Krakit: Unsealing the Envelope   14 comments

So we spent about a week puzzling through the 12 puzzles of Krakit, with some answers more certain than others. I’ve already put a lot of solving detail in my prior posts, so go read those if you missed something.

Our contest entry is:

1: Scotland, Edinburgh, 7464

2: New York City, US, 1941

(We thought possibly 1882, but we had no real way to choose between the date of the Statue of Liberty and the date of the song.)

3: Chicago, US, 1942

(Would they repeat the US twice? The actual O’Hare aviation 9-vs-1 action happened at sea, so wasn’t really associated with a specific city. We also never fully parsed out what the Hyde Park “Byrd” thing meant.)

4: Budapest, Hungary, 7

(Very tentative. Roger Durrant also suggested Zurich with its 12 districts and 34 quarters.)

5: Ottawa, Canada, 282

6: Savignano, Italy, 49

(I will be flabbergasted if this one is right, but it’s possible.)

7: Salisbury, England, 70

(Feels pretty solid on location. Very uncertain on number.)

8: Chihuahua, Mexico, 10652

(A self-confirming puzzle, so I think this one is good.)

9: Verona, Italy, 2

(From the play. Easy? Too easy?)

10: Borodino, Russia, 1812

11: Ballaghaderreen, Ireland, 1916

12: Tromsø, Norway, 13

(A complete shot in the dark.)

So, how did we do? Cue the drumroll.

From zx81stuff. This is actually a “demo tape” version of Krakit which doesn’t even have the real clues, just the instructions. An included slip tells you to directly edit lines 225 and 226 of the BASIC source code from “Gladstone Electronics” to whatever your own establishment is called and send information to IPS in Ontario in order to get a customized version of Krakit with your own company listed as distributor.

We did … poorly. But not as poorly as I feared. There was a mixture of “argh, we were close” and “I have no idea”. All this comes from an issue of T-S Horizons, a magazine dedicated to Timex-Sinclair computers (as the US version of the game was run). A “Gary Gogel of Arizona City” somehow obtained a complete solution document that is a full 14 pages long, suggesting some answers requiring ludicrous work.

Boldface means we got it right.

1. Scotland, Edinburgh, 7464
2. U.S.A., New York City, 207
3. U.S.A., Chicago, 1882
4. Switzerland, Zurich, 11
5. Canada, Ottowa, 282
6. India, Delhi, 7
7. England, Salisbury, 1538
8. Mexico, Chihuahua, 10652
9. Italy, Verona, 413637
10. Russia, Moscow, 1812
11. Ireland, Ballaghadereen, 1916
12. England, Cambridge, 811000

6 and 12 were clearly complete whiffs. No idea what’s going on there. Would love some future person to work it out (or if Gary Gogel is still alive, for his solution sheets to surface).

2 and 3 may be reverse-solvable. Is 1882 some particular date?

4 really was Zurich, sigh.

7 likely is a date again, but of what?

I guess 9 needed some more time, but there really is almost no information in that puzzle other than the Shakespeare quote. Whatever 413637 comes from strikes me as likely the opposite of a self-confirming puzzle.

For 10, are they just getting their history wrong?

Clue 11 was probably our most impressive solve, so a tip of the hat to redhighlander, but it was essentially a backsolve, skipping an intended chunk of the puzzle. What do the little numbers next to the provinces mean? What does “Find the 4th” have to do with the answer?

Whatever is going on strikes me as tougher than what happened with Masquerade; at least that contest suggested you could confirm your answer by digging up the golden rabbit, and it really was only one thing you are solving for. Here it is like 12 Masquerades, each one with potential for ambiguous answers, or even, possibly in the case of clue 10, the contest makers getting their facts wrong. And of course, no way to check if you’re right on a particular clue of the 12, other than getting all the answers right. This was not a good way to write a contest.

I suspect if the spate of contests overall had been stronger — with clear winners and answers — the idea might have lasted a little longer. The odd contest games happen off and on but are haunted by the same issues: ambiguity, backsolving and potential errors. To give a more recent example, Sirius Entertainment’s Treasure Quest was a 1996 game inspired by, what else, Masquerade, with a million-dollar prize for the first solver. The game had significant errors in the contest puzzles on release. One person (Paul Wigowsky) backsolved the answer anyway but was disqualified due to failing to put his registration number on his submission. While there was a “winner” (yet no publicity photos) skepticism about the winner even being real led to the whole debacle ending in a consumer fraud lawsuit.

As far as I can find, Krakit was wound down without a lawsuit, but I don’t think anyone got far enough to even know whether or not it was “rigged” in such a way to warrant one in the first place.

(By the way, if you still have a thirst for hidden treasure even after all that, we never did solve Alkemstone, which involves a real buried object that presumably is still in the same place it was in 1981.)

Posted May 13, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Puzzles, Video Games

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14 responses to “Krakit: Unsealing the Envelope

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  1. 207th Street. is the last stop on the A train (in Inwood, not Sugar Hill in Harlem). Which seems fair. My mom is from Inwood so I am a bit ashamed not to have thought of this.

    1538 seems to be the date of the Exeter Conspiracy, for which Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, was arrested and eventually executed. Perhaps suggested by “never swore.” But two other Salisburys were executed for treason at different times–George, Duke of Salisbury (the George of Clarence who Richard III supposedly had drowned in a butt of malmsey, though in history it was Edward the IV who had him done in), and young Edward Plantagenet, Earl of Salisbury as well as Earl of Warwick, executed for attempting to escape the Tower of London with Perkin Warbeck–he had been held there since age 10 so this seems unfair. As does the puzzle. Unless we’ve got something from “When did ten start?”, we really did nothing with the first part there.

    No clue on the others, at least for now…

  2. Sadly, Gary Gogel of Arizona City appears to have passed away in 2021.

  3. In retrospect, it seems that the vast majority of these contest games had prizes that went unclaimed, or simply went missing (most of the prizes from Atari Swordwuest come to mind), and the Masquerade-like Search for the Golden Horse, which my family purchased the VHS tape and book for (the VHS is n YouTube now, and it’s as weird and surreal as I remember).

    In the end I have to conclude these were largely scams intended to grab money before the copyright holder ran off/went out of business, etc.

  4. These two are obvious in reverse:

    Clue 2:
    207th Street, the A train “gets you up there”

    Clue 9:
    The quote is act 4, scene 1, lines 36-37.

    • wow. Clue 9 is almost a perfect example of badness in “let’s create backwards without thinking about what solving forwards would be like” in making a puzzle.

  5. Clue 3:
    President Franklin D. Roosevelt was born in 1882 in Hyde Park, NY. He presented the Medal of Honor to Lieutenant O’Hare. Were we supposed to read “byrd” as “birth”?

  6. It’s too bad the answer key does not explain the answers, or explain how you are supposed to arrive at them. For example, this is how I solved clue #11:
    I knew instinctively that Easter was a reference to the Easter Rebellion, and that meant the number was 1916 (the year of the rebellion) and the country was Ireland. This was reinforced (in my mind) by “hear green ballad” since Ireland is known as the Emerald Isle, and emeralds are green. A green ballad, in my mind, meant a reference to Irish nationalism. Like others pointed out in previous posts, I realized that the given letters could spell Ulster and Munster (2 of the 4 provinces of Ireland), could almost (but not quite) spell a third (Leinster), and could not at all spell the fourth, Connacht (or Connaught, as you prefer). Two of the leftover letters were SL, the first two letters of County Sligo. So, I looked at a list of townlands in Sligo, but found nothing. I then tried County Roscommon, which is adjacent, and found Ballaghaderreen. That immediately caught my eye as a potential anagram for hear green ballad, and it is. I still did not know the connection between the town and the Easter Rebellion, so I Googled them both and found out that William Partridge was an Easter rebel who lived and died in the town, but was actually born in Sligo. So, was that how I was supposed to solve the puzzle? I doubt it. While a win’s a win, I would still have liked to see how this puzzle (and all the others) was supposed to be solved.

    • Castle Of Riddles seems to be positively altruistic as a competition game compared to some of the cynically opaque efforts that followed in its wake. Anyone can offer the sun, the moon and the stars in full knowledge of the intractability of the task they have set.

  7. OK, I’ve figured out the logic behind #12 by looking at how the answer constrains it, and it’s a nicely self-confirming solution.

    Starting at the top, read every 9th letter, going reading rows alternately left-to-right and right-to-left. When you hit the end of the bottom row, continue upward in the same pattern. When you’ve gone over the whole grid top to bottom and bottom to top, you get:
    (Spaces added for clarity; no non-alphanumeric characters are hit.)

    How you’re meant to get started at this, I don’t know. Maybe the asterisks clue it somehow.

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