Authors: Chieu Nguyen and Aaron Bader
This puzzle is a parody of the puzzle authoring no-no of writing a puzzle that is essentially "guess what the author is thinking." As such, the puzzle appears to be nothing but a line with 20 blank squares. However, in order to assist the solver, the puzzle itself interacts with your guesses to guide you towards the correct answer.
In order to solve the puzzle you must attempt to submit an answer that is 20 letters long. Yes, you actually have to submit an answer. Provided that your answer guess is 20 letters long (after excluding non-alphabetical characters), you will receive a response that shows you how to proceed. And no, this answer is not counted against you.
Once you make a guess, you are presented with a response that indicates the difference between your guess and the string of letters we had in mind. You are also given four more rows of blanks ranging from 21 blanks to 24 blanks, as well as an input box to use so that you don't accidentally call in guesses as answer attempts and make things a logistical nightmare for us. Any guess from 20 to 24 letters long will receive a response, and each length corresponds to a different guessing game.
The four correct solutions are:
The answers to the phrase combine to form the answer, NOR'EASTER BLIZZARD. Now, we know that you can probably guess the answer with 4 or maybe even 3 of the pieces. But you guys were having so much fun with this puzzle, that you probably solved them all anyway.
Here's how all the different guessing games work:
For the 20-letter phrase, WORDOFTENWITHNEITHER, you are given the standard Mastermind readout. Black means that you have a letter in the correct place. White means you have a letter, but not in the correct place.
For the 21-letter phrase, DIRECTIONOPPOSITEWEST, the answer first compares the length of the Morse code strings. If they are different lengths, it lets you know that your guess is not the correct length, and gives you a decimal value of how much longer or shorter you are. If it is the same length, it tells you the binary difference between the answer you "tapped out" and the actual answer, treating dits as 0 and dahs as 1. The "tapped out" is supposed to clue you towards Morse. Eventually you get a solution that is the same length letterwise, and the same number of Morse characters, but this is still not enough for a unique phrase. So in the case that the Morse strings are the same, it will tell you where your first error is.
For the 22-letter phrase, CLOONEYHOSPITALNBCSHOW, you are given 22 symbols. The symbol is red if your guess letter is earlier in the alphabet than the correct letter and blue if it is later in the alphabet than your guess letter. It is green if it is correct. This one is trivial to do with 26 guesses, so feel free to thank us.
For the 23-letter phrase, JETSTARPACIFICSIATACODE, convert both the guess and the phrase into a 23-dimensional vector using standard alphanumeric substitution. Then take the Euclidean 2-norm of the difference of the vectors. This yields how far "off" you are from the answer phrase.
For the 24-letter phrase, COMEDIANEDDIEOFTHERICHES, you are given a set of slashes lines and dots in two sets. The top set are the pigpen strokes that appear in your letter but not in the corresponding answer letter. The bottom set are the ones that appear in the answer letter but not in your letter.