Nash Deervetch Metapuzzle
by Dave Shukan
These contacts' last names refer to the 8 auspicious symbols of Tibetan Buddhism, known as the ashtamangala. The domain names of their email addresses help confirm the appropriate word, though less directly.
Lang Bonito – email@example.com – FISH
Agatha Boughpot – firstname.lastname@example.org – VASE
Matt Brolly – email@example.com – PARASOL
Natasha Carapace – firstname.lastname@example.org – SHELL
Alan Caster – email@example.com – WHEEL
Nash Deervetch – firstname.lastname@example.org – LOTUS
Samantha Oriflamme – email@example.com – BANNER
Nathan Sheepshank – firstname.lastname@example.org – KNOT
As an additional hint to the grouping, the addresses of these contacts all are restaurants with the word Tibet in their names, as a Google search will confirm.
Searching on the grouping, or even a reasonable subset of the items, will reveal that they are collectively known as the ASHTAMANGALA. (Among other things, there is a Wikipedia entry for "ashtamangala" that identifies the items.) The solution words in this round begin with the letters A, S, H, T, M, N, G, L, and the first names of the contacts in this round are composed entirely of these letters.
Spelling out ASHTAMANGALA using the solution words (repeating the A as necessary) gives:
ABOVEREPROACH SPARE HEINZ TWEAK ABOVEREPROACH MATTHAU ABOVEREPROACH NEURALNETS GEORGETOWN ABOVEREPROACH LAMENTATIONS ABOVEREPROACH
Reading the diagonal (not including the word ASHTAMANGALA down the side) gives the solution phrase: BANKRUPT NASH.
After calling in the solution phrase, solving teams are greeted with:
"Bankrupt me? Not likely, but you're welcome to try. Come to my casino, and bring a deck of cards. Call first to make an appointment. I'll cut the cards once or twice, and we'll play blackjack, but no splits or doubling down or surrenders. I'll be the dealer, who stands on all 17's or higher. Ties go to the dealer, but to be fair I'll stake you a $1000 chip (the first time for free – after that, you'll need to solve a crossword puzzle if you need a chip). We'll play double or nothing until one of us runs out of money – which I expect will be you, since I always keep $250,000 on hand to pay my debts, not that I've had any lately. If I'm with another customer, you'll have to wait your turn. And, by the way, make sure the deck you bring is a standard deck of 52 cards, or else all bets are off."
Teams must figure out how to stack the deck so that, no matter how it is cut, teams can win 8 consecutive hands of blackjack. (Or else they must get very, very lucky.)
One way of doing this is to arrange the cards as follows:
A K 4 9 5 7 J T 2 3 8 6 Q (repeat this sequence 3 more times)
No matter where this deck starts from, a player, knowing the ordering of the deck, can win 8 consecutive hands.
When teams figure this out, they challenge Nash. If they do not figure this out, or if they execute it incorrectly, they will lose. In that event, Nash pulls out a Big Book of Crosswords and tears out a page, saying they must complete the crossword in order to get another $1000 chip – to put at least a little time between blackjack games by the same team.
When a team beats Nash 8 consecutive times, he cannot pay off the last bet. He checks the deck to make sure it is a standard 52-card deck. If it is, then to prevent gaining a reputation as a welsher, he asks if they will accept some useful information in return for forgiving the debt. That turns out, of course, to be the suspect dossier.