Act II, Scene S

Pot Luck

55 solves / 848 incorrect guesses


Credits: Zoe Schwerkolt

We are presented with a crossword-like grid on a blue board which might be recognisable as the board from the game Mastermind, with a row of colours filled in at the bottom, and four black pegs beside them. The second page has a long list of clues each next to a series of coloured dots, but no word length. The clues are quite clearly cryptic, and we can begin by solving all the clues then attempting to fit them into the grid.

The bottom row of colours already filled in at the bottom of the grid seems to indicate that all of the grey boxes need to be filled in with colours, and the colours next to each clue might show the colours adjacent to the answers. This is supported by the fact that there is a clue next to an orange and a blue dot, which could clue for the word in the bottom right corner of the grid, and a couple of clues next to a yellow and a purple dot, which could be the word in the bottom left corner.

Solving a few of the clues quickly reveals that the answers are in alphabetical order, and the full list of answers is:

Colours Answer Cryptic explanation
AIOLI IOL (anagram of OIL) inside AI (machine) = AIOLI (sauce)
⬤⬤AMITY reversed (Turner) within garY TIM And = AMITY (friendship)
⬤⬤ARROWS AR (first and last letters of ANGER) + ROWS (arguments) = ARROWS (weapons)
AWFUL LAWFUL (legal) - L (student) = AWFUL (dreadful)
⬤⬤⬤⬤BARBAROUS BAR + BAR (double counter) + OUS (first letters of Overestimates Umbrella Stock) = BARBAROUS (horrible)
BASEST B (first letter of BAD) + ASEST (anagram of ASSET) = BASEST (most sinful)
⬤⬤⬤⬤⬤⬤BREVITYVY (first and last letters of VERY) + BITTER - T (last letter of SWEET) all anagrammed = BREVITY (pith)
CHAMPIONS ACCOMPLISHING - CLIG (odd letters of CULLING) all anagrammed = CHAMPIONS (winners)
COB within cubiC OBject = COB (keeps corn) 
CONDEMN CON (criminal) + DEMNS (anagram of mends) - S (society) = CONDEMN (criticise)
⬤⬤COOLHEADEDCOOL (refreshing) + HEADED (directed) = COOLHEADED (calm)
⬤⬤⬤⬤DELETEwithin sweDE LET Estonian = DELETE (remove)
DEN anagram of END = DEN (hideout)
⬤⬤DIMSIMwithin backyarD I’M SIMmering = DIMSIM (Aussie dumpling)
DONUT DONUTR (anagram of ROTUND) - R (middle letter of LARGE) = DONUT (sweet/&lit)
⬤⬤EGGS alternating letters of EnGaGeS = EGGS (Easter chocolates)
EONS anagram of NOSE = EONS (ages)
EVEN N (first letter of Nebraska) + EVE (First Lady = first woman) all reversed = EVEN (flat)
⬤⬤HAYodd letters of HeAvY = HAY (grass)
⬤⬤⬤HONEYCOMBHONEY (darling) + COMB (groom) = HONEYCOMB (sweet treat)
HYBRIDHYBRIDAT (anagram of BIRTHDAY) - AT = HYBRID (mash-up)
⬤⬤IDIOMID (I’d) + I + (first letter of IT) + OM (first and last letters of OPTIMISM) = IDIOM (saying)
IDOL sounds like IDLE (pointless) = IDOL (singing competition)
IGNORE IGNOR (anagram of GIN OR) + E (drug) = IGNORE (turn a blind eye to)
⬤⬤KNIVES KNIS (anagram of SKIN) with VE (first and last letters of VALVE) inside = KNIVES (blades)
⬤⬤LOTTO TT (first and last letters of TOILET) inside LOO (bathroom) = LOTTO (game of chance)
MEAT within taME A Tiger = MEAT (steak, say)
⬤⬤MOTION EMOTION (feeling) - E (remove first letter) = MOTION (movement)
MUSICCUBISM - B (born) all anagrammed = MUSIC (art)
⬤⬤⬤⬤OAFISH OA (first letters of Old-Arse) + FISH (creature of the seas) = OAFISH (stupid)
ODOUR O (first letter of OYSTERS) + DOUR (serious) = ODOUR (stench)
⬤⬤⬤⬤OFFENCE sounds like A FENCE (a trafficker of stolen goods) = OFFENCE (crime)
⬤⬤OFFER OFF (cancelled) + ER (hesitation) = OFFER (proposal)
⬤⬤OMIT reverse (reply) within thaT I’M Ok = OMIT (forget)
ONION ON (on) + I (on) + ON (on) = ONION (vegetable)
⬤⬤ORALcentre of mORALs = ORAL (unwritten)
OVERT R (Republican) + VOTE all anagrammed = OVERT (blatant)
PLAY PLAYTEN (anagram of PENALTY) -TEN = PLAY (game)
⬤⬤POLICE LOP (cut) reversed + ICE (drug) = POLICE (We’ll be watching you)
ROSTIanagram of RIOTS = ROSTI (hash brown)
SADDAS (almost DASH) reversed = SAD (down)
SCORE Double definition GAIN = SCORE and TWENTY = SCORE
⬤⬤SOLEMNLY SOLELY (only) around MN (middle of the alphabet) = SOLEMNLY (seriously)
⬤⬤SONGSOGNSS (odd letters of OrGaNiStS) anagrammed = SONGS (tunes)
SOUVLAKI FLAVOURS - FR (first letters of FROM ROUGHLY) anagrammed gives SOUVLA + KI (half KILO) = SOUVLAKI (skewered meat)
SURGESURE (certain) around G (grand) = SURGE (swell)
⬤⬤TARTS anagram of START = TARTS (pies)
TIE double definition DRAW = TIE and STRING = TIE
TREES E (Englishman) inside TRES (very French) = TREES (forest)
⬤⬤TYRANTRANTS (shouts) - S (endlessly) after CITY - CI (half of city falls) = TYRANT (dictator)
⬤⬤UGLYHUGELY - HE = UGLY (hideous)
WOOD: D (last letter of DEAD) after WOO (chase) = WOOD (lumber)

These can be fitted into the grid as follows:

Mastermind 1

We now have a filled grid and are now at the final step. The red 3x3 box in the centre looks promising, but we recall there was a similar 3x3 box in I.S Letters and Numbers which wasn’t used, and similarly in this puzzle it is not used again, and instead used for the meta. The other piece of information that hasn’t yet been used in this puzzle is the Mastermind board itself. Beside each row of colours is four small dots or peg holes, and in the final pre-filled row, these are filled with four black key pegs. This is the Mastermind representation of 'four code pegs of the right colour in the right position', i.e. the final state.

Essentially, in Mastermind, each row is compared with the final row of . In each row, one black key peg is awarded for a colour that is in its right cell, and a white peg is awarded for a colour that is present in the final row but not in its right cell. No pegs are awarded for colours that are not in the final row. Using this scoring method, all other rows’ key pegs can then be filled in as shown below:

Mastermind 2

Having done this, we need to extract letters from the grid. They key pegs directly line up with the rows with colours, so the we should consider using the key pegs to extract letters from each of these rows. In each coloured row, there are five letters, between zero and four black pegs, and between zero and four white pegs. It thus makes sense to assign each letter an index from 0 to 4. For each row, we extract the letter indexed by the number of black pegs, then the number of white pegs. For instance, in the top most row, we see one black peg and three white pegs. We thus take the second (index position 1) and fourth (index position 3) letters, which are M and A respectively. Doing this for the remaining rows, we get the message MAY THE ODDS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOUR. A quick Google search or recognition of the phrase will reveal that this comes from Suzanne Collins' novel series THE HUNGER GAMES, which is thematically relevant with a large number of the words in the grid, and is the final answer phrase.

Author's notes:

Preliminary feedback indicated that many teams solved the grid but struggled with the final step of this puzzle, which was to use the key pegs to extract the final message. While we did hint in all three hints that Mastermind is the relevant mechanism here, we thought that that was enough since the mechanism of using the Mastermind key pegs (which is the integral part of the game) to index was spotted fairly quickly in test-solving. This was why we only explicitly hinted for the peg-index step in Hint 3. Apologies to teams who were frustrated at the perceived unhelpfulness of the early hints. In the future, we will endeavour to at least allude to the final step in early hints.