information for the word LEON wanted. Just as I was noticing that several of the animals had spots, Josh overheard another team say something about Morse code. Indeed, the animal's pattern corresponded to a dot (spots), dash (stripes), or a space (no markings). It was unfortunate to get the breakthrough that way, but one can't put the toothpaste back in the tube, as it were.
The second puzzle brought us to a Zen garden in Hayward (AKA Tokyo), where we received a CD. The liner notes contained a map of a Zen garden with circles spaced out in a grid over it. Each track of the CD started with some Zen platitudes followed by a series of sound effects. Using the statements as clues, we were able to associate the sounds with the features of the map: gravel, walkways, bridges, water, trees, boulders, and pagodas. From there, we found that the series of sounds corresponded to a path we could trace on the map, with a pagoda teleporting the path to another pagoda. We filled the rest of the grid, Amy and I logging the sounds and Pam and Josh sniffing out the paths. But now what? Spurred by a free hint from LEON, I finally thought to use the tracks' titles, which fit along the corresponding paths and crossed others perfectly. When we had them all in place, a path from the last track of the CD spelled out what we needed for our answer. So far so good!
Next was New York, and my first humiliation of the day, as it involved shooting baskets. Letters were marked on the court, and making a shot from that location gave us the places for that letter in a big acrostic. Pam made a few shots while I scribbled down letters. It didn't take me long to realize that the quote was Miss Teen South Carolina's famous incoherence from a few years back. I filled in a ton more this way, but additional information was clearly planted amongst the words of the speech, so I got stuck in places. I eventually took a few turns with the basketball, which was a mistake. I was a decent shooter way back in the day, but that skill has long since abandoned me. I couldn't make anything, and I was getting mad at myself, finally quitting before Amy decided to break up with me for being such a loser. Fortunately, we had enough information to deduce the clue made up of the extra words in the acrostic. It was related to The Amazing Race, and I recalled the answer immediately.
New York's bonus puzzle was one of the few we managed to get. We found a page in the passport that had black dots in the same arrangement as the dots on the court (we were given a card with this pattern as well). The clue on the page referenced "her journey" or words to that effect, and I realized that this indicated Miss Teen South Carolina's own appearance on The Amazing Race. Furthermore, each card giving us information for the acrostic also associated each letter with a country. Connecting the dots corresponding to that season's countries yielded lines that each crossed another letter. These letters gave us a simple clue that led to our answer.
After a food break provided by the good people of Shinteki, we moved onto Berlin, the Junipero Serra statue along the highway. This was our first set of "minis", a series of tiny puzzles that fed into a meta. In this case, every puzzle led to a number. The rundown:
- Next to the Shinteki staffer was a case displaying three different bars of a soap. We were able to recall the brands, which were DIAL, IVORY, and COAST. The country code for the Ivory Coast is 225, the answer.
- This was simply an ambigram; right-side up, one could read POSITION, and upside-down, REVERSAL was seen. So, the answer was 180.
- This was a frustrating one. We were instructed to use a copy of Excel 2007 or later, scroll all the way to the right side of the sheet, and "find [our] foe hidden amongst the columns". This was column XFD. We tried to figure this out for a while, but it turned out we had to look a little to the left for the consecutive columns XER and XES, or XERXES. The answer was thus 300. I didn't care for this one; the columns in question were off the screen and the clue made it sound like they wouldn't be.
- We needed a hint for this one too, and I felt stupid about it. We had a bunch of flashcards with nonsensical compound German words like HORNWUNDER (horn wonder) and KINDKINDER (child children), with a few letters colored red. What we didn't realize is that a chain could be formed so the last half of a card joins with the first half of another (like WUNDERKIND with the pair above). With the chain complete, the red letters in order spelled the German translation of 15,561. Even getting the translation was a struggle; German is tricky.
- We were given small snippets from Google Maps, with one street in each obscured by a red circle. Googling the other names allowed us to find these locations, and the missing places had names like Arc Way, Shock Ave, and Botan St. I saw that a letter could be inserted into the space to spell a common word (ARCHWAY, SHOCKWAVE, BOTANIST). The six inserted letters spelled HAWAII, which clued the number 50.
- This puzzle, called "Terseneß", had a list of words with some letters replaced by boldface Greek letters. Each Greek glyph represented a double letter; e.g. "coδν" represented COFFEE. Taking the singular of these twins in Greek alphabetical order gave AS IF IN ROME USE IOTA. The iota was MM, so the answer was 2000.
- The meta, not surprisingly, involved math. We had six numbers, derived from performing indicated operations on our answer numbers. Using the puzzle's title ("Great, Common, Divided") as a clue, we had to find the greatest common factor between every possible pair of numbers (not just consecutive ones, as we thought). This spelled the answer to a riddle and to the whole puzzle.
Whew! That brings us through four puzzles; let's take a break. Check back for Part 2; presumably I'll write it at some point.