Saturday, August 10, 2013

Starter Puzzle: A Retrospective

Here we sit on the eve of GAR III, anxious with anticipation of what lies ahead this week.  This seems like a good time to go back in time a few days and let you know about the starter puzzle, which told us where we will be meeting tomorrow morning to turn over the Raven and begin our quest to win it back....

Once upon a time (this past Monday morning), we received an email from Josh Czarda, Ravenchase Puzzlemaster Extraordinaire, with the following note:
"This will be hands down the easiest clue you get for the entire race.   I'll see you kids in Pittsburgh this Saturday at 10:00 a.m.  Looking forward to the adventure"
Attached to the email was the following image.

I was still asleep (um, resting up for the week ahead) when the email came in, and Dan and Wei-Hwa (who was traveling in Japan) had already had a spirited discourse on what this might be.  Surely Josh didn't mean this was literally the easiest, and we certainly didn't treat it that way.

Naturally we created a spreadsheet, recorded all the text, determined who was speaking each text, documented the various types of speech bubbles, recorded the order of signing of the Declaration for each person speaking, recorded the states they represented.  By the time I joined, I started looking for some crazy things like applying the Beale cipher to the declaration with some of the numbers we had for signing order or statehood order.

Of course none of this worked, for, as it turns out, all we had to do was zoom in closely to the back wall of the image:
A section of the back wall depicting part of the start location message.
The pattern on the back wall had been altered, leaving with a straight forward Morse code message that said "AT MELLON GREEN".  So, it was that easy after all, and it took us "only" 5 hours.  Not our strongest start ever.  We weren't told if there was going to be any time bonus for solving this first, but we suspect we won't be getting that if there is.

Compared to last year's 14 puzzle extravaganza to determine the start location, and the first year's multi-step starter puzzle, this was unexpectedly easy (though it didn't prevent us from spinning on it for a while), but then Josh did say it was the easiest puzzle we'll see all week, so if that turns out to be true, we've got a fun week in store!

Fast forward back to today, and we're ready to roll!  More posts coming tonight from other team members, and of course we expect lots of good stuff tomorrow.  Thanks for reading!

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