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Solutions for Act II Scene 1 - Words With Friends

The first thing to do is count the number of words, and the number of symbols. There are eighteen words and nine symbols. This suggests that maybe we should pair up the words in some way, which also corresponds to the title. If that's true, then it seems reasonable that we want to draw a line between the words, given that there's a dot underneath each word. But we can worry about that after we figure out what connects each pair of words.

There seems to be relatively little to go on here. Bass and carp are both fish? Savior is spelt with a US spelling? One thing that helps here is to look at the lengths of the words. Four four letter words, four five letter words, four six letter words, six seven letter words. They're all even, so perhaps the words are paired within these groups? It's still not so clear how they pair up, but listing them according to length helps a lot.

The title gives a strong hint to the next step; Words With Friends is a game played on phones. Each pair of words, when typed on a phone keypad, produces the same series of numbers. For instance, bass and carp are both 2277. Once this has been realised, it's very simple to pair off the words.

Each line goes through exactly one symbol, and each symbol has a line through it, so it seems like we made the right choice. The next step is to figure out what the symbols are for: we have a bunch of words that we've already associated with numbers, and a bunch of plus and minus symbols, so it makes sense to add/subtract them:

+7946437 (pygmies/swinger)
+728467 (savior/pathos)
-268427 (cougar/antics)
+87825 (truck/usual)
+35673 (fjord/elope)
+2277 (bass/carp)
-2465377 (aimless/chokers)
-5427 (jibs/liar)
+2337377 (address/beepers)
=8398825

The final step is to try to find a word that fits this number. The answer that pops out is TEXTUAL, which is also thematically relevant.


Design Notes: The idea of using so-called "textonyms" for a puzzle has interested a few of us for a while now; I decided to finally pull the trigger. The idea of presenting the pairs like this was motivated by the need for a logical path to an answer; we should exploit the numbers, so let's add and subtract them (the numbers are too big to multiply/divide without causing problems). A circle is a nice way to arrange the words evenly. At one point, the goal was to make the puzzle look like a phone keypad, but this made it near-impossible to make the lines all pass through a unique symbol, so I just put them in ambiguous-looking places. Every line (hopefully) goes through exactly one symbol in a really obvious way, but not so obvious that you could figure out where the lines go without figuring out the pairs.

The words were chosen on a few criteria: that the pairs didn't have too many letters in common, that they were too diverse to try to get a different type of pairings, and that they were fun-sounding words.

The answer is: textual