Wanted: Gangs of Six
by Wei-Hwa Huang
The puzzle consists of a "Wanted" poster, 144 stick figures, and a large complicated diagram. Developer's commentary, not directly pertinent to the solving of the puzzle, will be in italics like this.
The first step is to realize, as prompted by the poster, that the stick figures can be grouped into 24 separate gangs of 6 figures each. (Normally we'd call them "characters", but for purpose of this explanation it's better to avoid the ambiguity of the word "character".) The gangs are from many aspects of pop culture and geek culture. Using the TVTropes media categories, the breakdown is:
- 1 Anime and Manga
- 1 Comic Book
- 1 Comic Strip
- 7 Films (Live Action)
- 2 Music
- 4 TV (Live action)
- 1 TV & Film (Live Action)
- 1 Video Game
- 5 Western Animation
- 1 Webcomic
The main criteria for inclusion was that each gang was a clear gang of 6 (no more, no less) within their property. Occasional skirting of the numeric rules were allowed if the group was visually distinctive (which would help with solver identification). It turns out it's surprisingly hard to find a diverse set of gangs of 6! Diversification across different media was also taken into consideration. About 50 different gangs were considered; apologies if some of your favorites were left out!
The only reason that the stick figure image files are separated into "chara" (for images 1-72) and "charb" (for images 73-144) is because Adobe Illustrator CS6 has a hard limit of 100 artboards per file, so they were split up into two files for ease of image export. Because of the amount of time needed to draw the artwork, 17 of the 24 gangs were hired out on fiverr to other artists. It turns out that when one does something like this, one can get a very wide range of quality, going from perfect art that can be just thrown in to art that goes so off-model that it basically needs to be redrawn completely. Credit for the fiverr artists can be found at the end of this document. One aspect is that the fiverr artists ended up using colors that were all over the palette; in the end, about 500 different colors were used. Before productionizing, this was reduced to a reduced palette of 30 colors.
Later on in the puzzle, the solver will need to know the name of each figure, which requires the aha that the 144 stick figures are in alphabetical order, which disambiguates situations like "IRON MAN" vs. "TONY STARK", or "DOCTOR MANHATTAN" vs. "DR MANHATTAN". Of course, getting this aha earlier will help with figure identification. There was no consistency between gangs as to whether first name was used or last name was used; instead, within each gang care was made to use the most common names a fan of the property would know the characters as.
A list of all the names by how they are arranged on the puzzle page:
|2||BAYMAX||BIL||BILLY||BING BONG||BLACK MAMBA||BLACK WIDOW||BRENT||BRIAN||BRUNO||CAITLIN|
|3||CALIFORNIA MOUNTAIN SNAKE||CAPTAIN AMERICA||CHANDLER||CHAPMAN||CHEN||CHIDI||CHRIS||CHRISTOPH||CLEESE||COBB||COLE|
|4||COMEDIAN||CONSTRUCTION WORKER||COP||COPPERHEAD||COTTONMOUTH||COWBOY||CYBORG||DISGUST||DOCTOR MANHATTAN||DOLLY||DWAYNE|
|7||HONEY LEMON||HULK||IDLE||INDIAN||INGERSOL||IRON MAN||JADE||JANET||JASON||JEFFY||JEN|
|11||PETER||PHOEBE||PINKIEPIE||P J||PLUM||RACHEL||RAINBOW DASH||RARITY||RAVEN||RICHARD|
|14||TWILIGHT SPARKLE||VAAN||WASABI||WHITE||WONDER WOMAN||WYATT||YUSUF||ZACK|
Another aha, which should happen concurrently with gang identification, is that the 24 large circles in the diagram correspond to the 24 gangs. Within each large circle is a "minipuzzle" that, when solved, allows the solver to draw a correspondence between the 6 characters and the 6 colors given in the poster (cyan/magenta/yellow/orange/green/indigo). The six colors were chosen to be visually distinctive hues. Although the names of the hues are not important to the puzzle, the "color-blind" spreadsheet uses the names "indigo" and "cyan" so as to avoid the ambiguous word "blue". Orange was chosen instead of red because during testing players would often call magenta "red", resulting in communication confusion.
To aid in the circle-gang correspondence, the minipuzzle uses a typeface that is somewhat suggestive of that gang (could be the typeface used on the movie poster, promotional material, etc.) It was discovered in early playtesting that since many of the typefaces were named after the media property, a solver could look at the PDF properties in a professional PDF viewer, and shortcut by getting the typeface names. So, the especially spoiler-y font files had to be remastered for the puzzle using FontForge, which is a pretty amazing piece of software considering that it's free. The FAQ is a somewhat entertaining read.
Here's a list of all the gangs, their figures, and the solutions to the minipuzzle. (You can right-click and "Open in new tab" to see the pictures at a higher resolution.) The upper-left "ring" of 6 gangs is given first, then the upper-right "ring", then the lower-left "ring", then the lower-right "ring". Within each ring, the order here is upper-left first, then clockwise around the ring. WARNING: many of the minipuzzle answers can contain spoilers for their shows!
The general design goals of the minipuzzles were:
- should be easy to solve for a die-hard fan of the media property;
- should avoid being about the figures' appearances (since that's what the stick figures are for);
- should be tricky to solve for a non-fan, but possible;
- should actually relate to the media propety (so, no wordplay based on names or similar puzzle tricks).
Figures (in alphabetical order)
Gang identification, Minipuzzle explanation, Typeface notes, Artwork notes
Minipuzzle solution and notes
Rammstein, a German rock band probably best known in the US for their single "Du hast".
Each piece of colored text describes the main instrument that band member plays.
The typeface is a fan-made font based on the band's logotype, used on all their albums.
For a rock band, Rammstein has been amazingly consistent, having the same lineup of 6 since 1994, and they're still performing after 25 years. For those of you who complain they're too obscure, I dare you to find any band as well-known that is this consistent.
The six members of Team Bucciarati in Jojo's
Bizarre Adventure: Golden Wind.
Each team member has a Stand, a psychic super-powered entity. In the original Japanese, these Stands are named after a rock artist, rock album, or rock song. The minipuzzle text lists the other two, leaving the solver to fill in the blank. They are given in the order in which the Stand appears in the story. In the following chart, the Stand name is in bold.
The typeface is a bold condensed version of Century 751, as used in the anime's logo.
There was quite some freedom in choosing albums and songs; I tried to pick the most famous ones.
The six members of the Justice League from the eponymous film.
Some posters for the film show the tagline "You can't save the world alone", but with one letter in each word replaced with an icon representing one of the members of the League. In the minipuzzle, the icons have been swapped back with the regular typeface, meaning the solver has to find the posters to figure out the correspondence.
The typeface is a fan-made typeface based on the logotype of the movie.
Note that this minipuzzle is specifically for the movie; in the comics, the Justice League has 7 original members.
Main characters from the NBC sitcom The Good Place.
The puzzle is a nested Venn diagram of sorts :
The typeface is Avenir Next Bold, the same one used in the show's title cards and in Michael's waiting room.
Chidi's blue/yellow zigzag outfit is from S1E2 (well, everyone was wearing that outfit). Eleanor's "BEST PERSON" sash outfit is from S2E1. Jason is in his "Jianyu" monk robe, and Tahani is holding a giant hat and picnic basket from S1E3.
Artwork for Tahani was changed late as a shout-out, when Foggy Brume of team Palindrome mentioned on Facebook that he wanted the team to be named TAHANI'S IN A HAT. The minipuzzle originally said "Died Before Season 2" so that every other caption could start with the word "Died", but technically Janet points out in S1E7 that she can't actually die. Although she can be killed and murdered. How does that work??
The members of the comedy group Monty Python.
Unlike most other film/TV minipuzzles, this one is about the actors rather than fictional characters. Each piece of text describes a famous Monty Python skit, and the colored dots the text connects represent the principal actors of the skit:
The typeface is a circus-style one called "Ringmaster", which is similar but not an exact match for the one used on the Monty Python logotype at the ending credits to MPFC.
The Pythons are depicted in other visually-distinctive roles:
The last names were chosen mostly to avoid the ambiguity in the two Terrys, although it also helps with not clashing with other common first names like Michael.
Note that the Cheese Shop sketch was parodied in an Order of the Stick comic called It's Not a Gaming Session Until Someone Quotes Monty Python.
It was surprising to discover, when doing research for this minipuzzle, how few 2-person sketches Graham Chapman appeared in.
The six "player pawn" characters from the 1985 movie Clue.
In the movie's third ending (labeled "Here's what really happened" on the video releases), each of the six characters kills a non-player pawn character:
The typeface is Novel Gothic, used heavily in the 1985 movie merchandise and end credits, as well as the board game from 1972 until a redesign in 2000.
Miss Scarlet's golden high heels look pretty ugly as a flat yellow.
Wadsworth has a pretty large role in the movie, but since he's not based on a classic player pawn I was comfortable not counting him as a seventh character.
The members of the superhero team "Big Hero 6" from the eponymous movie.
The lines are quotes from the movie, spoken by the appropriate character. Hiro's line is not on the IMDb quotes page, so you'll have to remember the quote or watch the movie.
The movie's logotype uses a custom typeface for letters and a typeface close to Pulse Rifle for digits.
Baymax's design is roughly based on the Stone Golem from Rich Burlew's A Monster for Every Season set 2: Summer.
It's important that the minipuzzle associates a typeface with the gang, which made this minipuzzle design a bit tricky because the numbers and letters are in a different typeface -- so the minipuzzle can't use just letters, or else the next step would be unfair.
The original members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Avengers.
The image is a small infographic of the 23 films that compose The Infinity Saga, which is separated into three groups of 6, 6, and 11 films called "Phase One", "Phase Two", and "Phase Three". Each row represents a movie (earlier releases at top, later releases at bottom), and the presence of a bar indicates the presence of that character in the movie. A lighter shade indicates that the appearance is a short cameo (often during a post-credits scene).
The typeface is a fan-made font based on the movie's logotype.
Because of merchandising, the characters change costume almost every movie, but these are based on the 6th film, "The Avengers".
One of our fact-checkers suggested that "Phase 3" be made a little taller so that there would be a completely empty line representing "Spider-Man: Far From Home". Since this would've been cute, but not really that useful for solving and would require a lot of graphics remastering, I decided against it.:q
The main characters of NBC's sitcom Friends
The chart shows all triangle and quadrilateral relationships that involve at least two of the six. Monica and Ross being siblings, Rachel marrying Ross, and Monica marrying Chandler should be obvious. Rachel and Joey have a bunch of tension starting at "The One Where Joey Dates Rachel" [S8E12] and make out at the end up "The One in Barbados: Part 2" [S9E24], which naturally leads to "The One After Joey and Rachel Kiss" [S10E1]. The other connections are (from top to bottom, approximately):
A fan-made typeface based on the opening and ending producer credits of the show -- the actual credits were hand-written and not a typeface.
Costume notes are in the right box to stress your scroll-wheel less. My gosh, this was a pain to fact-check. I had never seen a full episode of Friends before writing this puzzle and I think I've now seen at least thirty. Fortunately, during the 2020 Mystery Hunt, Friends won't be available via streaming (it leaves Netflix on Jan 1 and appears on HBO Max). About three dots got added to the graph during fact-checking. A bunch of angst happened over what text to put for the solid line. The main issue is "had a romantic or sexual relationship" was way too much to put on that line. Originally it just said "sex" but since some of these relationships might not have had sex at all, but just passionate making out (e.g., Charlie and Joey) I decided "sex" was technically inaccurate. But something like "dated" doesn't cover things like Chandler's drunk one-night stand with one of Joey's sisters. Eventually "made out" was chosen because it's nearly impossibly to have a romantic or sexual relationship without making out. Also considered: "sex?", "first base" (seems to exclude third base), "had a thing" (too vague), "coupled up" (doesn't seem like a real phrase), "got it on" (might imply sex), "were an item" (not really for ONS), and the deliberately ambiguous term "hooked up".
The costumes are a range of somewhat memorable clothing choices.
The main adventuring party of playable characters in Final Fantasy XII.
Text descriptions of the Level 3 Quickening (that is, the strongest attack in the game) animations for each of the characters. Fortunately, even though the casting cost is different between original FFXII and FFXII The Zodiac Age, the animations have stayed the same. The English names of the Level 3 Quickenings are:
The typeface is Runic MT Condensed, a typeface that is so rarely used anywhere that if you do a Google Image Search for "Runic MT Condensed" and scroll down you'll see a bunch of Final Fantasy logos. FF has used the typeface since Final Fantasy IV in 1991.
Ashe's hair is hard to get right. It seems to change based on whether the environment is light or dark.
Solving this minipuzzle ended up being hard for most playtesters, probably because a websearch on the text won't help you much.
Main characters from The Munsters, a sitcom on CBS that originally ran from 1964 to 1966.
The show was produced by Universal Studios, which meant they had the rights to use likenesses of the Universal Classic Monsters. Most of the characters in the show were based on these movie characters. The minipuzzle shows the most famous portrayals of those characters:
Typeface is fan-made, based on the opening credits to the show.
A bit of debate went into whether the Munsters should look green or blue. The show was filmed in black-and-white, and so the actors had greenish-white makeup when filming, but in the later movies, which were in color, their makeup was blue.
This was a gang that barely made the cut, due to the dubiousness of the Raven being a legitimate "sixth member". Wikipedia calls the Raven a series regular. He only appears in 16 of the 72 episodes and not in any of the movies. He's one of the major modes in the pinball machine (but so is Spot, the dragon under the stairs). Ultimately I decided that the visual distinctiveness of the characters trumped some of the more legitimate but hard-to-identify-visually or too-obscure groups.
Main characters from the 2015 Pixar film Inside Out (also the theme for the 2018 MIT Mystery Hunt).
The director Pete Doctor mentions that the shapes of the characters are based on basic shapes, and these are the shapes. Except for Bing Bong; that we mostly just guessed.
Fan-made typeface (the movie logo is custom-drawn).
As appropriate for being emotions, these six figures are the only ones in the whole puzzle without a neutral slightly-frowny expression.
A little bit of debate over whether Bing Bong should be included, as he isn't an emotion like the other five. But he is a major character in the movie, arguably more than some of the other emotions, and a lot of his non-inclusion had to do with the deliberate exclusion of him from the movie marketing.
The six members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad from the two-part
movie Kill Bill.
Appropriately, the arrows are (mostly) about the killing between the members throughout the movie:
The typeface is Impact, used for the movie title on posters. Four years after the movie's first release, Impact would be used to print "I can has cheezburger?", which would start off the LOLcat craze and cement Impact as "the meme font".
To have less ambiguity (and more letter fodder) for the overall puzzle, I used their code names instead of their real names or aliases. There was some debate as to whether to draw an arrow for the attempted killing at the chapel in El Paso. Since in some sense, it was all five members trying to kill the wedding party, this would have made the arrow tricky to draw. There was also some question as to whether Beatrix actually killed Elle. If you look at the ending credits to the movie, you'll see that a horizontal line is drawn through the actors who played the other members -- except for Daryl Hannah, for which a large question mark is drawn instead.
The six crewmembers of the NSEA Protector in the fictional-TV-show-within-a-movie Galaxy Quest.
The puzzle is just the positions of the crew members.
The typeface is Serpentine Medium Oblique, which the movie logotype uses a distorted form of. (The original run of Babylon 5 used Serpentine Bold in its opening and closing credits.)
A bit of confusion over Chen's skin color. I think the character is an East Asian played by a Southeast Asian played by a Lebanese-American. Anyway I gave his stick figure the "Asian" coloration instead of the "white" coloration.
Using surnames made the most sense for the minipuzzle since, like Mr. Spock, Dr. Lazarus's other name is never given (and may not exist).
The "classic" (mostly 1977-1980, but also 1982-2013) character lineup of the American disco group Village People.
TBW Gang Description
The minipuzzle shows how the lineup has changed to different actors/players over time. The Y-axis represents time (not to scale, but notice that the group was inactive from 1985 to 1987), and the X-axis represents different players. The graph doesn't depict temporary replacements unless they were an official member at some point.
The typeface is Harry Fat, which bears a strong resemblance to the logotype used on their albums (except for Renaissance).
Artwork is based on several different '70s music videos.
There was some ambiguity in the character names; technically this set of characters never actually appeared together! "Y.M.C.A." and "Go West", the Sailor is a G.I., and in "In the Navy" and "Go West", the Cop is an Admiral. These incarnations were chosen to make the costumes on the stick figures more distinctive. Also worth noting is that in the current line-up, "Indian" is now the more politically-correct "Native American".
If you look at Wikipedia, you may see mentioning of a seventh member, a "Bellhop". As far as I can tell, this is the work of a Wikipedia vandal who also added a French Horn player to Three Dog Night.
The main characters of the NBC 1989-1992 sitcom Saved by the Bell (students only -- sorry, Mr. Belding!)
The dotted lines and arrows represent different relationships and groups found among the characters.
The typeface is Fontdiner Swanky, somewhat close to the "by the" in the show's logo.
Jessie is in a vest (pretty common in episodes), Kelly is in her cheerleader uniform, Slater is in a wrestling uniform, and Zack is in that ugly sweatshirt he was wearing when he had a real baby inside a gym bag (S2E14, "The Babysitters").
This minipuzzle bears the most resemblance to the main overall arching puzzle, with paired connections, arrow connections, and dotted-line groups.
The main characters in the comic book series Watchmen.
With the addition of founder Captain Metropolis, these characters comprise the "Crimebusters", who only existed for one failed meeting in 1966. In the movie, the group is just called the "Watchmen" and does not include Captain Metropolis, and it is implied that the group stayed together for a while after the meteting.
The typeface is Futura Extra Bold Condensed, used pretty much in all Watchmen merchandising and marketing.
This was the first set of characters to be drawn, which gave me confidence that I could possibly pull this puzzle off. I'm still pretty proud of it. The Comedian's mask was a late addition, after I realized playtesters didn't care about comic book vs. movie distinctions.
This was the first minipuzzle to be written. At the time I thought that all minipuzzles, as well as the main puzzle, would just be arrow relationships, and so this one is just sparse enough to be solvable. The "II" at the end of the names are not indexed into, so as to not worry any solvers who might have just "Nite Owl" and "Silk Spectre".
The "Mane 6" characters from the 2010-2019 animated television series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.
(Also the theme of an upcoming puzzle hunt, My Little Pony: Puzzles are Magic!)
This is a description of repeated motifs in the characters' Cutie marks. Images of the cutie marks abound in episodes; some can be seen online here and are a major plot point in Episode 23, "The Cutie Mark Chronicles".
The typeface is Equestria, a fan-made typeface emulating the text used for "Friendship is Magic" in the title card's logotype.
Horses don't appear frequently in Rich Burlew's art, so it was tricky to find a template. Early strips use a rectangle as a base for horses, but since this puzzle is based on the art style of the later strips, I used an oval body shape as seen in the OotS calendars. There was also some research done in figuring out how tall the ponies should be.
I thought about going deeper into the stories, but since I wasn't a fan of the series and 9 seasons is a lot of episodes to watch, I decided to keep this one more superficial.
The main characters in the 2006 movie Little Miss Sunshine.
It's often been mentioned that a "seventh" character in the film is the family van, so it makes an appearance in this puzzle. The family finds out during the movie that the van can't function unless it is pushed to about 20 mph first. This results in a scene in which most of the family is pushing the van before jumping into it. The puzzle shows visually the path of the characters' movements relative to the van, in numerical order of when they enter the van. The scene can be seen here:
The typeface is a bog-standard Helvetica, used in all the movie's posters and screen titles, so I couldn't justify changing it into something more distinctive.
While the other five stay in pretty much the same garb throughout the movie, Olive's costume is from her dance routine at the end of the movie.
The playtest had numbers 0-5, with Richard starting in the driver's seat. It was only during writing this solution that I realized Richard actually does help push the van a bit before getting in.
The main characters from the 20-year-old-and-still-running Fox animated sitcom Family Guy.
The minipuzzle riffs on the joke that Family Guy is a re-skin of another even-older-and-still-running Fox animated sitcom, The Simpsons:
The typeface is a fan-made copy of the show's logotype. The letter "I" has been changed so as not to show a little television on top.
Proportions of characters have been exaggerated slightly off of the standard style to make the characters a bit easier to identify. Brian is just how the style draws dogs.
The main characters from the syndicated newspaper comic strip The Family Circus.
The puzzle shows the hairstyles of the different characters, superimposed with their ages. Mommy (Thel) and Daddy (Bil)'s ages are not supplied, so they're just marked as "(old)", since that's what a child would consider their ages as. Note that Mommy changed her hairstyle in 1996.
The typeface is BlamBot FXPro Heavy BB, which somewhat matches the strip's logo.
The artwork was last to be drawn and very crudely drawn for the playtest. A playtester asked "Why isn't Daddy wearing any pants?"
This minipuzzle violates the rule of "nothing about the visual depictions of the characters." But... it was pretty hard to come up with anything that worked otherwise.
The main characters from the webcomic PvP (started in 1998 and still going).
The minipuzzle is about several running gags and major events that have appeared in the comic.
The typeface is that used in the logo: Helvetica Black Oblique.
Another early written puzzle, and pretty hard to get unless you read the series since there are more than 20 years of archive. Fun trivia: Back in 2006 Rich Burlew actually drew a PvP strip in his "stick figure" style. I did not know this until writing up this solution, well after the puzzle was drawn. Heh, pretty close, eh?
The main characters from the animated TV teen sitcom 6teen. Shown on Nickelodeon in 2005, then later Cartoon Network from 2008 to 2010.
The minipuzzle is the main product being sold at each of the jobs the teens have worked at, sorted by number of jobs each teen has had:
Just like as used in the show, the typeface for letters is Chalet London 1980, and the typeface for number is Chalet London 1970. (It was really tricky to figure this out.)
As the show was produced on a tighter budget, the characters wear the same clothes in every episode. This was very convenient.
There might be some mistakes in all of Jonesy's jobs. We make no claims as to how accurate it all is.
The extraction team from the 2010 science-fiction film Inception. (Also the theme of
the 2016 Mystery Hunt.)
The diagram is a slightly-simplified infographic of the different layers of dream shown in the film of the Fischer extraction job (the main job in the movie). Unique to this puzzle, a seventh color, violet, is used to represent Robert Fischer, the Mark of the job. Each character gets a letter that is the first letter of their description on the character posters that were used to promote the film. A break in the line represents "death" (although characters don't technically die in dreams), with a horizontal crossing representing the killer. The horizontal areas represent levels of the dream, with the color of the dreamer as background. The white area at the bottom is "Limbo", sort of like a level four as far as the movie's structure is concerned. From left to right:
The typeface is a fan-made imitation of the logotype used in the movie's opening title and marketing.
The playtest teams had a lot of trouble identifying these images. Based on this, a few costume were changed, but more importantly, totems (an important plot element of the movies) were added to four of the characters:
A small violation of the "no seventh color" rule, but the rest of the puzzle worked well enough, and I couldn't resist adding another Mystery Hunt reference.
At this point, the solver should be able to match each figure with a typeface (from identifying the correct minipuzzle) and a color (from solving the minipuzzle). Or at least most of them. Now they can decode the numeric messages around the graph. Each number has a color and typeface, and should be replaced with a letter from the corresponding figure's name, with the number being the index into the name. (This is where the precise spelling of each figure's name is important.)
To help with a checksum in case typefaces are too similar, each message is related to a fixed number of gangs (usually 2), and each figure contributes exactly one character to each message its gang is related to. That is, within each messge, each typeface appears exactly 6 times (or not at all), and when it does appear, it appears exactly once for each color.
The decoded messages are:
|Message (in encoded numeric order)||Gangs|
|WROTE A LETTER||[Clue] and [Family Guy]|
|JAILBREAK PAL||[Final Fantasy XII] and [PvP]|
|BECAME HIS HAT||[Avengers] and [6teen]|
|BLOOD HANDLER||[Jojo's Bizarre Adventure] and [Rammstein]|
|SWEAT HANDLER||[Justice League] and [Monty Python]|
|RESURRECTION||[Inception] and [Little Miss Sunshine]|
|IMPERSONATED||[Friends] and [PvP]|
|TEARS HANDLER||[Clue] and [The Good Place]|
|ONCE HAD CRUSH||[GalaxyQuest] and [Village People]|
|EMPLOYER OF S. O.||[Inception] and [My Little Pony]|
|MET AT A PICNIC||[Saved by the Bell] and [Watchmen]|
|BOOTY CALLING||[My Little Pony] and [Watchmen]|
|BRAIDS IN HAIR||[Kill Bill] and [The Munsters]|
|OWNED SHIELD AT INTRO||[Little Miss Sunshine], [The Good Place], and [The Munsters]|
|BLOOD RELATIONSHIPS||[Friends], [PvP], and [Rammstein]|
|TOOK BARBARIAN LEVEL||[6teen], [Final Fantasy XII], and [Kill Bill]|
|WORE A HEADBAND AT SOME POINT||[Big Hero 6], [Monty Python], [My Little Pony], and [The Family Circus]|
|WEARS OR ONCE WORE A PONYTAIL||[Family Guy], [Inside Out], [The Family Circus], and [Village People]|
|HAS NONBLACK EYES WHEN UNDISGUISED||[Avengers], [Big Hero 6], [Inside Out], [Jojo's Bizarre Adventure], and [Justice League]|
|HAS A SURNAME OR A SECOND NAME REVEALED TO READERS SOMEWHERE IN THE COMIC||[6teen], [Clue], [Family Guy], [GalaxyQuest], [Inception], [Little Miss Sunshine], [Monty Python], [Saved by the Bell], [The Munsters], and [Village People]|
The diagram with the decoded messages looks like this (open in new tab for larger image):
The next "a-ha" is to realize that each gang/minipuzzle also represents a fictional character, which obeys the relationship lines and dotted regions in the diagram. But there aren't any more stick figures provided, so where are they? The answer requires recognizing the specific style in which the stick figures are drawn; namely, that of the webcomic The Order of the Stick. Specifically, there are four rings of six gangs/minipuzzles, and each ring represents one of the four six-character adventuring parties found in the comic (as of January 2020): The Order of the Stick, The Linear Guild, The Order of the Scribble, and The Vector Legion. (We only consider the initial composition of each party, so we don't include the later additions to the Linear Guild, and we don't include Team Evil because they aren't a party of 6.)
Like the minipuzzles, a dedicated fan can quickly match up each gang/minipuzzle to a single character from the Order of the Stick, while solvers unfamiliar with the webcomic will have to do some deep research. There are a few deliberate ambiguities so that even comic strip fans will have to look at other connections to disambiguate the next step; these are in italics below. Parenthesized links below link to the relevant comic for verification.
|Message||Character / Explanation|
|WROTE A LETTER||Miron (when he was Chancellor of Tyrania) wrote a letter to Haley regarding her father's incarceration. (131)|
|JAILBREAK PAL||Thog helped Elan break out of Cliffport's jail (after Nale framed Elan for murder). (387)|
|BECAME HIS HAT||After killing Yikyik (63), Belkar removed the top of Yikyik's head and used it as a hat (69). (This started off a running gag where Belkar would kill kobold members of the Linear Guild and turn their bodies into something wacky.)|
|BLOOD HANDLER||Tarquin and Malack are the "handlers" of the Empire of Blood under Tarquin's scheme to have the Vector Legion secretly control the Western Continent. (758)|
|SWEAT HANDLER||Jacinda and Laurin are the "handlers" of the Empire of Sweat under Tarquin's scheme to have the Vector Legion secretly control the Western Continent. (758)|
|RESURRECTION||Durkon casted the spell Resurrection to bring Roy back to life. (665) Later, Hilgya would cast Resurrection on Durkon. (1148) Twice. (1149))|
|IMPERSONATED||Nale impersonated Elan when framing Elan for murder. (361) Later, Tarquin would impersonate Thog (849), although the Order of the Stick wouldn't completely figure this out until later. (864)|
|TEARS HANDLER||Miron and [unnamed] are the "handlers" of the Empire of Tears under Tarquin's scheme to have the Vector Legion secretly control the Western Continent. (758)|
|ONCE HAD CRUSH||Serini had enough of crush in Girard to draw hearts all over him in her diary. (196) There are a few more crushes in the strip involving Elan (Therkla), Laurin (Julio), Roy (Miko), but none within the four groups of six.|
|EMPLOYER OF S. O.||Roy's significant other Celia (312) was once employed by Dorukan (71).|
|MET AT A PICNIC||Lirian met Soon (276) right after Soon's wife Mijung was killed by the Snarl at a picnic (275).|
|BOOTY CALLING||Dorukan and Lirian apparently had an occasional dalliance, enough for Dorukan to leave a hole in his Cloister spell. (532)|
|BRAIDS IN HAIR||Hilgya (43) and Kraagor (196) are almost always shown with braids in their hair.|
|OWNED SHIELD AT INTRO||Characters occasionally wield shields here and there, but only Durkon (1), Hilgya (43), and [unnamed] (758) were holding a shield in their first appearance.|
|BLOOD RELATIONSHIPS||The only blood relationships (that we know of) among the four groups is that Tarquin is the father of Elan and Nale (many strips establish this, but 913 has them all in the same scene). There's a few romantic relationships, but those aren't connected by blood.|
|TOOK BARBARIAN LEVEL||Kraagor (276) and Thog (many places, but one strip where it is mentioned explicitly is 66) are both established as Barbarians (a specific character class in D&D, on which rules the universe is based on). Belkar took at least one (and likely only one) level in Barbarian. (133)|
|WORE A HEADBAND AT SOME POINT||(The clue connects to a round "headband" in the center of the diagram.) All four characters who wore a headband at some point also wore them in their first appearance: Vaarsuvius (1), Zz'dtri (43), Dorukan (196), and Laurin (758).|
|WEARS OR ONCE WORE A PONYTAIL||Girard (196), Haley (1), and Sabine (43) have all worn a ponytail since their introduction. Vaarsuvius converted their headband to a ponytail tie in the aftermath of losing their Soul Splice. (667)|
|HAS NONBLACK EYES WHEN UNDISGUISED||Yikyik (43) and Jacinda (758) have had yellow eyes since introduction. Zz'dtri has white eyes (43), but not when disguised as Polozius. (789) Sabine is introduced in human disguise but reveals her red eyes when the disguise is dropped. (57) Malack (718) is introduced with pink eyes as an albino lizardfolk, but that is actually a disguise for his true identity as a vampire. (870) The officially-unnamed (1030) spirit sometimes called "The High Priest of Hel" or ""Durkon"*", or "Greg" has red eyes when in possession of Durkon's body (907), but is generally considered by the fandom to be distinct from Durkon as the spirit converses with Durkon within their shared mind. (948)|
|HAS A SURNAME OR A SECOND NAME REVEALED TO READERS SOMEWHERE IN THE COMIC||The list is, along with the strip with the reveal (not counting the "strip 0" introduction, which might not be canonical):|
The list of correspondences between gangs and characters is given in the next table (except for the unnamed member of the Vector Legion, who goes with The Good Place).
At the bottom of the diagram is yet another encoded message. This one is 23 characters long, and is in all-black while using each typeface once. To decode this one, one do something similar to the previous decoding -- figure out which typeface goes with which of the 24 OotS characters, and index into that character's name. (There are only 23 characters because one of the 24 characters has not had their name revealed in the comic.)
|Saved by the Bell||SOON||4||N|
|Final Fantasy XII||THOG||4||G|
|Jojo's Bizarre Adventure||MALACK||1||M|
|The Family Circus||VAARSUVIUS||5||S|
|Little Miss Sunshine||DURKON||2||U|
|Big Hero 6||ZZDTRI||4||T|
|My Little Pony||DORUKAN||2||O|
This gets the message BOOKS AND GAME DISTRIBUTOR.
There are many distributors of books and games, but there is only one official distributor that distributes the books and the (single licensed) game for Order of the Stick, and that is the correct answer: OOKOODOOK.
Thanks to Yar Woo for some advice on minipuzzles. Also thanks to these folks on fiverr who helped with the artwork:
- Anna Popa (near-perfect work for PvP, Kill Bill, Monty Python, clean-up on Final Fantasy XII)
- PONTHY (excellent work on Avengers, Justice League, 6teen), Heri PP (excellent work on GalaxyQuest)
- Stephanie Bello (Avengers), Nida Naeem (Little Miss Sunshine), Obiakor Anthony (The Good Place)
- Sabid Hasan (Jojo's Bizarre Adventure), Nimra (Justice League), Nashrah Aslam (Village People), Mounir Chkifi (The Munsters), Mubarak Ahmad (Saved by the Bell)
- also four artists decided to stay anonymous (Clue, Inception, Big Hero 6, Family Guy)