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Posts posted by WitchOfSecrets

  1. Hmm.

    I suspect that the columns represent some kind of cipher. Some notes:

    * No column contains more than 7 lights. We should not eliminate an octal counting system as a possibility.

    * There are a total of 17 blinking lights and 35 non-blinking lights, making 52 lights total. If this had been a multiple of eight, I would be confident that it represented an ASCII code in binary, but I don't think it's that simple. That said, here are two possible binary readings if we assume that the lights encode runs of ones and zeroes:



    * The non-blinking columns all contain numbers between 4 and 7 - a range of about 20 - 30. This increases the chance that they represent the tens place in some number that directly translates to ASCII letters. If we assume that, we get:

    51 64 43 72 75 62

    * Finally, we can't assume that we're dealing with English. It might be worth considering the possibility of Unicode encoding or something.

  2. 1. goes with cotton or vermouth 3 - GIN

    2. close by 4 - NIGH

    3. talk like a horse 5 - NEIGH

    4. swinging joint 6 HINGES

    5. done in from a platform 6 -

    6. beware, Will Robinson! 6 - DANGER

    7. made mad 7 - ANGERED

    8. made mad 7 - ENRAGED

    9. make amicable 6 -

    10. mini bomb 6 - ... GRENADE is 7

    11. eats sauce also 6 - GANDER

    12. homes to radishes and roses 6 GARDEN

    13. caught unawares 6 SNARED

    14. dweebs 5 NERDS

    15. lairs of lions, foxes and iniquity 4 DENS

    16. finis 3 END

  3. Saturday, 3:04 PM

    "Knight was... interesting to talk to," said Judgment. "Laconic."


    On the phone lines:

    "Broken. Gonna go up with Nine and fix 'em. We don't get a lotta calls, anyway."

    On roof access:

    "Big trapdoor at the top of the northwest staircase. It's pretty obvious if you look."

    On the electrical systems in the castle:

    "The alarms are on their own generator, and only the security company's got a key to that. Nobody's gonna mess with their power. But everything else is on main power, and power surges play hell with my PC here. Had to get a power strip with a backup battery to keep it from gettin' shut off."

    On the theft from the kitchen:

    "Scissors? No idea."

    On the other staff:

    "I get along okay with Nine, King, and Temperance. Don't know the others very well. King's definitely harmless - no way he's involved in any funny business. If anything happened, he wouldn't be a culprit."

    On the security room keypad:

    "Nah, I haven't shared the combo with anyone else."

    On secret passages:

    "I know this place like the back of my hand, and I've looked. No secret passages in this Castle."

    On the guests:

    "Hmmm... I know Seven of Cups pretty well. She loves astrology and astronomy and stuff. Meteor shower tonight; we're gonna watch from her room."

    "I heard High Priestess has some kind of puzzle for us at dinner. She weirds me out."

    "Magician's got a great head for electronics. Sometimes we talk about that stuff; he's made all kinds of little gadgets. Actually, he probably knows more about microelectronics than I do, and that's saying a lot."

  4. I'm starting to think that...

    I'm on the right track with the key being inside the jar the whole time. Another option is that Y-san escaped through the window, but not by going down the cliff, but rather, UP onto the roof. If the roof has an overhang, Y-San could have hooked it with a cane, a grapnel, or any number of other methods, pulled herself up, climbed over the house, and left in the other direction.

  5. A physics-y solution:

    The key was inside the jar before Y-San replaced the jar in the house. Using a slipknot, she made a loop around the mouth of the jar using a double length of string. Then she placed the key in the jar, and swung the jar like a bola ball; if she swung it fast enough, the key wouldn't fall out even when the jar was upside-down. She flung the whole apparatus through the hole in the window like a sling, and when the jar landed, it tended to rest on its low center of gravity. Finally, she tugged the string to release the slipknot.

    Or she made a catapult. Either way, the key was in the jar before it got back into the house.

    The seagull was a red herring; the crumbs were there because it was a cookie jar.

  6. (My major? Biology!)

    Saturday, 2:32 PM

    Nodding at the latest pieces of interview data, I walked out to the courtyard to investigate. Meanwhile, Judgment made his way up to the Driftwood Room to question Knight about the phone lines, the electronics, and the staff and guests.

    The courtyard lay between the outer walls and gatehouse and the inside of the Castle. Paved in gray cobblestones, it was sparse, decorated only with solemn statues and grotesque gargoyles. Some held books; others held staves or swords. One wore in a mask and a witch's cap, and had the following piece of doggerel set in stone tiles on its pedestal:



    I puzzled over this a little, then turned my attention to the walls. I could hear the pounding on the ocean cliffs just beyond the west wall, which was far too high to scale, and looked rather treacherous. The gatehouse was likewise well-fortified; the sign by the great metal gates stated that Castle was open from 10 AM to 6 PM - plenty of time for all the guests to arrive, but nobody could entering or leaving this keep while those gates were closed - the walls were sheer, the cliffs were uninviting, and the metal was sturdy and topped with formidable spikes.

    Overhead, the windows of the Castle glinted in the afternoon sun. The tape I had laid on the Electricity Closet window was not at all visible from this side, and I walked around the house checking all of the other ground floor windows one by one. Apparently, the Castle had met its quota of broken locks and latches, as every one that I could reach was locked. Of course, there was no way to check the ones that faced the cliffs from the outside, or the ones on the upper stories, but the walls seemed impossible to scale, at least without a ladder. Which also raised to mind the question of how anyone got up to the roof to raise and lower the castle's flag and maintain the power and phone lines - I didn't see any passage to the rooftop on the map I was given, but perhaps there was an error and one of the tower stairs went up further.

    I glanced into the garden and saw a man - King, presumably - at work cutting roses at the entrance to the hedge maze. Searching in there would be more trouble than it was worth, so I stuck to the courtyard and walls when probing for secret passages. And after a thorough sweep, I finally found something worthwhile. The statue of the witch had a small, nearly undetectable keyhole set into its robes at chest height. I couldn't do anything with it at the moment, I knew, but someone was hiding something there.

    Satisfied that I'd gleaned everything I could from the courtyard, I returned to meet up with Judgment once more.

  7. Thoughts - both are long-shots.

    "It’s not easy to be a gem of the day of independence:"

    This suggests a reference to Kermit the Frog's song "It's not easy being green." So we have green - Emerald. That's May. So we're dealing, perhaps, not with American Independence Day, but with a different Independence day altogether. There are several possibilities, but I should note that May 5 is not really Mexican Independence Day.

    DEAD could be hexadecimal - 57005. But I don't think we've had any clues for that?

  8. Would a long thread be involved in this? It could be done by looping a length of thread around a seagull's leg, twisting it around a key in the process. As long as the torque was maintained, the loop would stay on until the seagull had reached the jar, and then the string could be untwisted to release the key and retrieve the string.

  9. (Wow. It's getting hard to keep writing steadily with all this thesis work/teaching! I hope I haven't lost everyone.)

    Saturday, 2:32 PM

    I met up with Judgment once more, who had gleaned some interesting tidbits from the Page of Swords.


    On the Queen:

    "She's a secretive lady, but very nice!"

    On her mother:

    "Oh, you heard about that? Yes, my mother's very ill... yes, money would help her get better treatment - but we manage somehow."

    On Temperance:

    "She's like a second mother to us here, I think! Aside from keeping the books, she manages a lot of the little personal problems we have... when I caught fever, she took care of me, you know."

    On King:

    "King's a nice guy, but he... um... sleeps too much on the job."

    On Strength:

    "He can be very brusque sometimes, but don't let that put you off at all! He's a good person deep down. But he works too hard."

    On Nine:

    "I barely know him, but he and Ten are like siblings. They definitely wouldn't hide anything from each other. Whatever one does, the other knows about."

    On Knight:

    "He's very into his electronics and things, but I wish he'd fix the phones. They haven't worked for a week!"

    On Ten:

    "Ah... she and Strength had a bad argument. The kitchen door lock's been broken for a few days, and Strength thinks she and Nine are holding up on getting it fixed because - because of some kind of grudge! This one time, you see, Strength forgot about Ten's peanut allergy...

    But I don't think that either of them are stalling, I think they're just she has against him because of that ONE time he forgot about her peanut allergy... but I don't think that's what's going on. And it's probably just that Knight and Nine haven't gotten around to getting a new lock and key. These locks are very fancy, you know, pretty much impossible to pick, Nine says."

    On the theft:

    "I don't know how it happened! A nice pair of scissors that Strength uses for cutting meat got stolen, and I have no idea who did it. Or why..."

    On the guests:

    "Some of them have visited before, but some are new to me! I've never met the Emperor, and it's been years since Eight of Coins has managed the trip here, with his bad health... but Five of Wands was here last year, and the High Priestess was with him."

  10. (Current suggestion queue:

    Suspects to question: Page, Knight

    Places to visit: Electrical closet, courtyard, queen's room, security room (takes 15 min due to prior familiarity). Hallways also take 15 minutes only to check.

    Am I missing anything?)

    Saturday, 2:05 PM

    Judgment and I split up again. Judgment left to interview the Page about the kitchen staff and the dispute between Ten and Strength, and I went to visit the electrical closet. The door was unlocked, but I knocked before entering for politeness's sake. The door opened, and a tall, thin man in overalls beckoned me in. It was Knight of Swords.

    "You must be one of the security people," he said, his voice gruff. "Well, go ahead and look around. Please don't mess with the fusebox; I hate it when people do that."

    I nodded and took stock of my surroundings. As it happens, "closet" wasn't quite the right word for the room, except by convention. It was small, but only in comparison to the grand hall next door, and the roof was high. Metal shelves stacked with lightbulbs, plumbing equipment, and assorted supplies were mounted on the walls, filled with outdated detritus. I'm pretty sure I saw a vacuum tube there, along with a number of other useful trinkets - razorblades, a roll of duct tape, permanent markers...

    A tall metal ladder lay on the floor against the west wall, underneath an open fuse box filled with circuit breaker switches. Each switch was labeled with the name of a room, and none appeared to be tripped off; as far as I could tell, every room on the map had a circuit breaker, and in addition there was one labeled "EXTER. LIGHTS". None of them were tagged as controlling the alarm system, which ran on its own more secure power supply.

    I turned my attention to the window. "Do you usually keep that open?" I asked.

    "Only when I'm working in here," replied Knight. "I close it up every night. Latch is broken, though. I'll be getting around to fixing it later. I'm about to head back to my room, actually, so I guess we can close it up."

    He shut the window, and I saw that he'd been telling the truth about the latch; it was completely busted. But I had a few tricks up my sleeve, honed by years of dealing with mysterious thefts. I cut off a strip of duct tape, then grabbed a razorblade and a marker off the shelf as well. "Anyone who gets in here at night could do real mischief," I said. "You aren't going to give that key to anybody, are you?"

    "Nope. I don't let anybody borrow it, even."

    "Okay," I said. I then put the strip of duct tape just over the join between the panes of the window, where it would be invisible from the outside. I then signed my name across the tape in marker and scored it several times with the razor. Anybody who opened the window would break this seal. It wouldn't stop anybody from breaking in, but I'd know it if someone did. After replacing the tape, marker, and razor, I did my usual thorough search for secret passages; there were none.

    "I'm heading back to my room," said Knight. I followed him out, and he shut and locked the electrical closet door behind us using his key.

  11. Here we go.

    Let's assume that we're going for two strategies where each person has a certain probability of choosing the coffee, and one-minus-that probability of choosing the water. Let's also say that the cost of being poisoned is "C" and benefit of poisoning someone else is "B".

    Call the probability that the poisoner poisons the coffee X. The probability that they poison the water is 1-X.

    Call the probability that the poisonee drinks the coffee Y, and the probability that they don't 1-Y.

    The expected gain the poisoner has for a given strategy is:G = .8X*Y*B + (1-X)(1-Y)*B

    The expected loss that the poisonee has for a given strategy is : L = -.8X*Y*C - (1-X)(1-Y)*C = - .8CXY -1C + XC + YC- XYC

    Now, the poisonee can change Y, but they have no control over X. We can express the effect of changing their probability of drinking coffee by taking the derivative dL/dY and treating X as a constant. So dL/dY = -.8CX + C - CX = C(-.8X + 1 - X) = C(-1.8X + 1)

    To find an equilibrium point, I'm thinking we have to set this derivative to zero - that's a place where changing Y doesn't alter L. So 0 = -1.8X + 1. X = 5/9. So if the poisoner chooses coffee 5/9 of the time, any strategy works equally well for the poisonee.. Now let's see what the poisonee does. L = -G if we set B and C to 1 for convenience, so their derivatives should be zero at the same value, I think.

    I think that my summary was incomprehensible! But I believe that the poisonee should ALSO choose coffee 5/9 of the time.

    This results in the poisonee dying 4/9 of the time.

  12. The only round lucky things I can think of are dreamcatchers and coins and wells, and none are found deep in ice.

    It could be a witch bottle or charm flask - you wouldn't want to tip that over, some are round... I'm not sure.

    Finally, a globe is a possibility! Though I don't see where the ice comes in, again.

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