Archive for the ‘krakit’ Tag

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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Krakit: The Final Three   4 comments

(Prior posts on Krakit here.)

I’m not breaking open the envelope on Krakit just yet — let’s say, in a few days? — but we had some industrious commenters at least make plausible stabs at Clues 6 and 11, and I have my own half-way plausible guess on 12. That makes at least a non-random guess on every single answer.

The general theme for all three possible answers is assuming something about the answer, which plausibly resolves into country-town-number, and waving over the fact some of the clue never got used.

Inside the ZX81. Public Domain.

For Clue 6, I was trying to decipher the text that was there, assuming hexadecimal (from “Curse” and the fact the letters go up only to F). Adam Sampson suggested to look at the digits that were not given.

Namely, read directly in order, the missing digits are 49BCE, a year which very strongly associated with a particular event: Caesar crossing the Rubicon. The modern day city this was thought to be at is Savignano, Italy.

Could this really be the solve? What does the “half” part mean? What’s going on with the blacked-out squares? The “half” could refer to the blacked-out half, so does that mean the missing part of the text has the digits 4, 9, B, C, E in some amount of repetitions and order? If so, where does the hex code as a whole comes from?

I will say it seems like a major coincidence to have the left-out digits spell out a coherent date which leads to a clear answer.

(I very vaguely suspected it has to do with the code of the Krakit software itself, making for a super-meta puzzle which leverages the medium and makes it not quite a glorified slideshow, but I don’t have a good way of checking how it gets stored in ZX81 memory — it isn’t equivalent to the modern emulator tape file.)

Clue 11 (above) had another “skip”, this time from redhighlander:

HEAR GREEN BALLAD is an anagram for Ballaghaderreen, where William Partridge died. He was part of the Easter Rebellion, which took place in 1916.

So, I would say Ireland (country), Ballaghaderreen (city), 1916 (number).

That’s one serious anagram-coincidence, there, so I’m willing to call this one definite except for the number. We’ve skipped the MU/SL/IN/REST bit entirely, as well as “That is 3”.

For 12, I’ve spent the last couple days tormenting myself in various ways.

My initial assumptions were:

a.) the stars are the only asymmetrical part, so they are important

b.) they likely indicate, in some indirect way, letters/numbers that we can decipher

This wasn’t going anywhere, so I decided to go for the skip. Let’s assume instead

a.) the “packed area” contains letters that we are supposed to anagram (some indicator I haven’t figured out narrowing down which letters, but let’s just try with all of them)

b.) as Carl Muckenhoupt observed, the character repeated in the middle might not be a zero, but a letter ø

c.) the LANDICEHAIL on the top is not meant as a deception, but is rather a clue.

d.) the stars are just “snow” and can be ignored

Putting all these things together, I managed to get Tromsø, Norway, and the number thirteen.

I don’t feel the slightest bit confident in my answer, but it is true the clues that have “spelled out” the answer (1, 8) have included both country and city, so the letters need to include both. Is there some pattern involving the numbers along the top/bottom that makes this all make sense? Since I can technically switch THIRTEEN out for ZERO and have all the letters for it even if my skip is correct I have to coin flip which one of those is right.

At least I have something I can fill out the entire contest entry form with, so we’ll at least have a chance (however small) of “winning”. Please post any extra feedback or alternate solves, and if something is better I’ll adjust accordingly.

One quick general plea: can someone figure out exactly how many bridges Budapest had between Buda and Pest in 1982? Just a naive Wikipedia check gets 6, but that’s a list of “most famous” bridges.

Posted May 8, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Puzzles, Video Games

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Krakit: Self-Confirming Puzzles   14 comments

Out of the 12 clues, we’ve solved (or at least have good guesses for) 9 of them, and have 3 left to go.

With my typical adventure games, if there’s any kind of ambiguity in a puzzle answer, there is immediate feedback from the game itself. For a static puzzle, it’s hard to have airtight certainty in answer.

In a puzzle book, you can, of course, immediately check the back of the book. The problem with Krakit (in a contest context) is that there is no back of the book, and while the rules aren’t specific, I’m guessing entrants did not get feedback in order to correct a wrong submission.

This is a common problem amongst puzzle hunts; where I think we can say we have answers with confidence is where there’s some manner of “cryptography” (in a loose sense) involved, where some operation is required to “decipher” material into a sensible text it would take a seriously major coincidence to have a valid answer be a fake.

For example, in the comments last time Lucian solved the cryptarithmetic puzzle above.

9567 + 1085 = 10652

That’s eight digits accounted for, so I don’t know why the next bit only lists numbers 0-6, which is only seven?

That is, part 2…

… has 0 through 6 repeat, but not 7, 8 or 9. This immediately led me to realize that the only important number is 10652. But what to do then?

The way words are sort-of spelled out suggested to me we simply had a track that needed to be followed. After a few false starts I realized if you start in the upper left, and pick out 1-0-6-5-2-1-0-6-5-2-etc in order, you get the letters mexic/ochih/uahua, where the path resets partway through to the “inner path” (and the number jumps from 2 to 3).

There are all sorts of other ways the clue could have been interpreted, but the absolutely clear spelled-out answer indicates this is a self-confirming static puzzle.

This unfortunately isn’t true for clue 10:

My best guess here is that this refers to Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and the 1812 Overture (an opus 49). The “to go forward, think retreat” can be interpreted as Napoleon’s retreat and turn around at Borodino, Russia as celebrated in the music. Will Moczarski also pointed out based on the way Russian names work it can be interpreted as Pyotr, son of Ilya, Tchaikovsky.

Still, this doesn’t feel fully certain, and there are some other ideas from the comments (like MendelsSOHN). The lack of an immediate meaning to the retreat part of the clue isn’t the same thing as saying the answer we have is airtight.

We’re down to three completely unsolved puzzles. Two seem like they’d be self-confirming, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be easy to crack.

(I had what felt like a good crack: assume that we mean two-digit hexadecimal, but are only listing the second digit. That is, we are using hex — “curse” — but only taking half of the digits normally needed. The way characters in both regular ASCII and the ZX81 character set works makes it so there are a limited number of choices then for each digit, so it’d be easy to decipher a code. It still just makes nonsense, though.)

(Some guesses are in the comments from last time, but nothing I’d say is substantial. The fact “HEAR GREEN BALLAD” is in quotes seems noteworthy.)

(I still feel like the stars have to be the key here, and a lot of the letters are ignorable; this would follow the same pattern as the SEND MORE MONEY puzzle insofar as that one also has many “superfluous” letters and we are just trying to pick out the correct ones.)

I’m going to take a Krakit break and play some normal adventure games, then unseal the answers next week. Please keep sending your thoughts in the comments! That hopefully gives us enough time to reach enlightenment before we try to do back-solving.

Posted May 4, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Puzzles, Video Games

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Krakit: Cursed   25 comments

(You’ll need to have read my prior posts on Krakit to make sense of this one.)

Canadian Parliament, including the Peace Tower. Public domain, via Wallpaper Flare.

To update on the authorship-mystery of Krakit, Strident in the comments found a reference that specifically gives International Publishing & Software Inc (of Canada and the US) as the creator and Artic (of the UK) as merely a distributor. At the very least, the game seems to have had more mention in UK circles than US one. Not only did the UK have heavier contest-mania, but there was more consumer hardware out there that could run the game. The primary platform for Krakit was the ZX81; the United States equivalent was the Timex Sinclair 1000, which Commodore was actively crushing with its VIC-20 (there was even a trade-in deal where people were buying Timex Sinclair computers specifically to trade in for a VIC-20). Krakit also had a ZX Spectrum version but by the time the US equivalent (the Timex Sinclair 2068) came out in late 1983 the contest was already dead.

Sinclair User, February 1983, with the name Artic showing up much more prominently than IPS. I like how this ad emphasizes the narrative, even though there really isn’t one.

Regarding “of Canada and the US”, yes, I’m not sure which country to blame credit more. For example, this article from December 1982 explicitly says:

The first release I’d like to discuss is called the Krakit Treasure Hunt from International Publishing & Software (PO Box 1654, Buffalo, NY) and International Publishing and Software, Inc. (3952 Chesswood Dr., Downsville, Ont., Canada M3J 2W6). It includes a real treasure for the finder that’s said to be $20,000, with this treasure lode continually increased as time (and sales) pass.

So, this references two companies but with nearly the same name:

International Publishing & Software


International Publishing and Software, Inc.

The actual address given for contest registration is a Buffalo, NY one, and the InfoWorld article I mentioned last time referred to the company being in New York; various other articles definitely place the company in Canada, and the address to send tapes is also in Canada. I’m going to go with the assumption for the moment that the company was situated in both.

With that out of the way, let’s get back to the game.

Remember, each clue is supposed to give us a city, country, and number. One thing I was worried about was the possibility that the city and country would mismatch; that is, the city could be in a different country than the country from the clue. However, based on current evidence I think we can say it always matches, which helps if we have a city with no clear country indicator.

This allows for at least a modicum of cross-checking (given the country is sometimes clued along with the city). The number is still the foggiest part, and I’m afraid on some of these we may need to cross our fingers and guess.

This clue, at least, we can definitively put to rest: it is a phone keypad code. I had some genuine trouble until I realized I could get LAND out of 5263, so pulled up a list of countries ending in -LAND and came up with SCOTLAND. The city is EDINBURGH and the number is just RING changed back to keypad code (7464).

Clue 5 I think we can also say is conclusively finished, thanks to Will Miles:

I’ll just quote Will:

#5 is Ottawa in Canada. The Parliament building, with the Peace Tower, rests on a hill overlooking the Ottawa River and Rideau Canal. Every year in the spring, there’s a tulip festival in Ottawa commemorating Canada sheltering the Dutch princess during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands.

As the House of Commons had 282 seats in 1982, that’d be the number of seats it was looking for.

In a theoretical sense, the “how many seats” was an important confirmer in the whole thing — there could be some vague coincidences in the text otherwise, but the seats question is such a strange one (even thinking of stadiums, or theaters) it locks things down. I think one of the keys of trying to write this sort of contest question (with no other method of cross-checking) is to have at least one odd and unique part that doesn’t fit the other pieces.

It also would help to have a meta-puzzle that ties things together so we can see if there’s an error, but IPS decided not to do that. Grrr. (Probably? Is there something secret spelled out once everything is written down? Hmmm.)

Moving on to more ambiguity:

This is as Carl points out in the comments, a straight cryptogram:

a divided city,
but not by hate.
how often can the
gnomes cross
from the little to the

My best guess was Budapest (which has two cities, Buda and Pest, and a prominent count of bridges between them) but I didn’t make sense of the gnomes until Roger Durrant pointed out it could refer to Fisherman’s Bastion.

I don’t feel solid about this one, yet, but I’ll still call it the best guess.

Oh to clue 7 and more ambiguity:

This is a list of religious martyrs, not all from the same branch of Christianity and definitely not always close in time. My guess is this is meant to be a Scattergories-type list just meant to hint at the concept of a martyr, which we then apply to the Ten clue. The most strongly related martyrdom to Ten is ten rabbis, the Ten Martyrs from Judaism; the start point being 70 CE, at the destruction of the Second Temple. So that’d be my guess, although it doesn’t quite tie cleanly into part 2:

Carl points out Laury S. Sib is surely an anagram to Salisbury. Salisbury has a major cathedral one that is not in the regular form a Greek cross (note the clue’s phrasing means this is a good thing). So the place from just this part of the clue is Salisbury, England. I feel more confident here than with the ten rabbis; I admit I’m being stretched to the limits of my religious education here.

So this leaves one other clue (“A CURSE? NO, JUST HALF.”) which we really have made no progress on at all:

I guessed, based on letters only going as far as F, having hexadecimal involved. Carl made another guess that “hexadecimal = hex = curse”, but past that we really aren’t sure. Any thoughts are appreciated, no matter how outrageous they may seem.

Now it’s nearly time to give the rest of the clues, but let me just put this one up in front as it is relatively easy:

This quote is from Two Gentlemen of Verona. So 2, Verona, Italy. Hopefully that’s that? Let’s get to the trickier ones:

I also have a strong theory on 10 but I’ll drop that in the comments in case I’m wrong. On the other clues I have no idea yet.

Thanks for everyone who has participated so far! I don’t know about making a completely mistake-free “entry” into the contest but maybe we’ll get close.

Posted May 2, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Puzzles, Video Games

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Krakit: The Most Daring Single Action in the History of Combat Aviation   34 comments

Since last time, I made two very important discoveries while researching Krakit:

1.) the contest was indeed officially shelved with no winner, in 1984

2.) later the answers were released, and I have a copy (that I have not looked at)

So for our gameplay, we should make an “entry form” the best we can, and once it seems to be final, I will crack open the “real answers” and we can find out how well we did. Maybe we can “win” unlike everyone else from the early 80s? (I’m honestly happy about this. We’d otherwise get an answer list we only “feel” is correct but can’t do any kind of grand confirmation on.)

I’m also a little unclear on the actual authorship on the game. There’s an article in the 1982 December 13 issue of Infoworld which only mentions International Publishing and Software (out in Buffalo, NY) and 10,000 tapes of the game. Quoting IPS president Howard Gladstone:

Some whiz could pick up the tape and figure it out in one day, or it may take two years. We really don’t know.

He then claims the clues took “three months” to develop as done by “four of his-coworkers” who “labored part-time on the project, testing the questions for clarity, intellectual challenge and entertainment.”

The article doesn’t mention Artic (from the UK) once. Was it devised by Artic and IPS served as an “editor” so to speak? Was the president referring to the number of people who worked on the game as a whole (including people from Artic)? Did Artic really only serve as a publisher (which contradicts what various indexes say, which has Artic as author and IPS as publisher)? Or maybe the entire monologue from the president was just blowing smoke for the benefit of the journalist? IPS was the group officially managing the contest, at least, and entries got sent directly to them.

ADD: Correction, the main company IPS was in Canada, although there was still manufacturing out of New York. It also does seem to be the case (see comments) that Artic was just the distributor.

In the meantime, let’s get at the three clues from last time, and then I’m going to put the next four.

Matt W. got this one, giving the hint that the number is 7464. I tried keypad code but didn’t have any luck, so I’m still thinking on this one.

This suggests “The Big Apple”, as in New York, the Statue of Liberty, and Duke Ellington’s song Take the A Train:

You must take the “A”-Train
To go to sugar hill way up in Harlem
If you miss the “A”-Train
You’ll find you missed the quickest way to Harlem
Hurry – get on now it’s coming
Listen – to these rails a-humming – all board
Get on the “A”-Train
Soon you will be on Sugar Hill in Harlem

This suggests the city, at least, but what’s the number? Is it the date of the song (1941) or the date of the Statue of Liberty’s arrival (1885)? Is the reference there to make sure the city is Manhattan and not, say, Brooklyn?

This is reference a WW2 incident from 1942 where Lieutenant O’Hare of the USS Lexington (who was near Bougainville at the time) ended up doing a 9-vs-1 against Japanese bombers and downing 5 of them. The exact quote is:

As a result of his gallant action — one of the most daring, if not the most daring, single action in the history of combat aviation — he undoubtedly saved his carrier from serious damage.

O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named after the same person.

I’m not sure what “Hyde Park Byrd” is referring to; Carl Muckenhoupt has a theory involving a word-grid coming up with Hart, the main character in the musical Chicago.

Even if we’re talking about Chicago, this still isn’t suggestive of a date, but I’d guess 1942 given a lack of anything else obvious.

I want to save theoretical discussion for when we have some more samples, but it does seem to hold that perhaps the clues are too ambiguous to fully nail down. As pointed out in the comments on the sample which we were given the solution to…

…we could read “Tour” as Tour de France and still get Paris, France out of it. But we’d get a different number: the Tour de France started in 1903. I think “TOUR” in quotes for the Tour de France still parses slightly oddly, so I suppose the Eiffel Tower solution feels better but it really is hard to claim the question is airtight. It may be there are some “unspoken rules” throughout the clues that get followed consistently enough we can at least do a little cross-checking, though.

Now, as promised, here are clues 4 through 7. (7 is split into two parts.) I’ll toss up the last chunk of clues next time.

Posted May 1, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Puzzles, Video Games

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Krakit (1982)   16 comments

For my 1981 sequence of games I played Alkemstone, a treasure hunt with clues hidden in an Apple II game where the treasure has never been found. While we made some progress, most notably extracting every single clue from in the game (not a trivial task) it remains an open historical mystery.

Alkemstone was odd insofar as it was made in the United States, and the place in 1981 that really had been hit by the puzzle-contest bug at the time was the UK, where Masquerade-mania was at its height. 1982 had a bit of a let-down with the solution more-or-less cheated (see the link for the whole story) but there was still a sense in the air of the possibility of more “contest games”, perhaps in computer medium.

The most famous of these games (which is, genuinely, an adventure game) awaits a future post; as preparation, I thought I’d tackle Artic Computing’s entry into the ring. Artic Computing had an ongoing adventure series (so far I’ve written about Planet of Death and Inca Curse); however, Krakit is not oriented as an adventure and is a pure puzzle game. (ADD: Looks like Artic was only the publisher in the UK, International Publishing and Software was the original maker.)


a.) it fits into the history to enough an extent without the game I’d feel like there was a gap

b.) it allows for audience participation of you, the one reading this right now

c.) it allows me to do some more game-design-theoretical ramblings about this sort of thing

d.) just like Alkemstone, it appears nobody has ever solved it, which makes it too tantalizing to ignore.

For (d.) I am reliant on a report in Sinclair User (December 1983) which claims that the game has been “withdrawn” from advertising in the UK, with a quote from the director Richard Turner:

A number of people decided not to buy the cassette because their friends told them how difficult the game was.

From zx81stuff.

The 10,000 pounds from the cover (see above) had by that time been upped to 14,000. In the United States the game was pitched as possibly winning the player “$20,000 or more”. (See Computers & Electronics, March 1983.)

The game then seems to vanish from records. The British Newspaper Archive has no post-1983 mentions and I haven’t found any other reference digging through magazines. My suspicion (although I’m only in the 80%-90% range on confidence) is that the contest was quietly shelved with no winner.

So, with a group of smart people reading this and the power of the Internet, can we solve it now?

It does seem to be easier than Alkemstone. It’s simply a matter of 12 self-contained puzzles following a very particular set of rules; unlike the original Masquerade (or the adventure game I’ll be getting to) there isn’t buried meaning amongst a superfluous narrative. There is a very brief narrative of sorts, but I’m fairly sure it has nothing to do with the main game. Your father was a international courier, and has left you some money in a bank, and to get at the money you need to solve the puzzles.

I’ll be giving screenshots, but if you’re wanting to “play” the game, here’s a link to access it online.

Just to summarize, each puzzle contains a clue that will have a country, city, and number. (The number may or may not be a date.)

There’s a “warm-up puzzle” that the game gives with a complete solution worked out.

I will save the explanation for the comments so you can try to solve it yourself; the actual software leads the player through the solution via a series of multiple choice questions (essentially creating a mini-Socratic dialogue), which is pretty fascinating in itself.

In order to avoid overwhelming people, I just have the first three clues here for now. I do get the sinking feeling there might be some “ambiguous puzzles” where the answer isn’t nailed down securely for each (which might explain why it went unsolved) but I feel like we can at least get a few.

Posted April 30, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Puzzles, Video Games

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