"In het verleden behaalde resultaten bieden geen garanties voor de toekomst"
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These are the ramblings of Matthijs Kooijman, concerning the software he hacks on, hobbies he has and occasionally his personal life.

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Day 2: Powerpuff hell

Last night's meeting went rather smooth. We finally met our gameshow host, Dirk, in person. While all teams were taking shelter against the rain in a bicycle shed, Dirk was giving an enthousiastic speech, in the rain. The main topics were: The disappointing results from day 1 (only four teams had a solution) and the disqualification of team Hardcore Powerpuffs.

Hardcore Powerpuffs

The hardcore powerpuffs had, over the course of the first evening stolen an orginisation laptop. This explains their insanely fast solution submission (107 minutes after the meeting). For this reason, they were disqualified from the show. To make their point, the organisation blew up their mascotte; and showed us the nice footage.

With this problem solved, we continued with the normal briefing. Licenses were redistributed, puzzles were given to the teams.


Sugar, egg, statuette The first clue was very nice: A sugar cube, an egg and a statuette in the form of cat. Our first association was farms: Eggs come from farms, cats walk around at farms and sugar cubes are candy for horses, which are held at farms. A little shaky argument, but we checked "Boerderij Bosch", "Erve holzik" and the "Schuur" nevertheless. In parallel we checked "Cubicus", to which the sugar cube might refer. No luck, at any location, however.

On our way back, the base puzzling team had a breakthrough: The names of the objects could be combined with the word "Mirror" ("Spiegel") to form words. In dutch: "Suiker-Spiegel", "Spiegel-Ei" and "Spiegel-Beeld". The last one was particularly nasty, since you think about the statuette of cat as "cat", not "statuette" (though we realized this before, though).

Mirror, mirror, on the wall



On the "Spiegel" building, we found another puzzle. A weird scribble, perhaps a skyline or a side view from somewhere. We tried bending the lines to form letters to no success. The last part of the scribble actually is the letter "M" from the arabian alphabet, but that did not work out either. Eventually, we noticed that to bottom left and bottom middle there are two half "A"s turned counterclockwise. If you take a vertical slice off the figure, mirror it and put it back on top, you can complete these two to form full "A"s. Also, if you take the slice at the correct point, all other pieces in the slice will also form letters. It took us a while to see all the letters and not just the "A"s, but it gives a nice picture forming the word "animation".

At the top of the clue was the text "", so we filled in "animation" at the dots and discovered that the pandaprijs website was hacked, by the hardcore powerpuffs. Probably as a revenge for destroying their mascotte. They had defaced the pandaprijs website and password protected the old site, including the animation.php we wanted to have.

So, we had to find a password for the hacked site. Possible clues on the website were: The text on the website (especially the capitalization), the images on the website (perhaps hidden properties, or exif tags or something) and the background color of the website (the only real piece of information from the html source). We have been puzzling around with these pieces of information, before we got stuck and requested a clue. The clue read "Such a defacement doesn't match colors with the beautiful Pandaprijs" ("Zo een defacement kleurt niet met het mooie Pandaprijs").

This confirmed the option of the background colour, which was "#FAC720". After a few minutes, I realized that 720 is the factorial of a number, in particular we found that 720 = 6!. This pointed us to building number 6, "Paviljoen". Later we realized that the Paviljoen houses parts the the FACilitair Bedrijf (Facility services), which is another hint.


Knight's game On the "Paviljoen" building, we found the classical game of "Paardensprong" (Is there an english name for this?). The knight above the square obviously suggests you move through the squares with a chess knights move, touching every square exactly once. The letters encountered on the way, will form a word: The solution to our puzzle. We were pretty sure this was how we were to go about things, but there were two open questions: Were to start, and what route to take.

Plotted coordinates The starting square roughly has three options. The most obvious is the top left. The center square is another option, while the square directly below the knight's image was a last possibility. In this game, usually no specific route was given. You just try different jumps until you find some route that gives a sensible word. Yet in this particular case we expected the answer to be the password for the website, which typically are just random sequences of letters. Also, the sequence of numbers under the puzzle has some significance, so this sequence probably describes a route through the square, spelling out the password on the way. Interpreting the numbers as coordinates and plotting those gave us a pretty picture, but nothing really usable...

After some hours of thought about this, we were stuck. We managed to uncover some (pieces of) words in the square, but nothing that seemed like the right direction. In particular, the ": 1/4" appended to the number sequence completely puzzled us. What could it mean? The hint for this puzzle read "And the horse went round round and round without reaching the same spot twice" ("En het paard ging rond rond en rond zonder 2x op dezelfde plek te komen"). Nothing new there.

Eventually it became clear the "1/4" just meant part one of four, ie the number sequence was part of a different puzzle. The knight's square was supposed to point us to another location, not a password, where probably 2/4 would be found. After this realization, we focused on simply fiddling around with the letters in the square and managed to find the sentence "hee knuppel ren eens naar huis" ("hey bat run to home"). This referred to the baseball field on the campus, where we found another hint in one of the two dug-outs.

Part two from four from two from huh?

Tetravex As expected, this clue contained part two of four: More coordinate pairs. But, only when we arrived home, we noticed the "1/2" on the puzzle, making is suspect there was a second clue at the baseball field. Checking out the second dug-out turned up nothing, so we reconsidered. Originally, we thought the square contained a "sombrero" puzzle, hence the picture of a sombrero. Yet this was not true, the puzzle is called a "tetravex".

The new theory was that the tetravex puzzle is part one of a two part puzzle, and the sombrero is a hint leading to the second part. This made sense, since the sombrero obviously points to the basket ball field of Arriba. Checking out the field turned up nada, but we were not the only ones searching there. So, back to the drawing board...

Fortunately, there was also a tetravex puzzle in Pandora two years back. And since our team has organisers from the last three years of Pandora, we also had the tetravex creator from two years back, Frank. He quickly hacked a tetravex solver out of his tetravex-generator and supplied us with the unique solution. In itself, we failed to get any info from this solution, but we would be done quickly when we found part two of two.

More associating on a sombrero left us with "Spain", "Mexico", "Siesta", "Sun", that kind of stuff. We checked the Acasa building (Acasa being a a spanish word) and the "tango dancers", a piece of art at the Ravelijn building, but this turned out nothing. This is where we really got stuck: We went to sleep. I had a electrical engineering lab in the afternoon, for which I require at least half a night of sleep. I managed to get 6 hours, so that went ok.

From my lab I constantly switched to IRC where all six of us continued puzzling, each from another physical location. On my way in, I ran into Joost, an old Pandora player and organiser. I updated him on our puzzle status and then quickly ran off to my lab. After half an hour or so, he walks into the lab room, he wanted to see the puzzle. So, I showed him the last puzzle, with the sombrero and told him about the knights puzzle and its solution. Suddenly he starts laughing and walks away, saying "Ah, I see it".

This kindled our spirit, since we apparently had the correct pieces in front of us. This time we tried to combine the "Spanish" concept with the previous clues. When combined with the "to home" part from the knight's puzzle, we get the spanish translation "a casa". We rechecked the Acasa building, and found another puzzle. Apparently we were too tired the night before and missed it then.

tetravex overlay

Letters The next clue was easy. We overlayed the letters over the tetravex puzzle. Reshuffling the squares and reading the result left-to-right, top-to-bottom gives "you've sunk my battleship at cals thirteen". Expecting to find a battleship puzzle at Calslaan 13, we checked the address. There, we only found the fourth part of the coordinate puzzle, accompanied by the first three parts, since one of these contained an error previously.

More dots We tried the same thing as before: Making a plot of the coordinates. After some staring at the result, we managed to decipher the letters "MIX-CD". In the figure to the right, I've left out the lines connecting the letters.

Vrijhof Translating "MIX-CD" to roman numerals gives 1009 - 400, which gives 609. This was the password for the hacked website. This gave us access to the above mentioned "animation.php", which gave a nice picture of the vrijhof and the tower. This picture was an animated GIF image, with some very subtle differences between frame (hardly visible).

Animated letters When subtracting every frame in the GIF from the first frame, we get just the differences. Now, letters appear in each frame, which form the word "willekeurig" ("random"). This word is the final solution of the puzzle!


Today two teams have completed the competition. Again, we were beaten to it, this time with 11 minutes by the No Nonsense team. Fortunately they used four hints where we used only three, so we'll see how the points turn out.

Our killing went significantly worse than yesterday, no kills whatsoever. Most of our team members are already dead. The top kill here was this afternoon, when team H.E.N.K. rang the bell. I was not at home, but Ienieminie was. A roommate opened the door and fetched her, since there was supposedly a packet for me. When she got at the door, they killed her at the door. Quite nasty, but briljantly executed move. Compliments to H.E.N.K., this is how Pandora is played.

Now, quickly off to the next meeting, only fifteen minutes left.

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