Solution: The Artifact
Answer: ALIEN COLD WAR
Written by Anderson WangAnswers used:
CAST IRON DON JUAN FILM NOIR KOOL AID LIQUOR REVOLVER SWIMMING THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE TONGUE UNEXPECTED VIRUS WIENER
This metapuzzle is about languages.
First, the answers can be put in the blanks in the shell, to yield clues whose answers fit in the provided blanks.
|Clue||Puzzle Answer||Answer to clue|
|1950 _____||FILM NOIR||THE ASPHALT JUNGLE|
|Adjective in the first line of the poem _____||DON JUAN||UNCOMMON|
|Book in which the protagonist had a slow _____||TONGUE||EXODUS|
|General class of chemical compound found in white _____||CAST IRON||CARBIDE|
|Person who is "_____" in an internet meme||UNEXPECTED||JOHN CENA|
|Phrase associated with _____||KOOL AID||OH YEAH|
|General subject that the _____ Prize is awarded for||WIENER||MATHEMATICS|
|She broke 3 _____ world records in 1987||SWIMMING||JANET EVANS|
|Giant in _____||THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE||RUMBLEBUFFIN|
|Process used to produce _____||LIQUOR||DISTILLATION|
|He developed a method for _____ classification||VIRUS||DAVID BALTIMORE|
|Track one, side two of _____||REVOLVER||GOOD DAY SUNSHINE|
Within each set of blanks, the numbers range from 1 to n for some n, so we can take those letters in order from 1 to n to get words that all happen to be numbers in different languages (some transliterated into English):
|Answer to clue||Blanks||Extracted word||Number||Language|
|THE ASPHALT JUNGLE||1 4 2,5 3||TNEJN||2||Maltese|
|UNCOMMON||1,3 4 2||UNUM||1||Latin|
|EXODUS||2 4 1 3||DEUX||2||French|
|CARBIDE||2 3 1 4||DRIE||3||Dutch|
|JOHN CENA||1 2 3 4||ONCE||11||Spanish|
|OH YEAH||2 1 3||EHA||4||Hawaiian|
|MATHEMATICS||3 2,7 5 4 1 6||CHAMESH||5||Hebrew|
|JANET EVANS||2 4 3 5 1||SEVEN||7||English|
|RUMBLEBUFFIN||3 1 2||BIR||1||Turkish|
|DISTILLATION||1 2 3||AON||1||Irish|
|DAVID BALTIMORE||1 4 2 3||DREI||3||German|
|GOOD DAY SUNSHINE||1 2 4 3||ODIN||1||Russian|
Note that a couple words have multiple language possibilities, like Afrikaans for Dutch, but in each case there is one language that has by far the most speakers and is the most “well-known”, and this will also be disambiguated in the final step.
The final step is to realize that each of the puzzle answers clues a two word phrase where the first word is the name of the corresponding language (this probably jumps out the most with FILM NOIR and Maltese). Indexing the number into the second word of the phrase gives the answer ALIEN COLD WAR.
|Puzzle answer||Number||Language and 1st word of phrase||2nd word of phrase||Extracted letter||Explanation|
|FILM NOIR||2||Maltese||Falcon||A||The Maltese Falcon is a notable film noir|
|DON JUAN||1||Latin||Lover||L||Don Juan is a famous example of a Latin lover|
|TONGUE||2||French||Kiss||I||A French kiss is done with the tongue|
|CAST IRON||3||Dutch||Oven||E||Dutch ovens are typically made with cast iron|
|UNEXPECTED||11||Spanish||Inquisition||N||Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!|
|KOOL AID||4||Hawaiian||Punch||C||Kool Aid and Hawaiian Punch are both fruit drink brands|
|WIENER||5||Hebrew||National||O||Hebrew National is a popular sausage brand|
|SWIMMING||7||English||Channel||L||Many people try to swim the English Channel|
|THE LION THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE||1||Turkish||Delight||D||Turkish delight is a dessert prominently featured in the book|
|LIQUOR||1||Irish||Whiskey||W||Irish whiskey is a liquor|
|VIRUS||3||German||Measles||A||German measles (also known as rubella) is a virus|
|REVOLVER||1||Russian||Roulette||R||Russian roulette is played with a revolver|
The “process used to produce liquor” clue could potentially be FERMENTATION, though it’s a little weaker because fermentation produces alcohol in general while distillation is fairly specific to liquor. In any case, both answers result in the same word, AON. Also in testsolving, some people originally put down "Irish cream" instead of "Irish whiskey", but we kept it in because Irish cream is more of a liqueur, as opposed to Irish whiskey which is definitely liquor. Apologies if any of you were tripped up by this (in retrospect, we probably should have swapped it out with something completely unambiguous).
The very first iteration of the intro meta was proposed as a concept that would support a xenolinguistics theme, but not use the alien language that we would design for the main round metas. It stemmed from an offhand remark wondering whether British WWI general John French, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, and French novelist Anatole France had ever met. That spun into a meta draft that involved translating puzzle answers into languages clued by people they were associated with, for example CORPS EXPEDITIONNAIRE BRITANNIQUE ("wait wtf," said the testsolving group, "why was John French in charge of that?!"), LINDA OG VALENTIN (the Danish title of Valérian and Laureline, whose recent film adaptation starred Dane DeHaan), or COMPUTER MOUSE (co-invented by Bill English). This ended up highly constrained, and many of the connections were awkward, so it ended up getting dropped (though Roy Lichtenstein ended up unrelatedly showing up in a different puzzle...).
A few people spun off working on an idea inspired by the testsolve, using English words that could also be words in other languages (like PAIN for FRENCH BREAD, or GRIPE for SPANISH FLU). We also generally liked the idea of phrases where one word is the name of a language. However, many of our translation-based ideas didn't work out because there's almost never an unambiguous translation for any given word, and in the end Anderson designed this shell by sticking to numbers to ensure more or less unique translations, which eventually became the meta we agreed to use for the intro round. Completely coincidentally, we ended up having another puzzle in this round (Courage and Purity) about words that were both English and Indonesian, so one could say the previous idea still lived on somewhat.