CISRA Puzzle Competition 2008 - Solutions
This is the archive of the 2008 Puzzle Competition. Please visit the current competition site for information about the latest Puzzle Competition.
A metapuzzle is one which is somehow distinct from the other puzzles in a competition. It may be presented in a different way, and may involve the other puzzles or their solutions in some way.
Our metapuzzle this year was rather sneaky, somewhat like last year's.
WARNING: This solution contains a spoiler for the 1941 film Citizen Kane. If you do not wish to be spoiled, please do not read any further.
Just before the competition started, we changed the banner graphics and announced on the news page that we had done so. While our primary purpose was indeed to spruce up the graphics and add an Archive button, we had a surreptitious purpose too. We wanted to use it to add a metapuzzle to the competition!
Whenever a team solves an entire group of puzzles, they are rewarded with a medal graphic. A team who logs in can download large versions of the medals they have won. Those who did so would have noticed that on each there is a jigsaw puzzle piece with a letter within it.
You don't need to download many of these graphics to guess that the puzzle pieces spell "CISRA" (the name of our company).
An intuitive leap can be made, that since each jigsaw puzzle piece is different and the puzzle pieces exist in the web site's banner, there could be a message spelled out in the banner. By assigning the known letters (C, I, S, R, A) to the matching jigsaw shapes in the banner, you quickly see the word "CISRA" spelled out. A flash of insight or a little bit of trial and error will reveal the encodings for other letters, which produce secret messages. Here's the whole banner decoded:
There are three secret sentences visible there. Near the middle, just below the large CISRA logo, it says:
CISRA PUZZLE COMPETITION
The key to decoding the puzzle pieces is realising that the word "CISRA" is followed immediately by "PUZZLE COMPETITION". Clues that may get you there are the double Z, the letter C, and the fact the red puzzle piece is the letter I, which visually matches the red letter I in the logo. This gives enough letters to decode the rest of the banner.
Reading down the left side of the banner is the word:
indicating that you are on the right track. But it's not the answer - no, that would be too easy :-). There are still two puzzle pieces visible in the banner but not yet decoded. After some trial and error, it becomes clear the missing pieces are a D and an H. Near the bottom it says:
REDO RAISE THAT HUNT CHUMP
This indicates that you need to try again, by hunting higher up in the banner.
Right at the top is the metapuzzle's secret sentence:
EDITOR MOURNS ADORED SLED
This is a reference to Citizen Kane, a movie in which on his death bed, the main character mourns his lost childhood by calling out the name of his beloved sled, ROSEBUD, the solution to our metapuzzle.
Incidentally, the large medal file names included a couple of semi-random words tacked on to the end. It was important to the metapuzzle that the file names of these medal graphics were not guessable, otherwise any team could obtain access to any large medal graphic by predicting the file names of medals they did not have. So we extended the obvious part of the file names with random words. But we realised teams might think these file names themselves were important to the metapuzzle. So we deliberately chose words so that the first letters of the extra words on all five medals spelt out the phrase "rouge fishy". This was to indicate that this line of thought was a "red herring", and to look elsewhere for the metapuzzle solution.