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April 9th, 2009
06:33 pm
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Anyone for rebuses?
So, killing time while I'm sick, I'm playing a very obscure free Mac OS X game called "Explore!" It's basically a click-until-you-die easter egg machine; every once in a while you'll find a completely random encounter that gives you either resources or "souvenirs". If you've got a Mac you can download a copy here.

Of course, with a name like "Explore" and that level of obscurity, there's nobody out on the Internet talking about how to optimize the game or beat its puzzles. And that means when I run across a brain-breaker, the only thing I can do is pause the game and turn to my friends list.

As my latest easter egg encounter, I seem to have randomly stumbled across the game's programmer during my desert walk. He sys he'll give me a souvenir if I can solve a Unicode rebus. I said yes, and this popped up on the screen:

! // a ! ω a ...
(It's accompanied by a caption that reads something like "Your nerd senses tingle".)

The good news is that I appear to get infinite guesses (as long as I don't leave the encounter, he just says "Nope, that's not what the Unicode rebus says" when I'm wrong). I've tried a few simple variants -- 'bang' and 'not' for the exclamation marks, for example -- but can't make anything out of it. Of course, since I downloaded the game from a site in Sweden, it's possible the rebus could be in something other than English ...

Anyone want to give it a crack? I'll leave the game where it is and keep trying anything that's posted here. Baxil points and major self-esteem to the first solver.

EDITED TO ADD: The "//" glyph is not a double solidus, it's actually "parallel to" (Unicode #2225) -- it just inexplicably displays at an angle on the Mac. See comments.

------

ALSO EDITED TO ADD: Bonus riddle! Once upon a time while in a whimsical mood, I posted this comment about the hypothetical playlist of an AD&D "Jukebox of Many Things":

> I considered that, but 3E really nerfed the Jukebox of Many Things. Have you seen its playlist these days? For example, they took out the high-morale skeletons and replaced them with an electrum piece.*
>
> * Gamer humor + pop-culture reference = ow.


The two things mentioned are oblique references to bands. I remember what the first of them ("high-morale skeletons") was supposed to mean but I no longer remember what the hell I meant with "electrum piece." Care to refresh my memory?

ETA x3: I really should give out some sort of actual prize or reward for these.

Current Location: ~/Brainstorm
Current Mood: curiousperplexed
Current Music: Sting, "Desert Rose"
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[User Picture]
From:baxil
Date:April 10th, 2009 01:53 am (UTC)
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A few notes on the Unicode.

! (exclamation mark) is also canonically "bang", but in programming languages it often means "not".

I haven't been able to find the Unicode character for "//" and don't know its name; I've been reading it as "two slashes" so far and that's possibly misleading.

"a" appears to be the standard Latin letter A and not Greek alpha.

"&omega", on the other hand, is a lowercase Greek omega. (Though that doesn't necessarily make sense from a rebus point of view, because "omega a" is phonetically redundant.)

"..." is formally called an ellipsis, though it might also be "dots" or "periods".

Edited at 2009-04-10 02:23 am (UTC)
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From:ceruleanst
Date:April 10th, 2009 03:32 am (UTC)
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I had a look, and the second symbol appears to be #2225, the parallel symbol, rotated 30 degrees. "30 degree parallel" might be something about latitude. #2AFD, the "double solidus", doesn't quite look like that, but if it is intended to be read as such, it might refer to the roman coin. A great many things are represented by ω, of course.

A thing to remember about rebuses is they aren't always read in order, as there are often things like "before" and "after" and "between" and "around". Two things could be "in" "two" whatever "!a" is supposed to be.
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From:baxil
Date:April 10th, 2009 04:02 am (UTC)
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Good points all. Although this doesn't strike me as willfully obscure; a 30-degree rotation of a single character seems extreme given the simplicity of the other glyphs.

I almost wonder if ! is meant to be logical negation of the following character (2AFD), thus D502 ... except that's an invalid character. Meh. That probably failed the "willfully obscure" test, anyway.
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From:baxil
Date:April 10th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)

On second look: THANK YOU

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So this morning, I tried to font-match here on my Mac and confirm the "//" glyph -- because it was clearly generated via actual Unicode, so that would give me a good way to check whether any letters were rotated.

To make a long story short:
[It's the 'PARALLEL TO' glyph, #2225]

For some incomprehensible reason, that actually is how the "parallel" glyph natively displays on the Mac. No post-Unicode rotation involved.

So! That gives us a serious clue: glyph #2 is PARALLEL or some variation thereof.
(Deleted comment)
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From:baxil
Date:April 10th, 2009 02:12 am (UTC)
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Ooooh, smart. "omega a ellipsis" is still stymieing me, though ...
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From:baxil
Date:April 10th, 2009 05:47 pm (UTC)
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Followup: It's probably "parallel"; see comments directly above.
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From:rah_bop
Date:April 10th, 2009 02:03 am (UTC)
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Just out of curiosity, what have you already guessed? It's probably supposed to make a phrase, right?
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From:baxil
Date:April 10th, 2009 02:14 am (UTC)
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The best I've been able to produce so far is "not to slash a knot (mumble mumble mumble)". That omega ellipsis thing has brought me up short.

My guess is that it's supposed to make a phrase, but short of picking through the game code with a hex editor (which I'm not above!) you know everything I do.
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From:siege
Date:April 10th, 2009 02:35 am (UTC)
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The high-morale skeletons are obviously The Grateful Dead.
2 electrum = 1 gold, so Fifty Cent.

And how about as a programming statement... what does omega mean in mathematics or physics (where sigma is "sum" and delta means "change")?
[User Picture]
From:baxil
Date:April 10th, 2009 03:54 am (UTC)

Re: high-morale skeletons and electrum pieces

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That's exactly it! Thank you. :) We have a winner! (I'll screen your comment so others can guess too.)

Also, this:
> And how about as a programming statement... what does omega mean in mathematics or physics (where sigma is "sum" and delta means "change")?

Cerulean linked to the Wikipedia page above, which was pretty informative; there's nothing that leaps out at me, certainly nothing that doesn't seem willfully obscure. (Capital omega for Ohms, on the other hand, is pretty well-known.)
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From:amthrax
Date:April 10th, 2009 03:21 am (UTC)
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The second character could be U+2AFD, the double solidus operator. Or, possibly, U+1D020, the Byzantine musical symbol oxeiai archaion.
[User Picture]
From:baxil
Date:April 10th, 2009 03:51 am (UTC)
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Double solidus seems right; the other is just wilfully obscure considering the other glyphs.

Of course, having a mouthful of a name like "double solidus" raises the odds that it's some sort of a programmer pun, possibly "comment" as noted above.
[User Picture]
From:siege
Date:April 10th, 2009 05:32 am (UTC)
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"a ! [omega] a" suggests what's known in programming as a closure.

Perhaps "No comment on closure"
[User Picture]
From:baxil
Date:April 10th, 2009 05:42 am (UTC)
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Very elegant idea!

Wish I could say it worked; I tried about 20 variations ("no comment closure," "unclosed comment", "don't close your comments", etc) to no avail. 10 Baxil points anyway.
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From:baxil
Date:April 10th, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC)
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Followup: See comments above. It's actually PARALLEL TO, U+2225, which just displays weirdly on a Mac.
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From:kshandra
Date:April 10th, 2009 04:13 am (UTC)
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I might not be as disappointed as some if you replaced the Grateful Dead with Nickelback in the JoMT, but it's definitely not a one-for-one exchange.
[User Picture]
From:baxil
Date:April 10th, 2009 05:27 am (UTC)
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Speaking of exchange, I think your exchange rates (table 42) are a little off. ;-) Nickelback's a good guess, though!

I also hear, incidentally, that one of the JoMT's settings causes all barbarians within 30' to attack it.
[User Picture]
From:kshandra
Date:April 10th, 2009 05:46 am (UTC)
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...okay, yeah, Nickelback I could deal with, but Fifty Cent? Not so much.

I also hear, incidentally, that one of the JoMT's settings causes all barbarians within 30' to attack it.

*starts pondering how many different titles she can think of to trigger this* *comes up with two, decides she's too tired and inebriated to bother with more*
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From:frameacloud
Date:April 10th, 2009 05:07 am (UTC)
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Didn't "The Taskmaker" have electrum pieces as one of the most valuable forms of currency?

My only guess is that the omega could stand for "last" or "end."

Edited at 2009-04-10 05:08 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:baxil
Date:April 10th, 2009 05:38 am (UTC)
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Historically, electrum is a naturally occuring mixture of gold and silver, so that would stand to reason. I played Taskmaker once upon a time, but only dimly remember it, not well enough to cite coinage details; none of the reviews I read with a quick search said anything about it.

Electrum pieces' most visible use has been as one of the standard coin types in earlier editions of AD&D. They're sort of the bastard stepchild of D&D coins, though, being almost universally ignored in favor of copper, silver and gold.

"Omega"="last" is a good thought, but my brain is too muddled by illness to do much with it right now.
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From:taral
Date:April 10th, 2009 07:32 am (UTC)
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Totally stuck. Watching to see when the answer gets announced.
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From:baxil
Date:April 10th, 2009 05:01 pm (UTC)
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The Jukebox of Many Things references have been solved in comments. As to the game's rebus, unless A) someone solves it, or B) I hack into the game and find it with a hex editor, it's going to remain a mystery. :-p
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From:taral
Date:April 10th, 2009 05:16 pm (UTC)
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Ah. I thought you'd screened the rebus solution. :D
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From:balinares
Date:April 10th, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
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The thing's symmetric structure (! SYMBOL1 a, ! SYMBOL2 a) makes me think of a saying or something. Does that ring any bell?

As for the mystery character, I am not sure it can really be either a comment (two slashes) or a double solidus. If it was, the thing's two lines would be on the same height. They aren't, which suggests a more common character tilted to the side.

Other than that, I'm stumped. >_<
From:drake [begriffli.ch]
Date:April 10th, 2009 05:42 pm (UTC)
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One possible twist is that Unicode contains invisible bidirectional override control characters. So the whole thing might be backwards, or theoretically in any order, though the latter seems improbable.

From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 10th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC)
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More possibilities: perhaps the “!” is a prefix subtraction operator. “parallel” minus “a” → “parlel”? “pralel”? “omega” minus “a” → “omeg”? “parlel omeg …” sounds like it could be French: “Parle l'homme g…”

The ellipsis could indicate a repeating pattern of “! ‹thing› a” groupings, and the message might be identifying the pattern itself.

If you interpret the second, fifth, and seventh characters, it's possible to extract “To (two) infinity and beyond!” but it's unclear to me what function the “!” and “a” could have in that case.

(Why is this anonymous? Because, LiveJournal, you have a choice. You can make me jump through hoops to prove I'm adequately sentient to participate, or you can have me authenticate with an identity that has been declared as trusted by the local authority. Requiring both is not acceptable, and inconsistently requiring CAPTCHAs for OpenID users who are declared as known to the current journal user is both frustrating and insulting. My moratorium on OpenID commenting is hereby reinstated.)

[User Picture]
From:baxil
Date:April 10th, 2009 06:29 pm (UTC)
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I'll try the French when I get home and chew on the other suggestions for a bit.

BTW, regarding your OpenID/CAPTCHA complaint, I did a little bit of digging. According to http://community.livejournal.com/lj_releases/40278.html?thread=2565974#t2565974 , if you validate your e-mail address your OpenID account will be considered an LJ registered user (i.e. no captchas when commenting).

Also, http://www.syntaxpolice.org/index.php/?q=blog/2008-05-10/openid-patterns-good-bad-and-ugly might be worth reading: a similar complaint about OpenID in general and discussion with one of the LJ devs in comments.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 10th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)
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*flame on*

“Please set and verify your email address” does not qualify. I may or may not eventually accept it as a compromise, but I haven't so far. OpenID is already an authentication mechanism. (Claims that people can generate an infinite number of OpenIDs are both correct and irrelevant, because I can generate an infinite number of email addresses too.)

An acceptable alternative might be requiring a single verification-of-sentience when an external user identifier is used for the first time, as a global barrier. Requiring extra hoops when the relevant journal author doesn't recognize you is possibly justifiable, by my standards. Requiring them when you have already been recognized as locally valid is not okay, and sometimes not requiring them, only to turn around for the very next comment and say “please verify that you are a human” is certainly not okay.

Incorporate usual rant on centralized, privately-controlled social infrastructure by reference.

I had a short spat with the LJ support people a while back regarding this, which was (as far as I can recall) heated and unproductive. The latter was partially from me being temperamental, of course; nonetheless, I'm reluctant to throw more energy into that hole, as their value systems seem not at all likely to be in accord with mine on this issue. This is the kind of thing that makes me want to become a hermit. Dealing with people is obviously too much work.

When I become evil overlord, all of this will vanish. Be prepared to migrate structured data dumps of your journals to the fully decentralized trust, pull, filtering, and transclusion structure of the Web 4.0v6 system once my reign of terror begins. Monkeys who complain that such models make things too hard, and that all they want is a “safe”/“not-safe” switch, will have their terminals slaved to a special node created for that purpose, and they will take what they get and like it or else. Those who make contradictory complaints will be subject to liberal use of orbital death rays.

*flame off*

From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 10th, 2009 07:17 pm (UTC)
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Natter, natter, natter: ! could be an inversion operator. The opposite of parallel lines could be a right angle; “right” ↔ “write”? The opposite of omega-as-infinity could be “one”, or “none”, “nothing”, “empty”, “some”… opposite of omega-as-end could be “start” or “begin”, or “endless”, or “doesn't last”.

The “…” is also called “three dot leader”; “leader” ↔ the other form of “leader”? “ladder”? I've heard it pronounced as “yada”, but that seems unlikely.

The “a !” in the middle recalls “a bang”. “Not with a bang” fits the first half word-to-symbol; the parallel lines could represent two-things-together, thus “with”. I don't see how the second half would work; the traditional ending would be along the lines of “with a whimper”, and the whimper could conceivably be the ellipsis, but the omega doesn't seem to make sense in that context.

From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 10th, 2009 08:02 pm (UTC)
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… unless it were “but a whimper”. Ackpft. The lowercase omega looks akin to a “butt” if you squint at it right.

It's still shaky, but I don't think I'm going to come up with a better guess than that one.

(Sorry for so many chunks, if they're getting annoying. Release early, release often.)

[User Picture]
From:balinares
Date:April 10th, 2009 10:33 pm (UTC)
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... And there I was back from examining a hex dump, with the probable solution in hand but without an idea how '//' was supposed to mean 'with', nor 'ω', 'but'. But I like your explanation! Bax, may you check? I believe this anonymous person wins. :)

Edited at 2009-04-10 10:35 pm (UTC)
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From:taral
Date:April 11th, 2009 12:36 am (UTC)
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Hear, hear. Awesome analysis.
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From:baxil
Date:April 11th, 2009 06:04 am (UTC)
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I'm virtually certain Anonymous is Drake, who was logging in via OpenID above before the disagreement with Captcha.

> [Explore!: 304 distance travelled, 5 shoppes visited, solved the programmer's rebus - 2 major title screen accessories unlocked]

We do in fact have a winner. :)
[User Picture]
From:baxil
Date:April 11th, 2009 05:54 am (UTC)
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I'll be damned:

WE HAVE A WINNER

"Not with a bang but a whimper" gave me a message: "You are correct! Wow. We are both rather geeky." Mega Baxil points!

As a reward, I'll send a letter to Team Livejournal and tell them to fix OpenID ...
From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 11th, 2009 06:07 pm (UTC)
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Does that mean that I get a chicken dinnah? :-) (I'm still curious whence that phrase originally appeared.)

FWIW, looking at the other Unicode rebuses in the package (just by opening up the JPEG files) is interesting too. There's one that's extremely obvious, and some others not so much.

Also, the obvious responses I can think of to the Riddle Raven below would be along the lines of “priest” or “scientist”, but those seem too obvious.

I wonder what form a fully nonlocally collaborative run of this game would take, perhaps by something mostly-realtime and akin to a conference call; more specifically, I wonder what effect on the effectiveness of puzzle-solving a group would have in that circumstance as opposed to an individual, and what the difference would be between that and a locally collaborative (everyone in the same room) group session.

[User Picture]
From:roaminrob
Date:April 13th, 2009 05:51 pm (UTC)
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Incidentally, the Omega symbol also looks like ...

a butt.
[User Picture]
From:baxil
Date:April 11th, 2009 08:39 am (UTC)

Explore! stats

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My best Explore! game so far, btw:

[Explore!: 2824 distance travelled, 26 shoppes visited, solved the Raven's riddle, humoured the statue, solved the programmer's rebus - 8 major title screen accessories unlocked]

I died with 500+ zorkmids, 12 flasks and ~8 healing kits: healed an extremely injured camel, it re-injured itself to death when I clicked "Run" and I didn't get the chance to do anything about it. >:-E I could have continued on pretty much indefinitely ...

The most fun game so far:

[Explore!: 630 distance travelled, 12 shoppes visited, got eaten by Cthulhu - 4 major title screen accessories unlocked]

When I met the Riddle Raven, it offers the following brainteaser:
I spread a darkness which has the power to enlighten. I can turn tangible an idea, or i can fall afoul of truth. Who am I?


And I'm trying to figure out what to do at the sunflower:

"You discover the remains of another explorer, mostly concealed in the sand. There is absolutely no rational reason to believe that the enormous, eldritch sunflower which sprouts out from the skeleton's chest area, looming unnervingly over you and filling you with an inexplicably eerie feeling, has anything to do with this person's death. That is what you keep telling yourself as you stand wondering why this spot of the desert feels so ... STRANGE."

"Dig"/"search"/"examine"/"look" finds the explorer's possessions (as it does with all dead explorers), but "pour water" and "water flower" cause you to take a drink from your flask :-p, probably matching on the noun "water"; and the following commands do nothing (getting a response that the command you entered didn't make sense to the game engine and was ignored):
touch, smell, sniff, pollinate, pick, harvest, trim, cut
All of the above plus "flower"
sit, wait, sleep, listen, stand, dismount
pour
flower
read
strange
[User Picture]
From:baxil
Date:April 11th, 2009 09:58 am (UTC)

Re: Explore! stats

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[Explore!: 2705 distance travelled, 39 shoppes visited, solved the Raven's riddle (the tough one!), humoured the statue, solved the programmer's rebus - 9 major title screen accessories unlocked] - Died with 1000 zorkmids and no gear, hooray for hoarding! :)
[User Picture]
From:Durandal Sippan Brytting
Date:December 29th, 2016 09:40 am (UTC)

This thread made my day

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Hey guys! I realize I'm like seven years late to this party, and that nobody is probably going to read this any time soon or ever, but I made this game and I'm super excited that somebody somewhere had fun with it! :D

Also you guys are collectively awesome for solving the rebus! (That particular one is the one mentioned in the manual, that I stole from a buddy. It was an ASCII rebus at that time, he challenged our irc channel with it.)

The sunflower encounter doesn't actually do anything, it's just an enigmatic anomaly.

I've been meaning to make an iOS sequel but I don't know how software development works anymore. Maybe when I'm retired and I have spare time again, I'll have time to learn everything all over and get it done.
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