The team sees a magician (illuden) standing behind a small table holding a deck of cards. The magician offers to show them their favorite magic trick, saying that they learned the trick from their aunt at that it's supposed to contain the secret to both playing cards and magic. They then proceed to tell a story using the deck of cards, appearing to shuffle the deck the entire time and yet whenever they turn over a card it nicely matches the current part of the story. At certain points during the trick, the magician lets the puzzle solvers/spectators cut the deck. As cards are turned over from the deck, it is clear that certain cards also have pips circled on their faces. Once the trick is over, the magician says that they still don't understand how it contains the secret to both playing cards and magic, but that maybe the puzzle solvers/spectators can figure that out. The magician also offers to repeat the trick if they need that.
There are two layers to the puzzle. The first comes from the circled pips (I.e. the suit symbols, like a heart on a five of hearts is a pip) on the cards. As the cards are turned over for the story, it will be obvious that some of them have some number of pips circled. Every time the story is repeated, the cards are always turned over in the same order. There are never more than 2 cards in a row with circled pips. Each group of 1 or two cards is a letter, how many pips are circled on each card indicate the digits of that letter's corresponding index into the alphabet. For example, say that the three of hearts of is turned over, followed by the five of spades. If the three of hearts has 1 heart circled and the five of spades has 3 spades circled, then together they create the number 13 and therefore indicate the 13th letter of the alphabet, M. Read all the cards in this way in the order they are dealt out for the story and you get MORSE AFTER BLOCKS as the hint for the second layer.
As indicated, the second layer is morse. The "blocks" part comes from the story. In the story told during the trick, there are five points where the characters walk a certain number of blocks. The number of blocks the characters walk matters. If the characters walk N blocks, this indicates that the next N cards dealt off the deck after that will form a morse letter. Red cards correspond with short dots, black cards indicate long dashes. This is hinted in the story when a group of four women is described as "a couple of short red heads and a couple of long-haired brunettes." So, if after walking 3 blocks the next three cards off the deck are a two of spades, a jack of spades, and a 3 of hearts, that would indicate the dash, dash, dot for a G in morse.
In general, teams overcomplicate the puzzle and try to incorporate too much of the story or presentation elements as data and most of the hinting involves herding them away from that.
First Layer: When teams get stuck here, they are generally trying to incorporate other stuff about the cards (color, suit, rank, etc.) or story elements along with the circled pips on the card. For the first layer, basically all that matters is the number of pips circled and then grouping them appropriately (it takes 1-2 cards to make a letter, there will be at least one blank card without anything circled on it between each group that indicates a letter). Here's an example of questions that do that kind of herding:
Have you noticed any writing or drawing on the cards?
What that could indicate?
Follow up on any complicated answers with versions of: is there a simpler thing that could indicate?
If you took the circled parts of the cards by themselves and disregarded everything else, what would that give you?
Could you get a number out of that?
Are the circled cards all next to one another or are they broken up by uncircled cards?
In what ways could you turn numbers into letters?
Second layer: when teams get stuck here it's for a couple of different reasons
Not understanding that red cards indicate dots and black cards indicate dashes, usually doing some more complicated scheme sometimes involving the rhythm of the trick's story presentation:
Is there a simpler or more concrete way to indicate morse?
What binary charactersitics are there for cards? Like each card definitively falls in one category or another? Maybe color? (leading them towards red vs black cards).
Was there a part of the story that hints explicitly to short and long? What about the part where the four women enter the story? Try listening again? Did you hear the part about two short redheads and two long-haired brunettes? Could that indicate something about red vs black cards?
Not understanding which cards should be used for morse.
Does the hint give any indication of where morse happens? After blocks?
What happens in the story when characters walk blocks?
Is the number of blocks that they walk the same every time?
Could that be important?
How many symbols do you need to make a morse character?
Does it vary from character to character?
Could the number of blocks indicate how many cards are used in the morse character?
Here is the patter for the trick. The parts in red will match a card turned over from the top of the deck. The parts that are in all caps and bold indicate where the cards are CUT by an audience member or where the magician cuts the deck one handed some number of times (the number is actually typed out, as in ONE, TWO, THREE indicates that the magician performed 3 one handed cuts).
My aunt introduced me to magic and this was one of her favorite tricks. It's about the best card player she ever knew, a bartender named Sam. She also said that the trick had the secret both to card magic and playing cards, but I never understood that part.
So Sam was on shift at the local bar when the door opened and in walked four guys dressed like kings. The bar's a little empty, so when they order drinks and settle in they get Sam's full attention and they start talking. At some point they tell Sam they like the vibe here but there aren't a lot of people, does he know of some place where there are more people. And at this point the cards were CUT. And Sam said "well it's a little early, but if you go ONE, TWO, THREE blocks south you can try the 842 club." And they noted that was an oddly convenient name for a club for the meta purposes of this story trick but gave Sam a ten dollar tip. A little while later the guys came back and Sam asked if they found the club. And at this point the cards were CUT and the guys said no, we ended up going ONE, TWO, THREE blocks west instead by accident, but we found some people who thought they'd like this place too. At which point the doors opened and in walked a couple of short red heads and a couple of long haired brunettes, coincidentally also dressed to the hilt. Now they talked and drank for a while but eventually one of the kings decided he wanted to play some cards but no one else was interested so he turned to Sam and asked if he knew where there were any good card players. And Sam once again suggested the 842 club, and the king tossed sam another ten dollar tip on his way out the door. This time the king walked ONE, TWO blocks east and came back with a group of guys but they were all named Jack. Sam asks if the five of the met at the club and the king sheepishly admits that he got lost again and these fellows were nice enough to help him find his way back. So Sam pours them all some drinks and strikes up a conversation. You guys all seem to be close to the same age, what are you 34? The Jacks say close we're 36? Oh, where do you guys live? Oh we live, ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR blocks away at 13 109 W 63rd st. Ok, that was two much information, I was just asking about what part of town. But my shift is almost over, King want to head out with me and finally play some cards? And at this point the cards were CUT and along with the jacks they walked ONE block south, which was a little short of the 842 club but the Jacks wanted ice cream and Sam knew a good place for that. This got him a final 10 dollar tip, at which point he herded the 6 of them out and they finally got to the club. Sam used the money from his tips to buy in and they sat down for the game. The final hand came to this: One of the jacks had a pair of fives and three sevens. Now that's a pretty good full house but he didn't win. The king a pair of nines and three aces. Which is an even better hand, but it didn't beat sam because he had a straight flush. And that's the story of how Sam the bartender cleaned out a bunch of people using the very money they tipped him.