Brave Whacktagonal Knights: Easterly

Photo by DLoft

I was confidently leading the group to entirely the wrong area, but fortunately Dave Loftesness got us steered in the right direction to find the Mists of Avalon puzzle. This was a hand-written journal. Specifically, it was like a Livejournal Friends page, which is to say that it was blog entries from several people. They didn't give their names, but you could figure out who they were supposed to be based upon their journal entries. Helen, Rapunzel, Salome, some others. Putting together the first initials and anagramming yieled HEROES. Oh, and they were all heroines.

By the Campanille was a set of posters with mysterious drawings. Actually, there were two pairs of posters, duplicates. That was good because there were other teams here and if they'd all tried to gather around one set of posters, there would have been mayhem. This was a puzzle of rebusoids. One picture showed someone in a New York Yankees uniform sitting at a round table with some medieval types. A Yankee at King Arthur's Court. The other rebuses showed other phrases that were missing a location word. Putting together the initials of those location words yielded BREADCRUMB.

On the balcony around back of Evans Hall sang two monks. They seemed to be singing nonsense words. I couldn't figure it out. I was ready to give up on this one and go on to the next. We'd been looking at at our answer sheet and we thought we'd figured out the metapuzzle. The initial letters of our answers so far, in reverse order, gave us something like TH_BL_CK_N. "the black _n", surely. Solving this singing puzzle would just confirm our "C". But then someone pointed out that the monk's song only used three notes. Someone wrote down which notes went with which syllables. Reading just the "low" syllables gave us a phrase that described Cinderella. Reading just the "middle" phrases gave... another phrase that described Cinderella. Ah, the answer was CINDERELLA. I was glad I hadn't talked my team-mates into giving up on this puzzle.

When we showed up at the next puzzle, the Tweedles (the Graham Brothers) were already there. They looked grumpy. They said they'd been working on this puzzle for quite a while. They were talking with the GC volunteer watching over the puzzle. I tuned them out so that I could concentrate on the puzzle. This was a number of laminated art prints. Each of them had a three-word nonsense message scribbled scribled on it. Someone figured out that the nonsense messages were anagrams of artists' names. These were the names of the artists who had made the paintings--but the scrambled name on the painting didn't match the painting's artist.

We ordered the paintings, choosing the next painting to be that by the scrambled name on the current painting. But what to do with this? We stared. We thought. We tried things. They didn't work. Time passed. I wandered back to the works of art hoping to gather more data--Maybe they'd have recognizable titles? The Tweedles were no longer there. The GC volunteer wandered over, saw me taking notes. "Make sure you get the artist name just right", he said. "If you're off by just one letter, it can really throw you off." If I'd known that he was giving me a hint, I swear I would have stopped him. We were a hardcore team, not supposed to take hints. I wondered why he told me that hint. Had the Graham brothers worn him down, convinced him that staying a long time at a puzzle was enough of a time penalty?

I guess if I was really hardcore, I wouldn't have told the rest of the team, let them keep struggling. But I was too impatient for that, so I told them. I told them what the GC volunteer had said. I told them: Let's do the anagramming more carefully. There will be an extra letter or a missing letter. Sure enough, that spelled a message. I felt dirty.

The hermit puzzle was clever, but we never got it. It was a game of charades. That was fun. That gave us about eight words and phrases. Each word/phrase had a different number of syllables. That gave us a way to order them. We were supposed to take the first syllable from each phrase and string them together to get a phrase describing Kermit the Frog. We tried many things, but didn't try that. At one point, we thought we'd missed some important detail when the GC volunteer performed charades for us, so we asked for that again. The GC volunteer wasn't so happy that we were so cavalier with her effort. Finally, we gave up on that. We sought TH_ BLACK _N. Maybe that meant we should re-visit the Black Knight?


The Black Knight wasn't so happy to see us. I said that I thought he could point me at the holy grail. He asked why we thought that. I said that some other quests had pointed us at him. I pointed at the first letters of the answer sheet. He, exasperated, said, "I can't read."

What else could be the black _n? We went to the place on the map where the N marked North of our compass rose. That was at the track, where some track/field event was wrapping up. That was no good. We were almost out of time.

There was one last thing to try. Our map was a map of "England". Maybe we should go to the "En" of England where it was on the map. That put us at the Free Speech Movement Cafe, in front of Moffett. We searched around for a Game Control person, or a puzzle, or a grail. We had nothing. We gave up and started walking up the hill to Camelot.

Except Dave Loftesness who kept looking through the bushes. When I looked back, I saw him disappearing around a corner. I trotted back to go fetch him. "I found some GC nametags," he said. "Were there people attached to them?" "Yeah." There was a little paved grotto area underneath a balcony of Moffett Library. There were two people there. By the time we found a way down there and had got close to them and figured out that this was indeed part of the game, the rest of the team had found us.

The GC folks welcomed us. They said that we'd found the holy grail--and a bunch of other grails. We could choose one and drink from it. If it was the grail, we'd be OK. But if it wasn't, the drinker was dead. "In that Indiana Jones movie, the grail was made out of wood." I chose the wooden cup and pretended to drink. "You're dead." said GC. The GC folks didn't know what to make of our approach. They asked, "How did you come to be here?" "Dave spotted you from up there. Were we supposed to find something else that would lead us to you? And maybe, uhm, it would tell us what to do with these grails?" "Pretty much."

The game had ended, time-wise. We didn't have time to do this right. So folks chose grails on instinct. "You're dead." "You're dead." "I don't want to pick a grail like this. Even if we guess right, I don't want to win by guessing." "Do you want to give up?" He drank. "You're dead." Smart Pete hadn't drunk yet. "I'm not going to." "C'mon, Pete, all the cool kids are drinking poison." Pete drank. "You're dead."

We were all dead. We headed up to Camelot for announcements. "At least we proved we were all brave knights--we all drank the poison."

(We were supposed to notice that that acrostic "TH_ BLACK _N" actually looped around. It said "SAY ABYS/S TO T/H_ BLACK _/NIGH/_", or "Say 'abyss' to the Black Knight". Andrea had spotted that _NIGH could be the start of "knight", but we couldn't figure what to do with that. I'd like to think that if we'd solved the charades puzzle and got "KermiT", then we would have seen the acrostic wrap around.

(If we'd said "abyss" to the Black Knight, he would have given us another puzzle to solve and walking directions to that grotto of grails. The puzzle would have given us a venn diagram and with other information hinted that we were looking for something green, plastic, with a stem. And that, in turn, would have told us which grail to pick--the green plastic champagne glass.)

Gamist :: Cheese Board Correlation

Back at Camelot, teams gathered. Paul and Smart Pete started talking to Michael Constant of Taft on a Raft. It turns out that they all kind of knew each other as local computer game programmer people and CSUA freaks. I should stop being surprised to find out that anyone turns out to know someone on Taft. It's happened pretty often. Michael filled us in on the puzzles we hadn't figured out.

And then there were announcements of winners, much cheering, and then a scattering of teams to the four winds.

Dave had to head back into San Francisco. He was either going to nurse Penny and Zoe back to health or else--if they'd already nursed themselves back to health--he was going to a triple birthday party. You might think that Dave was walking into some kind of strenuous activity, but he'd dodged a worse one: four folks in Berkeley trying to decide where to eat dinner. There were too many choices. "OK, keep listing them. The next time we hit a power of two, we can decide by coin flip." "Do the first letters of these restaurant names spell out a message?" Eventually we calmed down and went to the Cheese Board for pizza.

Many teams ended up at the Cheese Board afterwards. Paul counted four teams. I met Matt Jones, who it turned out worked right down the hall from me. (As I write this, a couple of weeks later, he's changed offices.)

A couple of weeks later, I was back in Berkeley to return a library book. Along the way, I stopped off at the grail grotto under Moffett. I saw a shiny glint in a pile of leaves. Kicking the pile uncovered a couple of green plastic champagne glasses. Better late than never, I picked them up and put them in my pack.


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