by Matto Mildenberger, Tom Buehler, Guy Jacobson, and Matt Gruskin
Problem:

Solvers are initially presented with a series of points on campus and associated distances. Solvers need to draw circles around these points using the distances as radii. The circles are tangent to each other at six locations on campus (shown by the stars on the image below).

The ruler at the bottom of the puzzle is a representation of these six locations on an east-west axis. The associated ordinal is the floor of the location at the tangent.

Visiting each location, solvers will find a folder with a compass and straightedge symbol on it.

From this they retrieve a transparency that is mostly blank, with some black pixels printed on parts of the sheet.

Solvers can take these transparencies and overlay them to produce the following image of words.

Or, equivalently, the following sequence in a pretty fun 3×3 font:

The words (as text) are:

• ACHIEVEDWISDOM
• ALCHEMY
• AMERICA
• ASIA
• AUTHORITY
• AUTUMN
• CHASTITY
• COURAGE
• CRAFT
• DAY
• DISOBEDIENCE
• ENTERPRISE
• EUROPE
• FAME
• FERTILITY
• FIDELITY
• FIRMNESS
• GRACE
• HELPLESSNESS
• HIERARCHY
• HOPE
• INNOCENCE
• LEARNING
• LIGHT
• LUST
• MARRIAGE
• MATHEMATICS
• MEASUREMENT
• MECHANICALWORK
• MESSENGER
• MOTHERHOOD
• NATURE
• NOURISHMENT
• OBEDIENCE
• PATIENCE
• PERSEVERANCE
• POLITICS
• PREVENTION
• PROCESS
• PRODUCTIVEWORK
• RAPACITY
• RESURRECTION
• SCIENCE
• SHELTER
• SOVEREIGNTY
• SPRING
• SUBMISSION
• SUCCOR
• SUMMER
• SWEETNESS
• THEFUTURE
• THESOUL
• TREASURE
• TRUTH
• WATCHFULNESS
• WATER
• WEALTH
• WILDMAN
• WINTER

Solvers can then discover, via some Googling, that each of these words or phrases is a “level” on an alethiometer. Where phrases have two words (e.g. ACHIEVED WISDOM), the absence of spacing within phrases ensures the distinction between alethiometer entries. The alethiometer is the eponymous “golden compass” in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. This device has 36 symbols, each of which has an infinite sequence of (differentiated) meanings.

The symbols have an established ordering based on book cover artwork which is easily accessible via images such as this one. Further, all of the pixelated words are an established meaning of one the first three levels for one of the 36 alethiometer symbols.

Solvers can now array these words based on their alethiometer position. Each word corresponds to a unique position on a 3 by 36 grid, where columns indicate successive alethiometer symbols and rows indicate successive levels of meaning. For instance, ACHIEVED WISDOM is the 3rd layer of meaning for the “cauldron” symbol on the alethiometer. Treating the hourglass symbol as the beginning of the grid, this means solvers should color in the cell (3,6). Treating words that are present above as a black square, and absent words as a white square, solvers can read the final answer, HOLLYWOOD, in the same 3×3 font.

WordPositionLevel
ACHIEVEDWISDOM63
ALCHEMY61
AMERICA301
ASIA281
AUTHORITY22
AUTUMN192
CHASTITY111
COURAGE263
CRAFT62
DAY21
DISOBEDIENCE83
ENTERPRISE303
EUROPE271
FAME243
FERTILITY343
FIDELITY272
FIRMNESS341
GRACE43
HELPLESSNESS313
HIERARCHY82
HOPE71
INNOCENCE232
LEARNING183
LIGHT103
LUST353
MARRIAGE143
MATHEMATICS322
MEASUREMENT321
MECHANICALWORK161
MESSENGER81
MOTHERHOOD121
NATURE231
NOURISHMENT151
OBEDIENCE41
PATIENCE203
PERSEVERANCE283
POLITICS241
PREVENTION73
PROCESS32
PRODUCTIVEWORK101
RAPACITY302
RESURRECTION222
SCIENCE323
SHELTER342
SOVEREIGNTY242
SPRING142
SUBMISSION42
SUCCOR223
SUMMER282
SWEETNESS102
THEFUTURE311
THESOUL141
TREASURE261
TRUTH23
WATCHFULNESS262
WATER221
WEALTH191
WILDMAN351
WINTER362
WordPositionLevel
DAY21
AUTHORITY22
TRUTH23
PROCESS32
OBEDIENCE41
SUBMISSION42
GRACE43

ALCHEMY61
CRAFT62
ACHIEVEDWISDOM63
HOPE71
PREVENTION73
MESSENGER81
HIERARCHY82
DISOBEDIENCE83

PRODUCTIVEWORK101
SWEETNESS102
LIGHT103
CHASTITY111
MOTHERHOOD121

THESOUL141
SPRING142
MARRIAGE143
NOURISHMENT151
MECHANICALWORK161

LEARNING183
WEALTH191
AUTUMN192
PATIENCE203

WATER221
RESURRECTION222
SUCCOR223
NATURE231
INNOCENCE232
POLITICS241
SOVEREIGNTY242
FAME243

TREASURE261
WATCHFULNESS262
COURAGE263
EUROPE271
FIDELITY272
ASIA281
SUMMER282
PERSEVERANCE283

AMERICA301
RAPACITY302
ENTERPRISE303
THEFUTURE311
HELPLESSNESS313
MEASUREMENT321
MATHEMATICS322
SCIENCE323

FIRMNESS341
SHELTER342
FERTILITY343
WILDMAN351
LUST353
WINTER362

There is no canonical starting point on the alethiometer. However, we expect most solvers to assign the hourglass (as the due north symbol in most representations) to be the initial symbol. However, since this grid is really a loop rather than a line segment, this starting point is not relevant. If solvers use a different starting point, they will simply need to close the loop by appending or prepending a part of their grid as necessary.