Contortionist's Act

Written by Ivan Wang and Christopher Reyes
Art by Christopher Reyes

Answer: DOLL

In Act II, some puzzles are entangled with one in the opposite dimension. The two puzzles each have their own theme, core mechanic, answer, and solution, but each requires some information or action from the other in order to solve. This puzzle is entangled with Human Pyramid.

In this puzzle, we’re presented with contortionists in odd poses offering some curious advice. Looking at the three enumerations beneath each quote and the strange wording, we can conclude that we need to divide quotes into threes to form cryptic clues.

Hover over or click on each segment for a description of the wordplay. The definition is underlined.
A house elf, dropping by, brought around diamonds for a lace garment. (6)BODICE
Sailors missing extremities adorn (4)DECK
the home of the first five characters. Charlie’s turned rotund! (5)ABODE
It’s a takeover— resize! Revolutionary harbors Utah’s primary (7)SEIZURE
ethnic group; the Yankee follower (4)ZULU
attracted a light source enveloping half of four (5)LURED
Students, in my eyes, (6)PUPILS
make a mistake from two sizes. After the setter, a small dog follows (4 2)SLIP UP
a potential first course to the tops of some oceanic underwater plane? (4)SOUP
No! The edges’ oddly charred stationery (8)NOTECARD
pencil in a tundra. Watch (4)DRAW
Solvent: Act One as Elizabeth enters (7)ACETONE
An alien hiding in empty gardens receives (4)GETS
critical intelligence backing huge (8)INTEGRAL
Spanish article: featured, back-to-front, in Casa Louse (3)LAS
A member of a siege, champion and knight (5)HERON
Don uttered “In what place, (5)WHERE
last?” Card the United Nations organization head! (3)UNO

Looking at the grids, we see that our answers should get put into the grids, but we have more letters than spaces. Considering the flavortext “everything’s compressed together!” and some shared letters between answers, we can deduce that some letters need to share a space. Using the contortionists’ heads as the point of compression, we need to add in our cryptic answers so that all words can be read in the grid following adjacent squares. Placing three letters into squares where heads are (reflecting the three circles on their faces), we get unique grids that satisfy all these conditions. Reading out the letters in each head spells out the cluephrase BODIES PILE TOGETHER.

At this point, we know that we need to assemble these pieces together — but how? Making progress in Human Pyramid would eventually lead us to piecing together a pyramid-like grid. With the thematic similarities between the two puzzles (acrobatics), shared cryptic clue format, and our cluephrase suggesting something that could be a human pyramid (bodies piled together), we might hypothesize that these puzzles are entangled.

If we assemble our pieces to replicate that grid, we can then highlight the pieces in our new grid that correspond to the performers’ masks in the Human Pyramid graphic. Sorting our letters by ROYGBIV according to mask colors returns ANS DOLL, ultimately giving us the answer: DOLL.

Author's Notes

This puzzle, along with Human Pyramid, was the proof-of-concept for our entanglement hunt mechanic that we tested at our potluck event—and we definitely caught our teammates off-guard! It was fun to watch everyone mull both of these puzzles over, and the response when it finally clicked that they were experiencing the hunt mechanic for themselves really solidified the idea that we could build a hunt around this.

Some extra words of “advice” that didn’t make the cut in one way or another (quality not assured):

“A pest is layered in a lasagna tray’s glutinous stand-in! I hear devil pacts breaking attempts; wingless death enters!” (4, 6, 8)

“Claim a Japanese sandal for maneuvering! Roam around a short time, for example, or a large amount. Looking back, 5-star with a Capital Five!” (4, 8, 5)