Solution to Meta Testing!

by Aaron Dinkin, Ricky Liu, Julian West, Noah Snyder, Ari Nieh, and David Speyer

Each of the five "metapuzzles" in this puzzle is presented with one or more puzzle answers missing. This means that, even if you solve the "meta" and extract the answer, you'll have some letters missing from the answer that you'll have to guess and fill in from context. (As it happens, you'll be missing exactly two letters from each meta answer.) Concatenating these letters in the order in which the metas are given spells BACKSOLVER, which is appropriately the answer to this puzzle.

Most (but not all) of the "metas" used in this puzzle were actual metas proposed for the Hunt that didn't end up getting used as metas; this puzzle was conceived in part to find a home for a few more of our many orphaned meta ideas. Meta solutions are below.

Mario Bros. solution

Each of the puzzle answers contains as a substring either MARIO or LUIGI with one letter changed:
???			???
???			???

The changed letters spell out ?RONZEST?R. This fills out to BRONZE STAR, so you extract the bigram BA.

Frogger solution

The puzzle answers can be laid out in two horizontal rows of 29 letters each (assuming the missing answer is five letters). Several pairs of letters match in the two rows:
MosAiCliKeexTempoRaneoUs ???
The matching letters spell MACKTRU.... The obvious way to complete this is to MACK TRUCK, so you extract the bigram CK.

Portal solution

Each puzzle answer is the name of a city somewhere in Europe. Moreover, each puzzle's flavortext contains the name of some other European country concealed as a substring:
NANCY	...lends IT A LYrical...
WORMS	...halF RAN CElebrating...
???	it'S PAINful...
NICE	...the HUN, GARY gilmore...
MOST	...aGREE CErtain...
???	aS WE DENy...
ORANGE	...linGER MANY more...
SPLIT	...way in NOR WAY out
Each of the cities from the puzzle answers has a unique "sister city" or "twin city" in the country from the corresponding flavortext:
NANCY	Padua, Italy
WORMS	Auxerre, France
???	???, Spain
NICE	Szeged, Hungary
MOST	Ptolemaida, Greece
???	???, Sweden
ORANGE	Rastatt, Germany
SPLIT	Trondheim, Norway
The initials of the twin cities spell out PA?SP?RT. This fills out to PASSPORT, so you extract the bigram SO.

Street Fighter solution

Each puzzle's answer contains the initial letters of the names of the two characters associated with the puzzle, with exactly one intervening letter between them. (For example, the fight between Zangief and E.Honda has the puzzle answer POIZNER, which contains the Z for Zangief and the E for E.Honda, with N intervening between them.)

The winner of the fight is the character whose initial appears first in the puzzle answer. Each character's sub-meta answer consists of the intervening letters from only the fights that character won, sorted in order by round. The puzzle answers and corresponding sub-meta answers and victory speeches are as follows:

vs. Ken (round 1): aBCKids --> C
vs. Chun-Li (round 3): deBACle --> A
vs. Dhalsim (round 6): liBIDo --> I
vs. Zangief (round 7): iBNZaydun --> N
sub-meta solution: CAIN
victory speech: "Lightning beats everything!"

vs. Dhalsim (round 1): arCHDuke --> H
vs. Ken (round 2): panCAKe --> A
vs. E.Honda (round 6): aCNE --> N
sub-meta solution: HAN
victory speech: "Everyone: respect girls or die!"

vs. Zangief (round 2): DRZaius --> R
vs. Guile (round 3): DUGout --> U
vs. Ryu (round 4): hanDBRake --> B
vs. Ken (round 5): vanDYKe --> Y
sub-meta solution: RUBY
victory speech: "Anyone who opposes Dhalsim loses!"

vs. Guile (round 2): wEBGuru --> B
vs. Ken (round 4): EUKaryotic --> U
vs. Blanka (round 5): vERBal --> R
vs. Dhalsim (round 7): nERDy --> R
sub-meta solution: BURR
victory speech: "My opponents, hear this: I never lose!"

vs. Guile (round 1): boaRDGame --> D
vs. Blanka (round 2): favoRABle --> A
vs. E.Honda (round 3): caRVE --> V
vs. Zangief (round 5): choRIZo --> I
vs. Chun-Li (round 7): biRDCage --> D
sub-meta solution: DAVID
victory speech: "I take on heroes and laugh!"

vs. E.Honda (round 1): poiZNEr --> N
vs. Ken (round 3): eZEKiel --> E
vs. Chun-Li (round 4): benZOCaine --> O
sub-meta solution: NEO
victory speech: "That's it? Hit me!"
The puzzle answers which would lead to Guile and Ken's sub-meta answers are missing.

Each of the sub-meta answers is the name of a person (real or fictional) who famously defeated or slew some opponent. Moreover, the initial letters of the corresponding victory speech are the same as the letters in the defeated opponent's name, with one letter missing. Each victory-speech graphic has a number on it as well; ordered by those numbers, the missing letters are as follows:

BURR > HAMILTON; "My opponents, hear this: I never lose!" --> A missing
NEO > SMITH; "That's it? Hit me!" --> S missing
HAN > GREEDO; "Everyone: respect girls or die!" --> E missing
DAVID > GOLIATH; "I take on heroes and laugh!" --> G missing
CAIN > ABEL; "Lightning beats everything!" --> A missing
RUBY > OSWALD; "Anyone who opposes Dhalsim loses!" --> S missing
The missing letters spell ?AS?EGAS. This fills out to LAS VEGAS, so you extract the bigram LV.

Q*bert solution

Sort the puzzle answers by length. Each word has one letter that can be replaced by QU to form a new word.
aRa         AQUA
sEat        SQUAT
Doted       QUOTED
sAints      SQUINTS
coLette     COQUETTE
???         ???
???         ???
The changed letters spell REDAL??T. This fills out to RED ALERT, so you extract the bigram ER.