Your Scene Starts with a Flag

Difficulty: Moderate Show 1 more admonishment ►

Movies have ruined everything.

In many movies and TV shows, there are scenes where the good-looking protagonist is presented with clues left by the antagonist. This must be a difficult scene not only to act, but also to write. What does a real person do and say when collecting clues and thinking hard? I imagine most of us stare blankly or squint at things. If I’m working on something alone, it would not make good hollywood entertainment. If I’m working on a puzzle with someone (say, in an escape room), there is dialogue, and sometimes it is exciting, but it’s mostly incoherent. The actors are given lines that they must pretend are the mindless mutterings of someone lost in thought, then they must act like they are struggling to figure out something they already know (’cuz the read the script already). They never look like people I know who are scratching their heads. I hate these scenes because they are always idealized, and they ruin things for me.

When I make a puzzle for good-looking you, I picture you intrigued. You have a few moments lost in thought, and then say, “Hmmm, what if…” before pulling up a new browser tab to do some research. Intense and suspensful music would swell as you made no mistakes and found exactly what you needed with little effort. You arrive at a now-obvious conclusion without breaking a sweat, and minor average-looking characters around you are still bewildered (but impressed) by your breathy whispers to yourself.

This flag puzzle is an experiment. In the hints below, I’m writing your script for you, if you need it. This puzzle’s hints have no penalties.

This puzzle starts with a flag. Internet people have done amazing things, including locating a flag in less than 48 hours. The feat required information freely available on the internet, and a little legwork. For this puzzle, please do no legwork. You can solve it using the glowing rectangle you are staring at now.

Who is beneath this flag?

Show First Hint

“Well, I don’t recognise the building, really the only thing to go on is the flag. Is that a flag of some nation? Some workers’ union? Hmmm, I could try an [internet image search]…” Your somewhat-dopey-but-otherwise-normal friend leans in to watch as you execute an [internet image search]. The results show pictures of red-brick buildings, but no matches. “That gets me nowhere. Hmmm.”

In a new browser tab, you pull up a reference to all the flags in the world, and start eyeballing for a red-and-white flag. The background music picks up the tempo.

Show Second Hint

“Ah, it’s the flag of XXXXX. There could be a million of those flags hung on a million flag poles!” You are momentarily deflated, but then, “Antagonist wants us to figure this out. Any single flag might be up for a day or a week, but there aren’t many flag poles that would have that flag flying permanently. In fact… we know Antagonist is American, so let’s assume the photo was taken in the U.S… and where is the one place in the United States that is guaranteed to be flying the flag of XXXXX?”

“You mean, like, at the restaurant?” asks your confused friend, failing to keep up with your dazzling intellect.

Ignoring them, you open yet another browser tab and punch up your favorite mapping site.

Show Third Hint

You’ve zeroed in on where the flag pole must be, and you are staring at images of a red brick building. You mutter Antagonist’s words to yourself, “Who… is beneath… this flag?”

Your average friend puts their greasy finger on your screen, pointing at a blurred man walking on the sidewalk, wearing jeans, a blazer, and a backpack. “Maybe that guy?” they ask, trying to be helpful.

Normally you’d be irritated, but you’ve already considered the pedestrian. “No. Antagonist knows that these photos change over time… They get updated. That guy can’t be involved.” You narrow your eyes. “It’s got to be someone who is always there, whether we are looking through [this internet tool] or if we walked down the street today.”

Show Hint No. 4

“It’s him!” You point to the heavy-set man, and bust out a new browser tab to find out more about him. Your friend can’t keep up, but can see that you are on a roll so they stay quiet. After your first search results come up, they gasp, impressed by your winning combination of resourcefulness, acuity, and good looks. The music swells again as you go back to the browser tab with the puzzle. After typing the man’s name you pause for dramatic effect before loudly tapping the enter key. The music turns triumphant, there is confetti falling and everyone is dancing. You sit back nodding to yourself while your friend excitedly smacks your shoulder. You are correct again!

Show Last Hint

After a small portion of the screen credits roll by, camera cuts back to you. You turn your keyboard/phone upside-down to shake the confetti out. You set it back down and start typing again, “I know someone who would like this puzzle…” Fade to black, the rest of the credits roll by.

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