This is my escape
Thank you, dear bunny_hugger.
So none of the three of us had any escape-room experience or had ever really thought about one. But the venue we visited had an escape room, so, why not? We got put together with a group of four younger adults to Escape from Space Station Alpha. It was a maybe twelve-by-twelve room with a couple of tables, some science fiction props, Star Wars posters and schematic diagrams of the USS Enterprise (1701-A and 1701-D versions) on the walls, a six-by-six grid of lights and switches, that sort of thing. The attendant turned on a rim of lights around the door and explained that was the force field keeping us out of the door. The space station's life support had failed and the only way out was the force-field-locked door; we had thirty minutes to figure out how to get out. There'd be pieces to the puzzle all over the room, and he recommended stuff like picking up the tablet computer and looking at things. Also not everything in the room was a clue.
I did my best to be a good escape-room-solver, going around observing stuff and saying what I spotted. I thought my best discovery was that some of these circular plastic discs were anamorphic scribbles with two sets of characters each. These would be the password for a computer or something like that. Also I found at least one of the hidden compartments with keys. Someone noticed that when you held the tablet up to one of the Star Wars posters it changed the tagline to a message that, yeah, entering into the computer did good things for. You see the style of the thing: a lot of the sorts of logical puzzles you get those books of mental-challenge books that you don't buy either.
One of them, that bunny_hugger spent about ten minutes jumping up and down telling people to let me try, was a box of ``fuses''. That was the six-by-six grid of switches and lights. The panel beside it explained the rules for the ``fuses''. 18 of the 36 would have to be on. There were several that had to be on. There were several that had to be off (and even lacked switches). There had to be three on in each row and each column. There couldn't be more than two on or two off in a string. Arrange all this and you get a key or something.
So. A couple of the young adults with us said to just start trying combinations of switches, a prospect that makes sense to anyone who doesn't know that you can't brute-force anything combinatoric where you're choosing 18 out of like 28. And this nudged me into trying it seriously, explaining out loud my reasoning. This row had to have these switches on because the information panel left only one logical option. That implied these columns had to be like that. That implied this other row had to be like this. And this implied the other row had to be like that. And then we got down to something like four switches that I hadn't worked out and that I hadn't got reasoned out. Here the women started hitting the remaining switches at random, and that worked. bunny_hugger said they should have shut up and let me do this from the start. But, truth to tell, if they hadn't been trying, and got me explaining out loud why most of these switches were actually known, I probably wouldn't have worked it out. Also, bunny_hugger or anyone else could've done it as easily.
Still, this got us to the next piece! A ... key, I think it was, that popped out. And that got us to unlock the box that the attendant told us controlled the door, so we all looked excitedly at the door and saw ... nothing change. It turns out that inside the box was a remote control, and the remote control turned off the lights representing the ``force field'' and let us out. Total elapsed time: a bit over 27 of our allowed 30 minutes. And we made it!
The attendant told us we were the first group all day to do this puzzle. As bunny_hugger and MWS and I helped put some stuff back where it had started the attendant explained some of the secrets, like that the very busy monitor screen showing all sorts of technobabble was one of the confounds, holding nothing relevant to the puzzle. Neat.
We had a good bit of fun, and talked about how we should find other escape rooms and try them out. So far, we haven't.
While still giddy from our escape-room success we went to the other major interesting activity at the place, indoor glow-in-the-dark miniature golf. With a dinosaur theme. Some of the folks from our escape room got there first, and we waved at them as they raced through the course. bunny_hugger and I took the course slowly and seriously, as we ever do. MWS took it at a more measured pace. I forget who won and who came in last, but I suspect I came in the middle. I play this terribly dull but consistent game. Even when I have a glow-in-the-dark triceratops painted up as a tiger watching over me.
We got in a last game on Roller Coaster Tycoon the pinball, and went back to our hotel room well enough before midnight that we figured we'd be up for the opening of Kings Island.
Trivia: In 1778 the British government removed 5,000 troops from Philadelphia, in order to secure the West Indies.
Source: The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution, Barbara W Tuchman.
Currently Reading: Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, David Aaronovitch.
PS: So I stopped in at the Strand Bookstore, because why would I miss the chance to do that? It was a madhouse in there but you know what was outside? Some nice scenes and here's a couple little things I thought interesting enough to photograph.
Snapshot of Manhattan in the misty weather: over in center-right you can see the Chrysler Building disappearing into nothingness.
Subway station tile art reminding us of the time nearly two centuries ago when this are was entirely clay-fired houses.
One of those little things you notice on the subway and get fascinated by if you're me: the rules by which bullhorns are to be used. Notice for example how it suggests ``use of the bullhorn within a train should be limited to extreme circumstances'', a rule that makes clear what is wanted but which also allow for how there might be some weird case in which the bullhorn has to be used for something that's never been imagined by the author of the bullhorn protocol. Also that removed bullhorns should be returned to their cars or to responsible authorities after their use, ``if possible''.