All of the best operatives have tech support. Bond has Moneypenny and Q. Batman has Oracle. Punisher has Microchip.
My older sister has me, your friendly neighborhood puzzlin’ fool.
Allow me to explain.
For a few years now, my older sister has competed in various rounds of the Great Urban Race, a city-centric version of The Amazing Race that combines trivia, puzzle-solving, and physical challenges. And an outrageous amount of running around.
(I understand there is a similar event in Canada known as the City Chase. And, of course, there’s the supremely puzzle-focused BAPHL, which Eric covered earlier this year.)
Since it’s damn near impossible to do research on the run, competitors are allowed to have someone as remote tech support to do the electronic legwork while the team is on the move. As a puzzle fiend and a world-class Googler, I was her first and only choice.
So last weekend, for the third time, I found myself hunkered down in front of my laptop with several Google windows prepped, waiting for text messages or emails to roll in.
The first time, she was in Philadelphia.
Where is the only digital printing studio in Philly with IRIS 3047 printer? Where is the Class of ’49 Bridge? What is the river that the St. James Brewery in Dublin is situated on?
And then the kicker. Where is this statue?
I hit Google Image Search immediately, but the dimensions on the picture simply didn’t match up with anything I could find in the Philadelphia area.
Which meant either the photo was compressed or otherwise distorted, or it was taken from a weird angle.
So I went with that, looking for any gargoyles with potential, or at least a similar shape. That’s when I stumbled upon an image from Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary.
They have two gargoyles that are put up on the main gateway in early September, since they do a special Halloween tour every year. They’d gone up on the ninth.
It turns out the picture was of the second gargoyle — the first, with an outstretched claw, was the one that kept turning up on Google Image Search — as shot from below.
The second GUR was New York City.
Find a certain restaurant. (No sweat.) Track down the business or organization behind a certain slogan. (Took a lot longer, because she gave me the wrong slogan.) Track down a business on a given street. (Nailed it quickly.) Find a theater under former names. (Again, no sweat.) Locate the largest rare goods shop. (Got it.) Unscramble a phrase to find a business’s name. (Anagrammed it in my head.)
But again, an image-search question was the most time-consuming. I had a cellphone-quality picture of a photocopy of a picture of a cigar store Indian statue, and I had to find the exact statue in Manhattan AND its location.
THAT was tedious. But I was eventually successful in tracking him down.
This time around, she was in Las Vegas (which I believe she and her partner qualified for after performing well in the New York City round).
There weren’t any tough Image Searches this time around — or if there were, she didn’t need my assistance with it — but my trivia and puzzle skills did come in handy again.
In one instance, a phone number was translated into another language, and I had to identify and decode the number. (It was Tagalog.)
My anagramming skills again came into play, but this time in a list of comic book titles and characters that had been scrambled. I was stumped by the last one, GECRSOSN MPRIRE, for a while, because while CONGRESS PRIMER immediately jumped to mind, that was total nonsense to me as a comic book fan. Googling that phrase did me no good, either.
It was a while before I started playing around with GECRSOSN again and remembered a defunct comic brand, CROSSGEN. CrossGen Primer. I excitedly texted her back with that.
The first puzzle she sent me, though, was easily the most puzzly of their challenges.
In this zero-ten numbered puzzle, complete this chain:
8 5 4 _ _ 7 _ 10 3 2 0
Did you get it? I’m sure you have by now. From there, it was a quick Google search for the address of a certain wedding chapel where their next challenge awaited them.
I’m sure she’ll participate again at some point, and when she does, I will be there, puzzle skills at the ready.
But in the meantime, let’s all keep calm, puzzle on, and I’ll catch you next time.