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Solution to Curious and Determined


by Sandy Weisz

The puzzle is broken up into three sections to indicate solving order. In the First section, you see 26 clues. Each clue is both very easy to solve, and also very strangely worded. The answers to the clues are also in alphabetical order.

To solve this part:

  1. Answer the clues.
  2. Notice that each answer can be associated with 1, 2 or 3 colors. Further notice that these colors are in the set of RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, WHITE. (As hinted at in the flavor “six kinds of shady”.)
  3. Notice that each clue has been worded to include a word or phrase that can be paired with NATO letter to form a common word, phrase or title. This is subtly hinted at in the flavor as well with “clear communication” and the acrostic of the final four words, “not always the objective.”
  4. Finally, map each of the 26 answers / color sets to one letter of the alphabet.

ClueAnswerColorsNATO letterLetter
Founding X-Man who was a bit of a Romeo (if you ask Abigail Brand)BeastBlueAlfa RomeoA
Long-time roommates who like to take baths, talk to pigeons, and watch the tube.Bert and ErnieOrange, YellowX-ray TubeX
Oil company responsible for the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which caused a 2.4 million barrel oil sheen across the Gulf of MexicoBPGreen, YellowCharlie SheenC
Treat called “bengala de doce” in RioCandy caneRed, WhiteRio BravoB
The distribution of fans for this football team extends far across Illinois.Chicago BearsBlue, Orange, WhiteUniform distributionU
Genus of trees that includes clementines, limes, and lemons, of courseCitrusGreen, Orange, YellowGolf courseG
The median price for a single-family home in California recently topped 800,000 of theseDollarsGreenHotel CaliforniaH
Popular 2005 book about the “hidden side of everything” that includes a story about real-life brothers Winner and Loser.FreakonomicsGreen, OrangeOscar WinnerO
Southeastern European country in which butter beans are known as “Gigantes”GreeceBlue, WhiteLima BeansL
Store that sells a high chair named ANTILOPIkeaBlue, YellowHigh SierraS
One of Montreal’s sister cities is Milan, in this countryItalyGreen, Red, WhiteMontreal, QuebecQ
Movie in which the protagonist is bleeding from his mouth, due to being hurt in the titular simulated worldMatrixBlue, RedRomeo Is BleedingR
Ray Kroc opened the first one of these east of the Mississippi in 1955.McDonald’sRed, YellowMississippi DeltaD
Raymond Lewis Jr.’s college football teamMiami HurricanesGreen, Orange, WhiteJuliett(e) LewisJ
Don’t preach about imperialism to this captain of the Nautilus.NemoOrange, WhitePapa Don’t PreachP
Nickname for the flag flown outside American social hallsOld GloryBlue, Red, WhiteAmerical Social FoxtrotF
The scariest Halloween figure since Mr. Myers is David S. _______!PumpkinsOrangeMike MyersM
Victoria might prefer this expansion to the game that won the 2017 Spiel des Jahres.QueendominoBlue, OrangeVictor/VictoriaV
Onion that’s sometimes chopped up and sprinkled on a baked potato (along with sour cream)ScallionGreen, WhiteWhiskey SourW
Movie filmed within the largest free-standing cell block in the world, The Ohio State ReformatoryThe Shawshank RedemptionRedCell Block TangoT
Long-running animated show that’s been produced using digital ink since season 14The SimpsonsYellowIndia InkI
Batman battles this guy in the rain, in the movie named after this fight.SupermanBlue, Red, YellowNovember RainN
A low one of these is caused by the moon’s location with respect to Earth.TideBlue, Orange, YellowEcholocationE
If you are really bored while sitting on the can, you could conceivably doodle on a roll of this.Toilet PaperWhiteYankee DoodleY
Monty Python sings (repetitively) about how much they like these objects, when they're not tromping around Arthur’s kingdom.Traffic lightsGreen, Red, YellowZulu KingdomZ
Fruit with ~12 grams of sugar per cup, as Harry Styles surely knowsWatermelonGreen, RedKilogramsK

The next step is to figure out why we’re using only those colors. Those six colors appear together as a set in one very specific place: the six sides of a Rubik’s Cube. This is also hinted in the title, which is a reference to a quote by Ernö Rubik that’s quite applicable here: “If you are curious, you'll find the puzzles around you. If you are determined, you will solve them.”

Specifically, each color set from our table above aligns with the color arrangement of one cubelet on a Rubik’s Cube. With the association of letters to color sets, we can now associate each cubelet (of which there are 26, as the center of Rubik’s Cube isn’t visible) with a different letter of the alphabet. To do this, you can find a cube and write on it, or you can get creative with Google Sheets.

On to the second section, titled Then. Some of these clues are more ambiguous than others. Each answer is a word you can find on the cube, after one 90° rotation. (Hinted at by “14 moves away” in the flavor.) The answers and turns are indicated here. Turns are valid for a cube that has yellow in front (F) and orange on the left (L).

Turban wearerSIKHU
Simpsons characterBURNSB'
Musical group, maybeTRIOR
Type of treePALML'
Took offFLEWB
Gold medal volleyballerALIXD
Programming languageSQLD'
Tree productSAPF'

At this point, the cube should be arranged in a pleasant snake-like pattern (in Cube parlance, this design is called the Anaconda), like so:

Parsing the letters on this path, using the enumeration for assistance, you can read:


X is attached to the cubelet colored orange and yellow. The final bit of flavor asks you to find “the shady culprit’s full name.” Orange and Yellow is the title of a well-known painting by the famous abstract artist MARK ROTHKO, which is the answer.

Author’s Notes

My original plan for this puzzle was to spell out the letters in ROTHKO using cubelets as pixels. Not many letters can be spelled with just a 3x3 pixel grid, but r (lowercase), O, T, H, and K pretty safely can. I loved how the block colors of a Rubik’s Cube matched the aesthetics of Rothko’s art. (Not to mention their names aren’t too far off.) But the answer we needed was MARK ROTHKO, and solving to just ROTHKO would have been inelegant.

That’s when I started digging into Rubik’s patterns and thinking about the convenience of mapping all letters of the alphabet onto the 26 cubelets on a Cube. I was really pleased to compose the isogrammic message GUY WHO PAINTED X, but I couldn’t find a pattern that supported a 14-character message. So I settled for the Anaconda pattern above, and shrunk the message to fit.

I feel extremely lucky my first attempt to map letters to cubelets more or less worked without needing much revision. I started by trying to use up the rarer letters in the first few words (J, G, K, B), and then, with every new turn, looking to see if a word was already there, and if not, adding letters until one showed up. I only had 2 vowels at my disposal (the others being in the main message), so I had to be judicious about assigning them. I made a point of using as much of the alphabet in part 2 as possible, as a way to “justify” having asked you to assign every letter to a cubelet, and I’m happy to report that Z is the only one not employed in part 2.

Part 1 was a real joy to write. I knew this was going to work out when I found the association between tango -> cell block -> Shawshank Redemption -> Red.