Shattered Disc Golf
How It Works
This is a straightforward word puzzle, with the instructions as given out when teams arrived. Both versions of the data given out for each hole (the version for making par and the version for missing it) resolved to the same answer word, and while the versions with entropy 2 were easier to solve, the puzzle was fully solvable with entropy 3.
Solving each of the words gave you the phrase, “Onion breed among White Album first sides third track.” This was a riddle that directed teams to look up the third track on the first side of the Beatles’ White Album. The name of that track is Glass Onion.
The riddle asked only for the breed of onion, which makes the answer Glass.
The original impetus behind this design came from an observation during our initial scouting for Gumshoe Unlimited. We noticed that on the route we were looking at, there were multiple disc golf courses, and thought that it might be an interesting tie-in to use more than one, and to find some way to tie the two together. The basics of doing so came to us quickly – the obvious way to tie the two together was through the disc itself, and it made sense to have one puzzle that involved actually playing and another that just used the course and disc, but didn’t involve actually playing a round.
From this point, however, things got rather tricky. The first problem was to try and find a way to create a puzzle that involved playing a round of Disc Golf, but where the playing itself was integral to the puzzle rather than just an arbitrary task to perform before the actual puzzle data was given out. This seemed more elegant, as well as having the benefit of not requiring staff. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to devise any reasonable way to actually force teams to play the round that wouldn’t be easily circumvented – detection devices in the holes could be circumvented by just walking up and dropping the discs in, putting detectors in the discs could be bypassed by just throwing the disc back and forth, and so on. This pushed us into the path of having staff members accompany teams to verify, and while we did worry that teams might be annoyed at having to arbitrarily play for no reason other than us enforcing it, we ultimately decided that teams would enjoy playing enough to overlook this.
Additionally, as we tried to come up with ways to make the disc matter for the other puzzle in a way other than for actually playing, we had trouble coming up with anything that didn’t involve the disc having special electronics. This was problematic since adding electronics to a disc made it unsuitable for play, so we ended up having to drop the idea of using the same disc for both puzzles and simply having the second disc be a prize for finishing with the first.
As far as the puzzle itself went, we wanted to come up with something that wasn’t too difficult, since the point of the location was more about playing disc golf than it was solving a puzzle. We additionally wanted to be able to give out the puzzle in a per-hole segment, and in a way that teams were advantaged by playing well but weren’t required to do so. The word puzzle that we ended up with fell out of those goals pretty simply. It took a decent number of playtests to settle on the exact list of words that we gave out for each hole, as different sets of words caused the puzzle to fluctuate between far too easy (certain sets could be solved by pure frequency analysis) and impossible. The rule that no correct letter was ever used as an incorrect substitution was added relatively late to help ease the task of settling on the right difficulty level.
We didn’t actually get a lot of calls about this puzzle – the solving ended up being straightforward. What little we did hear suggests that we ended up accomplishing our goals just fine, and that teams largely enjoyed the process of playing, even without a puzzle at all. At least one team stayed for extra time at the site to finish their round of golf, even though they had already finished solving the puzzle, which was as successful as we could have hoped.
One thing that ended up helping with the experience of this puzzle more than we could have guessed in advance was how incredibly helpful and enthusiastic John Conte and his crew from the West Sound Disc Golf Association were. Their energy and love for the game were infectious, and helped us make this experience as fun as it turned out to be.