Thorin N. Tatge (thorintatge) wrote in minicon42_2007,
Thorin N. Tatge

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Solution to the Minicon Medallion Hunt

At Closing Ceremonies, I wrapped up the Minicon Medallion Hunt by revealing the location of the last two undiscovered pennies, along with the logic behind them.  I was asked to post this account (which evoked death threats from Howard Harrison and laughter from the rest of the audience) to someplace like this community.  For the sake of posterity I am glad to oblige.  The parts in italics are extra material I didn't read at Closing Ceremonies.

The clues for penny #0 refer to degenerate self-reference and to having the right number.  Penny #0 was hidden in a telephone book in the largest phone bank on the second floor, between the two towers.  The listing?  Hotels--Sheraton Bloomington.

Penny #42, the Big Kahuna, was more involved.  To score this prize, you had to notice the fine print inside the lower left corner of the pocket program.  At Opening Ceremonies, MC Dave Romm delivered the following bonus hint: "Be on the lookout for unusually large numbers."  The unusually large numbers used in the Adamsonian probabilities are the starting place for this clue.

Probability of being picked up while holding your breath in the vacuum of space and being taken to a science fiction convention: 2 to the power of 317,536 against.
Probability of staying up long enough to have a decent conversation with the guest of honor at this convention and still making it to the consuite for breakfast before all the coffee and muffins are gone: 2 to the power of 2,201,865,160,111 against.
Probability of the Ultimate Answer having been misprinted on a 1973 penny due to a bizarre mint malfunction and left randomly somewhere in the hotel: 2 to the power of 3,079,765 against.

Knowing enough to ask the right questions: Priceless.

The second clue for #42 alluded to a connection between it and #12.  Clue #12 ("If five posts stood ternarily, on what base would they be standing?") involved converting a number from ternary, or numerical base three.  Five posts refer to the number 11111, or, in base ten, 120.  The penny was taped to the baseboard where room 120 would have been if it actually existed.  Incidentally, my second round clue for penny #12, if it had been needed, would have referred to the difference between the telephone extensions of the phone near the escalators (6179) and that of the 21st floor (6299), which also yields 120.  The use of hotel phone extensions would have been a second connection between those two clues.

Base three is the connection between #12 and #42.  Convert those three large numbers into ternary and you get, naturally enough, a string of zeroes, ones, and twos.  (Specifically, you get 121010120121, 21210111101202202111010121, and 12210110122101, although only if you're careful to use a sufficiently accurate base conversion program [or you're really good at doing this sort of thing by hand!])  From here, the next step is to convert these into Morse Code.  The term SFBM (from the second clue in the BBT) refers to Samuel Finley Breese Morse and not to 'Science Fiction Blood Mobile'--although that wasn't a bad guess!

Using the key hidden in the Personals section of the first issue of the BBT ("0    1.   2-") and replacing the zeroes with spaces, the ones with dots, and the twos with dashes (or in this case, hyphens), you get a string (.-. . .- .-.   -.-. .... .- -- -... . .-.   .--. .. .--. .) which, when you interpret it as Morse Code, gives you the three words:

Now, the rest of the clue in the pocket program...

By an astonishing coincidence, the vertical coordinate of all this nonsense was precisely equal to the square root of the difference between the telephone numbers of the 20th and 21st floors of the building, which had taken it upon themselves to develop sentience and lodge a complaint, as it didn't look like any of the guests were going to.  The management wishes them luck.

...refers to the square root of the difference between the telephone numbers of the 20th and 21st floors as the vertical coordinate.  These extensions happen to be 6299 and 6623, whose difference is 324, the square root of which is 18.

Therefore--go to the 18th floor and walk to the antechamber leading into the rear staircase.  There's a narrow pipe passing through one corner of the room; the penny is taped to the back of it, near the floor.

Last year, the only penny that was never found was one whose clue involved conversion from binary.  I suppose I wanted to see if con-goers had learned thier lesson!  Evidently not, although at least one group of hunters gave it a noble try.  Given another hour, the penny might well have been found through a thorough search of the eighteenth floor, thus bypassing most of the clues. ;-)

Some people have suggested that perhaps the clue for Medallion 42 was a tad on the challenging side.  To this, I respond that, given the rate at which the pennies were gobbled up during the first Medallion Hunt, including the secret one that wasn't even supposed to be found until after the second issue came out, I felt I could hardly overestimate the riddle-solving skills of Minicon attendees.  Now I suppose I have an upper bound to work with. :)  Don't forget, though, that seventeen of the nineteen pennies were found, and quickly, at that.  That's not too shabby, you have to admit!
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