Solution: Nought But a Crossover
Answer: LEIPZIG TRIAL
Written by greenturtle3141 and lydian
Solvers are presented with a wordsearch, so the obvious thing to do is to solve it!
The first thing to note is that there are four 17-letter words that seem to divide the grid exactly into nine 5×5 squares. Moreover, the remaining letters all have something common between groups of them:
- The 5-letter words form pairs of words that are commonly said together, like “right angle”, “debut album”, and “Miami Beach”, and they all criss cross at the middle letter, forming an “X” shape.
- The remaining 3-letter words are either animals or numbers, both groups having four entries each and forming a clear “O” shape in the grid. All entries also go clockwise, start at the uppermost word, and follow a clear order (alphabetical for the animals and cardinally for the numbers).
Given the title and the “X” and “O” shapes we found so far in this wordsearch, this is actually a tic-tac-toe game disguised as a word search. We can infer it's the nought player's turn, as they have placed two noughts compared to three crosses, and they can win the game by playing in the bottom-left corner. Placing a nought there and reading the 12 letters off it in the same clockwise pattern as the other noughts spell out the final answer LEIPZIG TRIAL.
I originally wrote a very different puzzle based on tic-tac-toe, as I wanted to incorporate that into a hunt-style puzzle for quite some time, mostly due to the fact that pretty much anyone knows what tic-tac-toe is, and how to win at one. The original idea didn't really fit the goals we wanted for this hunt, so greenturtle had the wonderful idea of making a big tic-tac-toe grid on a wordsearch! We came up with 17-letter long words that crisscrossed to divide the grid, and with groups of words for the noughts and crosses, and the rest is history! I'm a pretty big fan of puzzles like this where all the data is presented directly to the solver, and they have to figure out what to do with it, and I think this was the first time I managed to pull this off successfully, alongside greenturtle.