The Trebuchet (MIT Mystery Hunt 2020)

The Trebuchet
MIT Mystery Hunt 2020
The Grand Castle
The puzzle's icon, an old medieval-style wooden trebuchet.
Author(s)Todd Etter
AnswerClick to revealMISTER POTTER

The Trebuchet is a word-based puzzle from the Grand Castle round of the 2020 MIT Mystery Hunt. It's themed after sieges and the use of trebuchets with relatively odd types of projectiles, although with a degree of creative interpretation of those projectiles.

Solve Path[edit | edit source]


The puzzle starts off by providing the solver with a lot of nonsensical letter strings and letter walls, but acknowledging the flavourtext's mentions of projectiles, weights, and an offhand mention of the word "boggle", there are two places one can break in: the trebuchets themselves, and the walls.

If one looks at the trebuchets first, they can find a phrase that may describe a type of launched projectile interwoven with a unit of measurement (albeit mostly ones that aren't commonly used in modern times) such as HOT METAL and HUNDREDWEIGHT.

If one looks at the walls, they may be able to find several words and phrases hidden in them boggle-style. Things like CATS EYE, VERMOUTH, and SLIPKNOT can be found in the first, fifth, and seventh walls respectively. Additionally, each of the walls can be almost filled by the boggle entries in them, aside from 3-4 letters that go unused.

Alone, not much can be done with these two sets of information, but after finding a few things in a single wall (like SLIPKNOT, TOOL, MEGADETH, and MASTODON in the fifth) a revelation can be made. The projectiles from the trebuchets can be used to describe what is found in the walls. For example, HOT METAL describes the seventh wall, which is filled with "hot" metal bands like Slipknot and Megadeth. The grid at the bottom of the puzzle implies an ordering for these: lightest weight to heaviest weight. If that's done properly, the unused letters in each wall can be taken and placed in the columns in dropquote fashion, revealing a final phrase that clues the puzzle's final answer, Final AnswerMISTER POTTER.

Puzzle Elements[edit | edit source]


Hint In Flavourtext - Several hints, in fact, which is unsurprising for a puzzle this early in the hunt. The flavourtext mentions weights, projectiles, boggle, and even hints towards the idea of using unused "bricks" to help construct the new "wall". All of these things end up getting used over the course of the puzzle.

Interwoven Words - The first step to solving the puzzle is un-weaving the strings on the trebuchets. Thankfully, the two strings are not in clue format so it's much shorter and clearer, especially when the lengths of the two differ. Each trebuchet should reveal two things: a type of projectile, and...

Units of Measurement (Weight) - ...a weight unit! They're not exactly all common ones (Dalton and Scruple especially), but they're valid nonetheless.

Creative Interpretations - While all of the "projectiles" presented are in fact projectiles that may be used (albeit some not in real life), they can be parsed in ways that describe other things. "Throwing Stars" are in fact NFL quarterbacks, while "Pieces of Glass" refers to musical compositions by Phillip Glass (his 'pieces').

Word Search (Boggle) - Four entries in each of the categories described by the projectiles can be found in each of the "walls", with all of the members of a categories found on the same wall. There's always three or four letters left over, but that's still important because...

Unused Information - ...letters that go unused in the word search grid get transferred (in no particular order) to the proper columns in the final grid.

Reordering (Magnitude) - Helpfully clued by a feather at one end of the grid and a cartoonishly large weight at the other, the remaining letters' "proper" columns can be determined by looking at the weight unit that was paired with that wall's projectile back on the trebuchets. They should be ordered from lightest (on the left) to heaviest (on the right) in terms of single units.

Dropquote - Once the groups of letters have been correctly placed, solvers can start on the dropquote. Despite the abnormal presentation of the dropquote grid, it's relatively straightforward. Thanks to the clear delineations made by the different shading in the columns, it's clear which cells belong to them even among the jagged, brick-like construction.

Final Clue Phrase - The dropquote solves to the phrase "COLDHEARTED FOE OF GEORGE BAILEY"

Asked and Answered - "who’s commanding the opposing forces[?]" While not explicitly posed as a question, the flavourtext does imply that the goal of the puzzle is partly to figure out exactly who the commander is. As it turns out, it's Mister Potter from It's A Wonderful Life.