We return now to our story currently in progress...
Puzzle 6: The bike in the park
The previous clue said this: “Where Johnny of the Yankees is rewarded an Apple computer.” Again you had to know Chicago — the answer is the intersection of Damen Avenue & Winnemac Avenue.
There you’d find some chalk on the ground, leading you through the park toward a lonely, locked-up bike. Look closely and you’d see an envelope on the bike’s rack, inside of which was a seven foot strip of paper with all sorts of letters on it. (A photograph would really help here, but I don’t think anyone took one.) There were no instructions included with this clue, so you were on their own.
The missing link here is the pole of stop sign, which was located just a few feet away. If you wrapped the paper around the pole, fifteen of the letters would line up vertically and form your next destination: “HarvesTime lobby.” (A nearby supermarket.)
Analysis: Sarah and I were both proud of the mechanics of this clue, but we made it just a little too hard. Lots of teams got confused about which pole to wrap it around.
Puzzle 7: HarvesTime
The premise here was that you were on a shopping errand, and you had to figure out the cost of a three lists of groceries. There were about 20 items total on the list, which isn’t a lot, especially if you’ve got five people on a team, but I cranked up the difficulty level by listing strange foods. Instead of hunting around for them in the store, many teams took the shortcut of asking the HarvesTime staff where things were located. By the end of the day, I’m pretty sure the staff wanted to throttle me — if they only knew who I was.
After gathering and summing the numbers, and rounding them up, teams were told to take the results to a nearby park.
Analysis: A fun clue for teams to do together, but I probably shouldn’t have listed so many obscure foodstuffs.
Puzzle 8: Beatles discography
With the three numbers in hand, teams arrived at the local playlot to find a cooler sitting against a fence. Inside the cooler, a backpack. On one of the pockets of the backpack, a combination lock — an obvious opportunity to use the three numbers from the previous clue. Inside the pocket, fourteen Beatles CDs.
Again, teams had no instructions to go on, just the albums. The first step was figuring out that you were supposed to organize them in order of chronology. This was hard enough for just the casual Beatles fan, but it got harder due to my devilish inclusion of some U.S. releases among the otherwise British catalog.
Once the CDs were in order, teams were to open all the boxes up to reveal a message. Each case had two letters in it. Taken together, in order, it read: BACKTOTITANIAPASSWORDYOKOONO. Or, “Back to Titania. Password: Yoko Ono.” The password was in there so teams didn’t simply figure out the early albums and skip the rest.
Analysis: I think this was our cleverest puzzle. It included both trivia and wordplay, all wrapped up in a mysterious delivery. And teams could work on it together. Unexpected benefit: teams running back to our home (just a block away), screaming “Yoko Ono! Yoko Ono!”
Puzzle 9: Poetry
We knew there were some people playing the game who weren’t the biggest puzzle fans. This station was for them. Teams were told to pick two Balderdash cards and one Taboo card at random, then write a poem about the Taboo word, using the two Balderdash words. Simple and easy. When finished, teams were given this on a slip of paper:
Analysis: Worked as it should have, though usually it was one team member who wrote it by himself.
Puzzle 10: Translation
The sequence of numbers and digits above — recognize it? It’s a library book call number, and there’s only one library in the designated area: Sulzer Regional.
Turns out the “UB” section is for books about espionage. Scan the rack and you’d find the book in question — no title, just a black paper around the cover. Open it up and you’d find this slip of paper clipped to the inside:
A message pointing you to your next destination. Simple, assuming you know how to read Hebrew, Greek, Cyrillic, semaphore, ASL and Braille. If you didn’t, well, you were in a library. I’ll reveal the answer in a second.
Analysis: I loved this puzzle, but I will admit it was a little overcomplicated. Six languages is probably a little too much. Next time I promise to keep it to two or three, though I may include Urdu and/or Lapp.
Puzzle 11: Rebuses
The trick in the last puzzle was figuring out those foreign languages were meant to be transliterated, not translated. Sounded out, the first three lines say “Pensacola / to the east / of lincoln.” The next three: “house / with the / blue door.”
That was just a couple blocks away from the library. Upon reaching said house, you’d find… well, nothing unusual — a simple two-flat with pumpkin on the stoop and some Chinese menus attached to the knob. Just like every other house on the block.
Take one of those menus off the door, though, and you’d find something strange: one page had listed, instead of moo shu and lo mein, a list of rebuses. Click the image below and try them out yourself:
A minute or two later, you had your hint: Kenmore Brand Midget Stainless Fridge. Since you were told at the beginning that you should stop once you reach a clue telling you to go somewhere you’d already been, you now knew to head to the final destination.
Analysis: Disclaimer: I did not invent this puzzle. I read about it a long time ago and kept it tucked away until I had the chance to use it. Still, I’m very proud that the hidden-in-plain-sight tactic tricked a few of our better puzzlers.
So, where is this mysterious final destination? There was actually one more layer to the whole game, a couple of meta-puzzles that were meant to lead teams to the final spot. And then there was how it actually played out. I’ll explain in the fourth and final post.