Cluechaser: The Best Interactive Puzzle Contest on the Web

Game 1, Puzzle 5: News Article

Back in the Puzzle Master game I had a puzzle that included a fake newspaper called the ClueChaser Intelligencer. I like the idea of newspaper puzzles a lot so I brought it back again for The Missing Mr. E. Unfortunately of all the puzzles I’ve created this is one of my least favorites. It just looks sloppy and cheap to me.

Another puzzle idea used in the previous game was an overlay requiring the players to lay the solution to a maze from a previous puzzle on top of a picture with letters and symbols scattered all over it. Players observed that the line passed over specific letters that formed a sentence.

This was the idea that I tried to use again in the News Article puzzle.

Players reached this puzzle by locating the pile of newspapers on the floor at the far left of the office picture and clicked on the link which was now active.

When designing this I knew that I wanted the picture to be the key. I needed something that was inconspicuous but when layed on top of the news article in a particular way it would somehow reveal the answer. I scoured the internet for literally hours looking for the right picture. I just couldn’t find anything I liked. The trouble was, I either had to find something that would line up with the text I had or design the text to line up with the picture. Neither was easy to do. Finally I decided to just create my own picture. With this in mind I set out to create the news articles intending to make the picture later. So with a strong feeling of nostalgia I headed once again over to The Newspaper Clipping Generator website to create the clippings I would need.

First I wanted to use the main article as an opportunity to add some detail to the story and tie it in to the winning T-shirt design which featured a wanted poster displaying a shadowed image of Edward Fletcher. I also wanted the players to know that although the office in his home was in neat order, his basement lab was a shambles as though someone were looking for something. I decided to throw some other stuff at the players. Like the names of the people mentioned in the article; police chief D.K Raight and officer Theo Riess. Like Mr. E’s name, these are homonyms for other words or phrases.

The Personals had two purposes. The first was to add a bit of humor to the game. My favorite is “Got Shovel. Will dig Holes. Please call”. It’s just so simple and yet… I don’t know…desperate? The second purpose can be found with the odd use of capitalization within each of the ads. If you look closely you will see that in addition to the first letter of each sentence being capitalized there is also one other word with a capital letter. It seems the purpose of this has escaped me after all this time. I believe it was a clue to use the picture as an overlay. The letters are UPLAAHFL but now I’m not sure what I was trying to spell. When I type that into an anagram solver the most interesting solution I get is HULA FLAP. I checked my notes and nowhere did I explain what I was doing here. I must have come up with it at the last minute. Oh well, moving on.

The next step was for me to figure out what I wanted the puzzle answer to be. This may sound easy but since I wanted each answer to be a clue to the mystery, I had to put some thought into this. Once I had that determined I then selected the necessary letters from within the articles. I recall that I had to re-word some of it to get the letter I needed.

Now it was time to create the picture that would be used to locate the letters. As I drew the circles and the dots I thought they looked like a constellation. Figuring this would be the best and easiest solution I conducted a brief search of the internet but failed to produce anything even remotely close to what I had. I then looked at the circles and let my imagination drift. It occured to me then that if I joined a few of them with straight lines it kind of looked like a stick person holding a kite. Something I child might draw. That was when I decided that is exactly what it would be and the Constellation Contest was born. I created a news article to explain it.

The final step was to create the reference point the players would need to correctly align the picture with the articles. After considering several options I decided on bullet holes in the paper. I found a couple splat images on the internet that I liked and modified them to suit my needs. I placed them in various places around the newspaper, each of them a different shape and size. Except for two of them. The hole in the picture is identical to one of the holes elsewhere on the newspaper. These are what the players needed to line up. Once that was done it was a simple matter of following the alphabet in the picture and writing down the letters that red dots within the circles touched.

Now, do you think you’ve got enough information now to finish it yourself? It took the lead player 4 hours and 20 minutes to solve this one. Can you do it faster?

I should also mention that the puzzle solution also revealed the next number in the series which was 27.

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