An entry in Fortnightly Topic Challenge #45: Flags

"Hey Pat, I got your latest tour brochure. It looks really fun; you know I love military history! But times are tough, and I did ask you for something from the budget list."

"That's what I sent...this is one of the cheapest tours I have."

"I'm trying not to get mad here Pat, but this itinerary visits four different cities across the globe. I can barely afford St. Petersburg, Florida, let alone Russia. And I'm sure it's a nice town and all, but Bremerhaven has never been in my top 10 destinations."

"Only one city, I promise! But...you've got to figure out which one it is!"

So I suspect that this is just a tour of Philadelphia, which is right about at my price point, but I can't figure out why the brochure is so complicated. Well, OK, Pat is why it's so complicated. But Philadelphia would be too easy. Can you help me figure out where this tour is going to take me? The brochure that Pat sent over is below.



The museum ships on the brochure are not individually significant, but there aren't necessarily many other choices out there which convey the same information.


I am pretty sure we are on our way to

Flagstaff, Arizona.

The flags

along the top say FROM WHERE in a Royal Navy flag signalling code (https://www.royal-signals.org.uk/Datasheets/SignallingFlags.php).

The flags

along the bottom say IN ARIZONA in a German flag signalling code (https://www.crwflags.com/fotw/Flags/xf-sgerm.html)

The flags

at the left say (kinda) WE in a Russian naval flag signalling code (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_Navy_Code_of_Signals) -- they're really SH above and E below but the Russian letter sha looks like our W.

The flags

on the right say HANG using the US naval signal code seen here https://i.pinimg.com/originals/93/5a/4a/935a4a108dcddc79e1cae7a3205fe981.jpg.


we have WE HANG FROM WHERE IN ARIZONA?, "we" being the flags, and of course the answer is FLAGSTAFF.

The ships

are, I think (in view of OP's remarks in comments), there just in order to indicate the nations whose flag-signal codes are being used.

I think


just means what it says on its face (with maybe a suggestion that it's hot in the Arizona desert)

and DESERT ...

is using "desert" in the sense of "hot dry place with sand" rather than "run away". Arizona is mostly desert.


refers to flagpoles, of which indeed there are many all over the world. I'm not entirely sure they exactly keep watch or point the way, but no matter.

  • $\begingroup$ You are basically there! Notice that the codes used are not the current International Signalling code...see if you can draw any connections between the codes used and other information in the puzzle. For the left side code, suggest writing the literal characters to get a slightly different idea. The right side code is the toughest to find, but if you mix the right information in there you should find the image you need. $\endgroup$ – Jeremy Dover Dec 28 '20 at 3:28
  • $\begingroup$ I guess the left-side could say rot13(JR) rather than rot13(FUR), alas :-). I did spot (and mention) one connection between the codes used and one other thing in the puzzle, but maybe more is required... $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Dec 28 '20 at 4:03
  • $\begingroup$ OK, so almost all my thinking was overthinking, and I have therefore removed it (including, alas, the evidence that I had spotted the code/ship connection you mentioned before you mentioned it :-)). I think we're done now. (I found the last code; I'm not sure why I hadn't found it before, having searched for much the same things then as now, but no matter.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Dec 28 '20 at 4:12
  • $\begingroup$ Yep, that's it! The only connection not there is rot13(gung gur pbqrf gvr obgu gb gur fuvcf naq gur renf va juvpu gurl jrer npgvir. Fb gur Eblny Anil pbqr hfrq naq gur Pnebyvar jrer obgu npgvir orsber naq qhevat Jbeyq Jne V, rgp.) Hope you enjoyed! $\endgroup$ – Jeremy Dover Dec 28 '20 at 12:25
  • $\begingroup$ I did! (And that detail of the connection I hadn't spotted.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Dec 28 '20 at 14:10

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