Solutions to the 2021 Hunt
The first puzzle to appear on the map:
Flavor Text: Zeus, the county’s prize cow, wishes you luck on your journey for treasure.
The second puzzle to appear on the map:
Flavor Text: The cattle mafia’s been rustlin’ heifers in these parts for years.... We’re on the verge of pulling down the whole operation. Can you help us pin down the gangs' network?
The third puzzle to appear on the map:
Flavor Text: The cattle records on the Sue D. Okue ranch are half missing! We need you to get them back in order. Pay special attention to all the cows in the pens, that's where the certified grade A-Z beef is.
The fourth puzzle to appear on the map:
Flavor Text: Long ago, Rekam's great-great-great grandpappy Retfarc Eulc died in this town. Ever since, the burial grounds have been cursed and the graves shift around at night. The locals always try to guess where they'll move next.
The fifth puzzle to appear on the map:
Flavor Text: Out west, distilleries sometimes marked their barrels with colored rims to differentiate them. Despite the Resistors protesting the practice over how the bands would "taint the flavor", this was never proven. Once the aging is done, they blend the barrels, so the unique flavors all add together. These distilleries were some of the finest in the world, with no Tolerance for poor taste. [ADDENDUM 4/11/21 - 1600 EDT: Their bourbon was so refined, in fact, that they had no need to label the tolerance for impurities, giving them a 5 star rating of quality]
A great rumble jolts your awake
Such a tremor, it could not be fake
Your gear starts to rattle, disturbed are the cattle
You've just survived through an-
The missing last word of the poem, EARTHQUAKE, is the solution.
The sixth puzzle to appear on the map:
Flavor Text: The ticker tape shows the stock market is crashing! Trying to fold the situation to their advantage, like-minded investors put their heads together.
The seventh puzzle to appear on the map:
Flavor Text: Well, Partner, it seems like the folded treasure map we bought from Davy Jones was a fraud. And not even a good one at that; it looks like he just printed it off a budget inkjet.
Opening the fortune teller aligns the runes to spell out VERTICAL MAPLINES, meaning the answer is LONGITUDE.
The eighth puzzle to appear on the map:
Flavor Text: Deputy Benn took some lovely 360° panoramic pictures while patrolling the crow’s nest of the frontier. Shame we don’t know where he was when they were taken.
The ninth puzzle to appear on the map:
Flavor Text: This whirlpool's just claimed a hapless ship. All that's left are a few bits and pieces tangled in the rigging, making circuits 'round the center.
Despite the ropes’ disorder, some key patterns stand out clearly. There are small knots throughout. The oars are sometimes single and sometimes crossed in a pair, and in either case, they’re attached to ropes in the same way, with two ropes on one side and one on the other. No rope ends on anything but an oar or a life ring.
The trick is to realize that the entire puzzle is a logic circuit, as the flavortext hints. Knots correspond to NOT gates, oars are ORs, and the network of ropes are the wires. As is typical with logic circuits, the input bits are on the left, and the logical operations propagate the input rightwards to the output wires. The two inputs to a two-bit gate were on the same side of the oar, lining up with the typical symbols for two-bit logic gates.
With this insight, Hunters could carefully solve the complex circuit, propagating bits gate by gate through the circuit until each lettered life ring is given either a zero or a one. Hunters who successfully did this were told that they were wrong: looking at all the letters corresponding to 1’s, as if they were light bulbs that’d been turned on, gave the phrase NOTQUITE.
The real trick was to also realize that the pairs of crossed oars are XORs, which are different from ORs in that they output 0 if both their inputs are 1s. After noticing this, Hunters worked through the circuit again, getting an output phrase in the same way. If they did this correctly, they were again told that they were wrong:
The real real trick was to also also realize that some of the knots are fake. The circled knots are actually unknots - they’d come undone if you pulled on them. All the other knots are overhand knots.
Those who ignored the fake knots but didn’t use XORs also got NOTQUITE. It was only when Hunters worked through the circuit with both tricks in mind that they wound up with ETHER, the answer to Maelstrom.
The tenth puzzle to appear on the map:
Flavor Text: Some perspectives are quite limiting; don't limit yourself to one plane of existence.
If Hunters used their spatial-thinking skills (or built the shape up in the same way 3D printer would) they would see this shape shows two words to reveal the answer: AFTERWARDS.
The eleventh puzzle to appear on the map:
Each of these satellites have a number, which their names can be indexed by to find the solution of CLOCKS.
The twelfth puzzle to appear on the map:
Flavor Text: In the early days of the internet, interlacing was commonly used when transmitting images, dramatically improving the effective load time of webpages. Occasionally, however, when rendering multiple images, the streams of data would merge, resulting in some interesting cases of what can best be described as “Art”. While no data is lost, the information it was intended to convey certainly is, but with keen eyes, you can piece together the truth hidden in the image’s corrupted binary.
The top right image shows the words “RED” and “GRN” (green) with every other row missing
Removing every other row from the red and green images on the bottom and combining them (in the same manner as the top right image!) reveals the answer. The columns are binary representing 7-bit ascii.
Reading downwards, the first column is 1010010 = R. Continuing with each column, Hunters find the answer RATTLESNAKE.
Throughout the Hunt, Hunters had been selecting puzzles on a map interface. This map interface showed puzzles along a dotted line; at the end of this line was a large X marking the end. When Hunters clicked on this X, they were given this poem:
That you could walk to different ends;
They twist and cross and warp and bend
A tapestry strung all through time,
They don’t repeat, they only rhyme.
Some claim the best’s the beaten path,
But no, my child, you must go off it;
Seeming red herrings oft turn out
To be just what you’ll need to profit.
When some strange tavern proffers a drink,
The wise and curious always quaff it.
It should also be noted that as Hunters progressed along the map, they could find clickable locations (all taverns or bars). Clicking a location gave a short poem giving some backstory. There were 16 poems on the map, and two are given below as an example:
So try not to look so blue.
If you doubt us, please be disabused;
You really needn’t be confused.
Find something else to pursue,
Go try something new,
And solve a puzzle or two.
Using the matching rhyme schemes, the locations could be connected into 4 paths as shown below.
Each segment of these paths also intersects a puzzle. By using the rhyme scheme associated with that section, letters could be extracted from that puzzles answers by taking letters in the ‘B’ position. For example, between The Red Herring and The Crimson Catfish, the scheme is AABBAAA, and the answer word is JUPITER, so the extracted letters would be PI. Continuing this process for each segment, a word can be formed for each path:
Of course, a quantum pirate walks a PLANCK, which is the final solution. Victoriously Triumphant Hunters were contacted to attend the 2021 Winner’s Ceremony and collect their prizes!
Congratulations to all the winners of the 2021 VT Hunt!
This year we raised over $2,350 dollars in donations to various charities! Thank you so much to everyone who donated!
We had a total of 691 teams with 1433 total participants.
Of these 691 teams, 43 completed the Hunt, garnering a total of 151 Victors.
The medal-finishers of the hunt were the teams WIT, Yee Haw (pronounced Haw Yee), and Weird Lex & Aladdin C-Shackers.
We'd like to give a special shoutout to team Penthouse Boys, who had the most answer submits (at 1148!) - congrats on a victory well-earned.
We'd also like to give a special shoutout to Quarantine Decryptors for getting Rick Rolled 96 times!
At the end of the hunt, here's how many active teams were stuck on each stage (where a stage is made up of sets of three puzzles revelaed at a time):
Stage 1: 320
Stage 2: 265
Stage 3: 21
Stage 4: 21
Final Puzzle: 20
We had a total of 18,479 answer submissions.