Toil and Trouble Solution


There are 24 words total, on three different colors of paper.

  • Green: Bone, Black, Freeze, Clean, Ice, Drip, Carpet, Dock
  • White: Mushroom, List, Spot, Mate, Double, Dark, Rain, Out
  • Red: Guide, Store, Stage, Case, Year, Mark, Scrap, Trick

Within each color, there are six words that can be combined with the same common word to make a common phrase. Three words as a prefix, and three words as a suffix. The teams need to figure out which words are paired together and present them to the magician. If they provide both sets of three words and indicate which common word they're looking for, the Marcana recalls some additional notes they found and pull out another fragile slip of paper of the same color with the common word on it.

  • Book

    • Year-, Guide-, Scrap-
    • -Store, -Case, -Mark,
  • Check

    • Spot-, Rain-, Double-
    • -Out, -List, -Mate,
  • Dry

    • Drip-, Bone-, Freeze-,
    • -Clean, -Dock, -Ice

After they have submitted all sets from each color, they also realize that there are also triples across the colors for the remaining 6 words. They go through the same process to submit these and they end up with one more word.

  • Magic
    • Stage-, Dark-, Black-
    • -Trick, -Mushroom, -Carpet

Now they have Book, Check, Dry, and Magic. Submitting these four words gives them confirmation they are all related but they need to figure out how by determining another common word that can be combined with these four words, two as a prefix, two as a suffix.

Enventually you uncover the last word, Spell (Magic-, Dry-, -Check, -Book). Submitting all four words and telling the Marcana they're looking for a spell, will make them take the strips light them afire, and throw them into the cauldron revealing another strip of paper with the final answer:

RADIX TERMINUS – Vaguely from the Latin for "Root Term", a helpful spell to reduce everything down to its most basic essence.


This was a simple puzzle looking for an interesting presentation, and flash paper is always cool and was a great way to give them a whole bunch of different pieces of flash paper to burn. For the beta version of the puzzle there were two differences: every word was hand written on a slip of flash paper, and you received half of the root word each time you submitted a triplet (based on whether they were prefix or suffix words). This meant that we had to ignite bits of flash paper 9 times total per-team for them to solve. This was juuuuust a little bit too much and resulted in some singed hands along with making the final reveal much less interesting.

For the full event, the base words were all printed which cut down on construction time IMMENSELY as well as reducing the amount of (expensive) flash paper needed. As an added side effect it also made for a much better reveal at the end when teams submitted the final set of words. The middle part of the puzzle wasn't quite as exciting so during the event we discovered that my old Wizard Marcana outfit (blue bathrobe, starry wizards hat, cheap white beard) had more than enough storage space to hide many of the notes. As each time that submitted a set of words I fumbled around pulling the appropriate bits of paper out of my pockets ("It's around here somewhere"), my hat ("I've got all these notes right on the top of my head"), and even my beard ("Don't question my filing methods").

For the final reveal, the teams presented the remaining 4 words and said that they were researching a spell. The Marcana confirms this and blabbers on a bit about what kind of spell they could possibly be researching though and "accidentally" drapes the notes in a candle resulting in a flash of fire and an expertly palmed reveal of a strip of paper with the answer. The flash caught a number of teams off guard which was so much fun to see, but the interest in pyrotechnics definitely decreased as the night wore on.

In the end, the bubbling cauldron had little to no impact on the presentation, but it sure made for some great pictures as the sun came up.

Staff Guide

These were the rough rules the staffers used to respond to teams submitting words to the old Marcana.

If the team presents you withThen you should respond
One wordI already know this is important.
Two unrelated wordsI don't think these are related
Two related words (must be same color)I think there's something here, but there's not enough to go on yet.
More than three unrelated wordsThere's way too much going on here, we should try to focus down a bit more.
Three words of the same color (or one of each color) that all support the same root (e.g. book store, book case, book mark)By confirming that it's a valid set of words, and we just something else like this to know for sure what they were doing.
Two pairs of three matching prefix/suffix words and they tell you the matching root word.By giving them the prefix/suffix word of the given color, or the magic word for the mixed color sets.
Different pairs of words over and over again.Look, I don't have time to work through all this stuff on my own. You're here to help me with that. Come back when you've actually got something useful.
Both parts of any three of the four common words (DRY, CHECK, BOOK, MAGIC)I'm getting a really good feeling about this, but I feel like there's something special missing…
All four common wordsAh yes! This must be it; they were each bringing their specialties together to work on something magic… but what could it be?
All four common words and they tell you they're looking for a SPELLAccept all four common words and burn them. Attempt to sleight of hand the final answer slip.