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Solutions for Meta - Dramatis Personae

Throughout the Puzzle Hunt, the flavour text had been telling a story of Alice at a mad tea party and the various things she and her hosts (the Mad Hatter, March Hare, and Dormouse) did. Nested within this story is the rather confusing tale the Mad Hatter alludes to in every scene, which seems to describe the random movements of characters from Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.

In many cases the movements sound as if they belong on a chess board, and the Meta puzzle's title, Dramatis Personae, confirms this. The Dramatis Personae as printed in Through the Looking-Glass assigns chess pieces to each of the characters in Carroll's second Alice story, and indeed the novel itself describes the movements of these characters as chess pieces on a board, just as this year's story does. The Dramatis Personae assigns the pieces as follows (here we list only the characters mentioned in the Hatter's story; also, though not described in the Dramatis Personae, Alice takes the place of the white pawn Lily once she steps onto the giant chess board in the world through the looking-glass):

Character Chess Piece
Tweedledee white rook
Tweedledum white rook
Unicorn white knight
White Knight white knight
Aged Man white bishop
White Queen white queen
White King white king
Haigha (Hare) white pawn
Daisy white pawn
Alice white pawn
Humpty Dumpty red rook
Lion red rook
Carpenter red knight
Red Knight red knight
Walrus red bishop
Crow red bishop
Red Queen red queen
Red King red king
Rose red pawn
Frog red pawn

Furthermore, every time a puzzle was solved, a secret code was given to the solving team. Each code described the position of a chess piece on a chess board, as follows:

Puzzle Reward
I.1 White pawn on g4
I.2 Red knight on a2
I.3 Red bishop on g8
I.4 Red rook on b7
II.1 Red rook on h2
II.2 Red pawn on d2
II.3 White rook on b3
II.4 White bishop on d1
III.1 White knight on g5
III.2 Red king on f8
III.3 White rook on b1
III.4 Red knight on d6
IV.1 Red pawn on e7
IV.2 Red bishop on a5
IV.3 Red queen on f1
IV.4 White pawn on f6
V.1 White pawn on b5
V.2 White king on f4
V.3 White knight on e4
V.4 White queen on d4

So we now have the positions of 20 chess pieces on a board, and 20 chess moves as described by the Mad Hatter in the story text. The Meta further supplies us with a chess board covered in letters, so the logical conclusion is that we must play out the described chess game while taking note of the letters landed on after each move.

However trying this does not seem to work; the moves, just like the Hatter's story, seem disjointed and ambiguous. The trick here is to realise that in fact, the entire story this year was presented out of order to mimic the similar madness of Wonderland! Not only does the Hatter's story support this idea, but if one keeps track of what is happening during the tea party, various objects on the table seem to jump between characters out of order (for instance in I.1, the March Hare passes the milk to the Dormouse, but in I.2, Alice has the milk).

In fact this information can be used to order the story correctly. Reading the story carefully, it becomes clear there are four objects being passed around the table: The biscuits, tea, milk, and sugar. In each scene some of the items are accounted for, either being described as in front of the character who currently has them, or being passed from one character to another. The information supplied per puzzle is listed below, with the nomenclature "X > Y" meaning X passes the object in question to Y.

Puzzle Information Supplied
I.1 milk: March Hare > Dormouse
biscuits: March Hare > Mad Hatter
sugar: March Hare
I.2 milk: Alice
biscuits: Mad Hatter > March Hare
tea: March Hare
I.3 milk: March Hare > Mad Hatter
biscuits: March Hare > Alice
tea: Dormouse
sugar: Dormouse
I.4 tea: Dormouse > Alice
milk: March Hare
II.1 milk: March Hare
sugar: Alice > Dormouse
tea: Mad Hatter > Dormouse
II.2 milk: Alice > March Hare
tea: Dormouse
II.3 sugar: Alice > Mad Hatter
II.4 tea: Alice > Mad Hatter
milk: Alice > Dormouse
sugar: Mad Hatter
III.1 biscuits: Alice
tea: Mad Hatter
milk: Mad Hatter
sugar: Dormouse
III.2 sugar: Dormouse > March Hare
tea: Alice > Dormouse
milk: March Hare
III.3 tea: March Hare > Dormouse
sugar: Dormouse
III.4 tea: March Hare > Alice (again)
milk: Alice
sugar: Mad Hatter
biscuits: March Hare
IV.1 tea: Mad Hatter
sugar: Alice
milk: Dormouse > March Hare
IV.2 sugar: Mad Hatter > Alice
tea: Mad Hatter
milk: Dormouse
IV.3 milk: Alice
sugar: Mad Hatter > Dormouse
biscuits: March Hare
IV.4 tea: Mad Hatter > March Hare
milk: Mad Hatter
sugar: Mad Hatter
V.1 biscuits: Alice > Dormouse
sugar: Dormouse > Alice
V.2 milk: Mad Hatter > Alice
biscuits: Dormouse > March Hare
tea: March Hare
V.3 milk: Dormouse > Alice
tea: March Hare
V.4 biscuits: Mad Hatter
sugar: March Hare > Mad Hatter
tea: Dormouse > March Hare

Note that, importantly, in puzzle III.4, the story mentions that Alice receives the tea for a second time, i.e. she has had the tea prior to this. Using all this information, it is possible to determine a unique ordering of the story, which turns out to be as follows (the puzzle order is listed along with who is holding which object at each step):

Puzzle Biscuits Tea Milk Sugar
III.1 Alice Mad Hatter Mad Hatter Dormouse
V.1 Dormouse Mad Hatter Mad Hatter Alice
II.3 Dormouse Mad Hatter Mad Hatter Mad Hatter
IV.4 Dormouse March Hare Mad Hatter Mad Hatter
V.2 March Hare March Hare Alice Mad Hatter
IV.3 March Hare March Hare Alice Dormouse
III.3 March Hare Dormouse Alice Dormouse
II.2 March Hare Dormouse March Hare Dormouse
I.4 March Hare Alice March Hare Dormouse
III.2 March Hare Dormouse March Hare March Hare
I.1 Mad Hatter Dormouse Dormouse March Hare
V.4 Mad Hatter March Hare Dormouse Mad Hatter
V.3 Mad Hatter March Hare Alice Mad Hatter
I.2 March Hare March Hare Alice Mad Hatter
III.4 March Hare Alice Alice Mad Hatter
II.4 March Hare Mad Hatter Dormouse Mad Hatter
IV.2 March Hare Mad Hatter Dormouse Alice
IV.1 March Hare Mad Hatter March Hare Alice
II.1 March Hare Dormouse March Hare Dormouse
I.3 Alice Dormouse Mad Hatter Dormouse

Finally then we have an ordering for our chess moves. Setting up the board as per the secret codes and carrying out the moves in order, ambiguous character/piece allocation (e.g. Which of the two white rooks is Tweedledee/Tweedledum?) is made clear and the legal chess moves become similarly obvious:

Puzzle Description Move
III.1 The Old White King, though surrounded by his loyal allies, could no longer bear to feel the mad gaze of the Red Queen upon his back. He stepped behind his bold knight, feeling safer between the White Queen and the charming young Alice. Kf4e5
V.1 The Red Knight felt flushed with power, and saw an opportunity to strike at a vulnerable point in the White Queen’s defences. He leapt across the battlefield, his cruel and twisted sword reflecting the pale moonlight as it was thrust fast and true into the shape of the startled hare. The knight gazed into the glassy eyes of his prey, and let the pathetic creature fall to the ground. ...Nd6xb5
II.3 The Red Knight was closing in, and the White Queen knew she had to act. She stepped closer to him, spotting the Old Red King through the rose bushes, and prepared to strike. Qd4c5
IV.4 The Red Knight withdrew his wicked sword from the gutted animal, and had just begun to wipe the blood on the fallen hare’s fur when he heard a footstep behind him. The White Queen! He squealed in terror and leapt straight into the air, but could find no place to run from the White Queen. He retreated to the safest place left to him, protected by the fat walrus and Humpty Dumpty. Humpty Dumpty patted him on the shoulder reassuringly, but the fat walrus merely rolled his eyes and resumed sharpening his tusks. ...Nb5c7
V.2 'I can do this, I can do this!’ repeated Tweedledum to himself, snapping his smart suspenders against his puffy white chest. ‘I could do it, I bet I could!’ said Tweedledee from just behind him. They glared angrily at each other for a moment. Then Tweedledum span around; his little feet pattered against the hard ground, running as fast as he could for Humpty Dumpty, and headbutted him as hard as he could! The large egg, so fragile, cracked open. ‘Oh bother, who is going to put me back together again?’ Rb3xb7
IV.3 The miserly carpenter wasted no time. With his tool belt clanging and crashing at his waist, he moved in to attack, grinning maliciously at the thought of such an elderly, feeble target. ...Na2c3
III.3 The wise old man heard the tell-tale clanging of metal and saw the carpenter moving in to strike, but his wise old mind had other plans. He stepped slowly but surely out of the way, slipping around the frog and away from the terrible gaze of the Red Queen. Tweedledee realised that he could see the Red Queen - oh how he longed to show up Tweedledum! ‘I can do this, I can do this!’ he repeated to himself, snapping his smart suspenders against his puffy white chest. Bd1c2
II.2 Sparing barely a glance for the fat little man-thing, the Queen took two menacing steps towards Alice. Her tiny mouth twisted on her enormous head, and she muttered hateful things: ‘All the ways about here belong to me! To me!!’ ...Qf1f3
I.4 The White Queen glanced across the battlefield, and saw the danger Alice was in. Responding in kind, she took another strident step towards the Red Knight, keeping Alice in her sights. Qc5c6
III.2 And then, something strange and wonderful occurred. The ground near Alice churned up, spewing thick, wet earth spraying into the air, and the beautiful roses were consumed in the torrent - only to reappear, blocking the path of the Old White King. ...e7e6
I.1 The battle was well underway, and the Queen cried out to her brave knight: ‘Now!’. Reluctantly, he stepped aside, allowing the White Queen full view of her nemesis, the threat to her entire Kingdom. The knight stood between his King and Queen, ready to serve and risk his life, and watched anxiously as the two women prepared to fight. Ne4d6
V.4 The Red Queen’s fixed, furious gaze faltered and tore from Alice’s back, for her nemesis was preparing to strike. Losing all composure, she turned to face the White Queen. ‘She is mine, and so is this place, sister!’ she cried as she lunged towards the White Queen, but stopped just short, realising what an error she had made. That little girl, the cause of so much strife, was now beyond her reach! The Old White King and the White Queen prepared to strike, as the brave knight stood by, powerless to stop them. ...Qf3d5
V.3 Thinking the better of this conflict, the Old White King stepped away. Ke5f4
I.2 The lion stalked the battlefield, guarding the flanks and roaring for all to hear and tremble. He advanced, unafraid of the curiously twisting Daisy patch, and stood ready to bring down the greatest prize of them all - the unicorn! ...Rh2h5
III.4 Alice swallowed hard, trying to make her fears tiny and small and blow them away. Carefully, so carefully, she took a step forward. The unicorn watched her closely, but so did the black and beady eyes of the cruel, clever crow. f6f7
II.4 'Be ready to strike,’ said the Old Red King to the jet black crow, ‘and I’ll be ready to avenge your death!’ The crow took one look at the Old Red King, and fluttered away. Crows are clever, but rarely loyal! ...Bg8h7
IV.2 Closing his eyes, Tweedledee ran as fast as his little legs could carry him, rushing towards where the Red Queen had stood but moments before. He hoped to crack her like an egg, just like Tweedledum had done, but she had disappeared! He hit a rock at the edge of the battlefield and fell to the ground with a soft, pained ‘Oof!’. He looked up, and saw the lion. Rb1h1
IV.1 The lion looked down, and saw Tweedledee. And he screamed in terror, backing up as fast as he could, crashing into the cruel crow, blubbering with cowardly tears! Tweedledee snapped his smart, red suspenders in pride, swaying slightly as he stood up. How scary and brave he must be! (Just between you and me, though, the lion was a rather cowardly lion!) ...Rh5h6
II.1 In the confusion, the unicorn leapt up, beautiful rainbows streaming in its wake! It dashed into the crow, spearing the nasty thing with its beautiful, pearly horn. Ng5xh7
I.3 'Where are you, my Queen?’ cried the Old Red King, terrified at the departure of his loyal forces. All he heard in reply were angry curses. To his left, he watched the lion and the crow bump into each other, and cursed himself! The rainbow streaked across the sky, the crow cried out, and the Red King knew he was next. He moved away, as fast as he could go, and only then realised what a mistake he had made... ...Kf8e7

... with the implied final move being Alice moving forward one step to become a White Queen and win the game (f7f8Q).

If we write out the letters on each square in the order that they are landed on, we get the message "WHAT KILLS MANXOME FOES?". This is a reference to the famous poem Jabberwocky that appears in Through the Looking-Glass - in particular the third stanza:

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

While the poem later describes the killing instrument as a "vorpal blade", the fact that the last implied move of the chess game has Alice land on an S is meant to subtly imply the term "sword" is preferrerd to "blade", since the former term is the first to appear in the poem and resides in the same sentence as the key word "manxome". It follows then that the answer is vorpal sword.

The answer is: vorpalsword