November 5, 2009

Carta Blanca

Carta Blanca is the sixth puzzle in the Sacred Myths and Legends series of puzzles. If you'd like to hear what I thought about the others, check out my previous entries: DaVinci's Secret, The Equation, Legend of the King, The Enigmatic Temple, and Pillars of Atlantis.

This puzzle has a very simple appearance, with a dark wood top and a light wood base. The rectangular tab that you see in the picture is a piece of wood that is attached to the lid. I first noticed that the lid slides forward about an eighth of an inch, but then was blocked. Also, it rattles when you shake it. Puzzling, eh?

Of course, the goal of this puzzle is to open the box. I was really looking forward to this one because I had heard that it has a very unique mechanism. I decided not to bother with the hints in the instructions at first and see if I could solve this sucker without any help. After an hour or two I caved and decided to take a look at the instructions:
The numbers reveal the place but not the
solution and may date back as far as Atlantis.
Well, that wasn't particularly helpful! That might sound like it would make some kind of sense if you had done Pillars of Atlantis, but it certainly didn't for me. I checked the clues on the Sacred Myths and Legends website, but that didn't do me much good either. Luckily I had some experience with hidden mechanism puzzles, so I thought that I might be able to solve it anyways with some persistence.

I tried every trick in the book that I typically throw at a puzzle like this: tilting, shaking, spinning, and whacking it for hours. I even busted out a flashlight to try to see what was going on through the holes in the bottom or the cracks between the lid and the box, but that didn't really help. This went on for about a week, working on it for an hour or so each day. Finally, I had an idea and it ended up working! I was quite satisfied when the box finally opened: finding the solution to this one is quite a challenge!

The scroll contained within the box was somewhat less cryptic than the rest. I had a pretty good idea of what it meant, but I still couldn't quite figure out the password. At least I had some idea what to do this time: usually I am just left scratching my head by the cryptic clue-speak.

Overall, I think this was my favorite puzzle of the series. That said, I think it would have been somewhat more enjoyable if the solution was a bit easier: the clue that I think was intended from Atlantis is very hard to discover and not even that helpful. I think a lot of people will probably give up on this one due to its difficulty, but if you stick with it and solve it you will be happy you did.

That brings us to the end of the series (for now). I will hopefully have another entry to add if they ever start selling the 7th and final puzzle, Secrets of the Pyramid. Even though I was less than thrilled with the series, how could I not give it a try?

In summary, I would say that the series has its moments and I really liked the concept, but the execution was a bit lacking. At least for me the clues were way too challenging. I found it particularly annoying when it was harder to figure out how a clue was supposed to help you solve a puzzle than it was to solve the puzzle itself. It was also irritating when the objective of the puzzle was not clear, such as on The Equation and Pillars of Atlantis. Also, since the idea behind the passwords is to give you a hint for the next puzzle, it doesn't make much sense for these to be the hardest aspects of the series.

I think the place where it should get really hard is at the end, where you need to piece together all the information you have gathered and lessons you have learned about solving puzzles. This would bring the series to a nice close. Hopefully that will be the case to some extent, but unfortunately I don't feel like I fully understand the first six puzzles, so I doubt the seventh will make sense either. Only time will tell!

Tomorrow we return to our regularly scheduled blogging with an entry about an amazing puzzle by the Sandfield brothers, Kathleen Malcolmson, and Perry McDaniel.

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