Solutions for Act III Scene 3 - Puzzle Page Part 3


The Act III series of puzzles was designed to look just like the puzzle page of the Sydney Morning Herald. Each Part was distinguished by the numbers labelling each sub-puzzle (which are used to represent the running total of each puzzle type in the SMH's puzzle page).

In order to make this set of puzzles look similar enough to the puzzle page Sydneysiders are familiar with, some liberties were taken with our usually tight rules regarding extraneous red herrings, but hopefully none of these (namely the puzzle instructions and comments on past and future solutions) tripped anyone up.

Finally, to give a reason for tying these four puzzles together, the solutions to each consecutive Part were deliberately made to relate to each other somehow. These relationships are explained at the end of each appropriate solution page, so don't read past the answer extraction step if you don't wish to be spoiled on the other Parts!

The Puzzle

Part 3 here referred to the puzzles labelled with a 3, the Target and the Sudoku.

The Target's rules were modified slightly from the norm to allow plurals, but also to mention that only one word was required (and that it had to be nine letters). This was meant to imply that the only word one needed to extract from the Target was its only anagram, DIAGONALS.

The Sudoku on the other hand was less conventional in that its solution is not unique. This is immediately clear since we haven't been supplied with any 1's nor 3's. This was done in part to prevent online solvers from being able to supply a solution (unfortunately some can still solve it anyhow), but also to hint at the next step. First though, we want to solve the Sudoku as best we can, and it turns out that the puzzle has only two possible solutions, where one is the other with all its 1's and 3's swapped. One such solution is given below:

The next step is to realise that the ambiguity of the 1's and 3's is also reflected in the Target to some extent: its first and third letters in the grid are the same, namely both A. So it seems plausible that the Target actually represents a mapping from numbers to letters, where 1 is mapped to the first letter (A), 2 is mapped to the second letter (S), etc. If we fill out the Sudoku with letters instead of numbers then, we get the following grid:

How can we extract an answer from this? The Target solution is our hint here: we want to look at the diagonals. Reading the main and then other diagonal gives the message "Nadia's lad, as in Alias". This seems to be referencing the character Nadia Santos from the television series Alias. Further research reveals Nadia was involved in two relationships over the course of the show, one of whom was a regular character, Eric Weiss. It seems more likely then that Eric is the answer we want, but there's still ambiguity as to whether the answer should be his first name, last name, full name, or alias.

There are a few hints here to suggest that it is indeed his alias, Retriever, that we want as the solution. First, the way the message is worded ("as in Alias") implies the character's alias is preferred over their real name. Next, hidden in the centres of the top and bottom rows of the Sudoku grid are the words DOG and GAINS, which can both imply the word "Retriever" (and satisfyingly use the as-yet unused letters O and G). Finally, while the name "Eric Weiss" (or any other Alias character's name, for that matter) does not seem a fittingly thematic solution to this puzzle, "Retriever" certainly describes any solver of this puzzle, who would have spent the penultimate step retrieving letters and inserting them into their correct places on the grid.

The solution to Puzzle Page - Part 2 was the word "Snoopy", which both describes a spy as an adjective, and is famously the name of a dog (while a retriever is also a type of dog).

The answer to Puzzle Page - Part 4 was the name "Ximenes", which was similarly hinted as the alias of another person, Derrick Macnutt.

Design Notes:
Finding an unambiguous message for this puzzle from such a small pool of letters proved pretty much impossible, so in the end I opted for the least ambiguous (or so I thought) message I could find. It was assumed most teams might miss the hidden hints but would likely guess "Eric Weiss", "Eric", and then "Retriever". Unfortunately as the solve stats and guesslog imply, teams read into the message in more ways than we had expected.

Interestingly, the solution to this puzzle became far less ambiguous if one noticed the connections between the other three answers.

The answer is: retriever