My friend Thetis and I cons— wait, where's Thetis? Hmm, that's funny... she was here a minute ago....
Wait, a note!... Oh dear, it seems things have taken a turn from bad to worse; Thetis is not only missing but she's also been abducted! Thetis is asking us to help find her, but to prevent her hijackers from making it off with the perfect crime, she left clues to her whereabouts (How she got this information by her kidnappers, I have no idea).
Thetis usually likes Tapa Puzzles1, but this doesn't look like a typical Tapa...
No, wait! This isn't a Tapa Puzzle... i–it's a Kurotto Puzzle; perhaps Thetis doesn't want her captors to know it was her leaving breadcrumbs! Hmm... it doesn't look quite right, though... What are these random dots scattered about? Oh, another note... It says these dots are called "pearls" for whatever reason... hmm, more like casting your pearls before swine.
The note says that if we can solve the puzzle, her location would be "magically revealed". Let me try first... huh? I–It all looks Greek to me! It's just garbled-up nonsense... ugh, I guess this puzzle is Thetis' swan song, huh?
I got nowhere with this note, so perhaps you might have better luck than me... We need to find Thetis quickly; who knows what her captors are planning to do with her?
To solve the puzzle, you need to discover the hidden message in the Kurotto Puzzle that reveals where Thetis is being held.
For those of you who never heard of a Kurotto Puzzle, here is a summary of the rules provided by the Grandmaster's "Art of Puzzles" archive:
- You shade in the cells of the grid so each number represents the total count of shaded cells in orthogonal polyominoes (i.e., groups of connected cells that shares an edge in any of the Cardinal directions).
- You cannot shade in numbered cells; these are hints.
- Cells with a "?" are wildcards; they can share an edge with any natural number (i.e., integer greater than zero) of cells.
As well, there are some special rules that are included in this version of the Kurotto Puzzle:
- Shaded cells cannot form a 2×2 square, or 'pool,' anywhere in the grid.
- "Pearls" can also be treated as wildcards.
1I want apologize to anyone who tried solving my first "Thetis" puzzle, especially @Deusovi; I rushed to make a puzzle that turned out to be unsolvable despite my best efforts to make a unique solution (not only that, the end solution was rather dull and contrived). Hopefully this second version of this puzzle — with a new solution and a new strategy — is much more entertaining and concise.
I could've added the wordplay tag to help out, but how do I know you're not one of Thetis' captors in disguise?!
Edward Brumgnach and Dan Brown would be disappointed.
Maybe you shouldn't take me so literally — transliterally, perhaps?
Oh, how could I have missed this! There's a tape recording on the back of one Thetis' notes! Perhaps she got one of her captors' voices on tape? Here, I'll play it for you...Wha— Who the heck are these people?
1: Brothers, I think this is a perfect spot t– Wait, where's the key?
2: You lost the key?!
1: No, I gave it to Stan. He should have it, right?
3: I thought you left it unlocked?
2: You mean all this time the door was left open?!
1: Relax, brothers, relax...I have a trick.
2: You're doing it wrong!
3: Yeah, you have it backwards!
2: No, upside-down, you dolt!
1: Stop breathing on me!
3: (whispered) So much for being sincere.
1: Oh, hush up, Stan.
(Another pause, then a door creaking)
4: Ah, welcome brothers! What took you so long?
3: See? What did I tell you? Unlocked!
2: Boy, if it wasn't for our treaty, you'd be mud!
1: Quiet now, fools! She's waking up!