Monday, March 5, 2012

So What Was Up With Those Clovers?

In an effort to keep excising the demons of the 2011 Allen and Ginter Code, I thought we could tackle the biggest bugaboo of the set:  The dreaded, expensive, rare, frustrating and ultimately useless clover corner "code" cards.

Hooo boy.

  So as readers of the first solution post know, we got some confirmation in the comments section that the clovers actually didn't do anything.   In addition to not being part of the solution, they apparently don't have their own special meaning and the gold/black distinction isn't particularly meaningful (just an error by someone filling out a printing form).

That didn't stop a lot of us from tracking these down, and worse, some of us spending tons of cash on getting these cards.  To be fair to Topps, nothing other than the strangeness of the cards made people think they were part of the code (well that and people listing them on ebay as "code" cards, but I digress).  Those who chose to hunt them down and put them together did so at their own risk.

Some friends of mine looked at those corner cards, heard about the prospect of putting them all together (at just a handful per box) and then procuring the "key" cards (at one per case?) and said (justifiably) Eff this.  I wasn't as easily put off though.  I found a few web sites like the Topps Archive Blog that had put together a bunch of scans of cards people had sent in. I realized at the outset that, even if Topps was interested in getting people to track down as many rare cards as they could, they couldn't possibly want an average consumer to track them all down, right?  Maybe they were okay with people getting the pictures and putting it together that way?

I couldn't really print the photos in the same scale to put it together that way, so I bought a 400 note cards (they only come 100 packs) and began the lengthy process of transcribing all 350 cards to note cards.  The center of the card had the player name, the card clover color and the card number.  I assigned a number to each of the 30 clovers (once I found out there were 30) and wrote that number in the corner (much easier than drawing them).

Then I began searching.  "2011 ALLEN GINTER" and (CODE or CORNER) and (NAME or Card Number) in Ebay, Google, Bing- you name it, I was looking through it.  I probably found about 300 of the cards that way, and had to go and break down and buy the other 50 or so.  It actually wasn't that expensive if you poked around a bit.

The other thing I did was buy scans of all 30 Key cards.  Here, take a look at one:

 As you can see, the front had a clover and the back had a symbol.  Essentially, each of the 30 cards has a number from 1-30 written in a different form (i.e. Roman Numerals, Ancient Sumerian Numerals, Sanskrit; the number two was "also")

So that took about 2 or 3 weeks.  Just to get them all together.  After that I divided them into Gold and Black and...started the arduous task of putting them in the right order.  I used scotch tape to keep the cards together (and had to untape plenty of cards).  I also had to fix plenty of numbers as bad scans had made some clovers look like other clovers-plus on note cards this was clearly going to be too big for my dining room table (even with the leaf pulled out).  So I had to make a few assumptions:
  1. Some Cards only had 1, 2, or 3 corners clovered.  I assumed those would be edge cards for the big puzzle
  2. There weren't enough edge cards for a gold puzzle and a black puzzle, so they must go together at some point.
  3. What kind of corner would only have 3 parts?  It didn't make sense-it must not be a regular shape; and
  4. (the one that set me straight) The Short Print cards are all together.
I could make that last assumption knowing that the reason they are called short print cards is because they are literally not cut from the same sheet as the rest of the set.  Once I did that I was able to put 5 cards together rather quickly.  Those would, ultimately fit at the bottom of the puzzle-it was like an upside down T, like one of the T pieces from Tetris.

Ultimately, the Gold cards worked from the left side, and the Black cards took up the middle and the right.  Once I could get the edges in it helped a lot-but it was still pretty rough because these weren't like regular puzzle pieces.  A lot of the numbers worked together in a bunch of ways.  I would have chunks of 20-30 cards put together only to have to pull them apart.  Only when I finally had one or two rows across did it begin to fall together.  The final result was 30 cards across and 10 vertical, with a 10 card across, 5 vertical box in the bottom middle.  The result, looked like this:

Right before my two cats sat on it.
 Thankfully, we were in the process of moving so this room was already empty.  Given this was WAY to cumbersome to work with directly, I put together an excel sheet that showed the order of the clovers (as referred to by their numbers).  It didn't record the player names, as I was pretty sure I would just need the clovers.  Plus, I needed to pack this thing up-my wife was just about done with these note cards all over the place.  Want to see what THAT looked like?

The letters are those associated with the number, and the letter J is highlighted because the 10 clover looks a lot like the symbol for Aries.  If you look at the top row, you can see that the clovers actually appear in their numbered order, 1-30.  At the time, I felt like this was a clue from Topps to those who had put the puzzle together-that there was a cipher in the clovers, and this was their little tip of the cap.  The next few lines, if you look, split the odd numbers for a few rows,then just the even numbers.  That got me searching for the string BDFHJLNPRTVXZ and ACEGIKMOQSUWY.  Go have a poke around, lots of stuff comes up! Including this VigBeau Cipher which requires the use of two different key words depending on which letters you are looking at.  Two words like, say, ALLEN and GINTER?

Suffice to say, that didn't work.  I tried a ton of different things, rearrangements, cipher shifts-zippy.  Right up until that magical tweet of September 6th:

If you've put the puzzle together I hope you find it a beaut, because using it to solve the Ginter Code just does not compute 

Oy.  Thankfully, I didn't completely freak out or give up.  As I've maintained throughout this process, I needed to do a whole bunch of wrong things before I could get to doing any of the right ones.  This was just one thing that kept me occupied and busy and thinking about the code.  If I had better ideas, I would have gone with them.  I didn't-so I did this and it kept me interested. 

Did you put the puzzle together?  Have different ideas how it all went together?  We've got no code until this summer, so feel free to share your ideas here. 

1 comment:

  1. Frank,

    I am still looking at the Code Breaker cards. I believe I have around 23 of the 30 cards. Do you have some sort of checklist or what numbers each of the cards represent? I have not found a thing about these cards other than they were red herrings for the code.