Teacups (MIT Mystery Hunt 2020)

MIT Mystery Hunt 2020
Author(s)Brent Holman
AnswerClick to revealSLIDE RULE
No. solves23
No. total guesses57

Teacups is a puzzle from the Yesterdayland round of the 2020 MIT Mystery Hunt.

Solve Path[edit | edit source]

Puzzle Elements[edit | edit source]

Flavortext - The flavortext in this puzzle has four lines:

How dreadful! There must have been too much eggnog at the holiday party last year. Now our Teacups ride is all out of sorts. Can you help us reset it?

Simply recreate the default starting arrangement of the teacups and then follow the stop-and-go instructions to begin restoring our service.

Note: the ride vehicle in the center is like a compass: it always points to the north. (The entire tray rotates during the ride, so looks can be deceiving!)

If you’re successful, you should be able to tell us what we’ll need to keep our tea service running smoothly from here on out. Best of luck!

Green Eyes, Take Warning - This puzzle uses color. In particular, the corners of each of the 37 pieces in the puzzle features some permutation of six colors (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple). The center of each piece is a shade of gray, of four different varieties.


Jigsaw Puzzle - The hexagons are a 37-piece assembly puzzle, with the second line of flavortext being an explicit instruction to assemble them together in some kind of default arrangement. Sorting the pieces by the shade of gray in the center, the solver finds, from the darkest shade to the lightest, 1, 6, 12, and 18 pieces total—enough for a hexagonal assembly of size 4. The default starting arrangement can thus be deduced to have the unique black arrow teacup at the center, with the successively lighter shades forming a ring around it. The surrounding permutation of colors further constrains the arrangement; the solver can guess that adjacent corners also match on color and discover the unique arrangement that satisfies the constraint. Finally, they must also rotate the arrangement such that the central arrow points upwards.

Hint in Flavortext - While the second line of the flavortext is an explicit instruction, it also makes an oblique reference to "stop-and-go" instructions. Solvers must realize this points towards...

Intermediate Clue Phrase - ...the red and green circles. Starting from the northernmost teacup and proceeding in a spiral towards the center, read off the red and green circles (in that order) for an instruction: ROTATE EACH CUP CLOCKWISE THEN FOLLOW ARROW PATH FROM CENTER READ YELLOW AND VIOLET ONES.

Instructional Puzzle - The true form of the puzzle thus takes shape: this is an instructional puzzle...

The Waterfall Effect - ...where the arrangement obtained by following one instruction extracts to another instruction to perform on the teacup layout. Doing this for another three steps eventually yields the answer.

Asked and Answered - Given the chaotic nature of the teacup ride as presented in the puzzle, a SLIDE RULE (using the "principle" definition of RULE) would, in a way, keep the tea service running smoothly.