(Puzzle Hunt)

An audio tour guides solvers to specific locations along Pearl Street Mall in downtown Boulder, Colorado. Solvers use information from the audio clips and locations to solve puzzles and eventually discover a final answer phrase that compared Pearl Street Mall to actual pearls.

* * *

(NOTE: the puzzle can be accessed at this website and is still solvable as of July 2019. Minor spoilers are included in the description that follows.) Kristy McGowan sent out a request a few weeks before the National Puzzlers’ League convention she was hosting. She wanted walkaround puzzles for the Boulder area. I’d written puzzle hunts but never for the NPL Con and with Boulder close by it seemed like a good opportunity. I wanted to come up with a paperless hunt since I had committed to a fair amount of printing for other convention activities. An audio tour interested me as a way to be paperless and introduce auditory elements to the puzzle structures. I thought of a final answer phrase and a meta extraction mechanism that required six 5-letter answers. I spent an afternoon in Boulder making notes and taking pictures of items that lent themselves to puzzles. I then worked for a week and a half on the final puzzle formats, the tour script and the sound editing. Kristy and her friend Jenny tested the first draft and helped me with revisions for the final version. I created a website and posted a link. The hunt was ready for the convention attendees.

Each puzzle featured an element that exploited the audio format. Some are obvious, such as the pitch adjustments for the older and younger brothers in the Boulder County Map puzzle and the insect sound effects in the Little Bug Bridge puzzle. The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse audio gimmick is subtler. The sound shifts from the left to the right channel as the crossword-style clues shifts from the roses on those sides of the garden. The guitar songs played by the “street musician” (six different YouTube clips) were difficult for some solvers to identify, so I provided the song titles along with the entire tour dialogue in a series of transcript files that solvers could reference.

The puzzle hunt had a few execution hiccups. Despite a lot of research and assistance offered by Internet-savvy friends I couldn’t find an embedded audio player that worked consistently on various mobile device operating systems. Many solvers linked to the source files on my Google drive and then found the audio difficult to hear from a smartphone speaker. So most solving groups stuck with the transcripts. In retrospect I could have used Cluekeeper but I wanted to maintain control of the content after the convention. I was happy to discover that solving groups managed to complete the hunt using only scrap paper so smartphone hunts, with or without audio, is a form I will continue to explore.


Maso Award


It’s Tuesday evening and all of my house guests who were in town for the 180th convention of the National Puzzlers’ League have departed. I’m alone in my condo to reflect on the events related to my 22nd reunion with my chosen family. I won’t bury the lede. The highlight of my weekend, and perhaps my entire NPL experience to date, took place on Sunday morning when Kristy McGowan and Wil Zambole stepped to the podium to announce the Maso Award. This is an award named for the “nom” (NPL nickname) of Thomas Gazzola who was taken so unfairly from the puzzle community in 2015. Wil approached me at last year’s convention with the idea to create an annual award in Maso’s honor to recognize the NPL member who showed the true spirit of the convention. I fully supported the idea as well as the suggestion to appoint Eric Berlin as the inaugural recipient of the award. At the Sunday awards ceremony this year I was sleep deprived and wondered why Wil had not sought my input on a Maso Award winner for 2019. And then it hit me. And then it really hit me.


Eric was taken off guard when he was announced as last year’s winner. I was similarly stunned and unable to offer any kind of address beyond an emotionally hampered “thank you” as I accepted my certificate. Now that I have my bearings I want to share some thoughts on the honor and the convention.

Maso was an immensely positive force in my life as a puzzle creator. I am not a spiritual person but I still have “conversations” with Maso. My impressions of him as a vital force in the puzzle community remain very strong, and in our conversations he gives me comfort, keeps me honest, and guides me in the direction of being a better person. After the wrap-up of this year’s activities, I was included in a discussion of possibly renaming the award to something more general, so Maso’s nom would not be elevated above other great NPL members who are no longer with us. I respect that sentiment and hold memories of departed Krewe firmly in my feels, but Maso was special to me and the award as it was presented to me will remain dedicated to him.

Eric Berlin posted an excellent summary of the convention that includes a mention of my award. He describes the decision he reached with Kristy and Wil by stating “nobody else really comes close.” That is flattering, but I respond in all seriousness that I want more members of the League to “come close.” The growth of the convention is both exciting and concerning. We need more people to step up and help keep the convention running functionally in the wake of the expanded attendance. I know that many members of the Krewe look upon the convention as a vacation, but we need more contributions from the them to maintain the quality of the event. Even little things like volunteering to pass out answer sheets for large group games are helpful and greatly appreciated. Please contact me if you want ideas of how you can benefit the League through service.

ETA: I wrote the above in a slightly heated state and regret the way I used the quotation from Eric’s summary. Many people exhibited the spirit of the Maso Award to make RockOn a fantastic convention. I want to thank the members of the board, my colleagues on the program committee, the ambassadors, the code of conduct committee, and all of the presenters for their hard work. And I especially want to applaud Kristy McGowan for doing an amazing job hosting a seamless convention!

Anti-Match Game – The Neighborhood of Make-Believe RESULTS


Answers to the quiz were received by 36 neighbors. In the results post, the neighbors’ names will be abbreviated as:

Andy Berisford – ABe
Andrew Bradburn – ABr
Andrew Esten – AE
Alex Jeffrey – AJ
Al Sanders – AS
Brigette Anderson – BA
Ben Smith – BS
Christopher Adams – CA
Christy Meisler – CM
Dan Katz – DK
Debbie Manber Kupfer – DMK
Erik Agard – EA
Eli Barrieau – EB
Foggy Brume – FB
Jackie Anderson – JA
Jason Brown – JB
Joanna Cheng – JC
Jeffrey Harris – JH
Joshua Kosman – JK
Jack Martin – JMa
J Melvin – JMe
Jeffrey Schwartz – JS
Katie Hamill – KH
Michael Fleck – MF
Mark Halpin – MH
Matt Jones – MJ
Miriam Nadel – MN
Marc Spraragen – MS
Nathan Curtis – NC
Neville Fogarty – NF
Projectyl – P
Scott Weiss – SW
Joe Cabrera – T!
Trip Payne – TP
Wil Zambole – WZ
Yossi Fendel – YF

1. King Friday XIII
A black cat crossing one’s path (3) – BA JH YF
Breaking a mirror (1) – JB
Failing to respond to a chain letter (2) – AS MF
Hanging a horseshoe with the ends pointing down (4) – ABe ABr BS JS
Meeting one’s doppleganger (7) – MH
Opening an umbrella while indoors (2) – CM MN
Placing chopsticks straight up in a bowl of rice (6) – CA EA MJ MS NC P
Saying the word “Macbeth” while inside a theatre (4) – DK JA JC JMe
Seeing one’s doppelganger (7) – EB
Shoes on a table (5) – AE JK JMa TP WZ
Three on a match (2) – NF T!
Viewing one’s doppelganger (4) – AJ FB KH SW
Walking under a ladder (1) – DMK

The “meeting” and “seeing” answers were ruled incorrect because they did not match the enumeration or RSTLNE pattern of the puzzle. The unchosen correct answers are THUNDERSTORMS and TIPPING A SALT SHAKER OVER.

2. Queen Sara Saturday
Antigua and Barbuda (2) – FB NF
Australia (4) – DK DMK JC JH
Barbados (8) – ABe EA JMe JS KH MJ P WZ
Belize (2) – BS MN
British Virgin Islands (9) – MS
Canada (3) – BA MH SW
Grenada (1) – JA
Jamaica (3) – AS JMa MF
New Zealand (1) – CM
St Kitts and Nevis (4) – CA JB JK NC
St Lucia (3) – ABr AJ EB
St Vincent and the Grenadines (1) – TP
Trinidad and Tobago (9) – AE
United Kingdom (2) – T! YF

British Virgin Islands does not have “nation” status. Elizabeth II was head of state of Trinidad and Tobago until 1976 when the nation became a republic and the head of state position shifted to its president. The unchosen correct answers are the Bahamas, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.

3. Prince Tuesday
A – Bono (3) – CA DK JH
B – Common (1) – EA
C – Drake (3) – FB SW YF
E – Logic (1) – AJ
F – Lulu (5) – AS JK KH NC NF
G – Moby (2) – JS T!
H – Pink (2) – JC MN
J – Sade (5) – ABe BS EB MJ MS
K – Seal (2) – MH P
L – Shaggy (5) – AE BA JA JMa MF
M – Slash (4) – ABr CM JB WZ
N – Sting (2) – DMK JMe
P – Vanity (1) – TP

Flea (D), Pitbull (I), and Thalia (O) were the unchosen answers.

4. Cornflake S. Pecially and Mr. McFeely
B – Best Buy (2) – BS TP
E – Apple (4) – EA JC NC T!
F – Abercrombie and Fitch (7) – EB
F – Burlington Coat Factory (3) – JB JS P
G – Target (6) – ABr AS CA FB JA WZ
H – Kohls (2) – AJ MN
(apostrophe) – Wendy’s (3) – CM DMK JK
(hyphen) – 7-Eleven (1) – NF
K – Kroger (2) – MF MH
L – Walmart (3) – BA JH SW
M – Yum! Brands (6) – ABe DK KH MJ MS YF
M – Yum! Foods (7) – JMa
O – Amazon (1) – AE
O – Costco (7) – JMe

This question went through a few different formats before the final draft, which may explain why some of the retail company choices seem a bit random. Costco is a correct answer but for the “C” envelope. The unchosen correct answers are (A)lbertsons, Home (D)epot, and Walgree(N)s.

5. Henrietta Pussycat
A – “Annyong” [Hel-loh “Annyong” Bluth from “Arrested Development”] (4) – CA JS MF MS
B – “Beep beep” [Road Runner from Looney Tunes animated shorts] – (1) JB
C – “I am Groot” [Groot from “Guardians of the Galaxy”] (3) – BA DMK JC
D – “Hello” [George from “Crazy People”] (2) KH MJ
E – “Hodor” [Hodor/Wylis from “Game of Thrones”] (2) JK MH
F – “Meep” [Beaker from “The Muppet Show”] (1) YF
G – “Mine” [Seagulls from “Finding Nemo”] (6) ABr FB JMa NC T! TP
H – Nevermore [Raven from “The Raven”] (5) ABe AS JMe MN SW
I – Pop pop [Magnitude from “Community”] (10) BS CM DK EA EB JA JH NF P WZ
K – “Timmy” [Timmy Burch from “South Park”] (1) AJ
M – “Yarp” [Michael “Lurch” Armstrong from “Hot Fuzz”] (1) AE

When a question requires players to identify an answer from a closed set, I tend to order the set members in alphabetical order by answer as a minor solving aid. An early version of this question used “Groot” as the catchphrase, and when I changed it to “I am Groot” I failed to adjust its alphabetical order. Even though the alphabetical order wasn’t explicitly established, I apologize if this caused confusion. “Smurf” from the animated series “The Smurfs” and “Whatever” spoken by Duane Moffat on “Full House” are the unchosen correct answers.

6. X the Owl
box elder (2) AS EB
boxwood (2) FB NF
flax (2) WZ JB
foxglove (11) ABr AE AJ  BA DK DMK JA JH KH MH YF
ilex (2) EA NC
oxeye (4) BS MF MS SW
phlox (8) ABe CM JK JS MJ MN  T! TP
redbox gum (12) – JC
wax bean (1) – JMa
wax palm (1) – CA
xanthum (12) – JMe
xeranthemum (12) – P

Redbox gum and xanthum are not 11C (xanthum is not a close-enough misspelling of a valid plant name). Xeranthemum is appears in Merriam-Webster Unabridged but not 11C. Most of the common tree and plant names were chosen, but an unchosen answer that puzzlers might be familiar with is saxifrage.

7. Lady Elaine Fairchilde
Alpha – For all (8) – AE AJ AS JA JK MS NF YF
Bang – Signo de apertura de exclamación (8) – ABe ABr EA JMa MF MJ MN WZ
Because – Therefore (2) – CA JC
Circumflex – Hacek (2) – JB KH
Comma – Okina (1) – NC
Euler’s number – Schwa (5) – BA BS EB MH SW
Fasila manqoota – Semicolon (1) – FB
Grasshopper – Queen (3) CM JH P
Intersection – Union (2) – DK T!
Mho – Omega (3) JMe JS TP
Omega – Union (9) – DMK

Omega – Union is a reasonable guess but I could not find a typographical variation of an omega that resembles an inverted union symbol. Komi de/Rho and Tau/Up tack are the unchosen pairs.

8. Ana Platypus
aboriginal (9) – YF
billabong (6) – CA JK MJ P TP WZ
boomerang (2) – AE DK
coolibah (9) – JC JH
corroboree (1) – MN
didgeridoo (9) – BA SW
dingo (1) – MS
kangaroo (5) – DMK EA EB JB MF
koala (2) – JA JMe
kookaburra (8) – ABe ABr AS BS CM FB MH T!
numbat (9) – NC
wallaby (4) – AJ JMa JS KH
wallaroo (1) – NF

“Aborginal” comes from Latin roots. “Coolibah” (a variant of “coolabah”) and “numbat” are in Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged but not 11C. Theories on the origin of “didgeridoo” vary though most scholars believe the word is an imitative Western invention, which is the theory presented in 11C. Unchosen correct answers include barramundi, budgerigar, galah, and wombat.

9. Donkey Hodie and Harriet Elizabeth Cow
A – bubble and squeak (6) – CM DMK FB JMe MJ P
B – chowder (1) – JB
C – colcannon (1) – BS
D – French fry (3) – ABr AE BA
E – gnocchi (6) – AS JA JC JH MN YF
F – hash browns (1) – MF
I – knish (2) – DK SW
J – kugel (2) – JK JS
L – raclette (8) – ABe CA EA EB MH NC NF TP
M – red flannel hash (1) – KH
N – shepherd’s pie (2) – AJ WZ
P – bouillabaisse (9) – T!
P – vichyssoise (2) – JMa MS

The unchosen answers are G – hotchpotch, H – Irish stew, K – latke, and O – tzimmes

10. Daniel Striped Tiger
A – archery (10) – FB
A – boxing (2) EB WZ
A – judo (10) – AE
B – figure skating (5) – BA BS CM JA JB
C – curling (10) – T!
C – polo (9) – ABe AS EA JH JK JMa MN SW TP
C – rugby (10) – JS
D – rugby sevens (1) – CA
E – water polo (1) – NF
F – basketball (2 ) – AJ MJ
G – American football (2) – JMe YF
H – ice hockey (4) – KH MF MS P
I – Australian rules football (2) – ABr JC
J – roller derby (1) – NC
L – association football (3) – DK DMK MH

Timed rounds in Olympic archery have no distinction between male and female competitors. Judo matches are 4 and 5 minutes maximum for female and male competitors respectively. Curling has “thinking time” limits but the term chukka is specific to polo. K – Field hockey is the unchosen correct entry.

550,000 – SW
650,000 – WZ
768,000 – T!
5,000,000 – KH
7,150,000 – MJ
8,000,000 – JA
8,000,000 – JMe
11,000,000 – MS
11,111,111 – JS
11,500,000 – TP
14,000,000 – AE
14,000,000 – JB
14,200,000 – DK
17,000,000 – MH
18,742,103 – FB
19,800,000 – CA
20,500,000 – BS
22,835,787 – CORRECT
23,000,000 – AJ
25,000,000 – DMK
28,000,000 – BA
29,000,000 – JC
30,000,000 – NF
36,000,000 – YF
37,000,000 – MN
37,000,000 – ABr
40,000,000 – JK
42,117,285 – EA
53,000,000 – AS
55,000,000 – ABe
63,000,000 – JMa
67,764,377 – NC
88,000,000 – EB
135,000,000 – MF
200,000,000 – CM
250,000,000 – JH
300,000,000 – P


RANK INIT Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q5 Q6 Q7 Q8 Q9 Q10 TOTAL
1 JB 1 4 4 3 1 2 2 5 1 5 28
2 AJ 4 3 1 2 1 11 8 4 2 2 38
3 MF 2 3 5 2 4 4 8 5 1 4 38
4 NF 2 2 5 1 10 2 8 1 8 1 40
5 CA 6 4 3 6 4 1 2 6 8 1 41
6 MN 2 2 2 2 5 8 8 1 6 9 45
7 BS 4 2 5 2 10 4 5 8 1 5 46
8 NC 6 4 5 4 6 2 1 9 8 1 46
9 DMK 1 4 2 3 3 11 9 5 6 3 47
10 DK 4 4 3 6 10 11 2 2 2 3 47
11 KH 4 8 5 6 2 11 2 4 1 4 47
12 SW 4 3 3 3 5 4 5 9 2 9 47
13 FB 4 2 3 6 6 2 1 8 6 10 48
14 JC 4 4 2 4 3 12 2 9 6 2 48
15 JS 4 8 2 3 4 8 3 4 2 10 48
16 TP 5 1 1 2 6 8 3 6 8 9 49
17 MS 6 9 5 6 4 4 8 1 2 4 49
18 BA 3 3 5 3 3 11 5 9 3 5 50
19 JMa 5 3 5 7 6 1 8 4 2 9 50
20 CM 2 1 4 3 10 8 3 8 6 5 50
21 MH 7 3 2 2 2 11 5 8 8 3 51
22 YF 3 2 3 6 1 11 8 9 6 2 51
23 JMe 4 8 2 7 5 12 3 2 6 2 51
24 JK 5 4 5 3 2 8 8 6 2 9 52
25 T! 2 2 2 4 6 8 2 8 9 10 53
26 WZ 5 8 4 6 10 2 8 6 2 2 53
27 AS 2 3 5 6 5 2 8 8 6 9 54
28 EB 7 3 5 7 10 2 5 5 8 2 54
29 AE 5 9 5 1 1 11 8 2 3 10 55
30 ABr 4 3 4 6 6 11 8 8 3 2 55
31 MJ 6 8 5 6 2 8 8 6 6 2 57
32 JA 4 1 5 6 10 11 8 2 6 5 58
33 P 6 8 2 3 10 12 3 6 6 4 60
34 EA 6 8 1 4 10 2 8 5 8 9 61
35 JH 3 4 3 3 10 11 3 9 6 9 61
36 ABe 4 8 5 6 5 8 8 8 8 9 69

Congratulations to Jason Brown! Thank you all for your participation and patience with the early postings of the quiz. Please contact me if you spot a problem in the results report and I will correct it as soon as possible.


Immersive Theatre Pop-Up


Immersive Theatre Pop-Up is performance event that took place this afternoon at the downtown branch of Denver Public Library. The event featured six pieces and was overseen by the creative teams at Off-Center, a division of Denver Performing Arts Center. The event was experimental and each small team behind one of the six pieces faced the same goal: to collaborate on creating a repeatable performance piece that lasted 6-8 minutes, addressed a relevant library topic, and offered active participation opportunity for every individual who attended the piece. The time span between conceiving the piece and striking the set after the final performance was just under 24 hours.

I volunteered to be an actor in the event and was assigned to a team that would create a piece on the topic of banned books. Our team of five actors and director Leigh Miller met at the downtown library on Saturday afternoon to tour the performance space and then relocated to a DCPA rehearsal room to hash out a concept. We noted that books are rarely banned in the U.S. but many are challenged, and we used the DPL’s book challenge form as the inspiration for the piece. We would prompt attendees to choose a word they dislike, ask them what they disliked about it, and then submit this information to an unseen judge who would ban it based on the attendees comments. We felt a printed except from a familiar literary work would be useful as a source for attendees to pick words, and one of my castmates came up with the inspired idea to use an excerpt from The New Colossus. After a word was banned, attendees would be led to a “redaction room” to mark out the chosen word as well as adjacent, corrupted text. The attendee would be invited to keep the redacted copy of the poem, “as a record of what would now appear at the base of the Statue of Liberty.” We drafted a basic script, ran some table reads, came up with a prop list, and called it a night at 10 p.m.

On Sunday morning we met at the library to set up our space. The main set piece was a mountain of books piled on a round table in a conference room where we would read the Judge’s ruling. The five of us rehearsed, taking turns as the “advocate.” We also went to the spaces of the other five performance pieces to experience their works. At 1:30 we opened to the general public. Our piece, titled “Banned Together,” attracted about 100 audience members, and I led about dozen groups made up of 1-4 individuals. The concept was admittedly blunt and manipulative, but many attendees seemed quite affected by the gut-punch line of the redaction scene. Our piece was often the last of the pieces experience by attendees because we performed on the seventh (highest) floor of the library. I regretted this and wished more people has finished on lovely “Soñadores/Dreamerswhich explored the library as a refuge for persons of different cultural backgrounds. The last “Banned Together” groups finished at 3 p.m. and the teams met for a debrief before going our separate ways.

I enjoyed being in an acting role again, though a lot of the advocate’s dialogue was giving instructions, something I do a lot in the puzzle community. The abbreviated creation process was more remarkable than the actual performance, and I hope Off-Center will try this experiment again in the future.

Overlook Film Festival


Two weeks ago my friend Ryan, one of the Puzzah! founders, asked me if I wanted to join him at the Overlook Film Festival. I’m not a fan of horror films but I looked at the festival website and was intrigued by the immersive, virtual reality, and puzzle/game events included on the Overlook schedule. I was also in need of a vacation and imagined New Orleans, a city I had never visited, as a great change of scenery. We spent the next few days making flight and hotel arrangements and registering for the festival events. Last Wednesday we arrived in The Big Easy and our haunt-scene adventure began.

Over two dozen films were screened at Overlook this year. The marquee offerings were the premieres of Jim Jarmusch’s The Dead Don’t Die and Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz’s The Lodge. I prioritized live events over screenings and in the end the only films I saw were a selection of horror shorts. I met one of the short film directors, Meredith Alloway, at festival registration. Her film Deep Tissue was technically adept and its theme of gender power dynamics was provocative. Fire Escape was an virtual reality narrative requiring special signup due to the limited number of headsets. The experience is a high-tech version of Rear Window set at a Brooklyn apartment building. The viewer watches the action from a fire escape across the alley and can select windows to eavesdrop on scenes in particular apartments. Afterwards I compared notes with some of the other viewers and got some insight on apartment scenes I had missed. Overlook had a free VR Lounge at the registration area and I experienced two short VR pieces: Campfire Creepers and Wolves in the Walls based on a Neil Gaiman story. I experienced very little motion sickness, confirming that refresh rates are improving since my last VR attempt two years ago.

I attended my first immersive piece of the festival on Thursday night. The Pumpkin Pie Show was a one-on-one storytelling experience performed by Clay McLeod Chapman. I met Clay at one of the theaters and he led me to an upstairs storage room, sat me in a chair, and told a creepy fifteen-minute story called “Rest Area.” The story was good and Clay’s first-person narration was powerful. On Friday I signed up for Home of Enchantments, another one-on-one experience. Belle (played by Ava Lee Scott) texted meeting instructions at the Olivier House Hotel. I sat beside Belle in the period-furnished and otherwise deserted hotel lobby and, unlike the explicitly non-interactive Pumpkin Pie, I was prompted to join her in conversation and … do other things. It was a mesmerizing and intense performance — the highlight of my festival experience. My Saturday night show was Room Service created by the team at JFI Productions. Ryan and I were ushered into a guest room at the Olivier, tucked into the bed, and told a bedtime story. The experience left a strong impression.

I learned that the Overlook organizers traditionally present a walk-around puzzle game that can be solved in free time throughout the weekend. This year’s game was built around the story of a pair of young artists who become consumed by a dark conspiracy. The structure was similar to an MIT Mystery Hunt. The organizers scheduled a series of events over the weekend where solvers viewed a plot-advancing “skit” and received puzzles that could be solved by visiting locations in the French Quarter. Festival attendees who registered at the premium level had access to more skits and puzzles. The project was ambitious and the skits had impressive production values, but the locations and times of the skits, which were revealed during the game, often involved a ride-share several miles from the festival sites and/or conflicted with other scheduled events. Ryan and I eventually abandoned the puzzles and sought out more dedicated solvers to get story updates. I hope the organizers continue developing games of this type, but give more logistical details in advance to help solvers prepare. Saintsbone was a two-hour puzzle event scheduled at various times throughout the weekend. Small teams attended a will reading in Jackson Square and then roamed the nearby streets meeting characters connected to dearly departed. Each character posed a puzzle and then gave a clue to the meta once the puzzle was solved. Ryan and I signed up for a Saturday evening slot and the parades and tourist traffic made the streets difficult to navigate. The game creators may have misjudged the navigation time and the character frequently rushed us through puzzles to ensure the event was moving at the right pace. Still, the characters were all very fun and the story invited solvers to consider issues of life and death and make a choice at the game’s climax.

Ryan and I took some time away from the festival to visit local escape rooms. We found two other festival attendees, Elaine and Rob, to help us make the four-person minimum for the games at 13th Gate Escape in Baton Rouge. Dwayne Sanburn and his team of film industry world builders have created games with amazing sets and effects. We played Tomb of Anubis and Cutthroat Cavern and were blown away by the spectacle. Back in New Orleans, Ryan and I formed a solving duo for Escape My Room. The games created by owner Andrew Preble and his team represent rooms in the mansion of the fictional DeLaporte family. Once you open Escape My Room’s door and step off the street you are immediately in the story. We played Smuggler’s Den and Inventor’s Attic. Both had clever puzzles and visually attractive period decor … well, I suppose I can vouch more for the visuals in Attic than Den.

Ryan did some advance research and scouted out some great restaurants and bars. Weekend highlights: Felix’s (great grilled oysters!), Bennachin (African comfort food), Loa (the Jean Lafitte cocktail contains “Spanish moss pillaged from city park”), Beachbum Berry’s Latitude 29 (I now want to make macadamia nut liqueur), and Manolito (intimate cafe with Cuban snacks and daiquiris — we went there four times!)


Anti-Match Game: The Neighborhood of Make-Believe


It’s a beautiful day for an anti-match game, so let’s climb aboard the trolley and take a journey to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe! The inhabitants of that wondrous kingdom have questions to share and each question has many possible correct answers. Try to choose a correct answer that is chosen by as few other neighbors as possible. A correct answer scores 1 point plus 1 point for every other neighbor who chooses the same answer. An incorrect answer (or non-answer) receives a penalty score: the highest correct-answer score for the given question plus 1. The neighbor with the lowest total score wins.

The ten questions cover a variety of general knowledge subjects, but none of them requires significant knowledge of Fred McFeely Rogers, his long-running children’s television series, or the puppet characters he created and performed on that series. Some questions include the notation “11C”. This refers to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. Researching answers is not allowed and reasonably close spelling is acceptable unless otherwise indicated.

NOTE: The image for question 7 originally posted was incorrect. The current image is correct. 

Email answers to me at tmcclar [at] before Sunday, June 9, 11:59 p.m. (MST)

1. Trolley emerges from a tunnel and enters the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. King Friday XIII waves from the balcony of his castle and has a game to present.


image download

“It’s called Wheel of Misfortune,” King Friday explains. “I changed the rules of a certain TV show to create a totally original game! Each of the thirteen puzzles is an item listed on the Wikipedia page titled ‘List of Bad Luck Signs.’ I’ve revealed the R’s, S’s, T’s, L’s, N’s, and E’s. You can solve at least one of puzzles, I presume.”
“Correct as usual, King Friday,” you reply.

You choose one puzzle and answer by giving the full word/phrase.

2. Trolley stops at the other side of the castle where Queen Sara Saturday is holding a quilt.


image download

“I made this as a present for Queen Elizabeth II,” Queen Sara tells you. “It features the flags of the sixteen world nations for which Elizabeth currently serves as head of state. Do you have a favorite?”

You choose a nation represented by one of the flags in the quilt and answer by giving the name of this nation, though you do not specify a particular flag in your answer.

3. Before Trolley leaves the castle, you notice Prince Tuesday sitting in his room sniffing despondently.

“I’m doing a school report on famous musicians who used one-word performing names,” the Prince whimpers. “This poster was supposed to feature photos of all the singers along with their birth names. But something went wrong when I used Google Images to find the photos of the musicians. My report is ruined!”


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“Actually,” you observe, “It makes an interesting puzzle.” Prince Tuesday notes your interest and it seems to cheer him up.

You choose one of the images on the poster and answer by giving the image letter (A-P) and the one-word performing name represented by the image.

4. The trolley heads for a bustling factory near the castle. Cornflake S. Pecially stands outside the factory handing some mail to Speedy Delivery man Mr. McFeely. Trolley’s arrival startles Mr. McFeely and he drops the letters to the ground.  


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“Oh no!,” Corney shouts. “Those letters are addressed to companies ranked among the top 100 retailers in the United States according to the National Retail Federation. I want to see if they will sell my Rockit chairs. But now the envelopes are splattered with mud!”
“Can you figure out where any of these letter should be delivered,” Mr. McFeely asks.

You pick up an envelope and answer by giving the unobscured letter (or punctuation mark) in the company name, followed by the full company name.

5. Trolley approaches a large tree where Henrietta Pussycat sits in front of her schoolhouse looking through a book.

“Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, yearbook, meow, meow.” She shows you a page.


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“Ah yes,” you say, “It’s an old yearbook, and there’s you with the word ‘Meow’ beneath your photo.”
“Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, guess, meow, meow, meow, caption, meow.”
“I think I’ve got it,” you reply. “Each of your pictured classmates has some word or phrase that makes up a majority of their vocabulary or is otherwise prominent in their speech. You’ve replaced these words and phrases with enumerations, so I can try guess them.”
“Meow,” Henrietta assents.

You choose a photo and answer by giving the letter in the photo’s upper left corner and the word or phrase represented by the enumeration below the photo.

6. The wooden door next to Henrietta’s house swings open and X the Owl leans out.

“I’m going to build a vacation house,” the proud owl bellows, “And I want you to choose the kind of tree in which I should build it. To be honest, it doesn’t have to be a tree. It could be any kind of plant. I only ask that it appears as an entry in 11C and has the letter X somewhere in its name. Oh, and I’m not interested in the name of a botanical structure like CALYX or XYLEM. It should be a type of tree or plant!”

X the Owl is being bossier than usual, but you oblige his request. You choose a type of tree or plant and answer by giving its name.

7. As Trolley pulls up to Museum-Go-Round, Lady Elaine Fairchilde calls you over. She makes a grand to-do about a new gallery show that you absolutely must see. Before you can respond, she snatches the admission fee from your pocket, slaps a program in your hand and shoves you through in the museum door. You stroll through the exhibit and then approach Lady Elaine.


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“The prints are just images of typographical symbols,” you reply. “And the program lists 24 prints, but I only count 12 in the gallery.”
“Don’t worry, Toots,” Lady Elaine says, “I’ll make sure you get your money’s worth … Boomerang … Toomerang … Zoomerang.”

Lady Elaine’s incantation disorients you for a moment, but then you look around the gallery and see 12 seemingly new prints!

“So how did you like the show,” Lady Elaine asks.

You figure out Lady Elaine’s scheme and answer by giving the titles of two of the prints that are actually the same print — one an upside-down version of the other!

8. As you head back to Trolley you spot a disgruntled Ana Platypus outside Museum-Go-Round.

“I got taken in my Lady Elaine’s gallery scam too,” Ana mutters.
“Yeah,” you say, “She needs to stop causing mischief with her magical boomerang.”
“Oh, and that silly incantation of hers,” Ana complains, “It trivializes a fine Australian aboriginal word that entered the English language. There are a number of uncapitalized 11C entries that have an Australian aboriginal origin according to the etymology notes. Can you name one?”

You answer Ana with a word that meets her requirements.

9. Trolley swings by a series of tall industrial towers. Donkey Hodie and Harriet Elizabeth Cow are near the towers and hand you a menu when you arrive.


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“We’ve washed, dried, sorted, and dumped a whole mess of potatoes,” Donkey Hodie brays, “So we’re opening a restaurant.”
“The menu is unusual,” you observe.
“The dishes are listed alphabetically,” Harriet explains, “But we replaced each dish name with a single letter. Each description is the enumeration of the dish followed by its 11C definition. So, what’ll it be?”

Harriet is poised with a server’s pad in hoof, so you realize that spelling counts. You answer Harriet by naming a letter in the menu along with the name of the dish the letter represents.

10. Trolley approaches the tall clock where Daniel Striped Tiger lives. Daniel is studying a chalkboard and looking very distraught.


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“I volunteered to be a sports timekeeper,” Daniel mewls, “But I’m struggling to remember the sport that goes in each of these sentences.”
“Hmm,” you ponder, “Is there any case where the facts in a sentence apply to more than one sport?”
“I’m not sure,” Daniel replies, “But if a sport fits a sentence and it’s distinct from the sport originally intended for that sentence, I’ll accept it as a different answer. Can you help me?”

You can’t help but sympathize with Daniel’s plight. You answer by giving the letter of one of the sentences and identifying the sport name that goes in the blank or blanks of that sentence.

TIEBREAKER. As Trolley approaches the tunnel leaving the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, you spot a sign with this tiebreaker question: According to Box Office Mojo, what is the current lifetime gross, in dollars, of the 2018 documentary film “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”? Ties will be broken in favor of the entrant whose guess is closer to the actual figure.

PUZZLE: Hollywood Vehicle


When I thought of this puzzle it seemed vaguely familiar. If it has already been presented somewhere, I apologize for the dupe.

Start with the brand name of an automobile (make, not model). Choose a pair of consecutive letters within the name, advance both letters one position forward in the alphabet, reverse their order, and move the pair of letters to the end. The result, when respaced, will be the first name and last initial of a fictional character who drove the original automobile in a film. What are the automobile and the character?