ARGFest 2011: A Stellar Puzzle Solution

Last month, I presented you with a deceptively complex puzzle Stitch Media used to challenge ARGFest attendees. To date, only six puzzlers have managed to walk away with the solution. If you still want to attempt to join their ranks, stop reading here, because I’m finally going to reveal the solution below.

The poem provided in the puzzle makes oblique references to the ancient Asian myth of the Weaver Fairy and the Buffalo Boy that gave birth to the Magpie Festival in China, Tanabata in Japan, Chilseok in Korea, and Thất Tịch in Vietnam, all of which took place a fortnight before the conference.

All of the versions of the myth seek to explain the formation of the Summer Triangle, as the stars Vega and Altair appear to come together during the summer months in the northern hemisphere, brought together by Deneb. In the Vietnamese version referenced by the poem, the two fairies Altair and Vega walk upon a bridge of crows at Deneb to cross the Silver River. This, in turn, provides the framework for the solution.

Three letters in the puzzle have a different typography than the others, with a circular dot instead of a square one. Each of these dots are positioned to replicate the Summer Triangle. The first dotted “i” in Stitch Media’s url was the Weaver Fairy Altair; the dotted “i” in eternity was the Buffalo Boy Vega; and the first word of the poem contained the dotted “i” that bridged the two as Deneb.

Connecting these from Altair to Deneb to Vega spells out “ikneiwasfor.” Trying this answer on Stitch Media’s page leads to a message saying “Just one more step.” That step was creating an anagram out of the letters, “fairiesknow,” which ties back once more to the myth. Entering that phrase into the url provides one final hurdle: naming the bridge from the story. Typing in “Deneb” as the answer completes the puzzle and, in so doing, connected the two lovers.

Thanks to Stitch Media for the puzzle and input on the puzzle-solving process.

1 Comment

  1. Evan Jones

    Hey Michael – thanks for the clear walkthrough of the puzzle! It’s nice to have that finally out there. We had a lot of fun designing this puzzle after we saw everyone at ARGFest 2010 using a needle and thread to ‘stitch’ the solution to the puzzle that time. We knew we needed to find another hook and when we discovered the ‘Myth of the Weaver Fairy’ we knew we were on to something.

    The reason we liked the idea was that it captured another subtle undertone – it’s a love poem of star-crossed mates who see each other only once a year. The ‘fortnight’ reference is because ARGFest 2011 happened 14 days after the festival celebrating their annual reunion – the ‘Asian Valentine’s Day’.

    We wrote it from the perspective of the Buffalo Boy yearning to see the Weaver Fairy because in a way we felt the same – none of the Stitch Media team was able to attend ARGFest this year and people may have been so involved in the puzzle aspect that they missed the mainstream meaning: this was a love poem to the people attending ARGFest and the organizers in general. We even went so far as to reference the ‘cloudmakers’ at the end to drive the point across. Even those who didn’t find the ultimate puzzle solution could read it on the surface – Stitch Media is missing ARGFest and it makes us very sad that we’ll have to wait an entire year to meet up again.

    As for the lines connecting the dots, we knew we had to account for a little wiggle room. When we tested it we realized we needed to create 20 different letter combinations to account for straying lines that might intersect different bits. The one snag was that people had to literally interpret the poem and picture themselves as Altair (Buffalo Boy) travelling to Deneb (Bridge of Magpies) to ultimately reach Vega (Weaver Fairy). They were completely our intended path to be reunited.

    What we found in execution was a few things – the myth references were strong enough to push people to the story, but we made the ‘summer triangle’ deceptively small on purpose, using the ‘invisible’ dots dotting the i’s throughout to hide in plain sight. It turns out that there are MANY ways to connect three lines together — so even our 20 combinations using the ‘right’ path may not have been enough (so many were obsessed with completing the triangle instead of seeing the dots as a path). And most telling was the frustration of ‘ikneiwasfor’ for two reasons: a) it was gibberish on the surface, and that’s usually a clear indicator that you’re not on the right path – we thought people might have enough faith to think about anagrams (since it was VERY hard to get a poem to produce a hidden phrase like ‘Fairies Know’ (the ostensible title and response to the poem from the Weaver Fairy)), but a lot of players found ‘ikneiwasfor’ and dismissed it without checking the URL to see if it gave an answer (it did). The b) of this puzzle’s lessons is that ‘ikneiwasfor’ is VERY close to ‘I knew as for’ which starts to look like very plain English early on. Players hit that second i and mentally wanted to cancel it out – they were rooting for the solution to be ‘I knew…’ which sent them down all sorts of branching pathways. Good lessons for all future competitions.

    The first 5 people to solve the puzzle received a prize in the mail and fame forever as the puzzle logged each solver chronologically. Synth-Bio Dave has done a great unboxing slideshow of the final prize, a Japanese puzzle box filled with ‘treasure’.

    We had a great time planning this out and it allowed us to live vicariously through the event from afar. Now to start planning again for next year….