Solution - Passage to Avalon

ANSWER – TAKETHEUNDERGROUNDGRAILROAD

by Curtis Liu and Rajeev Nayak

This is the metapuzzle, which means that it will use the answers to the other 6 puzzles. However, the treasures can first be filled in without needing the other puzzle answers. Searching for the three given treasure names reveals that they are all treasures from the first Uncharted game. The silver squares are substituted with the word SILVER and the gold squares are substituted with the word GOLD. The 5 symbols are simple letter transformations that help to fill in the remaining treasures: | = same letter, △ = next letter, ▢ = letter x 2, ⬠ = letter ÷ 2, and ◯ = ROT 13. All of the treasures in the list are among the first 36 treasures found in the game. Furthermore, multiplying the first three given treasures' numbers by 10 matches perfectly with the three numbers in the "wall scratchings" at the top of the puzzle (220 310 330). This suggests that all of the treasure numbers should be multiplied by 10.

Now the previous 6 puzzle answers have to be used somehow: ANGUILLA, LAUREL, ELDORADO, DOGSTAR, ARTHURQWAK, and AKBARKHAN. The last two letters of each answer match up perfectly with the first two letters of another answer, and vice versa. These overlaps can be used to chain the answers together in a 36-letter circular loop. The wall inscription says to "assemble the device that points the way" and the numbers obtained from the treasures look suspiciously like compass headings. Indeed, the 36-letter circle assembled from the puzzle answers is a compass. The compass can be oriented by noticing that there is exactly one instance of each letter N, E, S, and W, and they are evenly spaced around the circle.

With the compass assembled, a letter can be read using each of the headings from the treasures. The resulting letters spell out the answer of how you can get to Avalon: **TAKETHEUNDERGROUNDGRAILROAD**.

## Author's Notes

- Rajeev initially had the idea for the compass meta and an Uncharted theme over a year ago, but the original idea was overcomplicated and proved to be too hard to construct. Many months later, he shared the idea with Curtis, who simplified it a bit and persevered through the struggle of finding a set of answers that could link together to make the compass.
- Constructing the compass was extremely hard with the constraints that each pair of answers had to overlap by 2 letters, the NESW letters had to be in the proper positions, and no other N's, E's, S's, and W's could be used in the answers. This is what led to a couple ridiculous answers (AKBARKHAN and ARTHURQWAK).
- In its first draft, all of the headings were explicitly given within the 6 individual puzzles and the metapuzzle only involved assembling the compass. We later added in the treasures to make the puzzle feel more meaty and connect it more to Uncharted.
- The story text and homepage are not required to solve any of the puzzles, but there are a couple hints at the compass mechanic. The prologue says "…the Knights Templar had scattered the pieces of an ancient artifact across the Fortunate Isles. An artifact that was the key to finding Avalon." Also, the map on the homepage includes a compass with exactly 36 tickmarks around the outside.
- Before any test-solving, the puzzle had a bunch of unfortunate red herrings:
- The first treasure in the list used to be Strange Relic, which happened to be the only treasure without "gold" or "silver" in its name. That left exactly 26 treasures, which strongly suggested at some type of alphabetical cipher. Furthermore, the wall inscription at the top used to read "The treasures in this room are the key", which solidified that theory. Additionally, the Strange Relic in Uncharted happens to have a bunch of symbols on it that can be translated to letters.
- There used to be 6 letter transformation symbols instead of 5 (the additional one was ☆). Test-solvers tried really hard to map these back to the 6 puzzles (☆ = DOGSTAR, ▢ = Square Table, etc).
- It used to be much less clear that the linked answers were supposed to be a compass. The second sentence of the wall inscription used to read "The artifact that guides you there will reveal itself to those who prove worthy." Test-solvers ended up brute-forcing all 36 possibilities for indexing into the circle of letters and didn't get to experience the cool NESW aha moment. (We think a few teams still ended up doing this in the actual hunt…)
- The compass happens to contain the word START, which our test-solvers naturally believed was the starting point of the letter indexing. This was also remedied by cluing the compass more strongly.

- As we watched the guesses come in during the hunt, we got very used to seeing progressions of guesses similar to this one: TAKETHEUNDERGROUNDRAILROAD, UNDERGROUNDRAILROAD, THEUNDERGROUNDRAILROAD, RAILROAD, TAKETHEUNDERGROUNDGRAILROAD. Some teams went off the rails (pun intended) after trying the first few, guessing things like TRAIN, SUBWAY, FREEDOM, and HARRIETTUBMAN, before finally going back and checking their work.

## Stats

- 68 solves
- 230 incorrect guesses
- Most common incorrect guess: TAKETHEUNDERGROUNDRAILROAD (guessed 31 times)
- First solve: The Honorable Hallmark Holiday in 5 hours, 8 minutes, and 57 seconds