Solution: Where are They?

Written by Chris Jones

In this giant collage, solvers should look around until they notice the five Where's Wally characters hidden in the image: Wally, Wenda, Odlaw, Woof, and Wizard Whitebeard.

As for the collage, although it initially looks meaningless, after staring at the images for a while solvers should realize that they are looking at a map of the world. Each country has an image associated conceptually with the country (Elon Musk with South Africa, (food) pyramid with Egypt, lotus flower with India) or punning on the country’s name (a “Q Weight” for Kuwait next to some “Bah-rain” and an “iRock”) or in rare cases a clue for a major city of the country (a split in Croatia, Sophia the robot for Bulgaria). The images are laid out approximately geographically (as best as could be hoped for when the world map is compressed like this).

Answering the title question, the Wally characters are found in the countries Iceland, Turkey, El Salvador, Mali, Seychelles (ordered top to bottom). The first letters of these countries spell ITEMS. In the (non-original versions of the) original Where's Wally? book, readers also had to find twelve of Wally's lost items, exactly one per page. These items are also scattered about the collage.

The items replace normal country images in the collage - for example the binoculars are in Nigeria. The country must be determined by identifying some surrounding countries and figuring out which one is geographically missing. When the items are ordered by page in Where's Wally, the first letters of the countries spell out the answer, KINDERGARTEN, a different answer to the question, “where are Wally and friends?”

These images highlight the locations of the Wally characters, the continent boundaries (including the boundary of the Middle East), and the locations of the items. The full list of pairings between images and countries can be found after the Author's Notes.

Item Country First country letter
Cup/mug Kiribati K
Snorkel Israel I
Binoculars Nigeria N
Tea kettle Dominican Republic D
Sleeping bag Equatorial Guinea E
Shovel Rwanda R
Backpack Guyana G
Camera Albania A
Mallet Romania R
Bag Tajikistan T
Belt Eritrea E
Walking stick Nicaragua N

Author’s Notes

Whew! Evidently, this puzzle required quite a bit of research, image searching, image cropping, and image positioning. I used Gimp which was just suitable enough to do all the cropping and layer management. If I had to do it again, I might look for a code solution to crop the background out of photos (which would probably work for 70% of the images) and also to actually place the images with a good-looking amount of overlap.

I did write code to help find a reasonable layout of the countries of the world. In my physics simulation, I gave each country a repulsive force between other countries, attached a planar graph of springs between countries to maintain the general shape, and finally added small attractive forces to an equally-spaced grid of points. The final result was the following picture:

When all the image cropping was said and done, only the continent boundaries remained untouched!

Somehow, neither of the two puzzles I wrote for this hunt had any text (this puzzle and Cuspidation). I guess that's something!

AfghanistanpulaoPopular Afghan dish
Albaniacamera(missing item)
AlgeriaThe Stranger (book)The Stranger takes place in Algeria.
Antigua and BarbudaObamaThe highest point of Antigua was renamed to Mount Obama in 2009.
ArgentinaPatagonia-brand hatNo, the company doesn't have anything to do with the Argentinian geographic region.
ArmeniaMount AraratPurported landing place of Noah's Ark
AustriaWolfgang Amadeus Mozart
AzerbaijanGarry Kasparov
BahamasNiña, Pinta, and Santa MariaThese three boats touched down in the Bahamas when Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World.
Bahrainsad rain“Bah... rain....”
BangladeshBengal tiger
BelarusBellatrix LestrangeBella-tricks or a Bella-ruse?
BelizeKeel-billed toucan
BeninFlag of the Benin EmpireOk, this flag with an image of decapitation may not actually be from Benin.
BhutanHimalaya mountains
Bosnia and HerzegovinaAlex KapranosLead singer of the band Franz Ferdinand, whose namesake was assassinated in Sarajevo.
BotswanaKalahari desert
Brazilsoccer ball
Bruneipeace signThe full name of Brunei is “Nation of Brunei, the Abode of Peace”.
BulgariaSophia (robot)Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria.
Burkina Fasoburkini
Cambodiarouge (makeup)The Khmer Rouge led a genocide in Cambodia in the 70s.
CameroonCameron Diaz
Canadamaple leaf
Cape Verdegreen cape
Central African RepubliccarName abbrevation
ChadChad (meme)
Chilebowl of chili
Chinapanda bear
ColombiaSpace Shuttle Columbia
Congoconga line
Congo, Democratic Republic of the conga line
Costa RicaPoás Volcano National Park
Croatiasplit (bowling)Split is a major city.
Cypruscypress trees
Czech Republiccheck mark
DenmarkHamletShakespeare's Hamlet takes place in Denmark.
Djiboutia booty
DominicaDomino's logo
Dominican Republictea kettle(missing item)
East Timorcompass pointing east
Ecuadorequals sign
Egyptfood pyramid
El SalvadorJesusThe translation of El Salvador is “The Savior” i.e. Jesus.
Equatorial Guineasleeping bag(missing item)
Eritreabelt(missing item)
EstoniaSkypeSkype was created in Estonia.
eSwatinilockLocked inside South Africa
EthiopiaLucy (austrolopithicus)
FijiFiji water bottleFiji water is actually bottled in Fiji!
Finlandshark fin
GabonOklo natural nuclear reactor
GambiaTHECountry name commonly starts with “The”
GeorgiaGeorgia (state)
GermanyFantaFanta was invented in Germany.
GuatemalaMayan numeral
Guineaguinea pig
Guinea-Bissauguinea pig
Guyanabackpack(missing item)
HaitiearthquakeHaiti was very badly damaged by the 2010 Haitian earthquake.
Hondurasraining fishLluvia de Peces
Hungaryempty plateEmpty plate = hungry = Hungary
Indialotus flower
IndonesiaJava programming language logoJava is the largest island of Indonesia.
Iraqrock with Apple logoIt's an “iRock”.
Israelsnorkel(missing item)
Ivory Coastivory tusk
JamaicaRastafarian-colored marijuana leaf
JapanMonkey D LuffyJapanese anime character
JordanMichael Jordan
KenyaEliud KipchogeHe is one of many very fast Kenyan runners.
Kiribatimug(missing item)
Kosovocosine functionThis is really faint in the collage, but if you look closely you'll see the graph of the cosine function. Formed in 2008, Kosovo has been only partially recognized as an independent state.
KuwaitQ weight
KyrgyzstanmantiKyrgyz dumplings
Latvialats (muscles)
Lebanoncedar treeLebanon is famous for its cedar trees, which appear on the national flag. The Cedars of God are a world heritage site.
LesotholockLocked inside South Africa
LiberiaAmerican flag starLiberia was originally formed as a “repatriation society” of freed American slaves.
Libyatriple of 3sThe capital of Libya is Tripoli = triple.
Liechtensteintwo locksLiechtenstein is one of two doubly landlocked countries (the other being Uzbekistan).
LuxembourgLux (League of Legends champion)
MacedoniaAlexander the Great
MadagascarMadagascar movie characters
Malawiheart on fireMalawi, “The Warm Heart of Africa”
Malaysianasi lemakPopular Malaysian dish
Maldivescoral reefsThe Maldives has famously pretty scuba diving.
MalimailSimilar-looking word
MaltafalconThe Maltese Falcon
Marshall IslandsThurgood Marshall
MauritaniaeyeThe Eye of the Sahara is a landmark if you're ever in the International Space Station.
MicronesiaGreek letter μThe SI prefix “micro” is written μ.
MoldovaEpic Sax GuyThis was an EPIC Eurovision submission by Moldova.
Monacogrand prixMonaco Grand Prix
Montenegroblack mountainLiteral translation of the name
MozambiquevowelsMozambique is the only country whose name includes all 5 vowels.
Myanmarcrossed out SIThe United States and Myanmar are the only two countries that don't use SI units of measurement.
NamibiashipwreckSkeleton Coast
NauruNayru (Legend of Zelda character)
NepalllamaLama. Dalai Lama.
NetherlandsMinecraft Nether
New Zealandkiwi
Nicaraguacane(missing item)
Niger-IAThe name is just a -IA away from its southern neighbor, Nigeria.
Nigeriabinoculars(missing item)
North Korearocket“Rocket Man” Kim Jong Un
NorwayNOR gate
OmanravenIt's an “omen”.
Pakistancashmere sweaterPakistan, China, and India all lay claim to the Kashmir region.
Palestinesymbol of Pallas
Panamaroot canalPanama Canal
Papua New Guineaguinea pig
Paraguayyerba mateParaguayans love their yerba mate.
PeruIncan quipu knots
PhilippinesKing Philip IINamesake of the Philippines
PortugalPortuguese man o' war (jellyfish)
QatarWorld Cup trophyThe 2022 World Cup will be hosted in Qatar.
Romaniamallet(missing item)
Russiahammer and sickle
Rwandashovel(missing item)
Saint Kitts and Neviskittens
Saint LuciaLucy RicardoSaint Lucia is the only country named after a woman.
Saint Vincent and the GrenadinesVincent van Gogh
SamoaSamoa (Girl Scout cookie)
San MarinoUS Marine Corps seal
São Tomé and Príncipeprince“Príncipe” means “prince”.
Saudi Arabiastar and crescent of Islam
SenegalcanoeThe Wolof meaning of the word “Senegal” might be “our canoe”.
Serbiatesla coilNikola Tesla was Serbian.
Sierra LeonediamondsBlood diamonds are a major problem in Sierra Leone.
SingaporemerlionHalf lion, half fish, official symbol of Singapore.
SlovakiavelvetCzechoslovakia peacefully split in 1993 in the Velvet Divorce.
SloveniaMelania TrumpMelania Trump is Slovenian-American.
Solomon IslandsKing Solomon's throne (painting)
SomaliahornHorn of Africa
South AfricaElon Musk
South KoreaEthernet cableSouth Korea has the world's fastest average Internet speed.
South Sudansouth-pointing compass
SpainbullsRunning of the bulls and bullfighting are popular Spanish traditions.
Sri Lankaturmeric bottleOnce known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka is famous for its spice trade.
SurinamebauxiteBauxite is a major export of Suriname.
SwedenSwedish Fish (candy)
SyriaGreat Mosque of Damascus
Taiwanbubble teaPopular Taiwanese drink currently trending in the US
Tajikistanbag(missing item)
Togoto-go box
Trinidad and TobagoTrinity bomb explosion
TunisiaHannibal of Carthage
Turkmenistan"The Gates of Hell"
UgandaQueen VictoriaLake Victoria is a major component of the Ugandan biosphere.
Ukrainenuclear reactorChernobyl reactor meltdown
United Arab EmiratestallestThe Burj Khalifa is the world's tallest building.
United Kingdomqueen (chess piece)Queen Elizabeth II has reigned since 1952.
United StatesCoca Cola logo
UruguayLuis SuárezSuárez gained notoriety for biting opposing team members in the 2014 World Cup.
Uzbekistantwo locksUzbekistan is one of two doubly landlocked countries (the other being Liechtenstein).
Vatican CityPope Francis
VenezuelapetroleumMajor Venezuelan export
VietnamTower of HanoiApocryphally, Vietnamese monks had to solve Tower of Hanoi with 64 disks by hand. This would take almost as long as solving The Ministry of Word Searches!
ZambiaAfrican fish eagleThe national bird of Zambia isn't a bald eagle, but it sure looks like one.
ZimbabweInvader Zim