Friday, August 3, 2012

Case Closed! How to solve the 2012 Allen & Ginter Code

Hi there!

Very happy to be writing up this post as it is our second Celebratory “We cracked the Ginter Code” post we’ve been able to do. After Ryan, Guillaume and I managed to crack it in 2011 Guillaume and I repeated as champions this year.

The story of cracking the Willow Cove Murder is mostly known by now. Unlike last year’s code, this one was far less complex, and built (we think) to be solved fairly quickly. A timely Olympic metaphor might be this was a sprint, while last year was a marathon. Both are tough, just in different ways.  Also, the details of what we did to win are, for the most part, scattered across forums and accessible to everyone. As such, I’ve kept this post fairly brief to explain how it is solved. I am much more interested in later writing about the culture of the code and codebreakers.

Right before the code kicked off, Ryan informed G and I that he would be unable to participate in this year’s code. New job, new baby, and a lot of responsibility equaled not really being able to get involved. After he left, G and I kicked around the idea of what to do-and ultimately decided to work separately but on friendly terms this year. We weren’t sure if it would feel like the old gang was together, so we let it go.

In relationship parlance, you might say we were “on a break.” J

How to solve the code

With a murder in the fictional town of Willow Cove, the ad card this year instructed you to follow the Codemaster (key to solving the puzzle). So that was, and looks like it will be for the next few puzzles at least, step 1.

Despite people saying you“didn’t need any cards” this year, you did, in fact, need some cards this year to solve the code. In fact you need them for four distinct pieces of information that I can think of:

1. The Willow Cove Water Cooler Blog was ONLY found on the back of the Clue Cards at the bottom of the newspaper page. That was the only place it was mentioned in the game.

2. For the web sites (discussed shortly) most of the addresses you could visit were ONLY on the locations clue cards. That is, Vacant Lot, Guttman's Gutters, etc. weren’t really talked about else where. You needed the names of those places and they came from the cards.

3. Gary Linderman, who proved vital to the game, is not talked about on any of the twitter accounts, and not mentioned in the blog. Only place you could find out about him was the card.

4. The first two scraps of the ransom note.

Now, of course, BlowoutCards and FreedomCardBoard forums had already posted all the scans, so you personally didn’t need to have the card-but that wasn’t the case last year either (where we put together much of the puzzle using scans of cards we’d found online). Suffice to say, someone, had to have the cards for that info.

It is also true this year's code doesn’t use cards from the "regular" set - but I’ll talk more about that at a later time. 

The main crux of the game was the web site, which many people had found before it was posted-but couldn’t do anything with it because it hadn’t been "turned on" yet. The game of course, was much like Zork and other text based adventure games where simple commands move your character around and allow you to investigate.

The blog and twitter accounts were basically there to provide you clues of where to go and what to do in town on your investigation. On top of finding scraps of paper that put together a ransom-style note, you also had opportunities to find “evidence” of who committed the crime (10 in all, 11 locations). The scraps of paper were found in the Vacant Lot (1 scrap), at the Guttman Residence (2 scraps), the Trainyard (1), at Burgers Fries Pop (2), at the Gas’n’Go (2), at the Gazebo (2), and in Skip’s Briefcase (1).

Note: Skip’s combo to his briefcase? 12345. The famous password from Spaceballs, a movie you know he likes because he quotes it in a Tweet.

Add that to the two Clue Cards with the Scraps of Paper, and you could put together the whole ransom note.

Aside: By looking at the URL for the pictures of the scraps of paper, you could figure out how the pictures were named (the letters on the paper). As such, you could put in the letters from the two clue cards and get big pictures for those pieces to cut out and tape together (like my wife and I did).

The ten pieces of evidence were scattered as well. You could find them as follows:

  1. A Sticky Substance on girl’s shoes in Jack’s bedroom, which related to A sticky, stinky substance found on the doorway outside Guttman’s Gutters.
  2. Trudy’s unsent love letters to Lennie (explaining her heartbreak).
    1. This was found on her laptop, found in some boxes on her porch, password LennieBennieBear (capitalization counts)-her pet nickname for Lennie (mentionned on the blog).
  3. Cut up Women’s Magazine-found outside WC High School, used for the ransom note.
  4. Lennie’s personal letters, found in his home in his lockbox.
    1. The combo was 3-40-6, his stat line of W-Ks-HRs from the 1995 High School Championship Series (mentionned on the blog).
  5. Bruce’s Background Check on Lennie- Indicating Lennie was a bit of a dog, and not the father of all his kids.
    1. Found in Klugman’s wallsafe. Combo 19-9-6, The year his father died and the year he took over Klugman Development (mentioned on the blog).
  6. Gas’N’Go Services Records, found at the station, indicating who had been in for servicing recently (and fit with the bloody rag found at the scene).
  7. Marcie’s Rejected Story, which is clearly autobiographical, and reveals that Jack, her son, may not have been Lennie’s child after all.
    1. The dreaded netbook password was "WhatCouldHaveBeen…" (WITH the ellipse at the end), a quote she often gives to her kids, as revealed in a tweet. (G finally get this one, and I'm proud he could get it.  One of the toughest clues to figure, for sure).
  8. Guttman’s Gutters Financial Records-that indicated Lennie and Gloria were cooking the books a bit. Found at the Gutters' office in the lockbox behind the fridge
    1. Clearly Gloria was in charge of this piece, because the combination was 7927, or 7-9-1927, her late husband’s birthday. Revealed via Twitter.
  9. Interview with Gary Linderman-The resident hobo of Willow Cove left a note at the trainyard indicating he likes to sleep by the vacant lot at night because the laundry vents kept him warm. You could ONLY see him there between midnight and 8am real time. I was kinda particularly proud of figuring that one out and giving it a try the first night. Glad others found it too-we weren’t sure how many had it after the first day.
  10. Lennie’s letter to Jackie-Informing her that the Cynthia/Jack relationship needs to end.

All of which paints the picture of a girl finding out that her father wasn’t her father and her boyfriend was maybe her brother. She snaps, confronts this man who claims to be her father and is now forbidding her from seeing his son, and, while he's bent over, hits him with a bowling pin. She flees the scene, not knowing she is spotted by Gary nor that she got gunk on her shoes. The ransom letter, more of an angry attack at Guttman, is made from her magazines found near her school.

Obviously, if you’re looking at everything you can find there is a lot left unsaid, and a lot more that could be going on here, but this is all you needed to “solve” the code.

Of course no one did until the Codemaster’s final tweets on the subject (proving very helpful). By this time G and I were working together again and had both marveled at the URL used to house the scraps of paper.

We liked the obvious movie references and how each of them sort of related to the idea of being transported to another world and solving puzzles. We had been wondering if the solution was in those particular words, and while it wasn’t, thinking about the URL proved useful.

By putting the full text of the ransom note at the end of the URL string, you (as Grant Morrison might say) put on a fiction suit and were able to interact with the characters of Willow Cove-informing them of your conclusions.

As you can see the order of the evidence mattered, as did the address and how you phrased certain things. All grounds for disqualification at the last second. Thankfully, G had all the evidence up in front of him anyway (and our 15 pages spreadsheet had the evidence listed in the right order too) so it was a simple cut and paste job for him to get it out. (I wrote the backup email just in case his didn’t go through or something).

And that’s that.

Questions and comments below.  There are, have been, and will be a lot of comments on the puzzle this year; it's brevity and (alleged) ease, etc.  I invite you all to comment as you see fit below, but know that we're not going to tolerate trolling or stuff that just isn't constructive/polite to others etc.  With an upcoming game in September, our prizes getting to us soon (we hope!) and some other posts we'd like to do with this, there will be plenty of opportunity to discuss things further.  Just hoping we can all keep it civil.  Thanks!


  1. Glad you guys had fun again. I'll be back at a later date with more complete thoughts--and if anyone reading this has any questions, please feel free to ask, though I may not be able to answer--but I did want to mention two things.

    1 - I can't really get into the why, but the code this year was absolutely intentionally accelerated, and no one is more disappointed about that than I am.

    2 - There was honestly no part of this code that I thought longer and harder about than the ellipsis in the netbook password. Reading reactions, I'm happy now I included it.

    1. Thanks Abe ;) Per ususal, we appreciate it!

  2. I can think of many sub-stories that could branch off of the Willow Cove story line. Will there be additional codes to crack beyond Joey Furts con in September, and will there be some annoucement of additional prizes?

    Btw, can I just say as a 1st time codecracker it was a lot of fun =)

    Also to Frank and Guillaume, it was great conversating with you the past few weeks. I learned a lot, and Guillaume was very kind and helped me over the hump with some what types of things to look for when searching for pw's. See you both in September.

  3. Can anyone tell me where the "htere" scrap was located in the Guttman Residence?


  4. Congrats guys. Is is it true that next years code is a tie-in to this years?

    1. Not next year's code, but a mini-code that comes out in September. (Or at least, that's the only thing that's been mentioned. No word on 2013, other than it is supposed to knock our socks off.)

  5. Next year will you hire someone to film a documentary? It would be great to watch it all unfold (regardless of whether you win. -which I'm sure you will.)

    Thanks once again,
    Travis Peterson
    Vice President of Procrastination
    PunkRockPaint Enterprises, Inc.

    1. I actually thought of that earlier this year. I think it could work a la "King of Kong" and stuff. Some one should look into it :)

  6. I feel that I understand why the code was "intentionally accelerated", most likely due to external circumstances beyond any control of the code's creator. Games such as the Ginter Code are in their own way a healthy diversion from some of the horrors and atrocities of daily life, and it saddens me when those external forces have the power to alter those very games and diversions.

    Could it have played out differently? Under the circumstances, probably not. In today's society, we must err on the side of being overly PC, or face a backlash from myriad groups with various agendas. I'd change it if I only could. I so wish the codebreakers could have wandered the back alleys of Willow Cove at a more "leisurely" pace, but alas...

    Congratulations to this year's champs, and I look forward to September!!

    I knew Joey Furts had a face I couldn't trust.