January 25, 2009

Sixteen Things (plus one)

Well, another MIT Mystery Hunt has come and gone. I didn't contribute much to this one -- I did a lot of brainstorming when developing the plot of the Hunt, and helped Thomas Snyder home in on a workable idea for the Orbital Nexus meta (which he then did all the actual work for, which was considerable), but my visible contributions were two -- both of which, at least, I'm quite proud of. Firstly, I did the crossword construction for Dual Singularities (from Dan Katz's idea); solvers seemed to really like this puzzle, and I think it's pretty elegant, if rather hard. Feel free to ask me for less obfuscatory instructions if you try it and find it intractable. And secondly, I did the illustrations that accompanied the puzzles for one round of the Hunt, the Astro Jail (actually a zoo of space animals). Larger versions of all the illustrations follow the jump.

For the alien creatures, I was given a name and sometimes some descriptive text in the puzzle. My original plan was to do my usual black-and-white cartoons, but Hunt webmaster Steve said that he'd been trying to use color for the images that went with each puzzle, and did I think I could colorize the images? I said "Sure," and promptly got a bit obsessed. I'm very happy with how the pictures came out, though, and had a great time drawing them. I want to do more color cartooning now.

Blentonic Rock Stork:
Blentonic Rock Stork

Uddersome Newt-Horse:
Uddersome Newt-Horse

Green-Eyed Med-Croc:
Green-Eyed Med-Croc
The intro text for the Med-Croc's accompanying puzzle specified that it had two mouths, so, spinning off the "Med" in its name, I based it on a caduceus.

Iota Dwarf Lion:
Iota Dwarf Lion

Midston Alienfish:
Midston Alienfish

Baying Avitalic Terror:
Baying Avitalic Terror

Copperhead's Sandcow:
Copperhead's Sandcow

Cementbeat Walrus:
Cementbeat Walrus

Leonine Centaur:
Leonine Centaur
I really love how this came out, but it is an instance where I should have read the puzzle intro first, since my original drawing was male and the puzzle specified that the centaur was female.

Scrawny Cider-Hippo:
Scrawny Cider-Hippo
This image had to be redrawn on the fly on the day the Hunt started, when I noticed that two of the space creatures had been accidentally assigned to the wrong puzzle (which affected the overall metapuzzle for that round). In my original sketch, the tree had an apple on it. The puzzle, though, involved a word search variant in which all the hidden words were kinds of cheese, and described the Cider-Hippo as "only loving one thing more than cider -- cheese!" So when I did the final inked and colored version, I changed the apple to a jug of cider and made the tree a cheese tree, as seen here. When I realized that this cartoon should never have accompanied the cheese puzzle, I redrew it, changing the cheese tree into a cider tree, which I think works better as a standalone illustration anyway. This is a re-redrawn version, redone at home to be tidier, since the one I did for the Hunt was not from the original Photoshop file, and thus had to be fudged in a couple places where the fact that parts of the images weren't separated into layers messed up some of the coloring.

Fenmate's Peccary:
Fenmate's Peccary

Tunabird of Moonclan:
Tunabird of Moonclan

Vinga Shore Leopard:
Vinga Shore Leopard
This was the animal that had to swap places with the Scrawny Cider-Hippo, and which I also redrew during the Hunt, adding a scared piece of cheese (and changing the description of the Shore-Leopard to say that its diet "is composed entirely of cheese, which is the fastest prey it can catch"). I prefer the original design, so that's what I've shown above. If I'd planned for the picture to include a piece of cheese to start with, I would've had the leopard looking more in its direction; as it is, I think the cheese looks a little tacked on. But you can check out the cheesy version too, if you like, and decide for yourself.

Creche Koalabird:
Creche Koalabird
The mirror was a late addition to the drawing to reflect (har har) the description in the intro to the puzzle, which had a mirror theme.

Brutish Foo-Eagle:
Brutish Foo-Eagle

Wolipi Tree Hamster:
Wolipi Tree Hamster

My personal favorites are the Green-Eyed Med-Croc, Leonine Centaur, Fenmate's Peccary, and Vinga Shore Leopard, but really I like all seventeen of them. "Oh, but wait," you say, cleverly noticing my subtle segue, "Seventeen animals? I only saw sixteen." Well, you see, there was one more animal mentioned in the answer to the Astro Jail metapuzzle, and I thought it sounded like a fun animal to draw -- so I drew one. If you want to try solving the puzzle before seeing it, the things you will need are the animal images and names on this page, these sixteen cards from the now-less-imaginary-than-it-used-to-be board game Escape from Zyzzlvaria, and this highly graphically designed grid of sixteen words (which are the answers to the sixteen puzzles in that round, so if you're planning on trying to solve the individual puzzles, probably you don't want to click on that link).

Once you've solved the puzzle, or decided that it all looks like too much work and you'd rather just see the answer, then click here for the final cartoon.

Posted by Francis at 12:50 PM

They're all wonderful, but the Cementbeat Walrus is just adorable.

Posted by: Trip at January 25, 2009 02:29 PM

I didn't recognize these as yours for the first few puzzles, but when I did (I think when we got the Iota Dwarf Lion) I remember thinking, "Oh, Francis drew the animals! Cool!" I think the Lion and Leopard are my favorites.

Posted by: rikchik at January 25, 2009 02:49 PM

I enjoyed them all during the hunt, but I have to say that it's a pleasure to see your vision for #17.

Posted by: Rhu / nmHz at January 25, 2009 02:52 PM

Great job with the illustrations! My favorite is the tunabird. Also, great job with the Dual Singularities puzzle. Teammates solved this during the Hunt and I was planning to have a go at it afterwards. Unfortunately, it was one of the puzzles explained in detail at the wrap-up, so I'll have to wait a few weeks to forget how it works.

Posted by: Todd at January 25, 2009 05:37 PM

I *love* all of these. My favorites are the Dwarf Lion, the Walrus, and the Foo-Eagle. Can I use one of these as an LJ icon, with credit? (I'm tempted to use the Dwarf Lion, which makes me giggle endlessly, but I don't know that his adorable expression will shrink well.)

Posted by: laurenhat at January 25, 2009 06:56 PM

Trip: That one is Dan's favorite too. As for me, I worry about the walrus because what happens if it falls into the ocean? It's amazing they aren't extinct.

Laurenhat: Feel free to LJ-ify any of them. The dwarf lion doesn't reduce well to anything smaller than 250 pixels, I found, but you could do a close-up (although maybe that defeats the purpose).

Posted by: Francis at January 25, 2009 08:35 PM
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