Thinking Caps On! It’s the Wondercade Whodunit Challenge!
Help NPH solve the crime in this interactive mystery game!
I adore mysteries — conundrums wrapped in enigmas, peppered with puzzles and sprinkled with sleuth-able, solvable challenges. In particular, I love mysteries that feature a colorful cast of characters and a riveting story that culminates in a grand reveal.
AKA: a whodunit.
We’ve never done anything like this before: a brainteaser on a GRAND SCALE. It’s my homage — nay, my immersive experience tribute — to the timelessly compelling genre of crime fiction. My love for it stretches back to my childhood, when I was obsessed with Clue (both the game and the masterpiece film), an adoration which endures to this day. Here’s how this is gonna work: grab a pencil, a piece of scrap paper and every bit of cleverness you’ve got. This is a multi-stage gauntlet that’ll test your mental mettle! If you get stuck, no worries — you’ll find two buttons for hints to nudge you in the right direction.
Alongside my fast-growing and brilliant tween twins Harper and Gideon (they’re just a couple of months from turning 13 — happy early birthday to them, have mercy on me!) you will solve a series of puzzles, the answers to which will lead you to the final challenge of figuring out who done the whodunit. And before we get into it, a note of thanks: This simply would not have happened if not for the ingenuity of Ange Strom-Weber and Jen McTeague, the geniuses at Apocute, whose help was absolutely crucial to putting this puzzle together.
The time has come. The light is dimming. Now channel your inner Poirot/Marple, and be the wise one Whodidit. Good luck, playa. -NPH
It was a dark and stormy night…
Rain pours from the sky. Claps of thunder crack through the darkness. And Harper and Gideon, indifferent, are hankering for an hours-long family game marathon with David and Neil. But alas, little do they know that the family is about to find themselves in the midst of a very sinister, very real game: Neil’s archnemesis — the diabolical heel Natrick Parris — is launching a newsletter of his own to take down Wondercade! He’s going to call it Whimsyporium, and publish it every Wednesday morning. (If the name itself isn’t offensive enough, the threat against Wondercade certainly is.) What’s worse, someone has leaked the next issue of Wondercade to Natrick!
Neil’s too busy to play games with the family; he’s having to deal with this very real crisis. But ever the perfect progeny, Harper and Gideon make a beeline to Wondercade HQ to help their Papa figure out who leaked the forthcoming issue to that smarmy heel Natrick Parris, and why.
The scene of the crime!
The twins arrive at Wondercade HQ in Midtown Manhattan. There are 8 rooms in the office, arranged around a central foyer where the elevator comes up. (See below for a map — the labels for the room are all missing, however!)
Harper and Gideon ask the doorman to check the security surveillance video. Everyone’s mouths drop as they see that notorious heel Natrick Parris brazenly stroll through the building lobby and duck into the elevator headed up to the Wondercade offices yesterday at 3:45 p.m. Harper and Gideon channel their inner detectives, take a deep breath, and head up the same elevator to ask all the members of the Wondercade gang where they were the previous afternoon at 3:45 p.m. — and to try and discover the identity of the secret saboteur!
Time to follow the twins as they investigate, room by room. Each location poses a puzzle, whose solutions, when combined, will reveal the culprit and their motive. HINT: As you tag along with Harper and Gideon, if you can label all of the rooms on the floor plan above, it’ll make solving the final whodunit a lot easier. (We got you started with the foyer.)
And only YOU can help solve the mystery, Wondercader!
Harper and Gideon get off the elevator and start in the room to their right, where they find Jonathan Lind, Wondercade’s studly house mixologist. He offers the kids Shirley Temples, but they politely decline (such manners!) — no time for a delicious virgin cocktail; there’s a mystery to solve!
Jonathan apologizes for the commotion — weirdly, there’s the sound of dogs barking in the next room — and invites the kids to take a seat in one of the banquets. The twins ask Jonathan where he was yesterday at 3:45 p.m., and he tells them he was unpacking a shipment of house wine to test for an upcoming article, sorting out which of the new wines were top shelf, and which were bottom shelf.
The names of the top shelf wines he already had are: Dogshead Merlot, Tree of the Month Zinfandel, Pump and Dump Champagne, Waffle and Syrup Chardonnay. The existing bottom shelf wines are: Guest the Number Pinot Grigio, Cat Musk Muscat, Call Que Sera Syrah, Warming of the Earth Malbec. The new shipment included wines called: Summer Sauvignon, White Pinot Noir, Clean as a Whistle Viognier and Paint the Town Rosé.
PUZZLE PROMPT: THREE OF THESE WERE TOP SHELF HOUSE WINES. WHICH ONE BELONGED ON THE BOTTOM SHELF?
Harper and Gideon head across the foyer to the room opposite the lounge. There they find Sam Spector — stylist to the stars (including their Papa!) and the brains behind Wondercade’s seasonal style guides — who says that at 3:45 p.m. yesterday, he had been working on a new outfit for Neil consisting of a hat, a shirt, a pair of shorts and a pair of shoes. He thought he had assembled something super chic…but when he went next door to ask Neil’s groomer Amy Komorowski (more from her later!) her opinion, she pointed out that it looked a bit like one of the Looney Tunes characters. (Which might work for cosplay, but not for the Wondercade readers!)
Sam shows Harper and Gideon the pieces he was working with, and they try to guess the outfit and the cartoon character it resembles. For every item they guess that is the right color but the wrong position, he gives them a white pin. For every item they guess that is the right color in the right position, he gives them a black pin.
PUZZLE PROMPT: WHICH LOONEY TUNES CHARACTER DOES SAM’S OUTFIT LOOK LIKE?
Next, Harper and Gideon check out the kitchen to ask David what he was doing at the time of the crime.
He says he had just finished working on his recipe for pineapple-passionfruit-persimmon pavlova for a new cooking show he’s going to be on with Bobby Flay called Dreamy Desserts: Alliterative All-Stars Edition. Meanwhile, he’s working on another recipe, but he couldn’t get it to work. Harper and Gideon grab it and take a look. After a moment, they spot the problem: it isn’t a real recipe, it’s a wordplay recipe!
David was trying to cook this recipe using real foods, but each ingredient is actually giving him two letters instead! When it’s asking him to add in the shaved top of some CHEESE, that’s actually referring to CH, the first two letters of CHEESE. And later, when it asks for the leftovers of LASAGNA, that’s probably referring to the last two letters of LASAGNA, which are NA. The twins bet the name of the dish will be spelled out when all the letters are added in.
DAVID’S WORDPLAY RECIPE
- Add in the shaved top of some CHEESE
- Add in the shaved top of some ICE
- Add the start of a KETCHUP BOTTLE
- Add in the leftovers of a LASAGNA
- Add in the core of a SAVORY dish
- Cut off the top of a CARROT
- Add the top of a DOUGHNUT
- Add the outer covering of a PEA
- Add the tail end of MACARONI twice
PUZZLE PROMPT: WHAT’S THE NAME OF THE DISH?
Harper and Gideon check in on Amy Komorowski applying moisturizer in the grooming salon. She mentions that at 3:45 p.m. yesterday, she was taking a little break on the sofa after getting a headache from staring at a new pattern on the label of a new skincare product. She shows the pattern to the kids, and asks them how many rectangles they see.
PUZZLE PROMPT: HOW MANY RECTANGLES ARE THERE?
Harper and Gideon go into the room next door, where they find the caustic Gertie Grable — Wondercade’s theatre critic (and Sardi’s regular) — watching some classic Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire musicals on the home theater screen. Gertie shouts that at 3:45 p.m. she was trying to make sense out of a very strange, cryptically written review someone had sent in. She’s not sure what musical the reviewer was watching, and was hoping that Harper and Gideon could help her figure it out.
PUZZLE PROMPT: WHAT IS THE MUSICAL?
Harper and Gideon find Wondercade’s amazing agriculturalists Andie Fortier and James Burke in the hydroponic garden. They tell the twins that they get beautiful light through their window in the afternoons, and at 3:45 p.m. yesterday, they were working on a new ikebana flower arrangement, but were missing one type of flower.
Harper and Gideon try to recreate the flower arrangement on the table. Then they write the first letter of each flower in the space where it should go, which will reveal to them the name of the type of flower that was missing in the arrangement.
The flowers Andie and James used are as follows: Amaryllis, Aster, Daisy, English Bluebell, Geranium, Iris, Narcissus, Rose, Sunflower.
PUZZLE PROMPT: CAN YOU HELP FIGURE OUT WHICH TYPE OF FLOWER WAS MISSING?
- The first letters of the flowers from the upper-right corner to the lower-left corner spell the name of a store selling gear for outdoor excursions.
- Both flowers starting with the letter A are in the same column but are not adjacent to each other.
- If you replace one letter of a flower in the top row with two other letters and then mix them up, you form the name of another flower in the top row.
- All of the flowers ending in the letter S are in the same row or column as the flower starting with the letter S.
- The first letters of the flowers in the middle row spell a common English word.
Harper and Gideon talk to The Bookstorian, who explains that they, as Wondercade’s librarian, are working on a collection of reviews of various teen detective book series. At 3:45 p.m., they were trying to assign different series to different reviewers. They were hoping to figure out which book series was the longest, and assign it to the reviewer who’s the fastest reader, but they couldn’t remember which was the longest. (They only wanted books in the main series, no side books.) The series are Encyclopedia Brown, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and The Three Investigators.
Harper and Gideon talk to their Dad’s best friend Michael Serrato, who (in addition to being a writer/director/comedian/icon/and many other hyphenates) sometimes helps take care of the family’s dogs. He apologizes for the pups barking so much, and says it’s because the smells coming from the hydroponic garden next door excite them. He tells the kids that yesterday at 3:45 p.m., he was getting ready to go to, like, three parties, but was reading up on some new grooming styles for one of his favorite dog breeds, and was surprised to learn that if you “shave off” the first, third, fifth and seventh letters of the breed’s name, you get a new word which means to “greatly surprise” someone.
PUZZLE PROMPT: WHAT’S THE NAME OF THE BREED…AND OF THE HIDDEN WORD?
The Final Challenge!
With all the puzzles solved and pieces in place, Harper and Gideon sit down and get to work figuring out whose alibi matches up — and whose does not.
It’s time to bring it home, Wondercader! Help the twins solve the whodunit with this final puzzle.
Instruction #1 (who did it): Look for each person’s alibi in the room they claim to have been in. You will need to figure out where each room is using clues in this issue. The alibi answers are not found in straight lines, but rather they make snaking paths where each letter is up, down, left or right from the previous letter. The paths are never diagonal. One person’s alibi will not be found in the room they claimed to have been in; this person was actually in the foyer talking to that notorious heel, Natrick Parris.
Instruction #2 (why they did it): The person who committed the crime left a hint as to their motive in their room. Retrace their steps from their foyer in their actual room and it will reveal their motive.
FINAL PROMPT — WHO DONE THE WHODUNIT?!
CAN YOU SOLVE THE TWO MYSTERIES OF WHO LEAKED THE NEW ISSUE OF WONDERCADE TO THAT CREEPY HEEL NATRICK PARIS, AND WHY?
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