Thursday, April 5, 2018
Stage 3, Level 2
|Contents of the box|
A pox upon the damned, unopenable box! We spent all of Wednesday evening trying to figure it out. My wife pulled out our Scrabble set and tried to unscramble the letters. There are plenty of words one can make, but you always have leftover letters you can't do anything with. Meanwhile, I was trying to find code to create a Perl script to spit out all the possible permutations of the letters. My plan was to then take that file and run it through spell to weed out all the lines that weren't words.
It took forever to find one and make it work, but I eventually did. But I was running it on my ISPs *nix server because I didn't have Perl installed locally on a Windows box. Once the output file crossed 100 Mb, I stopped the script. If I left it going, I would have exceeded my file space quota. So that was a dead end.
At some point either my wife or son unscrambled the letters to spell "gunter." I took the remaining letters and, using the blank as an M, spelled "asylum." Well, almost. I had used an extra U and was left with an extraneous S.
We figured the absence of Mrs. White was significant. Local businesses containing the name, other than attorneys and accountants with that surname, were in short supply, though. U. G. White Mercantile, which occupies the bottom two floors of the building that Pints & Pixels is in, seemed like an obvious choice. In fact, I realized there was a Steve sticker on their door and then another in the elevator to Pints & Pixels. So where we first thought Steve had been welcoming us outside on our first trip to battle the lich, now I wondered if that's not what it meant. Also, we had Scrabble tiles and it was Mercantile. Was that a stretch?
We talked about it at church dinner Wednesday night. I went to bed thinking about it. I woke up thinking about it. I made a post in the morning on Facebook asking if anyone would help. One friend did. I gave him the info without sharing any of my theories. He went off on a tangent, and I reined him in a bit. Then he came up with another interesting theory: Mrs. White could be Vanna White and the tiles could be a Wheel of Fortune clue. That seemed brilliant, but didn't help us on where to go and neither Vanna nor Wheel were links on the Facebook page.
Another possibility came to me. Mrs. White had escaped the box. Or did it represent a room full of people? An escape room. I pulled up the web site of Huntsville Escape Rooms. One of the rooms they offer is The Psych Ward. The backstory mentions Dr. Gunter! In the Ready Player One story, "gunter" is short for "egg hunter," which is short for "Easter egg hunter" because they're seeking "Easter egg" style clues hidden in documents by the contest creator. My "Gunter's asylum" guess didn't seem to far fetched any more, but once again, the letters weren't quite right.
I sent a message to the contest official asking whether maybe one of the letters in the box was wrong. He said no, they were correct. But I'm still convinced its not a coincidence. Maybe we'll pick up more Scrabble tiles in another clue later and spell a longer phrase including those words.
So at lunch, I have two targets: U. G. White Mercantile and Huntsville Escape Rooms. The latter doesn't open until 3:00 PM, so I opted to just drive by and see if there was a Steve sticker. There was! Then I went to White Mercantile and walked through the entire store. I saw nothing.
Meanwhile, Walter was stuck babysitting and couldn't go out. His co-worker had nearly caught up to us, so we decided to meet him at Huntsville Escape Rooms after I got off work. Miscommunication had them show up early and be told that while they were a location in the puzzle, we didn't have the necessary piece to do their puzzle yet.
We met them back at Toy Bistro. They were already looking over the box. After stewing over it for 45 minutes or so, Walter's co-worker's wife called Haven Comics, Etc. for reasons I don't remember. Probably because we all figured if the Deep and Lucky Dice are participating, Haven would, too. Haven confirmed they were a participating location, so without other prospects, off we went. Steve was out front, but once again, we didn't have the piece needed to do that puzzle. The puzzle was a word search set up as a poster, so I went ahead and took a photo. However it also said "Ask for a handout!", so I figured there was probably more to it than just the poster. I planned to return.
One of the words we'd gotten out of the tiles was "Saturn," although once again there were letters left over. So we decided to try the U. S. Space and Rocket Center. Out in the parking lot were scale models of the solar system, also spaced to scale. Maybe Saturn held a clue. But it didn't.
Next stop, cuing off the cassette tape, was Vertical House Records in Lowe Mill. We got there only to discover there was no Steve. Beaten at this point, we decided to head to Pints & Pixels to see if maybe that's where we were supposed to be.
We arrived and spoke with the officials. They were still set up waiting for anyone that still needed to play the lich at Joust. They asked where we had been and said we weren't ready to be back there yet, offering no hints other than to examine our clue some more.
We started going through the letters again when a couple with a red key showed up. After they spoke to the officials and started to leave, Walter's co-worker asked if they would help us. They started off with the woman telling us the letters on tiles weren't important. She said that's all the help she would give, but we wound up sitting down with them and talking. Eventually I gave my theory about U. G. White Mercantile and said I'd already searched the place. (Although I still knew I might have missed it.) He asked, "Did you talk to the lady at the front?" I hadn't!
We thanked them and rushed downstairs. I told the cashier we were looking for Mrs. White. She told us to look around. We started to explore and it came to me. The cassette amongst the weapons. There was a case full of knives and axes. I rushed over to it, calling to what was now my gunter clan. There was a cassette player with a Steve sign sitting on it. How had I missed it??? We'd wasted hours because I'd overlooked it during my lunch trip.
We got an employee to come over and take it out of the case for us. We cued up some of our phones to record it and hit play. After what seemed like a long silence, it began playing the opening organ chords of "Faith" by George Michael. Just as the guitar part started, it stopped. After a brief silence, another song clip played: "It's the End of the World as We Know It" by R. E. M. There were more after that. I eventually went and retrieved my iPod from the car to try to help identify some of them. Here's the list we ended up with.
- "Faith" by George Michael
- "It's the End of the World as We Know It" by R. E. M.
- (One we couldn't identify, but I mistakenly thought was ABBA.)
- "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins
- "Thriller" by Michael Jackson
- "Forever Young" by Rod Stewart
- "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor
- "La Isla Bonita" by Madonna
- (Another we couldn't identify.)
- (What sounded like another clip from the song #3.)
Walter wondered if there was anything on side 2. He took the cassette out and we discovered side 1 was labeled "Konami - Side 1." The back was labeled "Available Sun, Tues, Wed, Thur 6-8." The same times as the Joust, which we assumed meant it had to do with the Fix-It Felix machine that was next to it. We'd seen the sign on Tuesday saying both machines were unavailable at those times.
If you're particularly astute, you may have figured out something by now from the song titles. We were not particularly astute. We went back upstairs and tried to give Konami as the password, but that wasn't it. We went to the stairwell where it was quieter and tried to identify the last three songs.
I quickly went through all the ABBA songs. None of them matched. I thought song #9 might be "Invincible" by Pat Benatar, but Walter and I both listened and it didn't seem to match. We tried to make out what little lyrics there were. I should mention that none of the snippets were anywhere near long enough to use an app to identify. (Probably on purpose.) Walter's co-worker's wife searched YouTube.
Eventually the couple that had helped us came through on their way out. They didn't help us much more, saying we'd get it. We said we were trying to see if the songs spelled something. They were non-committal. We wondered how many Konami games were in the arcade. He said four, but that they didn't matter. Walter and I checked anyway and only found three. And eventually, 8 o'clock came and we were out of time. There was nothing to do but go home and puzzle over it there.
We got home and enlisted my wife. She thought maybe the song I thought was ABBA was Olivia Newton-John and started listening to her hits on YouTube. Finally, after another hour or two, we figured out that songs #3 and #10 were, in fact, the same song: "Xanadu" by Olivia Newton-John and ELO. Then, even though we'd ruled it out, I pulled up "Invincible." The version on YouTube matched what we'd recorded from the tape. Apparently the version on my iPod was a slightly different mix.
So, for you non-astute readers who haven't figured it out, I'll tell you what my wife came up with first at this point. The first letter of each song spells out "Fix-It Felix." We also discovered that most of the songs on the playlist were featured in films, but possibly not all. This probably explains the movie ticket. So now we think we're stuck until 6:00 PM Sunday when we can play Fix-It Felix. Walter and I assume we need to enter the Konami code into the machine for the next clue. We'll see.
In the meantime, the scoreboard was updated again. I'm now down to #9. The good news is only one of the people ahead of me has added anything to their score. It was two people behind me jumping ahead that pushed me down. I hope we can make up some ground in the next portions of the contest.
For additional entries, see the Jumpman's Grand Puzzle label.