Tuesday, May 10

Item 35

I made it out to MIT Mystery Hunt and found it sufficiently nerdy and challenging to want to try to adapt a more UofC and Humanities version for Scav. I wound up organizing our mini-hunt and writing some of the puzzles, and dropping it on the list as item 35—a fairly long-winded introduction pointing to:

To give credit where due, C. L. came up with the Clue-style metapuzzle format, Rebecca Maurer wrote the scenario/flavortext for the metapuzzle, and both Daniel Citron and Rebecca also wrote puzzles.

Here are the ones I worked on, in order:

"A Freebie"

This was an answer written in a mixture of rare and dead scripts: Santali, Ugaritic cuneiform, Vai, Bamum, Mayan syllabary. The answer, "arugula", was meant to cue the fear of a foodie revolution. Take a look at Omniglot for more on these scripts.

"Architectural Tour"

Count the stories of the building that are shown, and take that letter of the building's name. Hence the odd cropping, and "It's a shame that they don't show more, though you'll do your best to piece together their story." Yields NFILLION.


These are all very fast-and-loose interpretations of laws laid down in Deuteronomy. Only a few chapters contain laws like this, but each chapter has about 26 verses. Take the letter corresponding to the verse number of each of these (A=1...), and you'll get your answer. Yields SLUMTOURS.


The "distributed quite frequently" should suggest a frequency distribution, and the most commonly used frequency distribution in image-related work is the histogram of brightness values—It's displayed by default in Photoshop.

The raw histogram should be letter-like enough to keep you on the right track. To get the solution, you need to realize that there are really only two gradients in the image and flip/move pieces to reconstruct them. The resulting histograms should read JGOODALL and DAIRYCOW. This was created with the help of Histoface, with a hat tip to Ezra for the suggestion.


To begin with, this one had an error: the clip from "Grace Kelly" should have been from the same album's "Lollipop." A Blint scavvie pointed this out late in the hunt, and a correction was sent out. In any case, find the albums that these tracks came out on, and take the letter of the album title corresponding to the track's number.


This was a group effort, stemming from a dropped item by Leah Rand, and adapted to the puzzle hunt by Daniel, but I'll run through it since I assembled the final version.

You should first notice that the asterisk has eight points, rather than the usual six. Some technically-inclined poking around should reveal that it's not just an image, but a Scalable Vector Graphics format image. Most browsers can't zoom in enough to reveal any detail, but opening it in an editor and blowing it up 4000+ percent should reveal that the arms of the asterisk are squished text:

Either stretching the image or viewing the screen from a steep angle yields the four words of the solution.


or, "Joking" in Italian, should cue Commedia dell'arte, the classic performance genre revolving around a fairly consistent set of stock characters. Find the name of the character described by each label, take the letter from it corresponding to the number in brackets, and you should get RAHMS MOM.

Sorry about the typo in the first line, it was entirely accidental.

"The Book"

It's hard to get out of here as an undergrad without having to pick up a copy of the Marx-Engels Reader. It's cheap and prominent enough that it's a ubiquitous feature on Hyde Park bookshelves, and the same edition has been used for quite a few years.

Take the first word on the numbered pages, and extract the marked letters, to get NEBRASKASNEIGHBORS.

"The Composer"

The flavortext should cue the composer Dvořák, and by extension the (otherwise unrelated) Dvorak alternative English keyboard layout. Typing the letters shown using their Dvorak keyboard positions but on a QWERTY keyboard yields THEBLUEGRASSSTATE.

"The Meeting Place"

These are from the JA sections of both the Regenstein and SSA libraries on campus, suggesting Julian Assange.

"The Poem"

Find the famous poem from which each line was drawn, and take the letter of the poem's title corresponding to the original line number of the excerpted line to get DAMEJANE. Why Dame? She's a member of the Order of the British Empire.

These, plus the other puzzles, should all agree on the following correspondences. Ys in the three main grid denote relationships between attributes, Ys on the margins represent attributes of the unique culprit.

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