AscentBack to round

The Tower of Eye

by Austin Lei, Ethan A. Chi, Justin Yokota, and Mona Wang; Audio clips by VocaMix


This is the meta for the Ascent round, written by Eye. During the Ascent round, each puzzle was associated with some foreign language, with answers being submitted in that language. The following is a table of answers, along with their respective languages (Note: throughout this solution, English translations are provided for clarity/convenience; however, the puzzle is fully solvable without translating to English):

Puzzle TitlePuzzle AnswerPuzzle Answer (English)Associated Language
Book of Fixed StarsمصرفBANKArabic
How Come This Crossword Got No Grid One?BUMIEARTHMalay
North Carolina Shopping ListᎣᏪᎵᎯᏍᏗᏍᎬANXIETYCherokee
To Numbers and Back Againजन्तुःANIMALSanskrit

The meta presents some flavortext, and a set of nine chibi characters. Each chibi, when clicked, provides a voice clip of an artificial voice saying a crossword clue. Further, each chibi is surrounded by a number of boxes, of which one (or part of one) is colored.

Identifying the chibis and voices reveals that they are Vocaloids, a set of voice synthesizers originating from Japan, which are designed for music and singing. Identification of the Vocaloids is aided by the fact that each seal is colored according to the primary color of the Vocaloid, and that the chibis are presented in alphabetical order by Vocaloid:

ColorClueSurrounding BoxesIndex of Colored BoxVocaloid
PurpleA better one is lower53Gackpo
GreenFourth of twelve, twice22 (left half)GUMI
Light PinkLanguage101IA
YellowHistorical figure22 (top half)Len
MagentaWhen fried, it's sweet62Luka
TanThe front line71MAYU
OrangeTea type41Rin

Translating the flavortext to Japanese reveals that "love" (愛) and "sorrow" (哀) in Japanese are homophones; both are pronounced "ai", which is itself homophonous with Eye's name. This suggests that Japanese homophones are relevant.

Googling "The Tower of Ai" leads to the Vocaloid song "Blessed Messiah and the Tower of Ai" (English translation, lyrics). The relevance of this song is confirmed in several ways:

  • The titular tower is an allusion to the Tower of Babel, which fits both the theming and gimmick of the round.
  • The homophonous nature of 愛 and 哀 is used for dramatic effect in the song lyrics.
  • The song uses 10 Vocaloids; the nine Vocaloids identified above, and Hatsune Miku. Over the course of the song, each Vocaloid (except Miku) receives one of the nine blessings of the Tower (one at a time as they climb the tower).

The last point suggests that the blessings and their pairing to the Vocaloids are relevant. Within the song, each blessing is given a name.

Translating each feeder answer to Japanese (per the Google Translate symbol at the bottom of the puzzle) reveals that each answer is a two-Kanji compound; further, each compound shares one Kanji with the name of exactly one blessing. It is thus possible to match feeder answers to blessings (and by extension Vocaloids and their clues).

Song OrderBlessing NameBlessing Name (English)VocaloidFeeder AnswerJapanese Translation
2の宴Inferno BanquetMEIKOΦΛΕΓΜΟΝΗ
3恵みの陽Blessed SunlightIAUTUKUFU
4息の闇Resting DarknessMAYUᎣᏪᎵᎯᏍᏗᏍᎬ
5揺蕩う大Trembling EarthGackpoBUMI
6鳴の囃子Accompaniment of ThunderGUMI뇌우
7のロンドWhirlwind's RondoLukaTAIFUN
8の園Garden of Silver SnowRinمصرف
9マグマの胎Magma's Fetal MovementLenजन्तुः

By reading the unused Kanji of each feeder answer, we find that it is homophonous to another Kanji which answers the crossword clue said by the associated Vocaloid (if the unused Kanji has multiple readings, the clued Kanji is always homophonous with the reading used in the given compound). Several clues require a Japanese cultural background in order to be understood; the relevant context for each clue is noted below.

Feeder (Japanese)Unused Kanji (Romaji)ClueClued KanjiClued Kanji (English)Reason
2shouSchoolSmallLiteral translation of "Elementary School" (小学校)
4fuThe front linePawnIn Shogi, the third row of pieces consist of pawns (歩兵, which is often shortened to 歩). Note that "fu" is an uncommon reading of this character outside this context.
5kyuuA better one is lowerClassThe Kyuu system is used to measure (generally) amateur-level skill in various sports and games, with better players having a lower Kyuu.
6uFourth of twelve, twiceRabbitThis character is used in two main contexts over the more common 兔: in reference to the Zodiac (in which it is the fourth animal), and in the compound 卯月, the traditional name for April. Notably, this appears to be entirely coincidental.
7taiWhen fried, it's sweetSea BreamTaiyaki is a common Japanese confection. A literal translation of the name would be "Fried Sea Bream".
8kouTea typeRedBlack tea in Japanese is 紅茶, in reference to the red color of the tea.
9butsuHistorical figureBuddha

We can then translate the clued Kanji back to the original language of the feeder answer; this is hinted by the Google Translate icon at the bottom of the puzzle. As further confirmation, these translations fit the boxes that surround the chibi characters. The colored section of each enumeration highlights one phoneme; taking these phonemes and ordering by the order in which the blessings appear in the song yields the answer VOCAL CORD.

Clued KanjiClued Kanji (English)Feeder LanguageClued Kanji (Translated)Index / LengthLetterLetter (Eng.)
6RabbitKorean토끼2/2 (left)C
7Sea BreamGermanDorade2/6OO
8RedArabicأحمر4/4 (right-to-left)رR
9BuddhaSanskritबुद्ध2/2 (top)D

Authors' Notes

For such a short meta, there’s a surprising amount of data to collect…

The original form of this round was one of my first experiences writing puzzles. When we first started writing for Teammate Hunt, one of our first steps was to run an internal potluck. As part of that potluck, I ended up writing a full Japanese round, with five puzzles and a meta. While most of the puzzles of the set were solved during the potluck, it was ultimately deemed too niche, so of the round, only one puzzle ever got published. Still, this proved a valuable lesson; for one, it showed just how difficult it is to Wheel-of-Fortune a foreign language, which directly led to our decision not to have the meta extract to Japanese here.

When writing this round, a big concern was to ensure an even distribution of languages; one thing I didn’t want was for this round to end up with a bunch of Romance languages. Previous versions of this meta had a wider breadth of languages in order to fit this; at one point, we had an ASL answer (which got cut due to extraction ambiguity) and a Puflantu answer (this would have replaced what is now the Dutch answer, with the target clue Kanji being 兆 or 1 trillion. Since Puflantu uses base 6, this resulted in extracting from a word around 250 characters long. Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite get an answer working, given how few words exist in Puflantu). Our final set ended up with quite a variety of language families (though there did end up being a small cluster of European languages), so I’m quite happy with the results.