Thursday, October 06, 2005

Gone Swimmin'

The address we received at Enumclaw was of a normal looking house in Federal Way. The house was next to a huge lake, and the team members who brought swim suits started to get excited; we knew Game Control would want to get us wet, but this sounded way better than the wet we avoided at the Olympia Fountain.

There's some Illumine signs when we get to the house, directing us around the backyard in a maze-like fashion. This leads us to a small beach with a dock to the lake. Awesome. It turns out we didn't have to follow the maze arrows, but oh well. It looks like there's a small floating island (or something similar) not too far into the lake with some Game Control staff on it. The staff on land explain that we can send as many members as we'd like, but they have to wear life-jackets and water-wings.

Two of our members run back to put on their swim gear, while I take off my shoes and sit on the dock. We're given a sheet of paper with 9 circles on a 3x3 grid, with the words "when put together little bits make big things happen" or something along those lines. Our team starts to swim to the island and are given Starbucks cups.

The lake water is really nice. Not too cold. I really wish I had brought my swim-suit. I did bring a change of clothes, and I'm pretty tempted to just jump in with my clothes on. I end up deciding against it. When they get back, it appears that there's a 3x3 grid of numbers on the outside, and hex numbers on the inside.

After some swimming back and forth, we have a total of nine cups. Each of the 3x3 layouts and hex numbers are different. We collect our materials, and sit at some picnic tables further up on land to start working things out.

At first we think the 3x3 grids might have to form a giant 9x9 grid in a sort of sudoku style layout. We're not sure what the hex numbers mean, but we think this might come to us. After a while, I prove the sudoku idea is literally impossible given the number layouts.

Damn. It's getting later and later, we're tired and losing the energy to go on. We call GC for some hints. We're on the wrong track. We notice something else on our own: that the numbers work such that we can make 9 configurations of a 3x3 grid where say, first the upper left numbers go 1-9, then a second configuration where the upper middle do that, and so on. We try it and look at the hex numbers. Nothing.

We interpret "little bits" to mean "least significant bit(s)" and start ignoring numbers in the middle to try and make meaning, with no luck. More calls to GC. We're close with our ordering of the cups, but not with the hex values. Other teams express similar frustration.

Eventually, one of our more savvy members is able to get an important clue from Game Control, that pretty much gives the puzzle to us. It's lame that it came to that, but as I said, we're losing energy.

We arrange all of the cups so that the "1" corresponds to the cup position. In other words, the upper-left cup has "1" in the upper-left corner, the lower-right has "1" in the lower-right, and so on. Now we look at the first bit on the hex numbers. If it's 0, we remove those cups from the grid. We get something that looks like this.


About now we slap our foreheads. It's a "C." This puzzle is way too complicated for this late in the game. When we were done, we had formed: CAFEXCIII. Cafe 43. A cafeteria on the Microsoft campus. We must be nearly done! We hop in the van and head back to Redmond to finish the Game. I heard earlier that last year there were two or three puzzles back on campus, so I worry we've got a ways to go. The sun is falling and we're out of it. But we have enough energy for at least one more puzzle.


Post a Comment

<< Home