Puzzle Box

Puzzle Box
Hunting for Mysteries

Jason Tocci | 14 Dec 2010 09:09
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When the links on the site finally went live, we broke into groups and hit the ground running. One group assembled Lego tableaus to satisfy the requirements of a scavenger hunt. Another group left campus entirely for a puzzle, driving off to Harvard to follow up on a lead somehow related to maps and architecture. Most of us launched into any one of a number of puzzles delivered via the Web. I struggled with one that involved analyzing several hours of prison guard logs and diagrams of prisoners' movement across multiple floors, laying out all the information in a series of composite images in Photoshop. I wouldn't know until the solutions were released weeks later, but I got pretty close before I gave up in frustration. (If only I'd shrunk the lower floors to simulate visual perspective, those little dots representing prisoners would've spelled out an answer.)


Instead, I wandered over to a teammate who was stuck on her own puzzle, titled "Cluesome." She'd already made some progress with others on the team, who had wandered off in frustration much like I just had. Their puzzle offered a series of text strings, like "WYVMLZZVYWSBTYVVMAVWWPHUV." My teammates had made some progress, at least, determining that each string was a cryptogram encoded with a simple Caesar cipher. Shift each letter of the above gibberish seven letters down the alphabet, and you end up with "PROFESSOR PLUM," "ROOFTOP," and "PIANO." It seemed be a clear a reference to Clue, but that's about as far as anyone got. Every string was like that: shifted some number of letters down the alphabet, but referring to unfamiliar murder scenes and weapons.

Something struck me as familiar about that modus operandi, though, and inspiration struck. Wasn't that how Christopher Lloyd killed somebody in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? I started screeching quotes from the movie, and another teammate, engaged in some other puzzle, looked up to call out: "He played Professor Plum in the movie version of Clue!"

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