Solution: The Artists
Written by Anderson Wang, Jakob Weisblat, Colin Lu, Seth Mulhall, Patrick Xia, and Charles TamAnswers used:
BLUE PEACE UPPERCUT DAZZLING DJINNI KINDERGARTEN PRESIDENT NORTHEASTER FUNNY PAGES SALMON
In this puzzle, solvers are presented with ten audio clips of a person speaking in puflantu. The first task is to transcribe all the words so that translation can happen more easily. Unfortunately, this is the only bit of actual puflantu given, so phonemes must be mapped to the written characters. Most of the consonants map in the way an English speaker would expect: B, D, F, H, J, K, L, M, N, P, R, S, T, V, Z. Of the vowels, A, E, I, and O all behave the way a Spanish speaker would expect. This leaves the remaining characters, which must be “solved for” by matching frequently occuring words or syllables in written puflantu with the shakier transcriptions of the audio. They are as follows:
|w||/u/||“-we”, “-wm”, “*bwr“|
|’||/🔔/||“ex’opsi”, the front of every imperative verb
(humans can't make this noise, but it sounds like a bell)
The next task is to identify the source of the text – each is a few lines of lyrics from a pop song, except that each has been mangled to fit puflantu grammar, and also to favor vocabulary that also appears in artifacts. (To the extent that we were unable to come up with good artifacts for translation, we also threw a bunch of these words into the Friendly Transmission.) In addition, each song has had one of its words replaced by a number. In the order the clips are presented, they are:
|Heaven (Bryan Adams)||heaven → 5|
|Call Me (Blondie)||line → 2|
|Amanda (Boston)||wait → 9|
|Pumped Up Kicks (Foster the People)||kicks → 8|
|Drive (Incubus)||drive → 2|
|You Were Meant For Me (Jewel)||door → 7|
|Dumb (Nirvana)||glue → 5|
|Novacane (Frank Ocean)||none → 2|
|Just Give Me a Reason (P!nk)||again → 1|
|All Star (Smash Mouth)||see → 5|
The ordering given turns out to be by artist name (last name in two cases); the actual order of the clips is given by the replaced words, each of which rhymes with a unique number between 1 and 10. This is slightly clued by the replacements always happening at the end of a line, i.e. where they would be rhymed with something else.
In addition, each artist name can be associated with one of the ten puzzle answers belonging to this meta. Index into each puzzle answer using the replacement number in the song to get LERNJAITUS, the Puflantu-phonetic spelling of LARYNGITIS.
|Feeder answer||Artist||Song||Replaced word||Replacement number||Extracted letter|
|UPPERCUT||Smash Mouth||All Star||see||5||R|
|DAZZLING||Jewel||You Were Meant For Me||door||7||N|
|KINDERGARTEN||Foster the People||Pumped Up Kicks||kicks||8||A|
|SALMON||P!nk||Just Give Me a Reason||again||1||S|
This puzzle went through approximately ten drafts. It was the first meta to have a complete draft, but the last one to be completely testsolved and ready. The main component of it that has stayed throughout has been identifying and translating spoken Puflantu text.
In the beginning, this was a puzzle about words that appear as subsounds of phrases. For example, the phrase "the thick air full with fog" contains the sounds "careful". The puflantu words for the answers would appear, with one missing sound, in the spoken songs. We decided against this idea because it was less fun in a language that mapped spoken sounds to written sounds one-to-one. In the end, it is perhaps good that we abandoned this idea because it is very similar to another puzzle in the hunt.
Other versions this puzzle went through include one in which every song title contained a word for some sort of sound and the sounds had to be ordered, Sound of Silence then and Every Breath You Take up to Howlin' for You, several versions in which the songs came from consecutive years 2009-2018, a version in which the sorting was by the puflantu translations of the answers and the alphabetic order of the puflantu alphabet was relevant, and one or two others. When this version was finally proposed in late January, we were quite happy with it and made and testsolved it within a few days.
Answers that ended up in other parts of the hunt and were included in one draft or another of this meta include INDOORS, LUNAR, and DAZZLING, among others.
This was the hardest of our metapuzzles to testsolve because it required full translation of text from Puflantu.
We regret not realizing until too late that this puzzle would have worked out better with 11 answers to fit the phonetic extraction better. By that time, the meta-meta structure was locked down and the assignment of puzzles to metas was fixed.