Solutions for Act II Scene 3 - Flash Cards

One of the more common uses of flash cards is to study vocabulary, especially that of foreign languages. Looking at the left column we notice that the cards are not quite in alphabetical order, with the initial letters of the first five spelling out JAPAN. This is a hint that, in particular, we want to look at the Japanese language.

Looking up the Japanese translation of a few of the words in the right column gives the pattern. For example, "clear weather" is はれ, which in Romaji (the romanisation of Japanese) is "hare", a "jackrabbit". We can then fill in the cross-language pseudo-homonyms like so:

English clueJapanese cluePseudo-homonym
JackrabbitClear weatherhare
A double-reed instrumentMemoryoboe
Parallel of "sir"Uselessdame
Acquire or obtainBambootake
Negatively charged particleSoundlessmuon
Ache or painThatsore
Closely relatedGoldkin
Egg-laying animalStrangehen
Goad or provokeWhodare
Out of consideration for someoneAlcoholsake
Percentages are out of this squaredDotten
Perfect, as in a skillBonehone
Rubbish containerBottlebin

Indexing into the pseudo-homonyms by the number of stripes on the corresponding left-column flash cards gives the message ROMEOSIERRATHEN. This gives the answer TANGO, the next word in the NATO alphabet and also the Japanese word for "vocabulary".

Design notes:

While Japanese has 45 kana (equivalent of English letters), not all of them could be used in the puzzle due to discrepancies in different Romanisation systems. As a result of this restriction, all of the words in the puzzle are at most four letters long, with only a few pseudo-homonyms longer than that (e.g. "sonata" in hint 2)

Some teams went the extra step of translating "tango" for the answer. While the original answer to the puzzle was indeed "vocabulary", the presence of other translations such as "word" meant that "tango" was the less ambiguous answer choice in the end.

Also, remember that even though the Romaji looks like English, the pronunciation is completely different!

The answer is: tango