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We are looking for 4 countries/kingdoms/sovereign states which do not exist anymore.

FWF part 3

Hint:

ISO-3166-1 alpha-2 codes are of use here


Other (independently solvable) puzzles of this type: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

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  • $\begingroup$ I believe I've worked out what all the flags are. Can I just check though - is the duplicate flag of rot13(Nezravn) intentional? (Row 3 flag 4, Row 4 flag 1) $\endgroup$ – Stiv Feb 17 at 17:44
  • $\begingroup$ @Stiv Yes it is. $\endgroup$ – sarsaparilla Feb 17 at 17:55
  • $\begingroup$ I thought the puzzle might have something to do with when each flag was adopted. While looking those dates up, I noticed that the third flag of the top row is the only one shown that is not current. Was that intentional? $\endgroup$ – SOLO Feb 18 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ @SOLO Good observation! I wasn't aware of that, so no it was not intentional. $\endgroup$ – sarsaparilla Feb 18 at 20:41
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Once the OP's comment got me away from thinking about dates, this just took a lot of effort, not too much thinking. Thanks to the hint, we have the following values for the flags:

Chile = CL, Bolivia = BO, Netherlands Antilles = AN, USVI = VI
UN = UN, Germany = DE, Austria = AT, Slovenia = SI
Boznia-Herzegovina = BA, Eritrea = ER, Ethiopia = ET, Armenia = AM
Armenia = AM, Somalia = SO, Yemen = YE, BIOT = IO, Nepal = NP

In the original order, that's

CL BO AN VI UN DE AT SI BA ER ET AM AM SO YE IO NP

Putting those in the correct order for the question, we get

CL + AN + DE + BO + YE + SO + VI + ET + UN + IO + NP + ER + SI + AM + AT + AM + BA

which results in

Clandeboye, Soviet Union, Persia, Matamba

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  • $\begingroup$ Okay, I said "not too much thinking" but it actually helped to see that rot13(HAVBA) was possible, after which I immediately checked for rot13(FBIVRG) and saw that it was available. Then I had something to build off of. I actually ended up at the first part of the answer by some luck, after originally guessing that rot13(YNAQ) was going to be a suffix, for example something like rot13(ONFHGBYNAQ). $\endgroup$ – SOLO Feb 24 at 16:57
  • $\begingroup$ this is correct, well done! $\endgroup$ – sarsaparilla Feb 24 at 17:49
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Let's get the ball rolling with a partial answer... Here are the 17 flags identified:

enter image description here

And here are some initial observations:

1. Reading along each row, the flags appear to follow a west-east route across the globe (ignoring Armenia's double appearance, and basing the United Nations at its headquarters in New York, USA).

2. Many of the flags can also be grouped geographically - loosely they fall into the following geographical categories:

Horn of Africa: Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia;
South America: Chile, Bolivia;
Europe: Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina;
Asia: Armenia x2, Yemen, Nepal;
Island groups: Netherlands Antilles, US Virgin Islands, British Indian Ocean Territory;
Organisations: United Nations

3. It might also be possible to try to draw connections purely with the countries represented in each row - for example, drawing a line connecting the four in the first row on a map ends up dividing South America and the Caribbean in an almost north-south fashion, while it is also possible to draw a line on a map through the second, third and fourth countries in the second row without crossing any other countries' borders (all 3 were also part of the Habsburg family empire, historically speaking).

It is unclear to me at this stage whether the OP has selected the countries in the list above for geographical reasons (e.g. to identify the land area occupied by a particular ex-kingdom on a map) or because their names satisfy another property and choosing countries which border each other is a good way to sow a false trail... In particular:

The inclusion of the flag of the United Nations (not a geographical entity) makes me think the puzzle solution will not depend on geography, but potentially either history (e.g. year of independence/formation) or wordplay (e.g. using certain letters in each name).

Also, the fact that the flag of Armenia is deliberately utilised twice makes me lean towards something to do with the names of the entities these flags represent (e.g. initials), potentially on a per-row basis. However, quite why Armenia is used twice rather than, say, using Albania (a very similar name, spelling-wise) for one of them is currently beyond me - I'm sure the link will become clear soon...

That's the scutwork done - where to now??

EDIT: Following the OP's hint...

The ISO-3166-1 alpha-2 codes for each of the entities represented in these flags are:

CH / BO / AN / VI /
UN / DE / AT / SI /
BA / ER / ET / AM /
AM / SO / YE / IO / NP

I note that it is possible to concatenate many of these into answers which may satisfy this puzzle's brief (ex-countries, former kingdoms, etc.). For example, SI+AM for Siam, the former name of Thailand. A longer string might be BA+DE+NP+ER+SI+AN+AM+VI+ET, yielding Baden (a former European state), Persia (the ancient kingdom predating modern-day Iran) and Nam Viet (an ancient kingdom also called Nanyue, which covered parts of modern-day China and Vietnam). However, this still leaves a lot of letter pairs unaccounted for - rather too many for the one remaining answer, in all likelihood... I shall think some more.

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  • $\begingroup$ The first letter of the names of the four left countries spell rot13(PHON) and of the three top right countries spell rot13(HFN) $\endgroup$ – yunzen Feb 18 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ For posterity: I made an error in the list of ISO codes in this partial answer, listing Chile as 'CH' rather than 'CL' (CH is actually Switzerland). I have not corrected this because in part it was responsible for me not being able to solve the puzzle entirely, and the correct answer has since been found and described by SOLO. $\endgroup$ – Stiv Mar 5 at 22:54
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I might have a thing here.

In the second row there are the following Flags with the dates of foundation / independency

UN: 1945 (Foundation)
Germany: 1949 (Federal Republic)
Austria: 1945 (Second Republic)
Slovenia: 1991 (Independence)

The arithmetic mean of those four dates is $$(1945 + 1949 + 1945 + 1991) / 4 = 1957.5$$. In the year 1975 the Saarland got re-connected with Germany

So here are the data for the whole bunch of Flags

Note: I used a standardized search on Google which gave me some different numbers

Row 1
Chile: September 18, 1810
Bolivia: August 6, 1825
Netherlands Antilles: 1954
US Virgin Islands: March 31, 1917

Row 2
United Nations: October 24, 1945
Germany: October 3, 1990
Austria: July 27, 1955
Slovenia: October 29, 1918

Row 3
Bosnia Herzegovina: March 1, 1992
Eritrea: April 27, 1993
Ethiopia: August 21, 1995
Armenia: September 21, 1991

Row 4
Armenia: September 21, 1991
Somalia: 2500 BC
Yemen: October 30, 1918
British Indian Ocean Territory: 1965
Nepal: September 25, 1768

Here's the number crunching part

Row 1
$1810 + 1825 + 1954 + 1917 = 7506$
$7506 / 4 = 1876,5$

Row 2
$1945 + 1990 + 1955 + 1918 = 7808$
$7808 / 4 = 1952$

Row 3
$1992 + 1993 + 1995 + 1991 = 7971$
$7971 / 4 = 1992,75$

Row 4
$1991 - 2500 + 1918 + 1965 + 1768 = 5142$
$5142 / 5 = 1028,4$

I don't know. if this is pointing in the right direction

Maybe it could be related to the UN itself, but the US Virgin Islands and the British Indian Ocean Territory and the Netherlands Antilles are not members of th UN

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