Well, the College Puzzle Challenge hosted by Microsoft is coming up again and David, Pete, Greg, and I are signed up as a team. We were at the event last year for the first and didn't do as well as we hoped (we were in the middle of the pack overall) and we plan to change that this year. There are a few practice problems that go up before the contests starts and we've been working through them. So far we have 3/3 "solved" and are waiting for the last two to go up. These are my answers to the puzzles with help from the others. These aren't necessarily correct and I'll link to the official solutions when they come up but I thought I'd put these up anyways.
The first practice puzzle, Symphony No. 31, Op. 66 was full of little clues on how to proceed.
Reading through the description a few times I noticed the letters I, S, and O in bold in the name 'Interdepartmental System Operations'. ISO.. due to the fact that computers have taken over my brain, the first thing that came to mind was ISO standardizations, but hey, I'm crazy, it is probably something else. None the less, I look for the numbers on the page 31 66 1 and search for a standard with those numbers, and sure enough, ISO 3166-1 is the standardization of country codes.
By looking at the music notes in the puzzle, it is quickly apparent that they are in pairs and music notes have letters... two-letter country codes anyone?
Decoding this we wind up with a list of countries:
- French Guiana
- Burkina Faso
- Great Britain
- United Arab Emirates
These countries are loosely clustered by location so I try to plot them on a map and connect the lines, ending up with this :
The letters ML appear backwards on the map. This is the country code for MALI so that is what I am calling my final answer. I'll find out when the answers are released whether this is correct. Up until the map is almost certainly correct but I wonder about my interpretation of the final answer. Looking the puzzle over some more I noticed another clue which is the fake composer's initials are MAP. A final big clue that Pete noticed was the notes also encode Morse code and say CONNECT THE DOTS. Both these extra clues reaffirm the solution.
My final answer: MALI
The real answer: ...we'll see...