Da Vinci Code Quest

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Well, last Wednesday I finished the last of the 24 puzzles in Google’s Da Vinci Code Quest about three minutes after it was released. None of the 24 puzzles were all that hard — one of the sudoku variations took me about 20 minutes and every other puzzle I had done in under five minutes. The way the “Quest” was set up, your speed on the first 23 puzzles didn’t matter as long as you had them finished before the last puzzle was released.
The final puzzle itself, the only one where your speed really mattered, was a joke as far as puzzles go. “Watch this Da Vinci code trailer and answer three questions about what you saw,” was essentially the puzzle. For the second two questions, I barely needed to see the clip. As it happens, Anand, who was participating in the challenge having never read the book, asked me what “So Dark the Con of Man” anagrams to about ten minutes before the 1 pm start time. “Some painting in the book,” was all I could remember. He then ran it through an anagram finder and reminded me about “Madonna of the Rocks.” By random coincidence, the second question answer was “So Dark the Con of Man.” The third question was “What does the answer to the second question anagram to?”
Thanks, Anand. I probably would have had to resort to using the Internet Anagram Server without your question.
The google servers noticeably slowed around the time I submitted my answers, and I realized that if a Google server was being affected, then well over 10,000 people were probably trying to play. Scanning various blogs all over the web, it seemed that this thing was huge and I quickly lost all hope of being in the top 10,000 and allowed to continue to the final phase. Thursday night everyone who finished got an e-mail thanking them for playing with a note that finalists would be notified on Monday.
Monday morning came and I had no e-mail from Google. But then I got an e-mail from Dustin Rabideau, another frantic competitor who had finished right around the time Anand and I did. He had been monitoring forums and blogs and it seems that the finalists weren’t being notified by e-mail — they were just getting cryptices (my preferred pluralization of cryptex) in the mail. With this in mind, I popped back home and there on the porch was a white box from the USPS with my name on it.
And inside…


{This is where I will eventually post a picture of the cryptex. Once I get batteries for my camera that is. In the meantime, Dustin sent me a link to someone else’s cryptex here, which is pretty much exactly what mine looks like, right down to the stamp.}
That’s right. As it turns out, my pessimism was all for naught. The passphrase that opens the cryptex?
PAXIL
Well, okay, it’s really GRAIL (it’s printed on the back of the box), but only the last two dials matter in the unlocking mechanism so anything ^…IL$ will open it. Inside is a “parchment” (not papyrus and no vial of vinegar) with the message:

Congratulations


you have proven worth of the Da Vinci Code Quest on Google, visit
http://www.Google.com/DaVinciCode
to see if your journey continues.

It’s still just a big publicity stunt and a weak puzzle competition for an over-hyped book. But I have a cryptex, so what do I care.

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