Follow Up

Sealed With A BANG was held on February 13, 2005 at Stanford University. Teams were told to gather in Hacienda Commons at 5:30 pm. Below you'll find a summary of the clues which took place. Thanks to everyone who participated in Sealed With A BANG. We'd like to give a special thanks to our playtesters and volunteers.

Andrew Ryder & the Microsoft puzzle peeps, Justin & Charlie Graham, Tim Knight, Eran Guendelman, Frank Losasso

Tim Knight, Eran Guendelman, Tim Hinrichs, Jenny Allen, Eilene Hao, Andy Selle, Matt, Aaron Master, Frank Losasso, and the girls of XX-Rated

The results are here and the top 10 teams all got prizes. If you couldn't make it to play or were curious to know more about the puzzles, read on for a full walkthrough.

Clue 0: The Logic of Love (Answer)

After teams checked in, they received a logic puzzle sheet with questions about children exchanging valentines in class as well as a valentine from XX-Rated with one clue for the logic puzzle. Teams then needed to exchange valentines with the other contestant to gather all the clues and solve the puzzle. We intended this to be difficult as many of you picked up on in the feedback. Had it been easy enough for everyone to solve right away, there would have been no way for us to differentiate the starting times of the teams. In retrospect, we should have told teams that there were only 14 different valentines which would have allowed them to start on the solving and stop trading sooner. At one point during the solving you did need to make a leap of faith (i.e., guess) and go down one of two paths hoping you were right. If you reached a contradiction, then you knew the other option was correct. We tried to include some parts of the puzzle which were easier to solve, such as the special gifts. Also, if you looked carefully, all the special gifts hinted at upcoming clues.

Clue 1: Sweethearts (front of box) (back of box)

In the teams opening packets, we included a code/trivia sheet, a campus map with numbered hearts, and an answer sheet with words mapping to the different numbered hearts. Also, we included a box of sweethearts candy. We started off with this one because it was intended to be the easiest clue and amongst our playtesters it was (once they knew that color was irrelevant). The biggest complaint from playtesters was that color was a red herring which is why we added the little note to Shrek saying "I'm so glad race doesn't matter to us" on the back of the Sweethearts box.

The way to solve this puzzle was by counting the number of each unique saying. This number gave you an index into the saying which gave you a letter. Once anagrammed, the letters spelled EROTIC.

Hint: How do I love thee, let me count the ways. (Color doesn't matter.)
Answer: EROTIC

Clue 2: Graffiti (mp3)

This clue consisted of a large sheet with graffiti words on it hung from the bird cage in White Plaza. In the background, we had a CD of love songs playing. To solve, you needed to connect the lyrics of the different love songs. We tried to pick relatively famous love songs as well as songs from a variety of decades and genres. However, should you not know the songs, you could listen to the lyrics in the background. The entire loop of songs went for 10 minutes and 16 seconds which was significantly shorter than the original songs. In addition, most of the songs were picked such that if you remembered the title of the song you could get it as well. The lyrics and the letters they yielded were: "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" by Elton John (W), "When a Man Loves a Woman" by Percy Sledge (A), "Still the One" by Shania Twain (L), "With or Without You" by U2 (T), "You Look Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton (Z). For this one, apparently the hint wasn't that helpful as all the peole who opened the hint also opened the answer. Sorry!

Hint: Listen and see how the lyrics flow together.
Answer: WALTZ

Clue 3: Rome Antique Locks

This paper clue was located outside of the main quad by the Gay Love statue. The original title of this clue was Be My Valentime but playtesters assured us that this was way too easy so we changed it to a homophone for "romantic clocks." The idea was that each heart mapped to an hour between 0 and 23. Since we didn't use X,Y or Z, this was sufficient. Light indicated AM (i.e., it's light during the day) and dark indicated PM (i.e., it's dark at night) and the point of the heart pointed to the hour on an analog clock. Playtesters told us this was much clearer than having the "butt" of the clock pointing at the hour. Substituting A for 1AM, B for 2AM, etc. spelled out the question THERE IS NO TIME LIKE THE WHAT? to which the answer is PRESENT.

Hint: Romantic clocks run on military time.

Clue 4: Enticing, Alluring, Tempting, Mouthwatering Edibles (eaten cookies)

This clue was located outside the Terman building, and was probably the favorite clue of players as well as one of our favorite clues as well. We made 216 cookies, used 15 pounds of chocolate and over 1000 graham crackers, and spent 7 hours fonduing binary cookies. Fortunately you all found it quite tasty (so tasty that some teams ate their entire clue before they could solve it). We originally color coded the cookies to help us in making sure that each team got one of each, but then realized it would eliminate the step of having to anagram so went with rainbow for the ordering.

If you notice, the first letters of the words in the title spell "Eat Me", a hint that you needed to bite into the cookies. After doing this, teams would see layers of dark and light cookie. Using the light cookies as 0's and dark cookies as 1's and the highest bit at the top of the cookie, you got binary representations of the letters spelling FONDUE. We actually couldn't playtest this one very well since most of our playtesters were in Seattle and the pictures didn't come out that well. Fortunately it turned out okay.

Hint: Hmm these cookies are good! What are all those tasty bits inside?
Answer: FONDUE

Clue 5: Cupid's Arrow

In the basement of the Gates computer science building, we had 2 archery targets set up. This was intended to be a fun little stopover to give people a mental break in the middle of the game. You needed to hit the black part of the target with the pink part of the arrow using the little bows. We made it just hit the black part because it was too difficult to actually get the arrow into the bag attached to the target although many managed. One team even did the entire event on their unicycles. Once you hit the target 3 times, you got the Love is Blind clue. We also wanted to put people in little Cupid diapers and wings but fortunately realized that would have slowed down the clue even more.

Clue 6: Love is Blind

Our playtesters (and players!) were completely bipolar on this. Either it was really easy or really hard; there was no middle ground. The first thing to notice was that the title, "Love is Blind", was a hint that the puzzle used braille, which could be found on the code sheets. We tried to use a variety of pictures, including animated characters, historic figures, pop culture icons, and even a cameo from Rachel. Teams had to look at the pictures and find the people who were in couples. Dividing the 6x6 grid of pictures into six 2x3 rectangles and using all the couples as dots in braille, you would get the answer DREAMY.

Sarah Jessica Parker - Matthew Broderick
John F. Kennedy - Jackie Onassis
Lady - Tramp
Bill Clinton - Hillary Rodham Clinton
Jada Pinkett Smith - Will Smith
Desi Arnaz - Lucille Ball
Miss Piggy - Kermit the Frog
Jessica Simpson - Nick Lachey
Answer: DREAMY

Clue 7: Lover's Knot

This clue was located outside the Clark building and consisted of a page of origami instructions and an origami paper with an explanation of the Lover's Knot on it. If teams folded their origami sheet into the Lover's Knot, the word COURTSHIP would appear from the letters in the explanation. We also provided some extra copies of the origami sheet in case teams had trouble folding their original sheet.

Hint: none given

Clue 8: Coming Up Roses

At the top of the oval at Stanford, teams were given a bouquet of roses. Their were six different colors of roses (red, white, yellow, pink, purple, and peach) and each rose had a number of tags labeled with a pair of numbers. Teams first had to realize that the meanings of rose colors was located on the trivia sheet they were given at the beginning of the game.

To solve this clue, you use the first number on each tag as an index into the rose color meaning, thus giving one letter per tag. The second numbers on the tags were all unique and gave the order in which to take the letters. This spelled A ROSE IS RED THIS IS BLUE. Thus, the answer is VIOLET.


red(1,17)(4,19)(5,11)=__ __ __ __ __ __
                                17 . . . . . 19 11 . .

Answer: VIOLET

Clue 9: Champagne

Outside the alumni center, we set up a giant picnic, with a large champagne bottle, champagne glasses and huge ice bucket. We also layed out some cheese for teams to eat. Some teams also decided to drink the apple juice from the glasses, which we were not expecting. Inside the ice bucket, besides normal ice, teams found plastic boxes (which were supposed to look like large ice cubes) which each contained a single object.

The objects were all made from a material which is an anniversary gift (found on the trivia sheet). We tried to include some objects which would make it obvious that the material was important, such as nail polish labeled as bronze, and a noose made from aluminum foil (it was impossible to find a picture of such a noose on google images, so we put an aluminum nut on the linked pdf). The year of the anniversary gift gave an ordering to the objects. We hoped some other items would make it clear that the object itself also mattered, such as oompahs candy. Given the ordering, you took the first letter of each object to spell out the phrase GO DOWN ON HIS KNEE which gives the answer PROPOSE.

Hint: Use the gifts you've been given. silk = iris = I

Clue 10: Kiss Me

The final clue was located at the fountain at Toyon hall, and consisted of a small baggie of hershey kisses. Since this was the last clue, we wanted to use the answers to all the other questions. This was by far the hardest clue, with over 90% of the teams who got to this clue taking the hint. On the answer sheet, each heart was a different color and teams had been told to circle their answers as they went. We had hoped teams would notice these colors right in the beginning since they weren't used anywhere else, but it was probably hard to remember after 3 hours of clues.

Each color of hershey kisses which the teams received corresponded to a colored heart which contained a previous answer. Teams had to count the number of hershey kisses of each color and index into the previous answers to get letters which anagramed to ROMANTIC.

Hint: Did you remember to circle all your answers?


(A second route ran clue 0, 1, 9, 8, 7, 5, 6, 4, 3, 2, 10)

For all the puzzles, we tried to make them solve to words related to the puzzle. Based on the number of hints and answers taken, the ranking for the puzzles from easiest to hardest was: Lover's Knot, Love is Blind, Graffiti, EAT ME, Coming Up Roses, Rome Antique Locks, Champagne, Sweethearts, Kiss Me.

From the feedback so far, about 1/3 found the clues overall too easy, 1/3 found the clues just right, and 1/3 found the clues to be too hard. We think we got it about right. :) Amazingly, for each clue, for every comment that it was too hard, there was also one saying it was too easy. So, it seems that it just depended on your team.

Hope you had fun and a Happy Valentine's Day!

-- XX-Rated