by TK Focht and Tanis O’Connor

Interaction in Christmas Town

In the April Fool’s Day puzzle, teams learned that the April Fool planned to pull a prank in Christmas Town. When teams began this interaction, they went to Christmas Town to confront the April Fool. The Fool opened by announcing their prank, but Jack and Santa soon arrived. The team’s efforts to clean up molasses and solve the problems caused by the flood, combined with Jack and Santa’s persuasion convinced the April Fool to announce they were bored with it now and to provide a present that would help guide the team to the manhole cover.

Like when the April Fool interacted with the team while pretending to be the Mayor of Your Birthday Town, this present was locked and wouldn’t open, although this time the locking mechanism was less obvious. Jack provided keys as gifts from the Towns, wondering if they could be used to unlock the present. There was also a series of pictures of locks for the box.

Side 1 of the keys:

Side 2 of the keys:


Each of the provided keys goes with one town. Each lock goes with one problem (meta), which corresponds with two towns. For each problem, the two town keys can be interlocked with each other such that the visible letters line up with the solution to the problem, with each key tooth corresponding to one letter in the solution. The interlocking leaves one gap. Extract this letter for each problem’s solution to reveal how to open April Fool’s gift.

For example, the Holi and Patriots’ Day keys use the W side of Holi and the D side of Patriots’ Day. The teeth fit together, but leave one gap. This is where the L in WALKY WOAD is.

LockLeft KeyRight KeySolution
footballThanksgivingNew Year’s       FOURTHQUARTERGAINS
999999PiArbor        WOODYSROUNDUP
carved treeValentine’sArbor         SINGLESBARKS
color gelsHoliNew Year’s         CHROMATOSE
full moonValentine’sHalloween          IMHIRSUTER
gearsBloomsdayArbor       PSYCHOKILMER
free turkeyThanksgivingPresident’sTHEYUSEGEORGEWASHINGTONSCARVER
bloodHalloweenThanksgiving          SUCKOTASH
circle and squarePiBloomsday         CONSIDERSDUBLINTHECUBE
Olympic ringsHoliPatriots’          WALKYWOAD
candy heartsPresident’sValentine’s          BASEDONDELECTABILITY
31=25ChristmasHalloween      THEMITKRAMPUS
Game of LifePatriots’New Year’s         DECAMPTOLEX
Trivial Pursuit piecePiHoli          INTERROBHANG

To open the box, USE A MISSILE TOE. When teams kicked the box, it opened. The runaround instructions were inside.

Script of the interaction:

[The team enters the endgame room. The April Fool is there, pacing.]

AF: Oh, excellent! Come in, come in! You’re just in time to see my greatest triumph! Come in, sit down! Have you been having fun? You’re going to love this. [etc.]

[Once everyone is inside and observing:]

AF: Excellent! Welcome, everyone! This is just the audience I wanted. You’ve been to every holiday town. You’ve seen how much fun everyone is having.

It’s a bit of a . . . sticky situation. [uncontrollable chortling]

I’m getting my . . . sweet revenge. [chortling]

Things are getting a bit . . . mucilaginous . . . I’ll work on it.

But now! Watch and marvel at my greatest prank yet, as I replace the sugar in every Christmas cookie in the land with molasses! Giving it a slightly more robust flavor! . . . It’s subtle, but I think that’s the hallmark of real artistry—

[Jack Skellington and Santa Claus enter.]

Jack: Stop right there, April!

AF: Jack! Nick!

Jack: It’s past time to put a stop to this.

AF: Never!

Jack: Do you have any idea just how much of a mess you’re making? A little chaos is one thing, but this is a disaster!

AF: Oh, come on. I was just out there. There’s a little bit of a mess, but it’s hardly that bad.

Jack: Yes, and the only reason for that is because these fine people have been working themselves to the bone to clean up after you, day and night. If it weren’t for them, it’d be a wasteland. There wouldn’t be one town left standing.

AF: . . . Well, and so what? They’ve been having a great time! They’d be happy to keep cleaning it up forever! [To audience] Right? Forever!

[Audience reacts]

Santa: [To Jack] Let me try. [To AF] Have you stopped to think about what this molasses flood of yours is doing to everyone?

AF: . . . Yes. Yes, I have. That’s kind of the whole point.

Santa: For instance, right now in National Pancake Day Town, molasses levels are on the rise.

AF: That’s funny!

Jack: It is, a bit.

Santa: But National Pancake Day Town is flat. The Pancake People are flat. They’re on the verge of drowning over there, April. They’re climbing on top of each other in stacks to survive. In a few days, people will be dying. Again.

AF: . . . That’s not funny.

Jack: This has to stop. Look, I sympathize with you, April. No one knows better than me how a little mixing things up between holiday towns now and then can be good for everybody.

Santa: (sotto voce) I still haven’t gotten the spiders out of my beard.

Jack: But this is too far. This is what the spirit of Molasses Awareness Day is about. It’s dangerous. People are getting hurt.

AF: . . . You’re right. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I wanted to liven things up, and have some fun; not for people to die. Pranks are supposed to be harmless in the end, everyone knows that. I never meant for things to go this far.

[Karaoke track of “Poor Jack” begins playing]

AF: “What have I done? What have I done? How could I be so blind?”

Jack: [cutting off music] Yes, right, enough of that. [AF: “I had four more verses!”] Will you help us to stop the molasses flood?

AF: Oh . . . yes, why not. [saving face:] I’m bored of it, anyway. It’s been going on for two days now. Let’s do something else.

Santa: Wonderful! Where is the manhole cover?

AF: [eagerly opens mouth to answer, then realizes has forgotten] . . . That? Is a very good question.

Jack: April . . .

AF: I’m pretty sure I hid it in one of the first . . . several holiday towns everyone visited. But . . . which one was it?

Santa: April . . .

AF: It’s been two days! You can’t reasonably expect me to remember something from that far back.

Jack: Great. And even if we did have the cover, stopping the flood is a big job. It’s going to take more than the three of us.

Santa: Ho, ho, ho! I know where we can find lots of very good children who are happy to help out with solving other people’s problems.

Jack: Oh! [to solvers] Are you up for it? [when they agree] Sandy Claws, you’ve got so many good ideas!

Santa: Ho, ho, ho! It’s a gift.

AF: That’s it! Now I remember—I made some notes about where I was hiding the cover. And I locked them in this box.

Jack: Great! How does the box open?

AF: That I don’t remember. [to Santa:] Happy to solve other people’s problems, you say? And, a gift? [to solvers:] Merry Christmas!

Santa: April, I’ve got some coal for you.

Jack: Oh, but that reminds me! After solving all of the holiday towns’ problems, they each wanted to present you with a key to their town. I have those here for you. Maybe you can use these to unlock the box?

[The box puzzle is solved. The box is empty.]

AF: APRIL FOOL! [doubles over with laughter]

Jack: You see, April, this is why nobody likes you.

AF: [wiping away tears] No, it’s fine, I’ve got the notes right here. ( . . . Ah, that’s a classic.)

[AF takes out the first runaround step and hands it over.]

The Runaround

Step one (President’s Day Town) leads to a bench near room 3-001. The team finds an envelope taped under the bench. They gather a letter, S.

Step two (Valentine’s Day Town) leads to a bench on the building 9 side of lobby 7 on the 3rd floor. The team finds an envelope taped under the bench. They gather a letter, T.

Step three (Halloween Town) leads to a bench between 3-246 and 3-250, next to the skull in building 3, 2nd floor. The team finds an envelope taped under the bench. They gather a letter, A.

Step four (Thanksgiving Town) leads to a bench in building 14, in front of Hayden looking into the courtyard, next to the Killian concert hall. The team finds an envelope taped under the bench. They gather a letter, R.

Step five (Your Birthday Town) leads to the team’s headquarters. At their headquarters, they’ll meet a member of AD HOC (who has suborned anyone hanging out at their headquarters), who will give them the large manhole cover and go with them to the Star conference room (from S-T-A-R above) in the Stata center.

Interaction in Molasses Awareness Day Town

[The team arrives in Molasses Awareness Day Town, where there’s a tank.]

Jack: Quick, put the cover back on the tank! But be careful! You don’t want to accidentally create a new leak! [They do.] You’ve saved the day!!

[Everyone cheers. Jack waves for silence.]

Jack: Wait—wait. Do you know, there’s something a little bit sad about all this coming to an end?

AF: I know what you mean. I mean, it’s for the best, but . . . now everything’s going to go back to the way it always was. Orderly, regular, and boring.

Jack: There was something nice about it, wasn’t there? Getting out for a change? Getting to see everyone?

AF: I’m going to miss it. I guess it’s back to April Fool’s Day Town for me. Population one.

Jack: You know, the flood was a catastrophe, but a little molasses adds sweetness to everyone’s lives.

AF: Do you . . . do you suppose . . . maybe just a little . . .

Jack: I think we would all be better off if we left just a trickle.

AF: . . . A treacle trickle?

Jack: [putting hand on AF’s shoulder] A treacle trickle.

[AF is overcome with emotion. Points to audience.]

AF: Come! Come. Can you find a way to make just a very small opening? Something you can pull off that would let out just a little flow? Be gentle, we don’t want to start a new flood; maybe just a little opening, something that would come off easily?

[The small coin is hidden under a silver “patch” in the top right corner of the tank, and that patch is secured by velcro. The team finds the coin.]