Pieces of Eight
Pieces of Eight is a puzzle in three parts. The parts are tied together by usage of eight coins (about the size of a small breakfast sausage patty) the teams acquired in the middle of the night at the pirate bar. Teams progress through the three parts one part at a time, gated by ghost pirates who demand a word answer before allowing them to move on.
Each of the eight coins a team is given have the same three features: an animal engraved on the face, runes etched into the circumference, and holes drilled straight through. The three features, in that order, are used in each of the three puzzles, although of course teams don't necessarily know this until they figure it out.
I will present this guide in three parts:
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The first puzzle is a grid of animals (5 tall by 18 wide) presented on a wall.
Some of the animals exist on the coins the teams were given (for example, a snake or a scallop), and some do not (squid, rat, . Teams must simply "fill in" the grid spaces that contain animals they have, and this will draw letters: "OLMEC".
(Colors only for clarity:)
| | | | | X | | X | X | X | X | X | | X | X | X | | X | X | | - | - | - | | - | - | - | - | - | - | - | | - | - | - | | - | - | | X | X | X | | X | | X | | X | | X | | X | | | | X | | | X | | X | | X | | X | | X | | X | | X | X | | | X | X | | X | | X | | X | | | | | | | | X | | | | | | | X | X | X | | X | X | X | | | | | | X | X | X | | | |
The first thing teams must realize is that the animals partially match their coins. This provides a binary division of animals on the wall.
The names of the animals do not matter at all. The animals on the wall look exactly like what's on the coins, so there shouldn't be any confusion in that regard.
Teams very often try vertical binary for a while. However, it should be noted that whichever of the four possible on/off up/down combinations teams attempt to use to make letters, they will run into values that exceed 26. It can be helpful to nudge them towards this realization. Alternatively, if it's late just tell them it isn't binary.
It is often useful for teams to copy down the data (have animal / have not animal) onto a sheet of graph paper. This aids in seeing the letters if they're having trouble.
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The second puzzle is a set of six columns with objects on top of them and runes written around the circumference of the column, near the top. Additionally, on the wall are two sheets of paper with blanks on them.
The name of the object on each column is written in runes around the column, although since the runes are written in a circle it isn't clear where the words start. Once teams have made a letter to rune mapping using the columns, they can decipher the runes on their coins. The resulting words slot into the blanks on the sheets of paper on the wall, in alphabetical order. Each word-blank on the paper has a circle for one letter. Reading these down reveals the answer: "LARBOARD" (another word for "port", and the opposite of "starboard")
The first thing teams will need to realize is that the runes on the columns can be deciphered using the objects on the columns. If they haven't noticed the runes for some reason tell them to look more closely at the columns.
It isn't strictly necessary to realize the words should be placed in the blanks in alphabetical order (most teams won't). They can sort of fuzz it based on length and the letter being pulled out.
The objects on the columns are: WAVE (a blue glass sculpture), TREASURE (it's a treasure chest filled with coins), CANNON (a small toy cannon), SPYGLASS (a hand-held telescope with a wood box), BIRDS (three plastic balancing birds), SHARK (a plastic toy shark)
The eight coins say: GALLOWS, ISLAND, LOCKER, LUBBER, PISTOL, PLANK, SCURVY, SWORD (not "words", that isn't even piratical and don't let any teams give you shit about it).
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
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The final puzzle is a large (2 foot by 6 foot) sheet of paper on the wall, containing a field of letters. Most of the letters are black, but a small number are red, and those are in small clusters. A sign above the large paper says "Coins to red, coins to black, never turn, never stack".
Each of the red letters is unique, A-Z plus a question mark. The black letters are an apparent jumble of the alphabet. The first thing teams do is line up the holes in each coin with one of the clusters of red letters. Next, they find a similar cluster of black letters (not turning the coins at all). This will map a black letter to a red letter (which represents a 27-unit ordering). For example, if the middle hole on a coin shows the red "A", in the congruous black cluster the middle letter will be the first letter of the message. Doing this for all eight coins revels the message "AUTHOROFNOVELTREASUREISLAND", which is Robert Louis Stevenson.
The sign clue indicates that teams should concentrate on the red letters first
There are two initial observations the teams must make:
The red letters are unique
The red letters match the hole patterns on the coins
Once they've made this observation, they must realize that the black letters, although much more numerous, make the same shapes as the red letters. If teams have trouble seeing this ask them if they see any patterns in the black letters.
Teams now need to associate the red letters with the black letters. Ask them to speculate what "coins to red, coins to black" might mean, and nudge them in the direction of the association.
"Never turn" means the coins should remain in the same orientation for the red and black letters
"Never stack" means coins should never be placed on top of each other (coming "out" of the wall)
The puzzle location should have cell phone access if they don't know who wrote Treasure Island, but if they really don't know and can't find out just tell them (and make fun of them).