Neil's Puzzle Building Blog
5Jul/130

WarTron – A Weekend in Boston, Part 2

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series WarTron

After leaving you in the previous post heading to the bead shop for our next puzzle, we pick up the trail as we are entering the building to the shop. We seem to be in a rather interesting industrial section of Boston, and the building itself is something of a building site, however that aside the signs do seem to point us to a real shop, and we proceed into the elevator, not quite sure what to expect.

Outside the bead shop and ready for the next puzzle

Outside the bead shop and ready for the next puzzle

Heading inside the shop after ignoring the sign telling us to turn right when we got out of the elevator and turning left instead, we see a few familiar faces sitting around a table, and tell them that we're here to pick up the necklaces for Professor Goto. With this information, and clearly the correct code given we are handed a number of strings of beads, as well as a music CD, before being promptly directed to an area where we can sit down and work on the puzzle.

I really think they suit me

I really think they suit me

So with beads in hand we head for the tables and get ourselves setup for a new challenge. Ben get's the job of listening to the Madonna CD and identifying all the tracks on the album. In the meantime, the rest of us notice that there's a resistor hint on the CD case - "I can't resist swaying back and forth to the words of my favorite Madonna Songs! - Lisa" , and all the beads match to the colours found on the casing of an electrical resistor, so we start trying to map the strings, and assign the correct numbers in sequence for each string based on its register value hoping that it will be useful. We also note that the strings themselves are different colours, and suspect that again using the resistor values, we'll get some sort of sequence to the strings.

Sorting out the strings of beads

Sorting out the strings of beads

Ben quickly works through the CD, and lists out the track names for each track. Reading down the track listing we spot that there's a phrase encoded in there. "Beadsfitlyrics". So how on earth does that help us?

Hints on the CD cover

Hints on the CD cover

Well as it turns out we were on completely the wrong track with the resistors. Another Red Herring that we fell right into. Ben and Brian spotted something very interesting about the bead colouring on the strings, and also the CD Cover. If you look closely you'll spot that the cover reads "WE LOVE MADONNA", and there's some interesting loops at the ends of each word. Well turns out that if you take each of the strings, and split them into three even rows, looping the string at each end, the same as the CD shows, you'll get letters out of those strings!


Finding meaning in the strings

Finding meaning in the strings

Doing this with each string, you end up with a set of letters, and then it's back to the clue encoded in the track names. Going through the lyrics of all the songs, Ben spots that TUTBMP, the letters from one of our strings matches track 8 on the CD "This Used To Be My Playground". With that gem under our belt, it wasn't long until we'd identified each track which matched to a string of beads, and after some indexing into each of the five strings, we end up with the next keyword. It's time for an 'ENCORE'

(Ed. Sarah got in touch to let me know that actually the resistors were part of the bead puzzle, we just managed to solve it without them. The resistors gave word length and the final ordering. Guess we got lucky on that one!)

GotoVision Database output:
/*
//
// COMMENT BY PROFESSOR GOTO
//

Still looking for me? You're getting warmer.

Head over to Fort Hill Park on Rogers Ave, Lowell, MA. I have a little something waiting for you by the fountain.

{
BATHROOM_LOC: FALSE;
FOOD_NEARBY: FALSE;
}

//
// END COMMENT
//
*/

The next stop, and the next puzzle was in another small park, this time at the top of quite the steep hill. Brett's van was struggling a little with the load but we made it to the top of the hill, and driving into the park we see a couple of teams sitting around on the grass poring over their notepads. Parking the van we wander over to a bench with a number of people crowded around it, and unsurprisingly we're greeted with the next puzzle.

caption

Screws and washers on a park bench

We're told that the board is the next puzzle. That's it.

The board has a number of screws with different sized heads attached to the peg board. Some of these have washers under them, and it's our job to figure out how to decode it. We quickly identify the three sizes of screw heads, and map out the board, as well as taking a number of pictures for reference, before finding a shady spot of grass to start working.

Clayton and Ben working hard as Brian supervises

Clayton and Ben working hard as Brian supervises

We've not been working long before the WarTron helper comes across and asks if we need help. We're maybe not the fastest at solving these puzzles, but we're not ready to give up yet, so we tell him that we have a couple of ideas and we're going to try those first. A few minutes later he's back, and looking to help us again. Apparently the teams have been having problems with this one and he's been told to 'hint us heavily' with this puzzle. Apparently it's a direct translation of one of the mappings in our decoder cards.

Clayton already suspected that this was linked to the braille code, and sure enough we found a mapping which translated to some sensible looking letters, and we ended up with a very strange phrase which related to the Boston Molasses Disaster and this gave us our next keyword: 'FLOOD'.

GotoVision Database output:
/*
//
// COMMENT BY PROFESSOR GOTO
//

Aren't you getting hungry? I know I am. I'd tell you to bring me some take out for dinner but you'd just chatter on and disturb my concentration. Why don't you go get something to eat? There are lots of food options in the DRUM HILL area, I know my Administrative Assistant spends most of her time hanging out at the PANERA BREAD there, why don't you go visit her and then find yourself something to eat.

{
BATHROOM_LOC: TRUE;
FOOD_NEARBY: TRUE;
}

//
// END COMMENT
//
*/

Well it must be time for food again, and given that it's now 17:00, it may not be a bad thing. The day seems to have really flown by, which must be a sign that we're having fun.

We arrive at the Panera bread at the same time as two of the other teams, so looks like we're being co-ordinated in our arrivals and it's good to see that there are more of the teams running at around the same pace as ourselves. We'd felt rather slow after a poor first puzzle, but perhaps we're gaining ground again now.

Entering Panera Bread we see Sarah sitting, and I'm handed two copies of a word puzzle. Sarah tells us that we don't have to eat here, but they do recommend that we take time now to eat. We're happy enough with the location so grab a table a little away from one of the other 4 teams we spot, and order some food.

A nice word puzzle to solve over dinner

A nice word puzzle to solve over dinner

The puzzle is a crossword style puzzle, where a number of the letters in the answers have boxes around them. I smell a phrase about to be given to us.

As it turns out it wasn't quite that simple. Working through the clues, we start filling in the answers and spot that there's a lot of the marked letters which are 'oo'. While that's not entirely a bad sign it does leave us wondering as to what we're going to have to do to solve this one.

Everyone hard at work chewing things over

Everyone hard at work chewing things over

Happy that we were on the right track, we continue solving the clues, and start to spot that the 'oo' boxes are spacers, and the odd letter which isn't a null spell out the next keyword. Looks like we have a 'CIRCULARSAW' this time. Quickly finishing off the last few bites of dinner, and entering the keyword into BUGMe, we get the next location. Looks like there's still a couple of teams sitting working on the puzzle, and we feel like we've made it through this one pretty quickly.

GotoVision Database output:
/*
//
// MESSAGE FROM ASSISTANT ROSS
//

Professor Goto can be a tyrant but I really thought she would be more helpful to you. Clearly it's time to stop letting her run you around and just seek her out directly. She spends a lot of time at the PINBALL WIZARD ARCADE at 150 Bridge Street (Rt. 38) Unit P, Pelham NH. I doubt you'll have any trouble identifying her favorite games, there are usually a bunch of GOTOVISION employees hanging out there and maybe if you can prove your prowess they'll help you out.

{
BATHROOM_LOC: TRUE;
FOOD_NEARBY: TRUE;
}

//
// END COMMENT
//
*/

So the next location is an Arcade, and we're all hopeful that we'll end up playing Tron. There's a buzz of excitement at the thought of this next location, and it seems rather fitting given the theme of the weekend.

As we're driving to the arcade, the B.I.T.E. which has been quiet for a while decides it's time to wake us all up with a new alert, and starts beeping and flashing at us. Ben pulls out the laptop, connects to the device, and silences it. BigMac has decided it's time to taunt us LUSERS again, and tell us he's looking at Thermonuclear War. He also gives us the familiar message that the only way to win is not to play.

Smiles abound as we head into the Pinball Wizard Arcade

Smiles abound as we head into the Pinball Wizard Arcade

Once inside memories of playing at the arcades from my youth returned quickly. I'm sure I spent far too many hours playing Galaga, R-Type, Pacman, Missile Command, and many others, and as we walk down past the rows of arcades, I see all of these titles, working, playable, and chirping the familiar sounds enticing us to play.

Entering the Pinball Wizard Arcade

Entering the Pinball Wizard Arcade

Heading towards the back of the arcade, we enter a small room with tables set up and a number of teams working on a puzzle. We approach the WarTron team, and they hand us a roll of coins and tell us to "Go do something impressive". Given our recent message from the B.I.T.E. we suggest that we don't want to play, as that's the only way to win. Having confirmed that we do have to play, we reluctantly take our stack of tokens into the arcade to find something impressive. (Ed. Who am I kidding, we're like kids in a candy store!)

So many great games under one roof

So many great games under one roof

Ben admits to having spent too many hours playing Ms. Pacman, so we decide to give him a shot at setting a high score there. Sadly, despite a good attempt, his high score isn't that impressive, and we head off to find something else. Brett sets a high score on Missile Command, and the WarTron team accept it, especially given that the other scores on there were seat earlier in the day by one of the other teams. Success.

Brett gets the top score on Missile Command

Brett gets the top score on Missile Command

With the top score set, we are given the next puzzle, but before getting down to the serious job of solving it, we get to relax a little and have fun in the arcade, spending the rest of out tokens.

Quarters.  Fitting for having been in the arcade

Quarters. Fitting for having been in the arcade

Finally exhausting our supply of quarters, we head to the back room and the next puzzle. An envelope full of quarters, and a clue: "Target: Capitals". Flipping over the paper copies of the quarters, each has an image from an old school video game on the back. Matching these up into sets, we have the first step toward solving the puzzle.

Matching the quarters to the video game

Matching the quarters to the video game

Having created the sets of coins, we go about trying to find some way to order them, and how that might give us some sort of keyword. The sets each have three arrows in them, plus one pacman. Two of the arrows have forked tails, and one has a square tail. All of this has to be useful, but the question is how. Initially Clayton suggests that by placing the quarters into the corresponding states and looking at how many point towards the pacman symbol, we could relate that to the Pigpen cipher, where the arrows would represent the lines, and if the Pacman was in the centre, it would be a dot as though the pacman were eating a pill. Turns out that was a little more complicated that what we needed.

caption

caption

With a fair few teams sitting around, the room is a bustle with progress, and we spot that some teams have a printed map of the US which they're using for reference. We ask, and are quickly given the reference. At least it meant for the non-American, I didn't have to worry too much about my geography.

Getting nowhere fast, we get a hint, and realise that we were on the right track, but just hadn't spotted the sequence we needed. Turns out that the arrow without the notch was the start point, and the pacman the destination. With that confirmed, we quickly translated the coded coins into letters into semaphore, and decoded the keyword 'CASUALTY'.

GotoVision Database output:
/*
//
// MESSAGE FROM ASSISTANT ROSS
//

Nice work! I bet they didn't expect you to solve that! Why don't you go schmooze with the GOTOVISION employees. Tell them your answer and maybe they'll be impressed enough to want to keep you around.

{
BATHROOM_LOC: TRUE;
FOOD_NEARBY: TRUE;
}

//
// END COMMENT
//
*/

Gallery Invitation

Gallery Invitation

Passing on this keyword, we're handed an envelope with an invitation to a gallery, and given another keyword: 'INVITATION'. Putting that into BUGMe, we get the confirmation of the address written on the invitation. Somehow the address seems familiar to us, but we're not quite sure why. Perhaps we're getting a little tired.

GotoVision Database output:
/*
//
// MESSAGE FROM ASSISTANT ROSS
//

OK, that didn't go too badly. Looks like you've managed to get yourself an invitation to Professor Goto's private GALLERY in STUDIO 228 at WESTERN AVENUE STUDIOS IN LOWELL, MA ((122 Western Avenue). She's really fond of her art collection and often uses it for inspiration. I think you're finally on the right track.

{
BATHROOM_LOC: TRUE;
FOOD_NEARBY: FALSE;
}

//
// END COMMENT
//
*/

Heading outside, it's dark now, and clearly the 4th July has come early here, as there's a lot of fairly impressive fireworks being set off just to the back of the arcade. We're not stopping to look at the fireworks though, we have another puzzle location to head to.

Back to the Gallery, this time it's dark out.

Back to the Gallery, this time it's dark out.

As we're nearing the location we start to recognise where we're going, and laugh given that we'd commented earlier in the day when we arrived at this warehouse location that we really didn't fancy heading here at night. The location looked a little 'interesting'. We're fairly re-assured though that the WarTron team wouldn't send us anywhere dangerous, so we head on into the now familiar location.

Handing over our invitation at the door, we're directed to the art gallery and follow signs, passing a number of other teams sitting in the corridors, who are already working on the puzzle.

Entering the gallery

Entering the gallery

Being greeted by someone looking strangely like a military officer, we're welcomed to the gallery, invited to help ourselves to snacks, and to take as many pictures as we like. Given that it's now dark out we're advised to start taking naps and to take extra care when driving as the police are out in force, checking speeds on the freeway, and pulling people over. Good to know that the team is watching out for us, and doing all the can to make the event as safe as possible.

Perusing the gallery, and trying to spot which game each poster is from

Perusing the gallery, and trying to spot which game each poster is from

Picking up the index card with a list of sponsors, we take a wander round the gallery, and it's not hard to see that all of the artwork has been defaced! With a couple of exceptions, we quickly identified the artwork from some iconic games such as Bioshock, Galaga, Metal Gear Solid, Portal, Tron, Mass Effect, and Pacman. Fortunately in the couple of cases where we weren't absolutely sure from the images alone, the games tag line which was printed on the poster allowed a quick google search to clue us in.


Defaced artwork

Defaced artwork

Taking all the information we thought we needed we wandered the halls back to the room we'd solved the bead puzzle in, pulled up a table and started work. We also took the opportunity of having power in the building to charge all of our phones, laptops, tablets and the B.I.T.E.

There was a lot of information here, between gathering the names of the games, the defacer of each poster, the sponsor of the poster, and the credits to the artist on each. Time to go back to excel, and start entering all the data we have into a spreadsheet. Ploughing through the data, we try finding links and start well with what looks like some promising options. As we continue trying different combinations of the data, we realise that we're not making great headway, and resent to asking for a hint.


Perhaps part of the problem was the heat in the building. Given the construction work, there's no AC in the building, and it's humid in there too. We're all suffering a bit, so the large fan was a welcome blast of air.

It's hot, so Brian cools down with help from a fan

It's hot, so Brian cools down with help from a fan

With the hint in hand, we sit back down to complete decoding of the puzzle, and with a few struggles along the way eventually extract another appropriately themed keyword. Entering the keyword 'MUSHROOM' into BUGMe, and we get the clue below.

GotoVision Database output:
/*
//
// COMMENT BY PROFESSOR GOTO
//

OK, I get it, you must really need to talk to me about something. It had better not be something stupid! I'm staying at A FRIEND'S HOUSE at 42 Baltimore Ave in Lowell, MA. It's a duplex and her unit is the one on the right side.

{
BATHROOM_LOC: FALSE;
FOOD_NEARBY: FALSE;
}

//
// END COMMENT
//
*/

Despite slow progress, we're not the last to leave, and we felt quite good about that. Although we didn't find out until after the close of the event, only six of the twelve teams saw this puzzle, given the way the system routed teams to different puzzles based on the space available, and how well you were doing.

Could we be off to a meeting with the elusive Professor Goto? Well, you'll have to wait for the next installment to find out, as I think I've written quite enough for this post. Stay tuned for more to come soon ...

Series NavigationWarTron – A Weekend in BostonWarTron – A weekend in Boston, Part 3
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