Solution to Joint Operations Intelligence Archive

by Roger Ford, Jennifer Berk, and Joia Hertz

The J.O.I.A. took guests on a walking tour of various locations on MIT's campus, describing the histories of various S.P.I.E.S. operations that had taken place in those locations. Indexing into the name of each operation (excluding the word "Operation") by the number of the building that operation had taken place in spelled out the answer, FRONT BURNER.

What follows are the operation summaries that J.O.I.A. guests heard:

Operation Bluebird of Happiness (building 10)
When we needed surveillance photos of some remote corner of the globe, we used to team up with the crews of the SR-71 Blackbird spyplane. Our agents rotated in and out—everyone wanted to experience traveling at Mach 3.5. Lunch always tastes best when you've warmed it up on a 550-degree windshield. The crews wear the same spacesuits as shuttle astronauts, and our collection of all different sizes is housed in the library on the top floor of this building. Since the Blackbird was decommissioned in 1998, we've been working with several new surveillance craft. The latest is a highly modified and improved version of SpaceShipOne.

Operation Blueberry Muffins (7)
S.P.I.E.S. has had a close relationship with General Mills, and the Pillsbury Brand, since its founding in 1965. You may think that the Pillsbury Doughboy was a creation of the Leo Burnett advertising agency, but in fact the Doughboy is a sophisticated remote sensor platform in squeezable, lovable package. S.P.I.E.S. has deployed the Doughboy to gather important intelligence about modern baking techniques, and the biannual Pillsbury Bake-Off as a platform for spreading disinformation about the power of flour. Furthermore, during the great blueberry famine of 1973, S.P.I.E.S. deployed to protect critical blueberry fields, as well as processing resources. In fact, a secret blueberry muffin baking facility exists in the basement of this building.

Operation Blue Ribbon Barbecue (9)
One of the most important considerations in picking a headquarters location is the availability of food delivery. After we chose this location for our archives, we determined that this building was an appropriately unobtrusive dropoff location for our orders. Then agents fanned out into the city to determine which restaurants to add to our unified internal ordering system—and to persuade the owners they wanted to be included. That way, when S.P.I.E.S. agents are working late, they can have the service deliver whatever they want, even from restaurants that don't do normal delivery, like Mary's.

Operation Blue Ridge Mountains (13)
The Blue Ridge Parkway may be the most visited unit of the National Park System, but the area is still plenty wild enough to have places to hide. We keep a safehouse there for agents who need to lie low for a while. This building houses a lot of our communications, and one of the rooms upstairs has a secure video link to the compound available at all times. Oh, the place claims to be a craft artists' community, and there's a storefront to make that plausible, but the visitors would be quite surprised by some of the crafts our agents spend their time practicing.

Operation Blue Screen of Death (16)
When Bill Gates gets threatening emails, we slip an agent into his bodyguard detail—one of the S.P.I.E.S. higher-ups was at the JFK assassination and wants to know the real story about any threats to Gates. Halfway through one assignment the agent took a pie meant for Gates, but that was as exciting as Bill Detail ever gets. I threw a party in one of the upstairs meeting rooms of this building for the last guy heading out to Seattle. We all chipped in for an iPod that he can hook up to one of those security earpieces, so he won't be bored to death.

Operation Blue Cross Blue Shield (10)
S.P.I.E.S. offers the normal array of benefits to its agents, along with a few extras. Unlike in many countries' military or foreign service organizations, language training is free, billable, and available at all locations. Any active agent can request that headquarters arrange specific collateral damage on a mission of up to one person per year. There's a combined tailor/cleaner shop on site, skilled in recreating favorite pieces of clothing damaged on mission. And agents are free to take family and pets along on missions, as long as they don't object when their companions get killed accidentally. Our benefits office is in the basement of this building, with—naturally—the legal department taking up the remaining floors of offices.

Operation Bluegrass Music Festival (11)
In the '70s, S.P.I.E.S. started a record label to test some mind control techniques. We needed a relatively small audience, so we picked bluegrass as our first genre, expecting to gradually branch out to folk and world music. Our recording studio was set up in the small sound-proofed booths on the second floor of this building. We still use some of the subliminal audio techniques we found, but we got out of the music business when we realized it was more cost-effective to simply hire the record execs who'd already done our research for us.

Operation Blue Man Group (9)
I was all set to go undercover as the first female Blue Man. I'd read the suggested books and seen the movies—Being Digital, Flatland, 2001, Barbarella. S.P.I.E.S. even set up a practice room in this building with a bunch of pipes to bang on. Then the assignments coordinator found out you have to be at least 5'10". My partner has no sense of rhythm, but she got the gig instead. I'd have been so much better at throwing paint at people.

Operation Blue Danube (7)
S.P.I.E.S. was very busy during World War II, mostly with humanitarian missions around the edges of major combat. Agents assisted civilians in bombed cities, helped reunite separated families, and evacuated the wounded as the front lines moved back and forth. They traveled mainly in ships specially designed for stealth by our naval office, which at the time occupied this entire building but now shares it with other design departments.

Operation Blue Plate Special (12)
Our catering staff is housed on floors four to six of this building, with the cafeteria on the third. A few years ago we discovered after a normal contract renewal process that our catering staff had been infiltrated and taken over by a rival organization. They were listening in on our agents' conversations in the cafeteria and sending their colleagues out first to grab the information we needed. Once they tried to sell the intelligence back to us, we figured out pretty quickly what was happening and fired the whole crew. Now we tell our agents to practice their language skills at lunch, switching as often as possible, and the problem hasn't come up again.

Operation Blueprint (6)
When we wanted to add a new building to our headquarters site, we knew we couldn't go to just any architectural firm. We needed new facilities of all shapes and sizes and angles, connected in various strange ways. To get an appropriate space, we had to go to Gehry. We moved his whole team into the second floor of this building throughout the design period for security reasons. Gehry uses tools from crumpled paper to sophisticated computer modeling to make sure that his weird buildings won't fall down. The leaks when it rains and the lack of private offices are drawbacks, but we finally have a multifunction physical training course: climbing the north side of the building.

2006 MIT Mystery Hunt