Penny Park Guide (MIT Mystery Hunt 2020)
|Penny Park Guide
|MIT Mystery Hunt 2020
|The Grand Castle
|Asher Walkover, Wei-Hwa Huang (graphic design)
|Click to revealFIREBALL ROBERTS
Penny Park Guide is a physical puzzle from the Grand Castle round of the 2020 MIT Mystery Hunt. It's presented as a brochure (now available in printable PDF format), imitating those commonly given to guests at theme parks to help them navigate the area.
Solve Path[edit | edit source]
Putting all five instructional answers together, solvers can proceed to extracting the final answer.
Puzzle Elements[edit | edit source]
- Physical Media - Originally, solvers received this puzzle as a physical paper brochure for Penny Park. While these paper props can't be collected any more, you can still make one for yourself with the PDF on the puzzle page.
- Mini-Meta - While not explicitly stated, the high information density of the brochure along with the five "recommendations" on the front page point towards this puzzle being a mini-meta.
- Hint in Flavortext - Depending on your definition of flavortext, there could be a lot of flavortext for this puzzle, or none, since the puzzle page doesn't actually provide any. However, the first text that solvers will see on the front page of the guide is certainly both flavorful and hint-y. Each recommendation of something to do with the guide is a fairly comprehensive clue towards how to complete one of the five puzzles hidden in the guide. They're even presented in the order that their answers are used in the meta!
- Something Different (Clues) - The questions asked as part of the first puzzle, in the "How Well Do You Know Penny Park?" section, aren't exactly...fair. But of course, since Penny Park isn't a real theme park, it doesn't have to abide by the rules of what attractions should be named. Or be in the first place. Ultimately, each of the questions can be answered by a nonsense phrase, only bound by...
- Hidden Substrings - ...the phrase ONE CENT appearing in the middle of them. A fitting theme!
- Substring Replacement - Granted, these phrases don't last long. In the long paragraph about celebrity guests, those same phrases can be found, but with ONE CENT replaced by...other letters.
- Papercraft - At a minor and not-at-all artistic level. This first puzzle out of the five requires cutting out little circles, and the second requires cutting out a shape defined by words found in a word search. Even the final meta involves cutting away certain parts of brochure entirely and performing multiple valley folds.
- Marked Words - To change these new phrases back to what they should be, the little circles that were cut out can be placed on top of them, replacing whatever nonsense they had with "ONE CENT" again, but in the process marking a single word with a question mark. These words...
- Transformations - ...can then be transformed, according to wordplay clues found on the reverse sides of the circles, such as "reverse" or "opposite of". If they're done correctly, they can form the puzzle's final answer.
- Instructional Feeder Answers - Unlike most feeder puzzles, these minipuzzles result in numbered instructions, with the meta just requiring solvers to follow the instructions in order.
- Wordsearch (Clue List) - The second puzzle starts with a relatively straightforward wordsearch. Aside from only providing a series of crossword clues in lieu of a normal word list, it's an easy wordsearch. Each of the words can be found horizontally (either forwards or backwards) with not a single vertical or diagonal line in sight.
- Binary/Eigenletters - Solvers may also notice that most of the words are suspiciously similar to PENNY. If they treat the eigenletters between them and PENNY as 0, and unmatching letters as 1, they can interpret the list as binary, resulting in...
- Intermediate Clue Phrase - ...the phrase ATBASH GRID. There are other intermediate clue phrases as well: OVERLAY THIS SHAPE ON BLUE AD at the end of puzzle two, and FIND RHYME COORDS/FIFTH LETTERS in puzzle five.
- Atbash - Doing what the clue phrase says allows solvers to use the parts of the grid without words in it, spelling out the second intermediate clue phrase of the puzzle.
- Overlaying - If solvers do what the clue tells them, they'll end up with a mostly-covered advertisement. What isn't covered up is the answer to this puzzle.
- Idioms and Figures of Speech - The third puzzle revolves around common phrases that use the word "Penny", but that have had the word replaced with a new one. Not all of them are idioms/figures of speech, but enough of them are that it's worth including here.
- Positional Extraction - Depending on whether the new word is opposite a head or a tail (both found on the opposite side of the page), solvers can take the first or last letter respectively, spelling the answer to the puzzle. Initialization is also used in puzzle 5, along with the rarely-used "Fifth Letters".
- Chemical Symbols - Puzzle four involves replacing other elemental symbols at the starts of words with the same one (Cu) in order to make new words.
- Synonyms - The words created by swapping chemical symbols have synonyms that can be found in the Penny Pub ad.
- Connect-The-Dots - While there are no dots to be seen, solvers can connect the synonymous words within the pub ad in the order they're presented in the first half of the puzzle. By doing so, the line passes through all of the words of the answer in order.
- Coordinate Systems (Alphanumeric) - The last feeder puzzle involves a map that has been helpfully divided into a 9x9 grid, complete with a A-I/1-9 coordinate system.
- Slitherlink - That same grid ends up playing host to a slitherlink, with the provided attraction coordinates and ratings acting as givens. When solved, the first letters of the attractions inside the loop spell FIND RHYME COORDS.
- Rhyming - Each of the attraction names contains a single word that rhymes with a number from one to nine. The other major word in each starts with a letter from A-I, providing a new coordinate for each.
- Repetition of Mechanics - Armed with new coordinates, solvers can redo the slitherlink, hopefully getting a new result this time. If they do it correctly, they'll be greeted with the same extraction method giving them "FIFTH LETTERS" instead of their original clue phrase. Following this new one gets them their answer.
- Just Break Stuff - While a lot of the puzzle involves intentional paper cutting and folding, a little bit of destruction comes right at the end, when solvers are instructed to punch holes in particular letters. Seeing as most people don't just have a hold punch on hand, it's likely your average solver just jammed a pen or pencil through them and hoped for the best.
- Currency (Coins, United States) - The final aha of the puzzle is that the resulting image created by the meta papercraft is identical to a 2010-or-later US penny...
- Same Enumeration, Different Words - ...except for the words. However, all of the words on the brochure have the same enumerations as the words on the actual penny (E. PLURIBUS UNUM --> K PENNITON JEON, etc.)