Solution: All Natural
Authors: Andy Chen, Alison Chang, Max Chang
While the clues are paired with produce, solvers hopefully notice that many of the clues don’t quite fit, such as the cherries on schoolchildren’s desks. Each clue actually refers to a (rock-forming) mineral, which is clued by mentions of hardness/scales (Mohs scale), composition, colors, etc. The minerals are given in alphabetical order, and each mineral is the same length as the produce and also shares exactly one letter.
If you scan the barcodes, you get a letter and two numbers for each one. Each barcode was created using Code 39, but most online barcode readers can parse it for you. The letters spell out SHIFTTHIRDLETTERBYBAR. If you take the third letters of the minerals and shift them by the two-digit barcode numbers, you’ll get a set of unique letters from A-U.
If you sort by A-U, the overlapping letters form the phrase GAMORASSACRIFICESTONE. This refers to the SOUL stone.
|Produce Item||Barcode Number||Mineral||Third Letter of Mineral Shifted By Barcode||Overlapping Letter|
The two themes both carry personal significance to Andy; he collected rocks and minerals as a child, and his career currently revolves around fresh food. It occurred to us that both rock-forming minerals and produce come from the earth, and we took the opportunity to introduce both themes in a single puzzle.
We chose the matching lengths as an additional confirmation for the minerals, and the overlapping letter mechanic emphasizes what the produce and minerals have in common, much like the clues (in part) could theoretically describe both. When deciding on an ordering, we had a few ideas, but decided the unique A-U letters were effective and slightly thematic since Au is gold, another thing found in the ground. The shifts were not just between 1-26 because we didn’t want solvers to turn them directly into letters and we wanted some additional variability in the barcodes.