It's a Bomb Solution

How it works

With the display nonfunctional, the only possible first step was to open the case and look at the wires attached to the breadboard. There were six different colors of wires. For each of the colors, following the wires from left to right across columns and noting which rows it connects yields a sequence of numbers which can be interpreted as a simple index into the alphabet.

This yields the message "Cut longest red and yellow wires". Following this instruction activated the display.

With the display now active, teams saw what almost looked like a countdown, except that the numbers were not formed quite correctly. By watching enough numbers, it could be determined that only five of the segments were ever incorrect - the bottom left of the leftmost one, and the four bottom segments. This leads to five bits of data which could either be correct or corrupted, suggesting a simple binary encoding.

This spelled the message "reattach red wire". Doing so changed the display to start scrolling "Costa Nostra Origin Locale".


Cosa Nostra is easily looked up online as a term used by the Sicilian Mafia, leading to the origin locale of Sicily

Design notes

This puzzle used to be substantially harder, with an extra step that involved decoding resistor colors to get a message in ASCII that indicated that the wires from the first step were offset from the actual alphabet index. This was deemed too difficult, particularly because this puzzle was designed for effect and to be fun rather than overly difficult.

GC notes

A number of teams were able to short circuit parts of the puzzle by understanding circuits and EE well enough to see what wires were live and what might cause things to happen. This can be thought of as a fun easter egg for people with particular skill sets, or might be considered an unfortunate circumvention. We hope most people saw it as the former.