Solution: Ask A Ninja
Authors: Victor Chan, Andy Chen
Editors: Alison Chang, Max Chang
Solvers are presented with 10 videos filmed and edited in a similar manner to the 2000s series Ask a Ninja. As specified in the puzzle, the videos are solely for presentation, as the title of the puzzle is a direct reference to Ask a Ninja. Each video poses a question and answers the question, but the questions are contrived, and the answers neither match the enumeration nor adequately answer the question. Many words and phrases in the answers also seem forced and out of place. One such incongruous phrase contained in each answer is the name of an episode from Ask a Ninja, which maps to a number; these numbers are not unique, and are all less than 15, so they can be inferred to be an index.
The videos are also paired with a round/year. Searching these alone should suffice, but searching other phrases such as “ninja competition” also produces the reality show American Ninja Warrior.
The competitors on American Ninja Warrior often have nicknames, and these aliases are always contained within the first line of the answer, albeit sometimes with articles or the word “ninja” removed. The given order for the videos is the real name of the ninja. Given the ninja and round/year, solvers can isolate a specific course run. All of these can be found on YouTube as well, as clued by the flavortext (“watch…the competition”). Using either Sasukepedia or YouTube, solvers can identify the obstacles in the run; each answer also contains one word of a specific obstacle’s name. The positions of these 10 obstacles are unique, so this can be used as an ordering.
Now, solvers are only missing a phrase to index into. While skimming through the YouTube videos, solvers should notice that each of the contrived questions can be perfectly answered by an object featured relatively prominently in the video. Some of the more obvious answers include GREEN for crazy hair color and SPIDERWOMAN for female superhero. These objects provide the actual phrase to index into.
The final extraction phrase is GRAFF TEAM G. Jessie Graff competed on the spin-off show Team Ninja Warrior, where her team name was G-Force, so the final answer is FORCE.
|Year/Round||Ask A Ninja Episode||Episode Number/Index||Nickname||Full Name||Obstacle Name||Obstacle #||Video Link||Video Answer||Letter|
|2020 Finals||Ninja Mart Store||1||Classy Ninja||Donovan Metoyer||Shrinking Steps||1||https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=817805825650865||GREEN||G|
|2020 Qualifiers||Master of Disguise||6||The Godfather||David Campbell||Lunatic Ledges||2||https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=615185355722921||GUITAR||R|
|2020 Finals||Ninja Santa||2||The Phoenix||Najee Richardson||Falling Shelves||3||https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1014852949030323||RAISED FIST||A|
|2020 Finals||Ninja Mart Store||1||Flex||Jesse LaBreck||Diamond Dash||4||https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3781261545218063||FIRE||F|
|2018 City Finals||Ninja Mart Store||1||Sparkly Ninja||Barclay Stockett||Crank It Up||5||https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=10156501344589395||FALLOUT||F|
|2018 City Qualifiers||Ninja Skills||5||Kingdom Ninja||Daniel Gil||Warped Wall||6||https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=10156368363199395||TANK TOP||T|
|2014 City Finals||Ninja Grub||7||The Weatherman||Joe Moravsky||Salmon Ladder||7||https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=10152568280009395||ESQUIRE||E|
|2017 City Finals||Ninja Metal||10||Wonder Woman||Jessie Graff||Giant Cubes||8||https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=10155567169774395||SPIDERWOMAN||A|
|2015 City Finals||Ninja Mart Store||1||The Beast||James McGrath||Double Helix||9||https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=10153515527149395||MINIONS||M|
|2014 City Finals||Ninja Love||9||The Bull||Kevin Bull||Spider Climb||10||https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=10152539262379395||MICHELANGELO||G|
Since I started puzzlehunting, I’ve always wanted to write a puzzle about American Ninja Warrior, especially because Andy was the one who introduced me to Cardinality, and I met Andy through Ninja Warrior (fun fact: we’ve both competed on the show! Andy’s episode is airing later this season). This puzzle experienced many iterations with varying degrees of difficulty and fun; for example, at various points in its evolution, it involved audio snippets, binary, flag semaphores, a zebra puzzle, and image manipulation. Our goal was to highlight some of the more iconic and extraordinary runs from ANW, and ultimately, we utilized the videos of the runs for extraction in order to make the puzzle more fun and engaging. I also wanted to shout out Sean Bryan and David Campbell, two Northern California ninjas that I train with.
We finally settled on a solve path and presentation that I was satisfied with. Then, less than a week before the hunt, one of our international testsolvers discovered that the YouTube videos we had selected were not accessible outside of the United States. In the ensuing panic, we fortunately unearthed Facebook mirrors for most of the runs, but ultimately had to change several of the clues at the last minute:
- Donovan Metoyer’s round was changed from the Semifinals to the Finals. In his Semifinals run, he did a 360 on the Warped Wall.
- Sean Bryan’s 2019 City Finals run is absolutely insane, but the video is only available on YouTube, so we had to switch him out for Joe Morvasky.
- Barclay Stockett’s City Finals run year was changed from 2019 to 2018.
The original solution with the corresponding YouTube videos is shown below.
This was such a fun puzzle to write! I’m ecstatic to have incorporated most of the content I wanted to include (some other runs that didn’t work out include Kacy Catanzaro’s 2014 City Finals run, Adam Rayl’s Mega Wall clear, Artis Thompson III’s 2016 Qualifiers run, and anything in Vegas that didn’t fit the 10-obstacle course theme). I’m also very happy that the answer was thematically clued by Jessie Graff’s team name.
Huge huge thanks to Darren for saving the puzzle by tracking down the Facebook mirrors and suggesting the partials, to Violet and Sushi for handling the dev work for the clue videos and transcripts, and to Ali, Max, and Benji for: infinite patience in accommodating a passion project puzzle; expertise that was paramount to making the puzzle fun; suggesting the Ask A Ninja clue format; organizing testsolves because I was busy; updating the puzzle after the hunt started; and many other things.
|Clue Video||Year/Round||Ask A Ninja Episode||Episode Number/Index||Nickname||Full Name||Obstacle Name||Obstacle #||Video Link||Video Answer||Letter|
|https://youtu.be/qHkoCrafOkM||2020 Finals||Ninja Mart Store||1||Classy Ninja||Donovan Metoyer||Shrinking Steps||1||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjxfCYIBCq8||GREEN||G|
|https://youtu.be/kgEyeUvoEJo||2020 Qualifiers||Master of Disguise||6||The Godfather||David Campbell||Lunatic Ledges||2||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0XDDRZdr3NQ||GUITAR||R|
|https://youtu.be/ltb3rAy1KDI||2020 Finals||Ninja Santa||2||The Phoenix||Najee Richardson||Falling Shelves||3||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRZDBFh9jIU||RAISED FIST||A|
|https://youtu.be/vBT-FcHa__A||2020 Finals||Ninja Mart Store||1||Flex||Jesse LaBreck||Diamond Dash||4||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8TSbtm5Ogk||FIRE||F|
|https://youtu.be/_I_1nrT1m3g||2018 City Finals||Ninjas Hate Clooney||13||Papal Ninja||Sean Bryan||Lightning Bolts||5||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2tXO6s6BsHQ||THE CREATION OF ADAM||F|
|https://youtu.be/YTxy7fHeObI||2018 City Qualifiers||Ninja Skills||5||Kingdom Ninja||Daniel Gil||Warped Wall||6||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_df4pSVsdxQ||TANK TOP||T|
|https://youtu.be/aLkdAxdia-g||2014 City Finals||Master of Disguise||6||Sparkly Ninja||Barclay Stockett||Salmon Ladder||7||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5XX_RH7ZwY||COMPRESSION||E|
|https://youtu.be/u3Ubw4a3uNM||2017 City Finals||Ninja Metal||10||Wonder Woman||Jessie Graff||Giant Cubes||8||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8xQLG3AaHE||SPIDERWOMAN||A|
|https://youtu.be/PeApDwKA_9M||2015 City Finals||Ninja Mart Store||1||The Beast||James McGrath||Double Helix||9||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyKv3Q3GtKw||MINIONS||M|
|https://youtu.be/eDUxoHB_6jU||2014 City Finals||Ninja Love||9||The Bull||Kevin Bull||Spider Climb||10||https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4OD0OfWQ98||MICHELANGELO||G|