5.6: The Duck Konundrum

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Still lost, Dorothy asked a random passerby if they had a guidebook of some kind, and she was presented with a thick book marked MIT Bulletin. Paging through, however, she couldn't make heads nor tails of it. "So many complicated directions..." she groaned.
1. Gather the following supplies: five armless chairs and an armchair, six members of your team, three metal cans containing red, yellow, and blue paint, three watering cans of notably different sizes, and a live duck. Please do not endanger the life of the duck at any time. We prefer that no animals be harmed during the finding of this coin.

2. Place the chairs in a circle, evenly spaced. Label the seats of the chairs in red paint with the numbers 1 to 6, labelling the armchair 1 and proceeding in ascending order clockwise.

3. When the paint dries, have a team member sit in each chair (facing the center of the circle.) The team members have numbers but those numbers will change throughout the game. The member in the armchair is always member #1. Then, member numbering proceeds clockwise around the circle regardless of chair number. (Note that at the beginning, everyone has the same number as the chair they are sitting in... this will change.) Any team member who is not sitting has no number. If there is no one sitting in the armchair, everyone sitting down becomes #12 1/2 until someone sits in the armchair. Number changes become effective at the beginning of each step.

4. Get the duck to sit under chair #5. If it is reluctant, give it food. Be friendly and it will eventually play along. Ducks love mystery hunts.

5. Paint member #4 blue with yellow polka dots (whether he likes it or not. If he was going to be a baby, he shouldn't have sat in chair #4.)

6. Have members #3 and #6 switch places, taking their chairs with them.

7. Paint each paint can with a mixture of the paint from the other two cans. Mix the paint from the purple can and the green can in the smallest watering can, mix the paint from the green can and orange can in the largest watering can, and mix the paint from the purple can and the orange can in the medium watering can.

8. Add up the numbers of all the members and call the result N. Have member #4 repeatedly chant the Nth letter of the alphabet until further notice. At this point, if the duck is paying attention, he should waddle under the chair directly across the circle from him (the duck.) If not, you probably did something wrong and should start over until it works.

9. Send member #3 into the kitchen to get some Cheetos and indigo paint. (You do have a kitchen with those things in them, don't you?) Meanwhile, the member chanting a letter should stop chanting and paint the letter they have been chanting on the underside of the chair immediately to their right in the only primary-colored paint not being worn by a team member.

10. Repeat steps 8 and 9, but ignore any sentence that contains the word "waddle."

11. New cup! New cup! Move down! Move down! Every team member in the room moves one chair to their left. The duck, wanting to balance things out, will instinctively move a number of chairs to the right equal to the number of team members in the room. Good duck.

12. What's taking the Cheeto-gatherers so long? Send a search party to the kitchen consisting of every team member who has been in the armchair at least once.

13. Each team member in the room should paint the Nth letter of the alphabet on the underside of every occupied chair except his own, where N is either the sum of the present members' numbers or the sum of the numbers of the occupied chairs, whichever is higher, unless the common leopard is striped, in which case the lower number should be used. The team member in the highest-numbered chair should use paint from the big watering can, while any other team members should use paint from the medium watering can.

14. At this point, the kitchen party should return, armed with a sugar bowl full of indigo paint and a bucket of Cheetos. (Yay!) All of them sit down to fill all of the unoccupied chairs according to the following two rules: 1) Whoever is wearing the most unusual paint job sits in the armchair, and 2) everyone else from the kitchen sits in a chair next to the chair (not position, but chair) that they were sitting in when the game started.

15. The two chairs next to the chair under which our hero, the duck, currently resides, are occupied by two people who have, together, sat in every chair except one, which we shall call the happy chair. In the duck's honor, paint the first letter of the duck's name on the underside of the happy chair, using any color of paint that is contained in a paint can and which is not found on the costume Hulk Hogan wore for most of his WWF tenure.

16. Member #1, switch chairs with member #6, but return to the same positions in the circle. Member #2, switch places with member #4. Incidentally, the duck's name is Harold. Member #5, switch chairs with member #3, but return to the same positions in the circle. Member #6, paint your left elbow purple. Incidentally, the duck's name is Reginald. Incidentally, the duck's name is Victor. Member #6, paint your right elbow orange.

17. By the way, the reason that last step didn't make any sense is that you were supposed to ignore alternating sentences, starting with the first one... or was it the second one? Oh, I don't remember. I'm sure you can figure it out, Mr. Hotshot Mystery Hunter.

18. Remember that Beatles parody on Sesame Street about a letter? Paint that letter, in the most recent color used to paint a team member, on the underside of the farthest chair from the duck which does not contain a painted team member.

19. Time to play "Duck Duck Duck"! This is a variant of "Duck Duck Goose" in which whoever's "it" walks around the circle clockwise touching players heads saying the word "duck" for ten minutes, beginning at the end of this step, and then sits in any vacant seat. (Make the obvious assumption that all steps take precisely two minutes from start to finish.) The person sitting in the chair to the left of the duck is "it." Go!

20. Hey, that armchair's not messy yet. Take every paint that has some of the original blue paint in it (yes, including the blue) and with each of these paint colors, paint the first letter of Chapter 19 of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy on the underside of the armchair.

21. If the duck has, at some point, been under chair #3, paint over any letters on chair #6 with orange, and have members #2 and #4 switch places. Otherwise, have members #1 and #4 switch places, and paint the Roman numeral for member #3's chair number on its underside in yellow.

22. The duck quacks. Everybody gazes in awe, unless they are "it" or have no letter painted on the underside of their chair. Member #2 becomes so overwrought with excitement, he accidentally puts his foot in the sugar bowl. The team member across from the armchair begins eating the Cheetos. The duck, overwhelmed by the attention, goes to sit on the lap of the member with the most colors on the underside of their chair.

23. If any member can move to a chair of the number that comes immediately after the number of the chair they are currently sitting in, they do. Repeat that direction until no one can follow it. (And of course, you can't stand up with a duck on your lap. Duh.)

24. Shall we redefine N again? Now, it's the sum of the numbers of the chairs in which no one gazed in awe at the duck. Paint the N+1th letter of the alphabet on the underside of the chair containing a team member who now has messy hands, in the color his hands have now turned. (For goodness sake, use a napkin next time!)

25. Each team member should now add up the numbers of the chairs they have yet to sit in. These are their lucky numbers. One member's lucky number should be exactly double another member's lucky number. The member sitting across from the member sitting between the two members mentioned in the last sentence is now known as the Duck King, for no particular reason.

26. By the way, if you did everything right, if you start with the member sitting in the seat with the duck and proceed clockwise, the first four people should be named, in order, Bo, Ty, Ed, and Zoz. If this is not true, you must have used people with the wrong names, and you should start all over again. Or maybe you didn't skip step 21. Oh, that's right, I forgot to tell you!! You were supposed to skip step 21. It was a misprint.

27. The Duck King should proudly write his first name twice on the underside of his chair; once in the color of the cover of Soul Coughing's brilliant album, El Oso, and once in the color that currently appears on one clumsy team member's foot.

28. Almost done! Everybody stand up, line the chairs up in order from 1 to 6, and tip them over so you see their undersides. Now read from left-to-right, one color at a time, in whatever order of colors seems natural. You'll get your answer (although it'll be in a strange and mysterious language. What, you thought this was going to be easy?!?!)

29. Go wash up. Some of you really are a mess. Slobs.