Solution: Geography Lesson
Written by Robert Tunney
In this puzzle, puzzlers are presented with a series of maps, arranged in pairs. Each pair of maps has a number between them.
The first step is to identify the maps. Each map indicates a single country. Where several countries are partially or fully present, the map is cropped to minimally contain the target country. For example, the map of Spain also contains Portugal, but hopefully solvers can identify that Spain is the target country. Another example is the map of Israel, which contains Palestine.
After identifying the countries, puzzlers have:
|Republic of the Congo||5||Ethiopia|
In the course of identification, puzzlers should notice that something is a bit off. Some of these maps are of countries that no longer exist (Czechoslovakia, Sudan), and some of these maps are not countries (Bermuda, Crete, Transylvania, Western Sahara). From here on, we will refer to the targets as regions.
In addition, puzzlers might notice that the pairs are mostly presented alphabetically by the first region in the pair, with the exception of the Republic of The Congo, and Western Sahara.
The next step is to connect this puzzle with Yakko's World, a song from Episode 2 of the cartoon Animaniacs, in which Yakko Warner sings the nations of the world. This connection can occur in two ways. The first path is to use the flavor text ("My friends are studying like maniacs for this geography quiz, but I'm just watching TV and listening to music."). Puzzlers can connect maniacs, tv, and music to get Animaniacs. From here, they may be familiar with this video, or they may find it via some search. If puzzlers are not familiar with Animaniacs, they can solve via the second path, which is to type the identified countries into their search engine of choice. A reasonable subset of the unusual regions, or just all the countries along with the unusual regions, should yield Yakko's World as one of the first few links. If you have enough of the unusual regions, the video should come up as the top result (particularly if you got Transylvania!).
After making a connection to the video, solvers can confirm that this is the correct path in a few ways:
- The colors on the puzzle maps correspond to the colors on Yakko's map.
- The regions and former countries are all listed in Yakko's song.
- If you use the names for Republic of the Congo and Western Sahara that are used in Yakko's song (Congo and Spanish Sahara, respectively), the pairs are now properly alphabetized.
The next step is to experience Yakko's World. We'll wait here.
The first extraction step is to notice that the pairs of images correspond to nearly consecutive countries in Yakko's song. In each pair, the first region comes two positions before the second region in Yakko's song. The positioning of the number between each pair of images clues that we should take the region in Yakko's song that comes between the pair of identified regions. Index into the middle region with the number, to get the following:
Note that we've used the names of the middle regions as listed in Yakko's song, and not their modern names, where the two differ (Kampuchea for Cambodia, Zaire for Democratic Republic of the Congo).
Finally we need an ordering (Recall that the pairs were presented alphabetically by the first region). Plot the extracted letters on their regions of origin on a world map, and read the resulting text:
This gives us the instruction SING US A NEW TOPIC.
Galactic Trendsetters love puzzles, music, and learning! The last step is for puzzlers to write us an educational song on the topic of their choice, and to send it in!
Upon receipt of your lesson - thank you, by the way, they were stunning - you receive an answer: DJINNI.
Thank you for all of your submissions! This was a back up puzzle that we decided to use close to release, so it was convenient to have a submission-for-answer format. We hope you had some fun teaching us new topics! We enjoyed the audio/video/lyrics that we got very much.
There were a few popular categories of submissions, including Tom Lehrer's elements song (and variations in both German and Puflantu!), US states, US presidents, Canadian prime ministers (we may have deserved that), the alphabet (both English and Japanese), the digits of pi, Why Does the Sun Shine? by They Might Be Giants (to which Yakko would like to inform you that the sun is a miasma of incandescent plasma), the Major-General Song from the HMS Pinafore as a backing track (which one team referred to as "the elements song"), covers of pop princesses (incl. T-Swift and Carly Rae Jepsen), videos featuring your progeny (fur and human), and several songs about abstract algebra.
We received so many amazing songs that brought us so much joy. We loved all of the original content, creativity, and people who were afraid of singing but did it anyway.
We got some excellent anagrams of SINGUSANEWTOPIC as answer submissions, including OWNINGSPACESUIT, WITNESSINGACOUP, GUESSPANICTOWIN, and SINGSTOAWINECUP. I think this demonstrates the virtue of longish clue phrases.
Special thanks to editors Jakob Weisblat and Nathan Pinsker, and to all of my test solvers (Brian Chen, Lewis Chen, Anderson Wang, Jon Schneider, Chris Jones, and Max Murin). And thank you to Chris Jones and Anderson Wang for proposing several of the mechanics that made it into the final puzzle.