Da Vinci Code Quest: Final Phase

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Last Friday I completed the final phase of the Google Da Vinci Code Quest. It was pretty much exactly what I expected, in that it was five puzzles which were all trickier versions of the puzzle types seen in the first phase, sans observation puzzle. One difference was that once you completed the puzzle, you were done with it and there was no need to use a Google feature to find something obscure or to know something about the book/movie. (I did have this lingering fear that there would be an observation puzzle that required you to go out and see the movie — I’m really glad I was wrong.) I finished in 42 minutes, which I’m fairly certain was way too long to be in contention for the grand prize. (In fact, I know at least one person who beat me — Anand finished in 37 minutes.)
The first puzzle was a symbol puzzle which was really just a 9×9 sudoku with no real twist to it, other than the fact that it used symbols, rather than numbers. It wasn’t particularly hard — no need to do any expansive iterative deepening search in my head.
The second puzzle was what killed me — a “restoration” puzzle that was much, much harder than anything I had seen in the first phase. For those who didn’t compete, the restoration puzzles were similar to the old peg jumping game, except that it was a hexagonal grid and instead of jumping over a peg and removing it, you slide two pegs (well, smudges) that were exactly one space apart into the hexagon between them. The goal, like in the peg game, is to get down to only one remaining smudge. I spent a half an hour on this puzzle, more than two-thirds of my total completion time.
The third puzzle was a chess puzzle (checkmate the black king in three moves — and one of the moves is a stupid move by the black pieces), which, unlike in the first phase, you couldn’t bypass by knowing random facts about The Da Vinci Code. The fourth puzzle was a “curator” puzzle — hang multiple paintings on a wall so that they all fit, with added constraints due to the positions of the “hooks” on the walls that paintings can hang from. I never really found this puzzle-type to be that hard, though Anand said differently. The last puzzle was probably my favorite twist on an old standard puzzle. It was a jigsaw puzzle of moving images — the shapes of the pieces stayed the same, but the images rotated through screenshots of the movie preview.
The cryptex was, of course, completely unneccessary for the final phase. But it makes for a nice little prize. Now I just have to figure out what I have that is small enough to keep in there… and how to change the combination so that anyone with an Internet connection can’t figure it out.

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2 responses »

  1. The solutions were posted online before the finals ended, so the winner will almost certainly be someone who copied them down before they started. On top of that, I know somenody who finished without cheating in under 15 minutes.
    So yeah.

  2. That’s unfortunate (the cheating bit), but I figured it might happen. After all, I called Anand to tell him what to expect. I can easily imagine a pair of friends who were even less honest about it solving it slowly, writing the answers down, and then using the second person’s account to zip through everything.
    Ah well…

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