Cluechaser: The Best Interactive Puzzle Contest on the Web

Game 1, Puzzle 7: Doctor Letter


I couldn’t remember how complex this puzzle was so I had to go back and solve it again before I could write this blog post. I knew that I had inserted some trickery into it but I couldn’t recall exactly what it was. I could have read my notes but sometimes I make last minute changes to puzzles and forget to update my notes. This is the type of puzzle that I would have done this with. So the only solution was to solve it. It took some time but I figured it out.

Players accessed this puzzle by clicking on the piece of paper on the desk in front of the black chair. Upon first look, it appears to be a bunch of gibberish. I’m sure many initially thought they were about to sink their teeth into a substitution cypher. I guess in a way it is. However, if anyone tried any standard methods of solving cyphers I’m sure they quickly found it far more difficult than they expected.

A struggle I have is often I am tempted to make a puzzle so difficult that it will take several days to solve. I had to remind myself on several occasions that the purpose of Game 1 was to attact as many players as possible. If I made it too difficult people would just quit and not continue through the storyline. To prevent this from happening I intentionally added some elements to serve as clues.

The first clue is the names of the doctors mentioned. For some, those names made the solution immediately evident. Others may have had to do some research first. A quick Google search of either name should have given the players what they needed to move forward. Just in case, I added a further clue in the letter by mentioning the phrase “other key board members”.

I can save you some time by telling you that Colemak and Dvorak of names of other types of keyboard layouts. The standard layout used on most compute keyboards is referred to as QWERTY after the first 6 letters on the top row of alpha-keys. Studies have shown that by laying out the keys in a more efficient arrangement one could actually type faster. So other designs such as Dvorak and Colemak have been created.

Now that the players had the key to solving the puzzle they just needed to know which lines of text used the Dvorak layout and which used the Colemak. I provided another clue by listing the doctors in the order they appear. Meaning that the first line is solved using the Colemak keyboard, the next line uses Dvorak, the next line Colemak, and so on.

The puzzle is solved by looking at where the letter is on the associated keyboard and then seeing what the corresponding letter is for the same key on the QWERTY keyboard. However, there’s a catch. As a last attempt to increase the difficulty a little I added two additional bits of confusion. First,once solved the players realized that if they tried to read each sentence in order it made no sense. The correct approach is to read all the Colemak sentences first then the Dvorak ones. Doing so revealed E’s message. Second, each sentence contained an extra letter at the end. By starting at the tap and reading downwards the letters spelled a word that when typed into the answer blank at the bottom was the puzzle’s answer.

It didn’t take players long to solve it. The first person finished it in just under 2 hours (1 hour and 54 minutes). The reward for successful solution was the next number in the series, this time a 2, and a link to the next puzzle, Crossword Puzzle.

There was an element to this puzzle that I added and no one seemed to pick up on it. Although I’m not sure why they would. It was a kind of foreshadow of the last puzzle. It can be found at the top of the letter. No, it’s not the eyball with the world in it. It’s the name of the organization in the letterhead. I’m no English major so I don’t know if it’s called something when a part of a word sounds like a letter of the alphabet. What I mean is, take the words “teach” and “tank”. The first part of Teach sounds like you’re saying the letter T. Again, I don’t know if there is a word that describes this type of thing. Regardless, I chose the organization’s name so that each word followed the example I gave you. So “Peter Able’s Eye-wareness Exploratorium” is actually P-A-I-X in disguise. What is PAIX you ask? Well, that will be revealed later on in the game.

Once players successfully solved the puzzle they were rewarded with the next number in the series, this time a 2, and a link to the next puzzle, Crossword Puzzle.

Now that you know the secrets try your hand at solving the puzzle.

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