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How to Succeed at Puzzled Pint (Without Really Trying)

We’re happy to announce that Toronto is the sixteenth city to host Puzzled Pint!

Puzzled Pint logo

Puzzled Pint is a free monthly event for fans of puzzles, camaraderie, and pub food. Each month, the Puzzled Pint volunteers will post a brain-bending puzzle online. Once you solve it, you plug the answer into a webpage which reveals the secret mystery pub in Toronto where the event will be held. Puzzled Pint always runs on the second Tuesday of the month. Two members of Toronto Game Control will be on-hand to give you and your team of friends a package containing this month’s puzzles, which you can solve leisurely over some combination of fish, beer, bangers, chips, kidney, steak, and pie.

Born in Portland, Puzzled Pint is inspired by a very active San Francisco Bay Area “puzzle community” blessed with many room escape games, puzzle hunts, and puzzle rallies that are far beyond what most of us in Toronto are used to.

You can play all of the past Puzzled Pint puzzles on the puzzledpint.com website. At first blush, Puzzled Pint puzzles may seem like Mensa-level challenges devised for, and by, mega-geniuses. But just like crossword puzzles, over time these games have developed their own vocabulary and shorthand that make solving them much easier. You’d never use a word like EPEE in regular conversation, but you see it in crossword puzzles all the time. Here, then, are some tips for solving Puzzled Pint-style puzzles so that you can feel confident joining us every month for some free and friendly solving!

Know Your Codes

Many Puzzled Pint challenges involve translating something into something else, using an established code alphabet. When you arrive at the pub, some of these commonly-used codes will be provided for you. Here are a few examples:

Braille

See something that looks like dots, squares, X’s or pips in a 2×3 grid? Chances are, it’s Braille – the finger-bumpy language for blind and vision-impaired people. Just Google yourself a Braille alhpabet (or use this one) to translate it!

braille

Semaphore

Anything that looks like two angled lines in 45 degree increments springing from a shared origin could be semaphore, the flag signal language. For example, clock hand positions could easily be a front for semaphore code. The Beatles’ arms are spelling out “NUJV” in semaphore on their album cover (because “HELP” wasn’t aesthetically pleasing):

Beatles - HELP

Here’s the semaphore alphabet:

semaphore alphabet flag signal language

Morse Code

You’re probably familiar with Morse code, a system using audio dots and dashes to signify letters. A puzzle could use any dot- or dash-like symbol to suggest Morse code, like sticks and stones, or an eyeball winking open and closed. Here’s the Morse code alphabet:

Morse code dot dash translate cryptography LockQuest Puzzled Pint

Military Phonetic Alphabet

The Military Phonetic Alphabet substitutes a unique-sounding word for every letter of the alphabet, to prevent the Drive-Thru Effect where communication gets garbled over a shoddy connection. Historically, the alphabet has used different words, but the current internationally agreed-upon list (and the one that Puzzled Pint is most likely to use) goes like this:

  • A = ALPHA
  • B = BRAVO
  • C = CHARLIE
  • D = DELTA
  • E = ECHO
  • F = FOXTROT
  • G = GOLF
  • H = HOTEL
  • I = INDIA
  • J = JULIETT
  • K = KILO
  • L = LIMA
  • M = MIKE
  • N = NOVEMBER
  • O = OSCAR
  • P = PAPA
  • Q = QUEBEC
  • R = ROMEO
  • S = SIERRA
  • T = TANGO
  • U = UNIFORM
  • V = VICTOR
  • W = WHISKEY
  • X = X-RAY
  • Y = YANKEE
  • Z = ZULU

Periodic Table of Elements

It’s not strictly an alphabet, but because Puzzled Pint is nerdsport, you can count on the periodic table showing up quite often. Knowing some of the atomic numbers of the elements (Hydrogen = 1, Carbon = 6), or knowing the less intuitive abbreviations (like Fe for iron and K for potassium) could help you out. Here’s the periodic table:

periodic table LockQuest code cryptography

Play With Words

Puzzled Pint often leans on classic word puzzles and games. If you’ve ever puzzled your way through a Dell or PennyPress variety puzzle magazine, you should feel right at home. If not, here are some common examples:

Anagrams

Also called “word jumbles,” these are puzzles where you have to unscramble letters to make sense of them. So WREASN becomes ANSWER.

You can use this Anagram Solver website to help you anagram words and phrases.

Cryptograms

These are letter substitution puzzles. Given a sentence made up of nonsense letters (or symbols), figure out which letter each symbol represents and solve the sentence.

cryptogram example letter substitution code cryptography

There are tricks used to solve cryptograms, and one of the most common is to look for a regularly-occurring 3-letter word and try THE or AND. Words with apostrophes are often contractions like IT’S, CAN’T or DON’T. Look for two symbols together indicating double letters – usually only certain letters (like BB, DD, EE, FF, GG, LL, MM, NN, OO, PP, RR, SS, and TT) appear together. An isolated letter can usually only be A or I. If it’s I, look for other companion words that fit that perspective, like ME, MY, and MINE. Think about S, ING and ED for common word endings.

There are a number of tools online that can quickly crack a crpytogram, like this one. Other tools, like this one, help you to create your own cryptograms.

ROT-13 and Caesar Ciphers

As with cryptograms, these are coded messages with a more straigtforward method of solving. In a Caesar cipher, every letter of the alphabet in a coded message is shifted by the same number. So for example, A becomes E (the letters shift four places), and the word ODEBP becomes SHIFT.

With ROT-13, a specific type of Caesar cipher, letters are shifted 13 places.

You can use this website to punch in codes and shift them by a set number of letters.

rot-13 Caesar cipher

Numbered Letters

Quite often, a Puzzled Pint clue will have you finding an answer paired with a number. In that case, you likely have to pull a letter out of the clue using the number. So if your clue is SOLUTION and it’s matched with the number 7, you need to pull the 7th letter out of SOLUTION, which is O.

Search the Flavour Text for Clues

“Flavour text” is puzzle lingo for the introductory text that introduces a puzzle. Sometimes, this text is innocuous. It’s just there to tie Puzzled Pint puzzles to the month’s theme (past themes include X-Men, Egyptology and The Princess Bride). At other times, the flavour text provides valuable clues that you need to solve the puzzle.

Here is some flavour text from the location puzzle for the January 2015 X-Men theme:

If you feel your energy flagging, come join us for food, drink, and puzzles! The mutants below are each signaling part of the location where you might find the X-Men.

Puzzled Pint January 2015 X-Men

Note the suspicious use of the words “flagging” and “signalling.” These are clues indicating that the puzzle involves a semaphore translation (semaphore is the language that uses signal flag).

Pay close attention to suspicious words or awkwardly-constructed sentences in the flavour text! The word “rotate” might mean that you have to use ROT-13 or another Caesar cipher to “rotate” the letters a few places. Directional words like up, down, left, behind, beneath – even “port,” as in the nautical direction, could indicate the way you need to move your pencil through a puzzle. The word “blind” or subtle references to blindness (like “bumping around in the dark”) may indicate that the answer uses Braille.

Know Your Puzzles

Let’s face it: coming up with new puzzle ideas is hard. That’s why Puzzled Pint puzzle writers lean on old familiar puzzle standards to construct their puzzles. Expect to see these puzzle structures showing up time and again:

Crossword Puzzles

Of the (generally) two styles of crossword puzzles – American and British/Crtypic – expect to see American-style show up more frequently. American-style crossword puzzles usually provide clues that require you to brainstorm synonyms. The more American crosswords you do, the more you get to know uncommon but vowel-packed words like NEE, EPEE, OLEO, ALOO, TEPEE, and ALGAE.

Sudoku

Sudoku puzzles have you arranging a sequence of numbers, shapes, symbols – anything – into rows and columns so that each element is only used once, both in a row and in a column.

Nonograms

Marketed as “Picross” by Nintendo, nonograms (AKA “Japanese crosswords” or “Paint-by-numbers”) have you filling in squares in a grid according to distribution clues written in the margins.

LockQuest nonogram example

Bring Your Best Brains

Puzzled Pint is a social event, and a good chunk of the fun comes from figuring out the answers with a little help from your friends. Put your best minds together, and bring your brainy besties. You never know who among your friends will have that “aha” moment that leads your team to solving a puzzle.

Stay Tuned

We hope you can join us and the rest of the GTA’s puzzle community at Puzzled Pint at a mystery pub on the second Tuesday of every month. It’s free, it’s non-competitive, and it’s a fun way to spend an evening. Like PuzzledPintTO on Facebook, or follow @PuzzledPintTO on Twitter if you’d like to be notified when the next location puzzle is announced.

See you at the pub!

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