The Mystical Plaza

Written by Alex Irpan, Olga Vinogradova, and Rachel Wei

Answer: BOX HIM UP

This is a metapuzzle involving the 9 feeder answers taken from non-entangled puzzles in this dimension. On the map, these puzzles are marked with a square icon after they are solved.

We are presented with a set of blanks. The break-in to this puzzle is to consider synonyms of the title. A plaza is also known as a square, so a mystical plaza could be a magic square. In a magic square, there are 8 sums: three rows, three columns, and two diagonals. The 9 puzzle answers can be arranged into a 3x3 grid, such that if we take the "sum" of the answers in each line, we can find something semantically connected to all 3 answers that matches a given enumeration. The enumerations are given in alphabetical order, and noticing this is important to disambiguate potential red herrings like ARTHUR for SWORD + KING + STONE. The structure of the magic square is also useful. For example, two lines of the magic square can share at most one point. Therefore, if we assume one triple is true, any other triple can share at most one puzzle answer.

The completed grid is:


Explanations of the triples:

CHANGING OF THE GUARDKING + GUARD + RITUALThe changing of the guard is a ceremony (RITUAL) where GUARDs for a KING are relieved of duty (although the most famous one is admittedly for the Queen, who is not a king).
CHINESE GUARDIAN LIONSTONE + GUARD + LIONChinese guardian lions are traditional STONE LIONs that GUARD the entrance to imperial palaces.
DAVID BOWIEGOBLIN + KING + STARJareth the GOBLIN KING is a villain in the film Labyrinth, portrayed by the STAR David Bowie.
EXCALIBURSWORD + KING + STONEIn Arthurian legend, Excalibur is a SWORD held in a STONE, and whoever pulls it from the stone is the true KING.
KYBER CRYSTALDEATH + STAR + STONEThe DEATH STAR from Star Wars is powered by special crystals (STONEs) known as kyber crystals.
MUFASADEATH + KING + LIONMufasa's DEATH in The LION KING is one of the saddest scenes in animation history.
SEPPUKUDEATH + RITUAL + SWORDSeppuku is a RITUAL suicide (DEATH) in which a samurai stabs themselves with a SWORD.
SWORD OF GRYFFINDORSWORD + GOBLIN + LIONThe Sword of Gryffindor is a GOBLIN made SWORD wielded by Godric Gryffindor, whose mascot is a LION.

Filling in the blanks and reading the letters in order of the given numbers gives the cluephrase


After arranging the answers into a magic square, consider the leading (first) word of each puzzle title. The center puzzle has an emoji as its title, so it has no common letters with its neighbors. With the center puzzle removed, the neighbor letters form a ring around the outside of the square. The remaining puzzles have exactly 1 letter in common with each other orthogonal neighbor. Reading around the ring clockwise (or counterclockwise, depending on how we arrange the square) we get the answer BOX HIM UP.


Author's Notes

This was the last meta finalized for the hunt. It was brainstormed in response to an observation that most of our meta proposals were shell metas, and it would be nice if one were more pure.

The grid fill isn't ideal - in particular CHINESE GUARDIAN LION having both GUARD and LION in it was a bit rough. Our aim was that searching any permutation of the three answers would turn up the intended triple, and although we constructed many almost-magic squares with 7 or 8 answers, closing them with the 9th answer was quite difficult, and we didn't manage to construct a more compelling grid before our internal meta selection deadline. We considered using synonyms of GUARD, LION, and SWORD, but found this hurt searchability and made the break-in harder, so we elected to keep it as-is.

Tuning the difficulty of this meta was quite tricky. We aimed for a cluephrase with multiple ways to wheel-of-fortune missing parts, without using letters we didn't have access to, and balancing letters between the 8 triples as much as possible. This led to a lot of workshopping of which triples should contribute specific letters of the cluephrase. Many letters are deliberately taken from the OF THE in CHANGING OF THE GUARD because it's guessable purely from enumeration. Our target was that any group of 8/9 should produce a reasonably doable wheel-of-fortune, and some groups of 7/9 should be solvable too, assuming solvers figure out all triples within their feeders.

Overall, this meta was a bit of an experiment. We knew the solve experience would be highly variable, since answers had different levels of importance (

🔗's answer is basically necessary to solve), and we weren't sure how much the title constraints would impact puzzle construction. It ended up okay, but they were a lot stronger than a normal constraint like "starts with A to I". By the end, we had boxed ourselves into a writing a puzzle starting with "Hex" or "Hexes".

If you're interested in solving the puzzle again, here is another set of answers and enumerations.


4 4
5 5
8 4 3 5-8
5 2 10

As a hint, answer words appeared in the triples less often, but testsolvers interpreted adding as concatenation rather than commutative addition, and they felt it was more of a Harry Potter puzzle than a magic square puzzle. Out of concern we were biasing towards Harry Potter fans, we reworked the grid to the final version, which spread its reference pool more widely.