College Puzzle Challenge 2007 Pre-Event Puzzles

November 02, 2007 at 09:12 PM | Uncategorized | View Comments

Following College Puzzle Challenge 2007 Pre-Event Puzzles #2, it is time for puzzle #3, Rotation Schedule.

This was a fun little puzzle with codes on codes that reminded us of a problem from 2006 IPSC Contest called Matrioska (which are those Russian doll things that fit inside each other). The IPSC problem involved decoding the first puzzle or program who's output was another puzzle itself.

This Puzzle Challenge one starts off with a page of Pigpen cipher symbols. Decoding these symbols gives the following sequence of letters:


'ROT THREE ... <gibberish>' Now ROT-13 refers to a Caeser Cipher with a shift of 13, so ROT-3 is a shift of three letters instead. Since we are decoding, we actually want to undo the rotation which is done by rotating forward by 23 (which is 26 letters - 3). David found a simple online shifter here (although it is a very easy task in nearly any programming language) which we used. Deciphering the remaining letters in the string we end up with:


This time the clue is 'ROTATED NINETY CLOCKWISE ... <gibberish>'. At this point David started looking into trying things like ROT-(90 modulo 26), and I decided the clue referred to geometry and tried to figure out ways of rotating the pigpen symbols.
Once again since we are decoding, we want to rotate 90 degrees CCW instead. I was about to start writing the gibberish part to Pigpen so I could rotate the page, but quickly realized that I just needed to look at the pigpen grid and have the letters move position 90 degrees around the respective hash or cross. The result of this transform was:

****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ROTNIN EMDYUR LRCXDB

Similar to before, 'ROT NINE ... <gibberish>'. Undoing the ROT-9 we end up with:

****** ****** ****** ****** ****** ****** *DUPLI CITOUS

My final answer: DUPLICITOUS
The real answer: .. we'll see ..

This is enough procrastinating for one day... Ted, out.

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College Puzzle Challenge 2007 Pre-Event Puzzles

November 02, 2007 at 08:44 PM | Uncategorized | View Comments

Continuing the post College Puzzle Challenge 2007 Pre-Event Puzzles #1, I'd like to briefly describe our answer to the second puzzle, A Heartbreaking Work of Lyrical Genius.

This puzzle took us the longest time to do, but I think most of that was due to the fact I did the research wrong (yep, my fault this time). The first difference we noticed we looked at this puzzle was there was no intro paragraph full of clues this time. Just a list of lyrics. We quickly recognized these were real songs and went to find what they were. Unfortunately I managed to swap a few of the band names and song names (I blame confusing lyrics websites). After a few days of getting nowhere, we discovered the errors and corrected them. Now with the correct list and a fresh look we noticed a pattern in the song list.

        Scar Tissue - Red Hot Chili Peppers
      Lose Yourself - Eminem
           Freebird - Lynard Skynard
              React - Erick Sermon
      The Adventure - Angels and Airwaves
Truely Madly Deeply - Savage Garden
  Dirty Little Girl - Elton John

  Lights and Sounds - Yellowcard
               Blue - Eiffel 65
         Skater Boy - Avril Lavigne
 Losing My Religion - R.E.M.

Beach Side Property - Modest Mouse
    Like Satellites - Over It
Blasphemous Rumours - Depeche Mode

          Head Club - Taking Back Sunday
     Wild West Hero - Electric Light Orchestra
Living in the Roses - New Model Army

Much better. RELEASE YEAR MOD TEN. Our first explicit clue. From here on it was straight forward. Look up the release years on songs using Wikipedia and Last.FM and taking the last digit from the year (year mod 10), we get a new number for each line. Number n meant use the n-th word from the given lyrics to form a new phrase. We had to fudge the release years a bit to make sense but we ended up with 'I WAS A MEMBER OF THE POLICE AND I WROTE AND SANG THE HIT SONG DESERT ROSE'. An issue that bugged Dave while we struggled with the wrong clues was that there were only 16 words at the bottom but 17 songs. In the end, it seemed this was just a mistake as the word that slipped through was 'I' and was probably accidentally forgotten.

More searching resulted in finding that the artist was Sting. Another problem solved. These problems are addicted and frustrating at times, but looking back this one wasn't too difficult if we had gotten the research right at first.

My final answer: STING
The real answer: .. we'll see ..

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College Puzzle Challenge 2007 Pre-Event Puzzles

November 02, 2007 at 07:54 PM | Uncategorized | View Comments
Puzzle Challenge 2007 Logo

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:

  1. Canada
  2. Antigua
  3. Barbados
  4. French Guiana
  5. Ecuador
  6. Burkina Faso
  7. Andorra
  8. Great Britain
  9. Belgium
  10. Germany
  11. Bosnia
  12. Egypt
  13. Bulgaria
  14. Estonia
  15. Georgia
  16. 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 :

Countries mapped out.

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...

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