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Solutions for Act I Scene 3 - Big Break

There are a few properties common to each stanza that can be quickly deduced. Firstly, each grouping ends in the string YGBBPB, almost always immediately after a letter that is not R. Secondly, every grouping contains exactly 15 R's, and each line starts with an R until 15 total R's have appeared in that group. And thirdly, with a few more exceptions, letters seem to generally alternate between R's and non-R's.

It's very likely that the letters stand for the colours Red, Yellow, Green, and Blue, though P could plausibly be Purple or Pink, and there are other potential candidates for the B as well. Appropriate Googling of some or all of these discoveries, possibly along with the title "Big Break", should eventually lead anyone who hasn't already cracked the theme to the game of snooker.

In a game of snooker, each player takes turns trying to pocket one of initially fifteen red balls, before alternating between sinking colours and reds. When a red ball is legally pocketed it remains off the table, but colours are returned to their designated spots after being pocketed until the endgame. A player continues their turn until they miss or foul, which marks the beginning of the next player's turn. Once all reds are cleared and after one final free colour shot, the colours must be pocketed in ascending point value order: Yellow (2), Green (3), Brown (4), Blue (5), Pink (6), Black (7).

It is possible, though unlikely, for a player to sink more than one red ball in a single shot. In this case, the multiple pocketed reds all remain off the table and the player continues as if they had potted a single red, alternating as usual thereafter.

These rules are all reflected and consistenly obeyed in the games depicted by this puzzle's shorthand. The main problem with this shorthand is that the B can ambiguously stand for either Blue, Brown, or Black. Otherwise though, points can be assigned to letters (keeping in mind each Red is worth 1), and this seems to be the next obvious thing to do.

In the first game, the points scored per turn are:

  • [one of 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21]
  • 14
  • 9
  • [one of 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20]
  • 1
  • [one of 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 23]
  • 25
The fact 9 and 1 appear, corresponding alphanumerically to the vowels I and A, implies we might be trying to make words out of these individual turn scores. Indeed it is possible to make the word UNITARY by assuming the scores were 21, 14, 9, 20, 1, 18, 25... and no other common word can be formed in this way.

Continuing this trend then, the deduced words turn out to be:

  • UNITARY
  • SCHISM
  • EMPLOY
  • DECORUM
  • INCUBATOR
  • FORGERY
  • FEBRUARY
  • ESCAPISM
  • REFINERY
  • ENACTOR
  • NIOBIUM
  • CENTURY
  • EGGNOG
  • IDENTIFY
  • NOTARY
  • STAIR
  • CANDELABRUM
  • OILY
  • RIGOUR
  • EARTHY
  • SODIUM

The first letters noticeably spell out the phrase USE DIFFERENCE IN SCORES, which can perhaps be interpreted in a few different ways, but the most obvious pairs of scores to be comparing would be those total scores achieved by the players in each game. For example in the first game, the first player scored 21+9+1+25=56 and the second player scored 14+20+18=52, giving a difference of 4.

The difference in scores from each game turn out to be 4, 21, 14, 3, 1, 14, 2, 1, 12, 12, 19, 20, 1, 12, 11, 9, 14, 7, 4, 15, 7. Alphanumerically these map to the ball-related phrase DUNCAN BALL'S TALKING DOG, who is of course Selby, a name shared by the current world champ at snooker.


Design notes:
The strict ending conditions on a game of snooker meant any encoded words could only end in the letters G, M, R, V, or Y, and further restrictions applied to other letters near the end. Short words could also be illegal due to not being able to support a full run of 15 reds, and any word sum had to lie between the snooker limits 42 and 147. Adding the score-differencing condition for the last step rendered our available word pool rather dire, but luckily enough common words were able to be scraped together to form a cohesive answer message.

We considered including certain rules for fouling and depicting games that end prematurely once one player realises they cannot win with the remaining available points, but decided against complicating the depicted games any further.

The answer is: selby