by Brent Holman
Answer: SLIDE RULE
Step 1: cut out the 37 hexagonal cup/saucer images or copy/paste them into a program that will allow you to move and rotate them.
Step 2: group the teacups by their central arrow colors. These color groups will form the rings of a larger hexagon. The center of the larger hexagon is the cup with the white arrow on a black background. The next ring has 6 cups with white arrows on a dark gray background. Then 12 cups with black arrows on a medium gray background. Finally, the outer ring of the larger hexagon will have 18 cups with black arrows on a light gray background.
Step 3: “recreate the default starting arrangement of the teacups.” Create the larger hexagon using the corner color letters to guide you. Start with the center cup, then place the next six around it such that all corners that meet have (not necessarily matching) letters with the same color. In most cases, there will only be one cup that can match the two colors along any given edge of the center cup. If there is any ambiguity, a little trial-and-error should sort it out fairly quickly: there’s only one way to place any given ring of cups such that all letter colors match.
NOTE: the cups may be in any orientation when you create the initial arrangement of the larger hexagon. In other words, the various arrows can point in any direction. For the purposes of the puzzle, however, “up” or “north” is always considered to be the direction that the arrow on the centermost cup is pointing.
Step 4: “follow the stop-and-go instructions.” Starting at the northernmost teacup, read the RED letter and then the GREEN letter of one cup at a time. Proceed clockwise around the 18 cups of the outer ring first. Then read the ring of 12 cups (again, starting at the northernmost one), followed by the small ring of 6 cups and finally the center cup. If everything goes according to plan, you should generate this message:
ROTATE EACH CUP CLOCKWISE THEN FOLLOW ARROW PATH FROM CENTER READ YELLOW AND VIOLET ONES
NOTE: from here on out, it’s mainly about executing the series of instructions that you read. It might be a good idea to separate the cards a bit if you’ve printed them out. Give them a half inch or so of space, such that there’s enough room to rotate any given teacup without knocking its neighbors out of position.
Step 5: follow the R/G instructions. For this step, you must rotate each teacup clockwise one position (sixty degrees). It’s important to be careful and methodical during this process, as it’s very easy to lose track of which cups have already been rotated (especially if you have more than one person doing the rotating). Also, don't forget to reorient the entire set of teacups so that the arrow on the central cup is pointing north.
Once all cups have been turned one position, start at the center cup. Read the YELLOW and VIOLET letters of that cup, and then proceed to the next cup according to the direction that the cup’s arrow is pointing. Repeat this process until you get back to the center. If done properly, you should generate this message:
MOVE EACH CUP ONE SPACE USING ARROW DIRECTIONS THEN READ ORANGE AND BLUE DOWN THE COLUMNS
Step 6: move the cups according to the Y/V instructions. This one is definitely tricky to execute. We recommend having only one person perform the moves with a teammate watching closely to verify that the moves are done correctly. Start with the center cup and move it one spot in the direction that its arrow is pointing. Before placing that cup in its new location, pick up the cup that is currently occupying that space such that you can move that second cup in the direction of its arrow. Repeat this process until you move the final cup into the now empty center location.
NOTE: it is important that you do not rotate the cups as you’re moving them to their new locations. It’s really easy for rotations to creep into the mix, so be extra careful about this.
Also, don't forget to reorient the entire set of teacups so that the arrow on the central cup is pointing north.
Step 7: read down the columns, left to right, taking the ORANGE and then BLUE letter from each cup as you go. If you’re getting a garbage message, it’s probably because you forgot to reorient North (or reoriented it improperly). Remember that the center hexagon always points north. But in this case, the cup with the white arrow on the black background is no longer in the center, so the orientation of that cup no longer factors in. If everything is oriented correctly, you should generate this message:
THE LONGEST ARROW PATH HIDES THE SOLUTION. TAKE THESE COLORS ONE LETTER PER CUP: B-V-G-Y-O-O-V-B-R
Step 8: find the answer! If you look at the various cups, you can find small chains of cups connected by their arrows. So, if the arrow on cup A points at cup B, and the arrow on cup B points at cup C, you have a three-cup chain. The longest such chain that exists in the current setup consists of 9 cups.
Take the BLUE letter from the first cup, then the VIOLET letter from the second cup, and so forth until you take the RED letter from the final cup. This should give you the puzzle’s solution: SLIDE RULE.