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Solutions for Act II Scene 3 - Holding Hands

This puzzle shows a series of left and right hands in various positions with words tattooed on their fingers. The first message a solver is likely to notice is that the top letters of every right hand (positioned left in each pair) spells out the message REPEAT STEP ON NEW TERM. This doesn't seem immediately useful to us, but is worth keeping in mind for later.

The title "Holding Hands" implies we want to join pairs of hands somehow. It seems logical that if two hands are holding, their fingers will interlink, and the orientation of the letters on left and right hands implies we could make new words in this way by joining left with right. An immediately noticeable pair is ARIL/DOTY which interlink to give ADROITLY. In general though, pairs don't seem to come from paired hands.

Instead, we need to match left and right hands amongst many pairs. For example, PECS can join with IRE to make PIERCES. For each pair we make, the ordering to preserve should probably be determined by right hands (again, those on the left per pair) since the left hands are already arranged alphabetically. Altogether we get:

Right handLeft handResultant word
PAIREKEPEAKIER
PIESOLDSPOILED
PECSIREPIERCES
EVEOUROEUVRE
ARILDOTYADROITLY
TOPRUETROUPE
LEISBUTTBLUETITS
TIESANDSTAINED
EROSNOTENROOTS
ULPBRABURLAP
ONESCUTSCOUNTESS
INNSNIGSINNING
SINCOSSCIONS
ATEPSISPASTIES
WANSEKESWEAKNESS
CULTOPECOUPLET
ENDVIEVEINED
RUGSEREREURGES
SIMESSSEISMS

Now that we have a new list of words, we want to extract a new term from them as per the original hidden message. What we haven't used yet is the fact each hand is in either a thumbs-up or thumbs-down position. It's natural to interpret thumbs-up as a 1 and thumbs-down as a 0 in this instance, giving us a two-digit number per word that can be interpreted as binary. This number will always be 1, 2, or 3, which means we can index into the new word by this amount to get a selection of letters. For example, in PIERCES, we find both hands have up-pointing thumbs, so we should interpret this as 11 in binary or 3, and so take the third letter, E, of PIERCES. This looks like:

WordRight handLeft handLetter
PEAKIER 01P
SPOILED 01S
PIERCES 11E
OEUVRE 11U
ADROITLY 10D
TROUPE 11O
BLUETITS 01B
STAINED 11A
ENROOTS 11R
BURLAP 01B
COUNTESS 11U
SINNING 01S
SCIONS 01S
PASTIES 01P
WEAKNESS 10E
COUPLET 01C
VEINED 11I
REURGES 10E
SEISMS 01S

So we get the message PSEUDOBARBUS SPECIES, which implies the word REDFIN. But we still haven't quite used everything, and this answer isn't thematic. Instead we need to remember the original message that said to apply the same puzzle mechanic to this new term. So interleaving the words RED and FIN gives us the required answer, FRIEND, which certainly describes someone with whom you might hold hands!

The answer is: friend