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This puzzle is part of the Monthly Topic Challenge #1: Restricted Title: xkcd 1xxx


I had a visit yesterday from my good friend Major M. Provement. I say 'good friend' but he can actually be pretty annoying - he's always picking fault in my puzzles and trying to produce something better than what I come up with.

Case in point: Yesterday. I showed him my new puzzle:

Four faces

After a little while of staring at the images, he asked me: "What am I looking for?" I mean, come on - wasn't it obvious??

"It's a four-letter word," I said. "Look I'll show you... First you identify the people, then you take the last letters of one of their names, so you get UgO Monye, Jos ButtleR, Madam MiM and Jude LaW, and if you anagram them together they spell WORM!"

The Major frowned. "That's not very satisfying," he said. "For a start, this is just a bunch of faces, literally no instructions about what to do with them - using the last letters of their names isn't clued anywhere at all, not even a hint; the same goes for anagramming - that's unfair. Then what you're expecting of your solver is inconsistent - the first name for some, the last name for others - and there are even other four-letter words you can make by taking the ends of some other names: MERE, SEEM, SOME... so how were we supposed to know which one you were thinking of? Plus, for that third image you can choose either the first name or the surname - it's ambiguous, and that's not very satisfying."

I was about to open my mouth in protest, but he hadn't finished speaking.

"However," he went on, "it's not completely unsalvageable. In fact, there's something these four images have in common that might make quite a good puzzle. Let me see..."

And with that, he took my puzzle, moved the images around, added in some more, and started scrawling lines all across it, saying things like, "And you'll need to give the solver a helping hand - their initials perhaps, to speed along the scutwork... A sensible ordering... An answer key... And a hint in the title, of course."

And with a flourish he presented me his improvement on my puzzle:

The Major's puzzle

(In fact, he'd even made a colour-blind-friendly version too...)

"But, but, but..." I stammered, a bit put out by this complete reworking of my puzzle. "This... It's... See, I..."

"I guarantee you," said the Major with a smile, "that this is now a far better, more accessible, more constrained, and more enjoyable puzzle - you just needed to spend a little more time thinking things through from your solver's point of view during your creative process. It will still take a little time to work through, of course, but the payoff at the end will be worth it - see, the final answer is 10-letters long, very topical to the method of solving, and...

...you'll still get your worm."

TASK: Identify the famous faces from fiction and real life and use the diagram and title to help you deduce the final 10-letter answer.

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1 Answer 1

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The answer is

ABBREVIATA, which an internet search reveals as "... a genus of nematodes belonging to the family Physalopteridae." So we did, indeed, get our worm!

Who would have guessed that the answer to a puzzle about IATA ABBREViations would be ABBREVIATA? :)

Super cool puzzle, as usual. I spun my wheels for a while trying to

relate the anagram technique in the example (using the last letter of either the first or the last name), but realized that that was just an example and that this was a different, and much better, puzzle.

The trick is to

Take the 3-letter part of the name and map out each airport with that 3-letter code and connect the cities of those airports as shown in the diagram, and each color forms a letter.

Below are the screenshots.

enter image description here

Names:

ACE VENTURA
BOO
CHO CHANG
GIL GUNDERSON
FELONIUS GRU
MR GUM
JIM HALPERT
LEX LUTHOR
LIL DEVILLE
MADAM MIM
POSTMAN PAT
RAJ KOOTHRAPPALI
TED MOSBY
ADA LOVELACE
ADE EDMONDSON
BOY GEORGE
BUD COLLYER
EMRE CAN
EL CID
DORIS DAY
DEC DONNELLY
FLO RIDA
MARC-VIVIEN FOÉ
JOSH GAD
JED MERCURIO
JOE BIDEN
MARTIN JOL
JOS BUTTLER
KIM KARDASHIAN
JUDE LAW
LEA MICHELE
MAO ZEDONG
NAT KING COLE
MARINE LE PEN
PSY
REG VARNEY
SON HEUNG-MIN
UGO MONYE
VAN MORRISON

And the names attached to the diagram in the puzzle:

enter image description here


For those who are not familiar with how to do an image search, here is how I did it for this puzzle:

  1. Click on the diagram to open it full screen.
  2. Press the "prt sc" (print screen) button to copy it to your clipboard. If you have multiple monitors, use ALT-[Print Screen] to copy only the selected monitor.
  3. Open MS Paint or any other similar software and CTRL-V (paste) the contents of the clipboard into MS Paint. This will be the first open instance of Paint.
  4. Copy the desired part of the diagram to the clipboard by highlighting it and pressing CTRL-C.
  5. Open a second instance of MS Paint (or similar software) and paste the picture to search into it. Resize it as needed and save it to your computer with a known name and location.
  6. Open Google Image Search (or any other image search) enter image description here
  7. Click the camera icon (Search by Image) enter image description here
  8. Click the "Upload an Image" tab, and then the "Choose File" button to path to the file you saved in step 5.
  9. Select the file and click "Open"
  10. I repeated steps 4-9 for each additional image.
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    $\begingroup$ That's the word :) I'm guessing you can also see how it's (doubly) significant to the title of the puzzle? $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Jul 12 at 14:32
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    $\begingroup$ Nice :) If I had just one further wish for a perfect answer, it would be to include a list of the person/character names, just so everything a reader would need in order to follow the solution path would then be present... $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Jul 12 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ Great job :) I don't mind telling you the one you're missing is this - definitely the most obscure (and you're only technically missing one letter from the name!), it's a great children's book series, predominantly big in the UK among 6-8 year olds so likely not on your radar in the States :) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Jul 12 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Stevo Good question. I will add that into the answer. $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Jul 13 at 7:11
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    $\begingroup$ @melfnt dang, I was hoping you knew a way to search all of them at once in one image. Would have saved me lots of time! $\endgroup$
    – JLee
    Jul 13 at 11:10

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