Puzzle Pursuit:Mission Classified

Sounds Like
AnswerMay 1981
How to solve
This puzzle had players answering a number of questions scattered along the main road running from the Art Museum down to the Science Museum. A map was given that outlined the area where the answers could be found, mainly between the two water fountains at either end of the road.
The answer to each question was inserted into the end of a URL. For example if the answer was north then you would have had something like puzzlingthings.com/north . When you went to the URL you were shown a small picture which you were to draw in a specific square on a grid. The final picture looked like this.
Puzzle Notes
Teams had a hard time getting "miss" out of the tennis player. It was the hardest for sure but could be solved without that. Questions were actually in order starting at the Art Museum which should have made finding the answers relatively straight forward. Basic teams were told this, Advanced were not. But it seemed many Basic teams did not read that bit of information or simply disregarded it.

Hole New World
Question asked
  • a) Use other 3 tiles, align top with line above chaos theory.
  • b) resident artist?
AnswerJose San Pedro
How to solve
This puzzle contained a bunch of little square tiles that were actually pictures of tiles located on the tree planters in the Artists Village area. Each side of a planter had 3 tiles in a specific order. Teams had to find the tiles they had that matched a given set of 3 on a planter. Once you have 5 complete sets of 3 tiles you placed them on the second page of the Time Travel Times that each team was given at the start of the race. There were lines on the edges of that page to line up each row.
You then had to move some of the tiles up or down a number of marks on the edge of the page. This movement then allowed the holes punched into the tiles to line up with letters on the page that you could read through the hole. Reading this gave you question a as above. The answer to this question could be found on one of the tiles. In fact it was one of the tiles you had so you didn't even have to go looking for it.
Puzzle Notes
The easiest way to solve this puzzle was to look at the tiles that had unique attributes. For example there were a number of tiles with birds on them. You could easily rule out many of the bird combinations because they included tiles that you did not have. Once you found all the bird combinations the remaining tiles were easy to group.

Butterfly Effect
Question askedType of butterfly paired with Cassia
AnswerOrange Barred sulphur
How to solve
This puzzle involved walking around the butterfly garden and following very specific directions while doing so. The following part seemed to be what messed everyone up. The basic concept was that you began walking down an indicated path. When you reached the top or bottom of stairs you were to stop and answer a question. If the question was false you continued walking down the path. If the answer was TRUE you would enter a portal that dumped you out at another of the sets of stairs within the garden. The sets of stairs were numbered on the map. Most teams I interacted with failed to notice that. The directions actually indicated this. Once you jumped through a portal you were to find the last butterfly you stepped on when entering the portal, and the first one stepped on when exiting. The butterflies were on the map, along the path, and their matching pair could be found on an additional page filled with butterflies. Each butterfly had a number that you entered into a grid that transformed a letter. Here is part of the grid.
The word CHIRP was given, or rather you were told where to find it. In the grid C+17=T, H+17=Y, and so on. The quickest way to do this was to write down the alphabet from A to Z and put a number next to each letter. A=1,B=2, etc. C+17 = 3+17 = 20 and the 20th letter in the alphabet is T. The question as shown above is what you would finally get and the answer could be found on one of the 3 big, painted doors in the garden.
Puzzle Notes
This turned out to be the hardest puzzle. anticipated. On that note, if you could read and understand all the directions you were told exactly what to do which is why I didn't think this puzzle would be that hard. In the various runnings of this race and standing in the garden to help teams, the biggest problem was that teams simply did not read and follow the instructions. Admittedly there were a lot of instructions to read, too many as it turned out, so I learned that I need to make things very short and to the point.

Outside and Inside
Question askedWho was the killer
AnswerSean Finnbarr
How to solve
This was, essentially, a type of logic puzzle. Teams were given a map of London which was really just the artists village. Based on descriptive text you had to trace the path of each suspect around the village, along the way deducing who worked in which shop. The key was remembering that were given a bunch of business cards at the start of the race and they could be used here. The addresses on the cards were the same as those you were tracing around the village. For example you may have been told that someone started in a shop with bright blue doors and then walked next door to number 33 where they worked. You could look at your business cards and find that 33 was Ernesto's Plubming so you now knew who worked at that location and so on. Teams had to then trace that path on the map. A few of the paths intersected so although you could do them in any order, this was an instance where reading through all of them before starting could have been helpful as you would have been able to pair up the suspect paths that intersected.
Tracing all the paths presented letters on the map. IE each path, when traced, would be a letter. The letters unscrambled to the hint TWO SHOPS. There was only 1 suspect that owned 2 shops and that was Sean Finbarr.
Puzzle Notes
With only a few exceptions, if you stood in the middle of the village you could answer and trace most of the suspects paths. There was one that went back into a courtyard that you had to walk to, and one that walked around a building at the far end, but otherwise you could very nearly stand in one place. The teams that did this puzzle well sat in one place, read a clue, and then had someone walk the path as they read it. Many teams made this puzzle much harder than it was.

Night at the Museum
Question asked 3 parts. See below.
  • Part 1: 74308
  • Part 2: Dinosaur
  • Part 3: 3462
Common Wrong Answer
How to solve
This was a straight-forward, fun puzzle that took place inside the Natural History Museum and I should have encouraged all teams to do this puzzle from the start as it was engaging and very doable by everyone. There were three parts.
Part 1 involved answering a series of questions all about the various murals around a specific exhibit. Each answer was a number. You took the sum of those numbers and found a nearby exhibit that had catalog numbers. Only one number started with the sum you got and that entire catalog number was the answer.
Part 2 involved walking through a jungle area and noting the order in which you passed by animals. The animals were definitely not easy to spot in many cases. There was a laminated sheet in the exhibit that you could use that showed what each animal looked like. Using this was very helpful. Once you had all the animals in order you put them into the provided grid, vertically. Then you had to solve the code: 3-1 2-5 9-5 7-3 17-4 16-3 5-3 6-3 which was done as follows: 3-1 = 3rd column, 1st letter. D. And so on. The word unscrambled to Dinosaur.
Part 3 involved using the same grid you just filled out. There were colored boxes in the grid. Taking the letters in like colored boxes and unscrambling each set revealed the text CATALOG ITEM LOCALITY NUMBER. If you were paying attention when you got your answer for part 1 you would have realized that there was a Locality Number on the catalog item that you got the number for your first answer from. Returning to it you would get the final answer.
Puzzle Notes
The most common mistake here seemed to come from mis-counting either the penguins or the snakes. One team came to me and said there was an error in the puzzle in the number of snakes but they were able to solve it anyway. We checked at that time and there was not, in fact, an error. One of the snakes was just hard to see because of a glare from the overhead lighting. You had to move around a bit to get out of the glare to see it.

Game of Thorns
Question asked
  • Full name of royalties with the MOST spies reporting to them
  • Spy who started service the year Collin McCurdy died
  • Part 1: Princess Cathy Sproul, Queen Inez Parker
  • Part 2: Sunshine Daydream
How to solve
This puzzle took place in the Rose Garden. There was a map that divided the area into 4 kingdoms, each ruled over by one or more royalty. Each kingdom had spies deployed throughout all the kingdoms and each spy reported to the ruler of a specific kingdom. The royalty were actually a persons name on benches and the spies were actually the little plaques that were specific types of flowers, also spread throughout the area.
Part 1 was essentially a logic puzzle. By answering each question you could, through the process of elimination, figure out the name of the royalty and which kingdom they were in. Additionally you would have to find all the spies and again, through the process of elimination, you could figure out which spies reported to which royalty.
Part 2 once you had the list of royalties and spies you used it to fill in the squares of a grid. Once that was done it made a QR code that could be scanned with your phone to provide the question Spy who started service the year Collin Mccurdy died. The answer to which could be found on a bench.
Puzzle Notes
The QR part of the puzzle turned out to be very picky if you did not fill in the squares just right. I have since figured out a much better way of doing this that works all the time. There turned out to be a few signs in the garden that I had not seen or were added and I did not notice. These spies messed up the logic in the puzzle. Fortunately reading the directions carefully indicated to only use the spies in the area indicated on the map and these new spies were actually out of the mapped area. Still it was an unintended difficultly to the puzzle that tripped up a number of teams as the logic would simply not work out if you included those spies out of the mapped area. We tried to tell every team that we could of the issue so that they not get stuck but just didn't see all the teams in time. This is a great reason to heed the suggestion to walk by puzzle pursuit central every so often to find out if anything has changed. I urge teams to heed that suggestion during next race to help eliminate what can be a lot of unintended and avoidable frustration.

Starting Route Guidance Now
Question askedOrder wrong by country ignore plant reference start at star and draw route
How to solve
This was a puzzle that I knew would be very time consuming and difficult not in how to do it as that was spelled out explicitly, but like The Butterfly Effect you had to follow directions very carefully.
Basically you started outside the botanical building and followed a direction such as go straight. You would always stop at an intersection when you arrived, at which point you would look for the indicated plant which should have been very near by. Once you find the plant you match the proper plant locale to the choices given and then take the letters that were incorrect within that name and fill in a grid. For example the direction choices at one intersection were Take next left at the Chamaedoreo Dadizalis (Mexico) or Go straight at the Chamaethrea Radicalis (Tasmania). The sign for that plant indicated the proper location was in fact Mexico so you know you followed the direction with Mexico. You then looked at the proper spelling for that plant and found it was Chamaedorea Radicalis. Matching that to the direction you take the incorrect letters and use those to fill in a grid. When you did that you came up with the directions Order wrong by country ignore plant reference start at star and draw route. You now put all the incorrect countries that you found, ie. Tasmania in the case of our example, and put them in alphabetical order. Using the provided map you could then, with a pencil, draw a route on the map by following the directions for each of the countries that you just wrote down. This traced out a path that spelled the word CLUE.
Puzzle Notes
Some teams had issues putting the countries in alphabetical order as it did not explicitly say alphabetical. When asked to order a group of words it was assumed you would choose alphabetical as that is the most common way to do so. This is a key puzzle solving thing to take note of. That is, when asked to do something that isn't explicit, you should always fall back to the most common, well-known way of accomplishing the task. Over time you will start to just automatically recognize and begin applying this sort of logic to puzzles. For example in the previous Butterfly puzzle it was suggested in the solution that you write down the alphabet A to Z and then number each letter. This is another very common thing that will be used to solve codes or other parts of a puzzle and it should be something you always think about doing when solving puzzles.

Photography Intern
Question askedFind the photos in the newspaper around the park.
AnswerThere were many.
How to solve
This puzzle asked you to find the location of the pictures that were in the Time Travel Times that you were given at the start of the race. Most, but not all, pictures were used. And most, but not all, were things that you should have walked right by throughout the day.
Puzzle Notes
The picture of King Tut was NOT supposed to be used. However, literally overnight, a giant picture of King Tut appeared on the side of the Natural History building. While it was not an exact match, I decided to give credit to the many teams that found it. This is the type of relatively simple puzzle that teams tend to forget as the move from location to location throughout the day. It really tests your multi-tasking team abilities. One way to do this is successfully is to give the puzzle to one person and it make it their job to be looking for the pictures whenever the team is on the move.

Round Trip
Question asked
  • Part 1: Call Luna area code is number of tribbles for sale (657) 20-LUNAS
  • Part 2: Animal guarding womens restroom?
Common Wrong Answer
How to solve
This puzzle took you to the two round buildings that make up the culteral center at the edge of the park.
Part 1 had you walking around a building to find the items from a list that you could NOT find painted on the building. Once you had that list you filled it into a grid. You could then read down 2 of the columns to find the start of a message: Call Luna area code
The columns were unique in that they were the only two that did NOT contain any flags. Even if you did not notice that there were only a dozen columns and it only took a few seconds to glance at each and see these were the only 2 that made words.
You then moved to the second building and walked around it in order to place the listed items in the order in which you found them walking around the building in a specific direction from a given starting point. Again you filled the items, in order, into a grid. In this grid there were a bunch of boxes that were darkened. Taking the letters from only the darkened boxes gave you the second half of your message: is number of tibbles for sale.
So your message was : Call Luna area code is number of tribbles for sale
Even if you were not a Star Trek fan you could find tribbles for sale in the classified section of the Time Travel Times that you carried around. That number, used as an area code, along with the phone number supplied on the Luna's Locks business card that you had in your possession, you were to call. The voice on the other end gave you instructions and then a website URL to visit that would repeat those instructions in case you could not hear them on the phone. Part 2, the instructions on the phone, told you to go into the cultural center where a series of flags hung from the ceiling on the inside of the building. Those flags matched up exactly with the flags that you found on the 2 grids that you had previously filled out in Part 1 of the puzzle. You were told to write the alphabet from top to bottom of the grids, one letter per row, and were given some letters to skip as there were not 26 rows. You now had a letter associated with each row of the grid and any flag in that row was now associated with that letter. So when you went inside the building with all the flags you could literally read the flags in order and they would spell out a question: Animal guarding womens restroom.
Puzzle Notes
Once again one of the flags actually changed over night. Since this was the World Peace Center they actually changed out one of the flags because the country had just attacked Israel. This confused some people, however it was only 1 letter in the quotation so it was still very readable. The key thing to take away here is (and I've been guilty of not doing this myself) if things seem to be working and then suddenly stop working, continue on a little further doing the same thing to make sure it's not just a hiccup. If nothing makes any sense after a certain point then you should probably re-evaluate the specific answer at that point for correctness. But if things start getting back on track just use common sense to figure out that wlat is probably supposed to be what.

Time Portal 1
Question askedVarious. See Below
AnswerVarious. see below
How to solve
This turned out to be a very fun an popular puzzle, only behind the favorite Time Portal 2. You can be sure I will include more puzzles like this in future races because they gave all teams an opportunity to solve quick, straightforward puzzles that got progressively harder. Teams could stop at any time along the way but would get point credit up to that point. With this structure nearly every team was able to solve at least 1 or 2 parts of this multi-part puzzle in a very short amount of time and that made it fun for everyone.
Part 1 Go to the big morten bay fig and fill in a series of answers that were numbers. The answers were found on a number of plaques around the tree.
A + C - B (145 - 80) * 42 + 50 - 2=2778
Part 2 Find plants outside the botanical building and connect the two images to make up the plant name. For example an image of a Firecracker and a Flower would be connected to make Firecracker Flower. Once you had connected each plant the criss-crossing lines on the page formed a number of enclosed spaces. Inside those spaces were numbers on the page. Reading those numbers in order (ie left to right) provided the answer: 1936
Part 3 This part had you looking for items on plaques on benches all around the lily pond area. Once you had found each piece you ended up with: FOR T NA T TO. If you read those out loud phonetically it sounded like 1482. The key here was to have someone close their eyes and some else just read them.
Part 4 This final part, the hardest, had you go to a map over across from the morten bay fig tree. Connecting a series of given numbers on the map would reveal 2 numbers: 1 and 3. Then you moved closeby to a listing of all the people in the Artists Village area. You were given the cryptic text Colored Pencil – NE Looking on the board you could find a section titled Colored Pencils and within that section there was only a single name that had the initials N.E. Beside that persons name was a number. There were 2 such cryptic clues that gave you the numbers 8 and 9 to give you a final number of 1389
Puzzle Notes
These puzzles were intended to be easy enough to solve very quickly as you only had an hour to solve all 4. The majority of the teams solved at least 3 of these which was very encouraging that I got the level of difficulty proper for the allotted time. As mentioned I would expect to see more puzzles like this in the future as actually solving puzzles is more fun than being frustrated over the same puzzle for several hours (never my intention, by the way).
The take away from this puzzle is time management and remembering the goal. Go as fast as you can but not so fast that you can't, for example, sound out the words that you KNOW have to be a number. FOR T NA T TO. Many teams forgot that they were looking for a number as a final answer here. So when you end up with something NOT a number there must be an easy way to make that into a number.

Time Portal2: Lock Down
Question askedWalt has two for sale
AnswerDwarfs/Drawfs(as spelled incorrectly)
How to solve
This puzzle was arguably my favorite as well as the favorite of every team that did it. Essentially you found 10 locked boxes. Each box contained the information that would give you the combination to the next box. You were given that much information plus a little green plastic alien and were told that you held in your hand the combination to the first box. If you went and looked at the box you would see that the combination was actually made up of letters, not numbers. So the combination to the first box was the word ALIEN.
Inside that box you found a note that said What's Missing and there were nickels, dimes, and quarters. You had to realize that what was missing was pennies and the combo to the next lock was the word Penny. The puzzle continued in this fashion with some boxes having you use your trusty business cards that you had been given at the start of the race (and used in many puzzles). Others simply contained a number of items such as: a watch, a bag of sand, and a picture of an oyster shell. Those itesm, which perplexed many teams for a few minutes, were meant to indicate a pearl. What happens to sand inside an oyster over time.
Once you completed all the boxes you were told to go back and note the letters that were raised or lowered in each combination lock. You would have to see the locks used to understand. You then used those letters to decode the final question which was: Walt has two for sale.
Going back to the classified ads in the Time Travel Times you would find Walt was selling 2 Drawfs(should have been Dwarfs but was spelled incorrectly). Either spelling was awarded the full points.
Puzzle Notes
I had a lot of fun putting all the puzzle boxes together but can tell you that it is very difficult to find a small, toy, plastic skunk or Ostrich in San Diego. Apparently those aren't popular play animals. I look forward to figuring out how to use these lock boxes in future races.

Question askedName of XTC Dog
How to solve
No one got the hidden puzzle this year and I didn't give any clues as to where it might be but was hoping people would migrate to either the Time Travel Times or the business cards. It was on the business cards. As I mention when i talk about the hidden puzzle, if you find something that you can put into an order, you may find the hidden puzzle. in this case if you put the business cards in order by numerical address, and then took the first letter of each URL, they would spell out Name of XTC Dog. The XTC business card had a picture of a dog on it with the name Aston which was the answer.
Puzzle Notes
I did not expect any team to find the hidden puzzle without some help. As the day went on and it was obvious that there were a number of puzzles that turned out to be very difficult, I didn't want to make things more confusing by starting to muscat_give hints to the hidden puzzle so I just left it to see if anyone would find it. Several teams did ask me if the puzzle was in the cards and I just smiled, so I DO know teams were on the right track which is encouraging.