Puzzle Pursuit:Mission Classified

Uniform Colors
Question askedAnswer
Today San Diego is host to how many aircraft squadrons 35
The USS Langley tied up at North Island when Nov. 29, 1924
USS California sailed in newly-dredged harbor when Dec. 4, 1910
How to solve
Teams were given 3 pieces to a 9 piece puzzle and a bunch of wooden chips of various sizes. One side of the chip had 2 numbers, e.g. 4-5 (which represented word-letter), written in a specific color, while the other side had some numbers and a word written in black. Teams had to find 2 other teams that had the missing pieces to complete their puzzle. Once the puzzle was completed it would show 3 crew members, each with a distinct color uniform on. There were 3 different puzzles with different crewmen.
The colors of the uniforms on the completed puzzle matched the color of the text of the numbers written on the wooden chips and therefore the chips could be group by color. Additionally the chips were of varying sizes so they could also be grouped by size.
Once grouped you used the description of the crewmen of the matching color to find letters that made words.
E.G. a red 4-5 meant to look in the 4th word and take the 5th letter of the description of the RED crewmen. Each of the three teams that were joined together at this point had different words. Putting all the words together would give you one of the questions above. The answer could be found up at the bow of the ship, however due to a ceremony going on we positioned someone to intercept teams and provide the answer.
With the answer in hand you then had to turn over all your wooden chips to the side with the black writing. You then took only words that had a digit also found in your answer.
E.G. if your answer was 35, you look for any chip that had a 3 or a 5, and then take that word. Those words then would spell out the location you needed to find in order to pick up your puzzle packet.
The three locations were
  • Liquid Oxygen Plant on Flight Deck near midship
  • Go down rear stairs midway near lifeboat
  • go to platform behind F/A-18 Hornet

Help Me
Question askedNumber on aircraft fifty two seconds into Airwing segment?
Common Wrong Answer415
This puzzle contained a series of signal flags and then a series of letters and numbers. E.G. B-1. There was a decoder located on the flight deck just past the tower. The flags decoded to: Volunteers make the Midway Magic
How to solve
Teams had to descend to the hanger deck and find the display that had the same name. The display contained a series of colored buttons with labels on them. E.G. a blue button that said Ship Restoration, a red button that said Safety, etc.
Using the letter number combinations you had to take a specific letter from a specific button. E.G. B-1 meant take the first letter from the BLUE button. R-5 meant take the 5th letter from the RED button. The tricky part was that there were two colors that started with G: Green and Gold. And the Gold and Yellow buttons looked similar. To distinguish this some codes contained a hint such as: G1-4, which meant to use the FIRST button with a color starting with G and take the 4th letter. Likewise G2-4 would mean use the SECOND button with a color starting with G. Additionally, Yellow and Gold could be distinguished based on the letters you were being asked for. That is G-8 meant to take the 8th letter, but one of the two buttons that looked Yellow only had 7 letters on it, therefore you would know that that button could not be GOLD (G) so had to be the Yellow one.
Puzzle Notes
Originally this puzzle did not have the signal flags on it. You were directed to decode the signal flags that flew above the tower of the ship. During a later testing day the puzzle stopped working and it was because the flags had been changed to spell something entirely different. At that point I put the flags on the puzzle itself. Interestingly enough, the flags were switched back to the correct flags just the week before the race.
Some teams had trouble finding 52 seconds into the video segment as it cut away shortly after to another plane. The key was to start timing as soon as the video appeared, not as soon as you hit the button.
Also, the decoder on the flight deck actually contained the message already decoded if you just lifted the little panel on the decoder. So you didn't have to decode at all.

What a Mess
Question askedWhich cycles and days is the recipe containing water, onions,pepper,and beans served?
AnswerCycle 5 – Wed, Cycle 2- Monday
Common Wrong AnswerJust putting one or the other, not both.
How to solve
This puzzle included a 4x4 grid and a series of dog tags with letters and numbers: E.g. A-1, F-3
<100 100-200 200-300 >300
1/2 A B C
1 D       E
2 F
3 G
In the cafeteria chowline were a number of food items. Each item had a little plaque that indicated the number of calories based on the serving size. E.G. 1/2 cup of Chipped Beef contained 310 calories. Therefore, based on the matrix, we can deduce that Chipped Beef goes in the cell indicated by the letter C. The only ambiguity is that two different items went into one cell, but this could be solved during step 2.
The next step was use the dog tags to decode a message. A single tag had a series of letter/number combos. E.G. C-3 indicated to use the 3rd letter in C and we now know that C=Chipped Beef so that would be a I.
To eliminate the ambiguity between D and E we see that the two possibilities, Hash Browns or French Toast have a different number of letters. And in fact one fo the dog tags had on it E-11. Since there is no 11th letter in Hash browns we know that E=French Toast and can now decode the entire message.
Puzzle Notes
Several teams did not venture into the kitchen to find the giant recipe book on the counter that contained the recipe we were looking for, in this case Navy Bean Soup. The cycle and days could then be found at the chef's desk where around the corner. There were recipes on the chef's desk, but none that contained all the listed ingredients asked for.

Outside and Inside
Question askedNUM PIE SLICES
Common Wrong Answer3 (the 4th slice was in the kitchen by the cook. Partial credit was given)
How to solve
This puzzle included a bunch of shapes at the top of the page and another set of shapes at the bottom. Shapes at the top contained a series of numbers within and shapes at the bottom contained a series of letters. Additionally, below the shapes at the top were 2 numbers formatted like: [3,4] . A second sheet of paper contained a big grid.
The idea was that the shapes at the top represented the outline of one of the plaques hanging on the wall in the CPO Mess. The shapes on the bottom represented the outline of the INSIDE of a plaque. Teams had to match the outside shape to the inside shape to make a complete plaque. This was not as easy as it sounds because there were many similarly shaped plaques that contained the same shape within. The key to matching everything up was to realize that if the OUTTER shape had 4 numbers inside it then the INNER shape would likewise have 4 letters inside it.
Once all the shapes were matched up the numbers and letters came into play. These values represented directions and lengths. E.G. the top shape may have had 1,3,2-1,5 while the matching bottom contained R,L,L-D,U. Using the [X,Y] as your starting location on the grid, this could be read as: Move 1 grid box to the Right, then 3 to the Left, then 2 Left and 1 Down(essentially diagonal, and then finally 5 Up . You drew the line on the grid with your pencil. After drawing all the lines you ended up with what looked like just a bunch of lines all over the grid. But if you held it at a distance you could make out letters, and those letters spelled out NUM PIE SLICES.
Puzzle Notes
The real key to matching up the plaque pieces was recognizing that the same number of symbols had to appear in the top and bottom pieces.

Marching Orders
Question askedMidway generated enough power to support a city of what?
Answer1 million residents
Common Wrong Answer
How to solve
This puzzle included a sheet with a series of doorways, stairs, turns, and cameras as a long string of icons. You had to start at the indicated door and simply walk the passage, noting the LEFT or RIGHT turns, or the UP or DOWN stairs that you encountered along the way. When you encountered a camera there was an additional sheet that contained a series of questions. For exmaple the icon Camera 1 had a corresponding question 1 such as "I could hear the roar of the engines. K. _____". The answer to the question could be found at the location in the passage where you were standing.
Once you reached the end of the passage you then filled in a crossword-like page with the answers you found. You then began at the starting location indicated and essentially retraced the left/right turns and up/down stairs that you just followed, but this time you did it on the crossword-like grid you had filled in. Taking the letter you landed on with each turn it would spell out the question. The answer to the question was on a display very near where the passage you followed exited.
Puzzle Notes
I made this puzzle 100 points because while the mechanism to solve the puzzle was pretty straight forward, it could be time consuming and very prone to errors because you had to be very detail oriented in marking down the turns in the passage as well as retracing those turns on the crossword-grid. This was one of my favorite puzzles and about half the teams attempted it and i believe they all got the correct answer.

Flight Codes
Question askedName of the aircraft with the greatest ceiling?
AnswerF-4 Phantom II Fighter (62K feet)
Common Wrong Answer Ceiling
How to solve
This puzzle included a sheet with a bunch of silver spots connected by a variety of paths. Each path contained an image of a plane or copter. Scratching off the first silver spot revealed the name of an aircraft, such as F-14. You had to use the posters of the various aircraft on the flight deck to find which path had the F-14 on it and then follow that path on the sheet to the next silver spot. Then you scratched off that spot to reveal a QR Code. You would use your phone to read the code and it would reveal TWO pieces of information such as.
Word: Name
Next: RA Vigilanted
The Word was part of the question you were revealing and the aircraft indicated which path to take next. To answer the question you just had to read the listed ceilings for the various aircraft you just visited to find the hightest.
Puzzle Notes
Many teams seemed to just ignore the Word: XXX portion of each QR Code they revealed and thus never saw the question. This is why they just put down the word Ceiling which was the only word revealed directly on the last silver spot that you encountered. If you scratched off a silver spot the QR Code would read that you went the wrong way and should try again. Only a very few teams took a wrong path.

Call Sign Degree
Question askedOnly names with no coffee mug
AnswerChet, SYFH
Common Wrong Answer Just putting down either Chet or SYFH and not both
How to solve
This puzzle had a number of steps to follow. The first was simply following the map to find the location where you had to being. Once in the helicopter room there was a sheet with a bunch of multiple choice questions that could be answered around the displays in the room. Each question was associated with a call name: E.g. Chet, Dragon, etc. Additionally each answer had a number next to it such as +7.5L or +13 . Once you answered all the questions you then had an association between a call sign and one of those strange numbers. E.G. The answer to the question associated with Dragon had a +7.5L beside it so now you know Dragon=+7.5L .
You then had to notice that there was a big compass on the ground. The same compass was on the puzzle sheet so it should have been relatively obvious to see. Using that compass on the ground, and the directions you found, it would point directly at one of the helicopter models that sat in displays around the room. The best way to do this was to lay a pencil on the compass on the ground and point it in the indicated direction. +7.5L meant 7.5 in the Left direction on the compass. The numbers were obvious on the compass. Matching it to a particular helicopter model was not always so obvious.
Once you matched all the numbers to a helicopter type you could turn to the puzzle page that contained a bunch of words in the shape of a helicopter. . You could then assign a Call Sign to each of the helicopter types since you started with a question that had a call sign already assigned. E.G. Dragon might be the HD4S Sikorsky.
Once completed you then followed the original map into the next room where you would find a big board covered in green and yellow poker chip type things. Each line on the board also contained one of the call sign names you just found. You could then fill in the name you found for each call sign (e.g. Dragon = Bowhook). Once you filled in the entire board if you read ONLY the YELLOW chips it would spell out the question. The answer could be found at the back of the room where a rack of coffee mugs hung on the wall.
Puzzle Notes
While this seems like a lot of steps, now that you know them take a look at the original puzzle page. Every piece information explaining each of these steps is actually contained on that page. It was just a matter of reading it. Teams got confused when they tried to do things out of order, or tried to jump right to the final step. If you concentrated on the parts of the puzzle and all the visual information given it was really relatively straight forward to complete this puzzle despite my long winded directions here.

Shape Up, Match Out
Question askedWhat unit is flyer?
Common Wrong Answer 55 (Partial credit was given)
How to solve
This puzzle started with a map that lead you deep into Captain Country. Based on the map you needed to find your way to a room with a couple of big maps. It was pretty obvious when you found it. You then had a page with 18 shapes on it. Ten of those shapes could be found on the two maps, while 8 of them could not be found (decoys). Associated with each shape was a name.
Once you found the 10 shapes you moved to the next room where there were two specific boards indicated. The 10 names associated with the shapes you found were on the board. In the column beside the name there was a number. E.G. nitro 23. You needed to take the letters indicated by the digits beside the name. So for nitro 23 it would be it, the 2nd and 3rd letter. If a number was greater than the number of letters it was simply ignored. Additionally if you got a double T (TT) it should just be considered a single T. These instructions were all on the puzzle sheet albeit in graphic form.
The names, numbers and letters were:
worden nicholas pratt suwanee nitro okinawa iron fist school boy halyburton roosevelt
18 47 44 25 23 3 75 60 40 71
The answer to the question could be found on a board on the other side of the room.
Puzzle Notes
The rooms you were in to solve this puzzle were setup just as they were during the Desert Storm missions, which were, in fact, directed from that location on the Midway. Also, all of the word and number combinations were already in place when I started trying to figure out this puzzle(I didn't ask to have anything changed). It was really quite amazing that I could find a combination of things that asked a question, much less a question whose answer was in the same room.

Work Together
Question askedShip lost at sea April 10th
AnswerUSS Thresher
Common Wrong Answer
How to solve
This puzzle turned out to be much harder than intended, at least for the Advanced teams that were missing a vital piece of information. Teams were directed to visit the Enlisted Bunks. They had a sheet of paper with a column of shapes on the left and a second column on the right. In the middle where a bunch of groups of letters. Along the passage to the bunks teams would find signs that showed the various icons associated with different jobs on the ship. Along with the icon was the title of the job. E.G. one icon was a ships prop and the job was Machinest's Mate (MM).
Teams had to match the shape on the left with the shape on the right that would make the proper job icon to match what they found on the signs. They then needed to draw a straight line between the two, connecting them via a small dot beside each shape. If the line crossed the letters that represented that icon's job, e.g. MM then that job name (Machinest's Mate) would be kept. If the line did NOT cross the correct letters then it could be thrown out.
This left you with 4 job names. Across the bottom of the page were 4 rows of numbers, one for each job.
3 21 6 8 19 7
15 7 12 20 2 5
3 16 18 24 19 H
11 5 18 14 22 ?
You had to assign a job to a row and then take the indicated letters. The keys were that the row with the ? would be the last row, and there were certain rows that could not be assigned certained job names because the number of letters would not allow it to work. For example Electronic Technician only had 21 letters so could not go in either row that had a number > 21. But really all you had to do was place the names in the same order in which you encountered them along the passage. So Aviation Warfare Systems Operator was first and went in the first row, etc. etc. Once they were all filled in you had to realize that you did NOT read across. In fact you read DOWN. Additionally you should have realized that the rows would have to be re-stacked because the ? should go at the end of the question.
So looking at the first column of 4 letters it was relatively easy to make the word SHIP and then everything else fell into line.
The answer could be found in the Forecastle in a painting on the wall.
Puzzle Notes
Basic teams were given the order in which to put in the names which seemed to be where the difficulty for almost every team seemed to be. During testing the testers were pretty quick to just put them in the order in which they were found so it didn't seem that difficult, thus the 80 point value. Originally I had a puzzle involving all the items in that little store that you passed in this passage, but ultimately I decided it would clog up the narrow hallway too much.

Question askedWhat is the hull number of the Midway?
Common Wrong Answer 41 (although full credit was given for this)
How to solve
This puzzle turned out to be the other really hard puzzle, despite me thinking that it would not be hard. Basically teams went to the central location where they were given a BattleShip game board (on paper). They then listened as someone read off guesses. After each guess the person would then state some fact. E.G. "D-3. Did you know that in 1963 the Midway had the very first successful hands off auto pilot landing." Teams had to figure out that some of the statements were TRUE and some were FALSE. There was a BIG hint to this as the page that had the instructions telling the teams where to go at what time had TRUE/FALSE in huge letters on it. All the information that you needed to determine the truthfullness of each statement could be found on the Midway Map each team was given at the start of the race.
Once you had filled in all the guesses that were TRUE you had to use the numbers along the bottom and left side of the game board. The number along the bottom represented the track number on the free audio tour device that teams were instructed to pick up, while the number on the left represented either the word (a single number), or a group of letters. E.G. [3,6,12,4] meant to take the 3rd, 6th, 12th and 4th letter from the indicated audio track. There were other clues on the main puzzle sheet that indicated you needed to listen closely (always pay attention to words in italics on an instruction sheet. They are there for a reason).
The answer to this puzzle could be found all over the ship.
Puzzle Notes
This puzzle supplied some of the most amusing answers of all the puzzles. My favorite was decoded as What is the hull and the answer given was the body of the ship. Other teams used WORDS instead of letters and ended up with a whole bunch of words that you couldn't possibly make a sensible sentence out of.
Many teams seemed to figure out they had to use just the TRUE questions, and some even got to the fact that a single digit was a word, but no one seemed to get from that to the multi-digits representing letters. The fact that in the case of the word it was just a numerical value, but in the case of letters it was a grouped set surrounded by braces, [3,5,12,6], should have been the clue that the two were not the same. I see now that I really should have done something like 5W to represent a word and [4L,12L,6L] to indicate letters. I really did intend this to be a relatively quick puzzle that you could do as you walked along and did other puzzles.

The Contact Combo
Question askedDate of Cactus Collision
AnswerJuly 29, 1980
Common Wrong Answer
How to solve
I think this was my favorite puzzle. Teams were given a sheet instructing them to meet a contact with a blue and black backpack who could be found on the hanger deck. The backpack would be locked so they would need to figure out the combination. The bottom of the sheet showed a bunch of little wooden chips with a fingerprint on them. It also said something about a pressing matter. Teams were also given a little bag with three black wooden chips at the start of the game. Most teams seemed to forget about them. You had to take the little black chips and press them between your fingers. Or just breathing on them would work to. The black ink was heat activated and would become clear, revealing a number beneath it. The three numbers were the numbers for the combination of the lock.
Once you had the combo you could find the contact with the backpack and open the pack (there were only 6 possible combinations once you had the 3 numbers). Inside the backpack teams would take a single sheet of paper that was covered in painted letters of various shades of yellow. There was a little note that maybe getting some fresh air and sun might help. When you took the sheet out into the sun some of the letters turned from yellow to a deep red color. Those letters spelled out the question Date of Cactus Collision. The information on this collision could be found on the hanger deck by the Liquid Oxygen Plant.
Puzzle Notes
Some teams said that there bag of black chips spilled out onto the flight deck in the sun while they were working another puzzle and the heat from the deck made the numbers visible. The ink DOES change back to black after a few minutes without heat so it's amusing that they happen to notice. At least one team did not have the combo and commandeered the backpack, trying numbers at random. Really? I wouldn't make you guess 999 guesses on the lock. I'm not THAT evil.

Scramble Marbles Laser
Question askedRed Lightnings->Tigers->Golden Intruders->Golden Dragons-> Rich & Donna Nelson Grumman Fleet Logistics Rep
Common Wrong Answer
How to solve
I also liked this puzzle a lot. It was pretty straight forward and most teams that attempted it got it correct.
Teams had to go to the ready rooms off the flight deck. There they found a bunch of red chairs as decpicted in the puzzle. They first used a series of instructions to eliminate squadron plaques that were on the walls of the room. E.G. Remove anything with a yellow or orange background , etc. etc. This left a single plaque, Red Lightnings
You then moved to the next room, indicated by a bunch of blue chairs. There you had to find another plaque whose name you could spell using only the letters from the one you found previously (Red Lightnings). That turned out to be Tigers. You were then instructed to take the plaque in the same row as that one (an instruction I watched several teams not heed, but eventually realized and went back). The plaque was Golden Intruders
In the next room you were instructed to find the chair that contained a name with the same first word as the one you just found. So that would be Golden. The chair here said Golden Dragons. You were instructed to take the name on that chair and there was actually a person's name on the chair, although that was not what you wanted. If you read the next line it clarified and said Squadron Name. Some teams made that mistake as well but then read the text and went back. So from that room you got Golded Dragons
In the final room you were instructed to find a patch on one of the chairs that contained all the letters to spell Golden Dragons. The key was the you were told you would one letter exactly twice. So that eliminated a number of chairs and left you with only one that met the criteria. You were then told that the final answer would be the word on that patch with the most syllables.
Puzzle Notes
I had fun making this puzzle. Trying to figure out a sequence of events and words that would flow from one room to the next was a challenge, but I enjoyed doing it and it was gratifying to finally find something that worked. I don't think anyone noticed but the name of this puzzle is a puzzle that kind of mimics what the puzzle is. That is the first word is taken and scrambled and a letter dropped to get the second word, and then the third word is the letters from the second word scrambled up with 2 letters dropped.
This was a puzzle that teams could actually do really fast if they were organized. I watched one team struggle in the first room , eliminating plaques, for a good 10 minutes or before while another team came in and out in about 3 minutes.

Question askedWhat is number Twelve on the life raft chart
AnswerMotion Sickness tablets
Common Wrong Answer
How to solve
Since there were so many other puzzles none of the teams actually got the hidden puzzle. I don't know that anyone even attempted it. The mechanism to solve the puzzle was exactly like the Battleship puzzle. At the bottom of each puzzle was a Case Number. E.G. Flight Codes had a Case Number of : FC-B-11-63 . The FC was just the first letters of the name of the puzzle. Likewise the 63 was just the position of the letters FC in the alphabet. It was the part in the middle that was of interest. In this case B-11, which should have reminded you of guesses from the Battleship puzzle. You then went to the Battleship puzzle and used the audio track number and word/letters to get a word. Putting them order gave you the question. The answer could be found on the life raft halfway up the stairs to the flight deck that I'm sure every team walked by multiple times during the day.
Puzzle Notes
I think the difficulty of the Battleship puzzle was one reason no one got the hidden puzzle this year. That and the fact that I did not give out any clues to it. Or did I? The second newspaper article that I posted on the FAcebook page actually contained a hidden puzzle that pointed to where the hidden puzzle was. In this case if you read the first letter down in the column on the left side of the article it read Battleship.