Solution: Welcome to My Domain
Authors: Bryce Cai, Benji Nguyen, Max Chang
This metapuzzle uses the term “domain” in two ways. First, “original top-level” in the flavor text clues to the seven original top-level internet domains (TLDs) - com, org, net, int, edu, gov, and mil. Second, “under the domain system” and “organically” clues the biological taxonomic ranks below domain - kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. Each of the feeder answers, when combined with one of the current inputs, clues a word that has a letter that can be replaced with an original TLD to form another word or phrase that matches a desired output. The first letter of each feeder answer matches one of the taxonomic ranks. If you order the replaced letters by the biological taxonomy, you get the CTO’s username, LIFEHAX.
|Feeder Answer||Current Inputs||Clue Answer||Replaced with TLD||Matching Output|
|KRIS KRINGLE||… disposition||JOLLY||JOINTLY||how you might own property, perhaps|
|POWER||… repairperson||ELECTRICIAN||ELECTRIC ORGAN||an instrument|
|CROZIER||… plant||FERN||GOVERN||what a leader might do|
|OCEANOGRAPHY||… spiral||EKMAN||MILKMAN||a person who delivers certain goods|
|FORCE||… wielding villains||SITH||SITCOM||a type of show|
|GORDITA||… ingredient||MASA||MEDUSA||a monster|
|SOUL||… film studio||PIXAR||PINE TAR||a sticky substance|
In making this meta, we wanted something that was distinct enough from Scarlet and Ruby’s metas: both of them (and all of the final round) involved revisiting the feeder puzzles, so for variety’s sake, we wanted to make a “standalone” meta using the feeder answers alone.
After settling on the structure of the hunt, we were aiming for a 7-feeder meta, so we looked for sets of 7 that could make for a good puzzle base. Taxonomic ranks and top-level domains both happen to be connected to the word “domain” (which is in line with the hunt theme, too), and from that came this puzzle.
An unfortunate red herring is that you can order the 7 TLDs in a way that spells out GENOMIC using first letters:
Oops! This didn’t significantly affect things, but it was enough to lead some teams down the wrong ordering, especially coupled with the DNA round art. (We chose GIFs of DNA over atoms to suggest biology while diverting teams from element symbols. Maybe we should have opted for a cell/amoeba or something? It’s hard to find one that fits the round’s aesthetic, though.)
(Possible spoilers ahead)
The 2018 Caltech Puzzle Hunt did something similar in their metapuzzle Too Little to Do (solution), as did a number of Mystery Hunt puzzles. The 7 original TLDs make for a good set of puzzly letters! We tried to make something distinct enough from those puzzles for our hunt. If you’ve seen a puzzle that makes use of TLDs before, hopefully we checked that distinguishability box for you.