Countdown to Mystery Hunt: Spaghetti #2

Some people have a gift for Spaghetti. They’re like the characters in The Matrix, who can see a whole world in a computer monitor dripping green letters. These folks make amazing connections between randomly chosen words, connections that elude us mortals. For a while when we first started playing this, Todd Etter found the game too easy (?!) and applied another layer of difficulty: All of his answers were different geographical locations. And yet his solution paths were always fairly sensible. Kevin Wald, too, can lead you to believe that maybe the words weren’t randomly chosen after all — that this was an actual metapuzzle, and he’s figured out the solution. The last time we played, he took matters a step further: We played five rounds of Spaghetti over the course of a week, and at the end of that time, he took his five answers and turned them into one more puzzle — a meta-meta.

But if there is a Grandmaster of Spaghetti, then to my mind it’s Jeffrey Harris. His solutions are frequently so elegant, they’ll make you say two things at the same time: “How did he see that?!” and “How did I not see that?!” He consistently gets the most votes in the comments, and yesterday was no exception.

The words yesterday were:


Jeffrey’s answer: “All the answers start with a car minus a letter:


All except DWARF, that is. The added letters can be rearranged to spell DOCK, but “dwarf” tells us that the actual answer is its homonym, DOC.”

See? Was that so hard? Of course the answer is DOC. I knew it from the start.

Onwards to Round 2! See what you guys can do with these words:


Good luck!

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  1. Dan Katz
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Since there are answers of length 5, 6, 8, 9, and 11, I’ll just go ahead and assume you haven’t solved the 7 and 10 yet. (Let’s say they’re STEAMED and SAVAGENESS.)

    Once you plug those in, you can read the diagonal and get PREENER, which may appear to be the meta answer. However, if you read the alternate diagonal, you get HATE ME, which uses every answer except PAY UP. These messages, combined with the general hostility of many of the answers, suggests that this round was contracted out and the author, still not having been reimbursed for his work, is simply lashing out at his holier-than-thou employer.


  2. Andrew Greene
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    Each word contains a letter sequence from which one or two letters in the middle can be removed to yield a four-letter word found in NI-3:

    hAGIOGraphy = AG.OG + I
    inTENSITy = TEN.T + SI
    pay up = PA.UP + Y
    dejected = JE.TE + C
    grudge = RUD.E + G

    Again, that gives us:


    We’ll extract just the third and fourth columns:


    We form a loop of these rows, and then cut it in the only place that yields a word: “DONUT”, which describes the words we just extracted that have a hole in the middle, as well as the loop we made to extract a word.


  3. DenisMoskowitz
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Don’t be silly, Dan, why would Eric give us an incomplete meta? The gaps are there for a reason.

    Order by length and read the second column:




    yielding AR EN A. The spaces make it clear you want to pronounce them for RNA rather than take ARENA.


  4. Greg deBeer
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    You may notice that the first letter in each word is duplicated in that word exactly once. If you look at the letter before the duplicate, you will see:


    Given that we were looking for DUPES in the first place, this is a rather elegant meta.


  5. Arrchivist
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got it! You can take a trigram in the middle of each of the words:
    If you take the first letter and scramble them you get the word GREAT which can go before or after each of the words. Easy.


  6. Posted January 15, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    My inability to extract metas has been bumming me out. A few of my teammates have been trying to help me “get” it. This thread has been enormously helpful is instilling a sense of “what the heck, let’s try it!” which I think is (a small part of) what I’ve been missing. So at the risk of getting laughed off the island, I’ll swing at the ball:

    I note that all the words have doubled letters, and that the second appearance of the letters appears in reverse order:
    Pay uP
    DEjectED (or possibly DEjEcteD)

    (Putting them together yields HAGINPDEG, which unless I’m mistaken is a Norse godling. No? Okay, never mind that; let’s keep going.)

    Ah, I’ve got it. Take the letters that appear between the doubled letters:
    (and none for the last three, which are therefore presumably just there to establish the doubling pattern)

    This yields RPS, the standard abbreviation for rotations per second, which we would measure on a bicycle wheel. Perhaps there is something else with an RPS that we might care to measure, and perhaps that thing has the reversed doubled-letter property…

    Got it! ROTOR.

    Is it the answer? Well, extracting the letter between the doubled letters, per the second step above, (roTor) yields T for true. I feel good about this shot in the dark.

    Shall I call game control and find out whether this is good?

    PS I just remembered that the computer language Lisp, invented by MIT’s John McCarthy and still used today (as are many of its descendants) also used “t” to stand from true, but in that language, it connoted “yes” — any question to be answered in the affirmative was given the value “t”. Is it a stretch? Yes. (I mean “t”!) But maybe it’s also a hint from the constructor?


  7. Posted January 15, 2013 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    Hm. I just realized that my “t” extraction doesn’t actually follow the established pattern, so the Lisp thing was wrong. Still, ROtOR is the only spinny thing I can thing of with doubled and reversed letters. (Having said that, I fully expect someone to post three more! :) )


  8. Lance
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t looked at the other comments, so stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but:

    Ordering by length, the second letters spell ARENA, but that’s not the answer, of course. The key fact is that the first letter of each word is repeated once in the word, so you take the letter after the first occurrence and the letter before the last one–or, to look at it another way, look at the chunks between the repeated letter and take the first and last letter:


    That gives you ARENA and UDESP, the latter of which anagrams to DUPES, i.e. “duplicates”. So area duplicates = ARENAS, right?

    Well, not quite. What dupes is *really* telling you is to use all the duplicate letters in the words that you didn’t use in the previous step, i.e. not the first letters. That’s AG for HAGIOGRAPHY, NT for INTENSITY, and E for DEJECTED. Rearranging just slightly, that’s AG-E-NT. Agent, plus “Arenas”? Obviously, that’s Gilbert Arenas, basketball player (i.e., he plays in an “arena”)–and his nickname is “Agent Zero”.

    The answer is ZERO.


  9. Sean Gugler
    Posted January 15, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    Sort the words alphabetically:

    PAY UP

    In each word, look where the initial letter is repeated. Mapping the whole word to ABCD… (index becomes alpha), D(8)=>H, G(5)=>E, H(10)=>J, I(7)=>G, P(5)=>E.

    The password to the Dutch site we’re trying to break into is “HEJGE.”


  10. Posted January 15, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    May I just say, having not read any of the responses yet, that I have spent *way* too much time working on two different possibilities for this “meta”, not quite getting either to fully work.


  11. Posted January 15, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    Okay … each word can have its first three letters replaced with a single letter to make a new word:

    HAGiography -> Biography
    GRUdge -> Edge
    INTensity -> Density
    PAY up -> several possibilites, but given our new letters so far, let’s go with Cup

    That leaves DEJECTED, and given how good it looks with the rest, I’m gonna go against the grain and drop four letters to get Acted. Sorting these alphabetically, we get:

    Acted -> DEJE
    Biography -> HAG
    Cup -> PAY
    Density -> INT
    Edge -> GRU

    Obviously, the reason we have four letters in one spot is that they’re supposed to do more replacing in our four shorter strings. I see only one combination that makes results of dictionary nature, and avoids the ambiguity of making DAY or PAD. Alphabetized:

    ENT (Int)
    GRE (grU)
    HAD (haG)
    JAY (Pay)

    Reading down the right column, we get TEDY … but if we treat the bottom entry as representing a letter in its entirety instead, we get TED J., and by far the most notable individual with that first name and middle initial is KACZYNSKI. Easy peasy.


  12. Posted January 15, 2013 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    In each answer, all of its repeated letters appear in a continuous sequence at the beginning; putting the answers in alphabetical order, these are:

    PAY UP

    Taking the last letter in each sequence gives EGG TP, which are the two canonical things one does to a house on Halloween when not given a treat; the answer is thus TRICK.


  13. Posted January 16, 2013 at 12:15 am | Permalink

    “PAY UP” suggests the old standard “hundred dollar words” sort of puzzle: how many dollars is each word worth when A=1, B=2, etc.? Let’s order by word length, because each length is unique…

    PAYUP = $79
    GRUDGE = $62
    DEJECTED = $56
    INTENSITY = $135
    HAGIOGRAPHY = $115

    So how do we “PAY UP”? By indexing the dollar values into the words, mod the length of the word, where 0 is the first letter.

    79 mod 5 = 4 = P
    62 mod 6 = 2 = U
    56 mod 8 = 0 = D
    135 mod 9 = 0 = I
    115 mod 11 = 5 = G

    Note that there are no words for 7 or 10 letters; so, if we have a letter derived from each word length, we get PU_DI_G.

    There’s only one word in /usr/share/dict/web2 that fills in these blanks, and that is, of course, PUDDING.


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