Thursday, January 15, 2009


The Clerk of Course for the recent Cafe Botanikal Hunt is one person I know who has an uncanny ability to craft some of the most mystifying of treasure riddles, and I have a penchant for his work. Every now and then, his releases would include a gem, like this wonderful work of his from yesteryear that comes to mind.

A can of this treasure makes good things taste better,
It revives and sustains, along the highway to anywhere,
The best friend thirst ever had and you can’t beat the feeling,
It’s the real thing; you can’t beat the real thing.
Ans: A can of Coke.

If you had not noticed, he had crafted this treasure riddle entirely from Coca Cola slogans used over the years. Very sweet indeed!

However, although I have openly declared my love for new tricks, I found that his latest piece from the Cafe Botanikal Hunt had required quite a stretch of the imagination and I was not amused.

Get me a brownish stuff that sure tastes sweet,
That results when some bright people take a break,
And I can only make it clearly apparent,
You must hand in this treasure new and intact.
Ans: A can of Sarsi.

In my opinion this riddle is a classic case of x = y and y = z but x /= z, ie. x and z are both originating from different branches.

Let us first look at the intended solution by focusing on the all important Line 2:

Step 1: Discovering the synonyms.
bright people = SMARTIES
take a break = TIME OUT

Step 2: Placing the result side-by-side.

Step 3: The cryptic play, removing the TIME.

And adding "I" (from Line 3) to the result of Line 2, will yield SARSI.

Yes, the combination of SMARTIES & TIME OUT does yield SARS. However, SARS can never result when SOME PEOPLE TAKE A BREAK. See my point?

Looking forward to hear what my friend, Mr. Kutuk has to say about this treasure riddle.


Cornelius Koh said...

This thing about stretching the imagination extremely far, to the extent of inaccuracy, is not something which is new in treasure hunt questions. I have noticed it in quite a number of hunt questions in the past. And every so often CoCs keep churning out such questions in their attempt to beat the strong masters.

From the many discussions in the Riddle Raiders Blog, we found an interesting flaw which apparently no one had noticed in the past. When a clue is converted into its snonyms several times, the end result might change substantially from the original meaning, thus resulting in inaccuracy.

After that discussion in the RR Blog, I myself overlooked that particular point when discussing a hunt question. Master, however, renroc pointed out my mistake. I think he said something like: TULIP is FLOWER; and FLOWER is (cryptically) RIVER. But TULIP is not RIVER.

Now it is often the case that the CoC considers himself safe when his question is solved. This becomes some sort of endorsement that the question is OK because after all, someone can solve it! Unfortunately, nothing can be further from the truth. I have come across many instances where wrong questions have been solved! An example of such question is the LIGAMAS as discussed in my blog recently. Check it out here:

Although I did not ask the CoC, I am fairly certain that many teams solved that question. Of its accuracy, I say nothing - truly is it awful!

How many words can fit "bright people"? I can think of some from the top of my head, i.e. GENIUSES, SMARTIES, PRODIGIES etc.

And how many words can fit "take a break"? I can also think of some, i.e. REST, PAUSE, REHAT etc.

Now assuming that the brilliant hunter can decide correctly to arrive at SMARTIES and TIME OUT, what is the next step to the solution? Well, he needs to treat that TIME OUT as a cryptic clue in itself!... that is, he needs to take away the letters T,I,M & E from SMARTIES, so that one is only left with SARS.

My personal view is that it's not fair to expect the hunters to find a specific synonym of a given word (s), and then use that synonym as a cryptic clue. I have also given my opinion on the word PHYSICIAN. That word is not an anagram indicator. But when it is converted into one of its synonyms, DOCTOR, then in that sense, cryptically, it can be an anagram indicator. So are we saying that PHYSICIAN is an acceptable anagram indicator? I don't think so.

Therefore, we must ask ourselves if "take a break", without converting to its synonyms, can amount to an instruction to remove TIME from its adjacent word. The obvious answer in this case is most certainly a resounding NO.

However, if the sentence had been, say, "... bright people TIME OUT", then it is a different story.

It is very often the case that the CoC, while in the process of twisting the clue to deceive the hunters, becomes confused himself! And if he does not spend the time to ask himself of the logic of his solution, he may well find that his otherwise brilliant ideas subject to severe criticisms in the end.

I don't kutuk - merely pointing out what I see as inaccuracies in hunt questions in the hope that at least some of the CoCs (because I know some can't be bothered!) would be fairer when they set questions. Make them tough for all I care, but don't compromise on the accuracy please.

2 Romans 1 Impostor said...

Wow! I asked for comments and I get a 600 word response that qualifies to have its own column (tee hee).

Guess we do come from the same Treasure Hunt school after all!

2 Romans 1 Impostor said...

And just for the record, that fizzy treasure was solved (by the winning team of course).

Since even inaccurate treasure riddles they can conquer, so what else can a CoC do to outwit these people, huh?

Have to stretch even further, maybe!

Cornelius Koh said...

Oh my Lord! I really wrote all those, didn't I?... hahaha!

It's a curse, I tell you! And especially now that all comments are being moderated in this blog, I don't have the opportunity to have a preview for anything I want to post, so I tend to get carried away with my "comments" until it becomes more like a dissertation!

Cornelius Koh said...

Yes, I did not discount that possibility. As I said, even wrong questions can still be solved - sometimes for the right explanations, sometimes for totally different explanations.

What to do next? Well, if I were the CoC, I challenge myself to remain true to upholding accuracy and playing by the rules, and yet outwit the hunters somehow! But perhaps other CoCs have different ideas. Maybe they will put some intended answers out of the sectors. Maybe they will throw in something in the order of "mysterious Himalayan animal" and "tak tentu hala".

One of these days, in the unlikely event that I run out of ideas, I'd rather not set the hunt if I have to do all those nonsense above.

Knights Templar said...

You guys should work for The New York Times .....Absolute Verbal Diahoerrea... No Malice intended Tho !
Happy Hunting ... Sifus !

Peter said...

Talking about inaccurate questions, would this make a logical question:

Nine in crazy comeback.

Answer to be found from HRU e-hunt answer picture.

2 Romans 1 Impostor said...

If I am thinking what you are thinking, I can't fault your logic.

Nothing wrong with this craft in my books.

Cornelius Koh said...

Not the way I'd set my question - it lacks elegance; it reflects a "lazy" CoC. But yes, the solution is logical enough.