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Manual Transmission

by Matt Zinno

As the title might suggest, the information for this puzzle is being transmitted by the hands of the people in the pictures. The story here is largely irrelevant. Its main purpose is to serve as an ordering mechanism for the pictures, which convey the real information, and as a bridge between them and the title, which serves as the clue for the method of how the information is presented. Beyond this, there is one clue, "half comprised of numbers", intended to clue solvers that only half of the pictures lead to numbers (a common error was identifying picture 4 as "first base", hence "1", and then looking for a number in the newspaper clipping).

Each picture uses a different hand-based code to point to another element in the picture, which in turn leads to a word.

Picture Encoding Meaning Item in image which that clue points to
blocks semaphore ISSUE 130 (issue of Hulk comic)
bee sting football ref signals clipping written (only headline word visible in newspaper clipping)
road trip ASL alphabet AREA CODE 202 (picture is Smithsonian in DC)
earring charades "sounds like face" base

The words combine to give the clue "130 written 202 base ...", a mathematical question whose answer is EIGHT.

Smithsonian photo courtesy of eveandersson.com.