# Excavation Study

Layer by layer, we continue our journey to the center.

# Excavation plans

Expect plenty of overlap!

Answer is a thematic word phrase.

Text transcription of the excavation area:

F   S   P   Z   Z   K   H   D   H   K   H   V   R   M   J
S   K   G   P   U   O   W   S   Q   O   D   I   E   B   T
M   A   D   H   K   H   V   R   M   J   J   O   O   R   A
M   T   S   E   X   D   M   T   B   T   E   U   M   E   A
J   A   E   R   I   J   K   Y   R   A   T   E   R   R   U
L   J   L   I   T   H   O   S   P   H   E   R   E   E   V
J   B   C   Y   E   R   X   U   A   U   M   Z   K   H   H
C   Q   X   P   Y   G   K   B   Y   V   B   U   X   T   H
T   F   N   U   M   V   R   O   Q   H   W   A   A   H   Z
H   G   O   W   B   V   J   G   S   P   D   P   H   J   E
P   W   Q   D   U   L   O   X   S   Z   G   E   N   N   Z
M   V   C   D   H   C   U   F   W   K   H   I   O   X   G
B   V   T   G   E   P   N   J   B   Z   M   E   A   J   Z
U   L   C   O   D   I   K   C   K   A   Y   N   R   N   J
H   C   U   F   W   K   M   I   O   L   M   A   F   E   G

U   Z   G   B   P   W   J   V   B   R   O   S   K   K   G
Q   E   S   Y   K   D   K   J   T   V   I   Y   O   I   F
V   L   C   J   X   T   A   F   E   X   B   Y   N   F   M
P   V   Y   R   M   A   N   N   J   L   L   G   J   Q   T
C   B   F   T   E   Q   T   V   W   X   I   C   W   Y   B
E   L   V   V   H   F   N   U   V   E   O   M   P   B   N
Z   A   J   B   H   E   O   W   N   L   S   R   U   F   I
P   O   O   U   P   W   N   D   X   E   M   P   G   O   C
O   O   F   U   H   H   C   O   C   H   S   R   Z   G   Z
G   H   F   S   H   G   T   J   P   J   U   V   J   C   Y
Q   T   Y   J   A   W   C   I   C   P   V   Q   D   N   E
K   S   M   S   L   G   O   V   U   B   O   G   E   R   R
R   Z   L   A   L   U   L   Z   Q   Y   R   S   I   F   M
U   M   F   P   W   R   Q   J   T   V   R   W   I   U   H
N   Y   W   N   V   F   J   Z   A   W   J   T   U   N   D

E   E   C   D   A   F   V   B   O   A   S   C   L   J   A
D   U   V   O   F   H   M   D   O   U   Z   Z   I   N   R
O   Y   V   B   L   T   H   C   W   F   W   G   W   O   S
H   Q   B   F   P   P   M   E   A   H   R   I   P   F   V
Z   B   O   S   O   A   B   S   Q   W   G   Z   Y   J   P
M   N   H   L   S   I   L   P   D   S   P   L   U   I   A
Q   K   Y   U   O   J   C   O   P   C   D   G   S   Q   Q
O   O   R   W   S   V   X   I   K   X   D   S   E   Z   K
J   A   M   B   P   W   G   D   J   Z   Y   Z   F   S   J
B   J   G   D   H   R   T   Y   T   T   Z   E   N   C   M
Q   Z   R   C   E   B   A   R   A   Z   V   X   E   W   S
C   G   M   Q   R   Z   E   L   J   G   R   I   D   Q   U
G   D   F   L   F   Q   H   U   G   U   H   J   O   Q   H
W   H   I   A   H   E   S   W   S   A   S   T   S   I   B
J   B   A   Z   V   L   Y   R   P   D   R   K   F   A   I

H   M   V   Z   Z   F   Z   C   W   N   G   L   S   B   R
O   D   G   J   G   H   B   S   W   C   W   W   D   T   K
W   P   H   H   C   T   K   E   F   O   K   C   V   N   M
J   Q   S   E   D   D   M   P   E   E   Z   Q   D   O   K
N   V   A   J   U   H   Q   T   H   Q   C   I   V   L   V
H   H   O   L   J   Q   J   Q   A   C   S   V   U   I   Q
H   S   A   M   P   G   O   F   R   P   Z   J   K   Q   C
Y   H   A   C   C   I   C   C   W   G   P   L   U   G   G
B   T   O   Y   X   F   O   M   K   Z   D   P   J   H   D
J   E   T   S   T   G   N   M   C   K   H   Z   F   W   A
N   E   A   C   O   H   I   J   F   N   J   Y   F   Q   G
U   V   A   E   Y   R   F   K   L   N   P   I   B   K   A
L   Y   P   F   M   N   A   N   J   V   I   V   O   E   F
P   H   L   D   V   T   Z   I   T   L   S   D   O   O   H
I   B   E   I   M   W   L   Y   W   O   E   B   O   M   P

E   H   G   J   D   M   Q   T   M   C   T   I   J   O   S
O   O   J   Q   C   K   W   F   B   B   D   K   Z   R   P
G   G   B   I   M   C   G   U   A   F   O   Y   I   R   B
V   A   E   S   B   F   I   F   I   Q   K   V   F   H   Z
G   E   Q   Y   K   K   T   P   C   L   P   I   T   G   L
W   L   W   J   A   C   T   I   P   J   E   F   U   W   W
R   L   C   F   Y   Z   N   H   Z   M   B   A   R   G   F
K   Q   D   H   U   Q   I   E   C   E   X   O   J   J   C
D   W   D   Y   L   P   Y   R   L   M   C   Y   I   G   K
Q   O   P   F   T   J   K   V   D   R   M   L   V   V   F
F   O   V   N   S   Z   Z   O   E   Y   N   K   E   Y   J
C   V   T   W   Y   Z   J   N   X   R   D   D   Y   L   R
V   B   N   P   J   K   J   I   R   J   F   A   O   C   G
F   Y   C   R   C   O   T   U   Y   G   U   E   G   O   J
S   S   J   W   P   I   G   Q   P   Y   Q   K   P   Q   B

H   M   P   N   N   Q   U   Z   Z   D   W   Z   M   Y   G
Z   M   A   Y   P   I   L   Q   Z   C   D   I   B   Q   J
W   P   L   D   G   B   J   K   M   V   P   C   N   O   E
T   J   Q   B   Q   V   Q   N   Y   Z   B   S   V   Q   E
D   D   Y   I   A   O   Z   B   G   Q   W   C   M   D   Z
E   V   G   F   I   A   P   A   V   U   S   I   J   K   D
V   C   T   Z   P   Z   D   J   J   V   R   T   T   Q   P
R   C   R   F   I   E   L   Y   S   X   A   W   J   V   F
Z   P   F   C   O   I   O   E   M   X   L   A   E   K   I
S   E   P   Y   I   O   I   B   M   Q   E   N   B   H   W
C   E   E   Z   O   Q   F   R   H   Z   V   A   Z   B   P
G   Z   S   E   R   W   R   M   K   O   Q   E   U   H   Z
G   W   F   U   B   T   I   G   K   H   C   T   I   P   U
A   Q   D   F   Z   I   J   I   Q   I   Z   E   O   P   I
V   Q   B   Q   T   U   U   H   M   W   W   Q   J   H   N


Hint 1

All good excavations require manipulation of the excavation site. Perhaps you should print out the blueprints and work from there?

Hint 2 (updated)

What should you do with the layers? There may be some hints in the letters scattered about.

Hint 3

If you've found a word in the first layer, try finding another one using the second!

Hint 4

Start with the first layer and excavate it before adding in the second layer. Keep in mind the previous hint while doing so!

• So, I see what your first hint suggests, but doing so makes no use of your "Expect plenty of overlap!" remark, as far as I can see (so I'm not sure what that's about). Its size is then perfect for rot13(bireynlvat) but I'm not finding anything especially useful when doing so (other than 5 letter correspondences in the first one and 2 in the second, if you know what I mean)... Just wanted to say that I am trying to solve this but just not getting far at the moment! :)
– Stiv
Nov 28 '19 at 9:08
• We need a hint! Nov 29 '19 at 10:00
• What do I do with layers? I make onions and ogres.
– Avi
Dec 1 '19 at 2:46
• / and donkeys too. Dec 1 '19 at 20:41
• Of course it's obvious we put the areas of excavation on the letter matrixes, but what to do next O_O Dec 2 '19 at 9:35

EARTH SCIENCE

Look down on the top layer. One long word is very prominently visible. That word is:

LITHOSPHERE i.e. the outermost layer of the Earth's crust.

Furthermore, one of the irregular shapes from the excavation plans can be found in this grid (shaded light grey, above), with the locations of the D and Z exactly matching. This is the area we must excavate, by 'digging down to the next layer, here' i.e. by replacing the letters in the grid in these shaded spaces with those from the layer below.

When we do that, we can spot another word in the new grid:

ASTHENOSPHERE - in geology, this is the next layer beneath the lithosphere when heading to the centre of the Earth, i.e. the upper mantle - we have a clear theme emerging!

Again, we can helpfully map one of the irregular shapes onto the grid (this time, the H-V shape). Let's excavate this next, 'digging down' to the third letter grid in each of the spaces covered by this shape.

Doing that, another new word becomes apparent:

MESOSPHERE - the lower mantle.

And within this grid we can spot the A-J shape - so that's our next target area.

Excavate this area down to level 4, and we get the following new grid, concealing the words:

OUTER CORE - the next geological layer of the Earth...

Here, we can spot the F-H shape lurking.

Excavate this down to level 5 to find:

INNER CORE - we've reached the centre of the Earth!

The final irregular shape can be spotted here (Q-G).

Excavating this final sector down to level 6 means we end up with the following state of play:

And look at that - there are some more words formed in the grid - an instruction! TAKE PIECES, FORM GRID.

This is clearly a hint for us to notice that the 5 irregular shapes can be arranged without overlap to form a perfect square.

With a nudge from @Deusovi to get me over the finish line, we specifically need to do this using:

the letters contained in the irregular shapes at the point that we excavated them. This yields the following grid:

If we highlight all the 'X's in the grid, then we note that between each pair we can see real words, evenly spaced down the centre of the grid:

...which tells us that THE ANSWER IS EARTH SCIENCE - very fitting for our geological journey through the layers of the Earth! (And indeed the title - an 'excavation study' if ever there was one!) Very creative puzzle - just took us a while to get there!

• Instead, putting the pieces you dug out together gives the following grid, which spells out the solution: i.stack.imgur.com/C6kZH.png
– Deusovi
Apr 19 at 22:50
• @Deusovi Oh, beautifully done - great spot! (There's a THE at the top too...) Will update my answer in the morning when my laptop is back on again!
– Stiv
Apr 19 at 22:53
• @Deusovi also xthex Apr 19 at 23:34
• Solution looks good all around, hope you had fun! Regarding the third layer: I'll take a look at your grid later and see if I can spot any errors, since I'm pretty sure the plan used on it is correct
– HTM
Apr 20 at 17:18
• @HTM I think I see now: there was an error in your text transcript of the grids (which is what I copied to Excel). There's an F in place of the J which appears in the grid images above it... Haven't checked if everything else is correct, but this was the only thing that interfered with the solution at least.
– Stiv
Apr 20 at 22:55