Monday, August 12, 2013

Day 2, Part 1: Memories of Pittsburgh, or the Lack Thereof

Day 2 started with a crisis -- Dan's bag-cam wasn't working!  Whatever were we going to do without 2700 pictures of our daring exploits in the City of Champions?  Why, we'd have to write words in this blog or something, and with current exchange rates of 1000 to 1, we were not looking forward to putting out 2.7 million words.
Intense haggling over whose turn it was to blog on the second leg ensued on the drive into "dantan" (as the natives call it).  Many favors were exchanged and hearts were broken, but eventually yours truly won the coveted award and the rest became water under the bridge.  Oh, and we sort of fixed the bagcam, too.
Who could have predicted how much trouble would come out of a 1.5-inch diameter oddly-shaped cylindrical thing?
The official starting location was near the "creepy guy" Sidewalk Judge statue in yesterday's hunt.  Rich and Jonathan went ahead to scout while Dan and I revived the bagcam.
One of the first revived-bagcam shots.  Hey... what's that plaque on the ground say?
All three teams were already there and Josh was a teensy bit late, so we chatted a bit while the bagcam focused on some of our other opponents.
Dan assures me that the bagcam is always pointed at a slightly different angle than what he's looking at.
Josh explains the general structure of today's events: we were going to do one group of clues in Pittsburgh, then be sent to an area "a bit outside the city" for one series of clues, and then do another group of clues in Columbus, OH.  We would also receive some new and old materials with the clues today: the cryptex with a new code, and a small mysterious black box.  He placed the new clues on a park bench and had us take our pick.
It was about this time that I said in a loud voice, "Who wants the big heavy cryptex?"
Somehow, even though we let the other teams go first, we ended up with the good cryptex back again (you know, the big heavy one).
After some amount of unwrapping, the nature of the clues were revealed -- an instruction sheet, a page of modified photographs, a page of clues, and a large-print paragraph that was certainly the metapuzzle.
The curse of moderninity is that the first step is not "solve the clue."  The first step is "photograph the clue."
You know that sort of so-called "puzzle" where they say "here, watch this funny Mr. Bean video" and then afterwards the "puzzle" is "So, how many trashcans were in the street when Mr. Bean drove away?"  Well, we realized to our horror that this first leg was going to be nothing but that style of "puzzle".
More terrifying in person, I assure you.
Four different photographs -- ugly-looking pink flowers in front of a skyline, some sort of worn-down stone slab with a eye/sun/moon/mason motif, a jigsaw of exploded cartoon spaghetti, and an octagonal mandala with letters added onto them in post-processing.  All of places that, according to the raven's taunt, that we had been to yesterday.  Of course none of us remembered seeing any of those places, so we did what any self-respecting puzzle-solver would do and looked at the second page instead.
Ah, symbols, shapes, and unreadable gibberish.  So much more comforting.
Eventually I remembered that the spaghetti was from some mural or advertisement that featured a certain "Bobo the Clown", and that it was somewhere near NOLA, our final location from yesterday.  (The fact that the first two words of the Pigpen cipher decoded to "FIND BOBO" had very little to do with this mysteriously appearing memory.)  Meanwhile we had decided that the mandala was probably some ceiling somewhere, the Masonic stone might have been something in the graveyard, and the flowery bush was familiar to no one but perhaps we might be able to make something out of the perspective of the buildings in the background.  We also determined that we wouldn't be able to make progress on the second page without actually finding the locations.

Having no great leads besides my vague memory, we decide to trudge somewhat towards NOLA while thinking about the other photographs.
This is an expert puzzle hunter doing what he does best: watching a teammate point in a completely useless direction.
One mysterious question has to do with the flower photograph.  Surely Josh would know that if he took the photograph of flowers in bloom, that the flowers would no longer be in bloom when the actual event occurs?  Were we supposed to divine that and realize that we should be looking for a green bush instead of a flowery one?  Rich comes up with the brilliant idea that instead of walking around the city trying to find these locations, we could get into the van and drive around our route from yesterday while looking for these locations.  This instantly strikes everyone as an awesome idea, so we immediately start implementing it 90 minutes later.  Instead, Dan notices that a building off in the distance has a window pattern suspiciously like one in the ugly flower photograph.
No, not that building.  That other building.  Not that one either.  THAT one.
Like moths to a candle flame, we wend our way to the building while squinting at a 2-inch inkjet-printed photograph for other window patterns so that we can best triangulate the location of the pink flowers that nobody remembers and probably never saw anyway because they wilted months ago.  What do we find there?  Stay tuned for Day 2, Part 2: Steel Magnolias!


  1. Somehow, I wanted the fact that y'all were taking a photo per second... I somehow wanted that to make a recognize-these-photographed-places puzzle easy.

    1. We thought about that. With a better interface for quickly scanning them it might have been helpful. In actual fact two of the retreads wouldn't have been covered; one was on the ceiling which I probably wouldn't have captured very well, and the other was a location we hadn't actually gone to. (You'll see.)

      But it could have helped with one of them, and be otherwise useful, especially if you could review quickly in real time, ideally with GPS mapping.

      That's quite an information management problem, though...