The instructions to each puzzle have two boldfaced letters:
Reading the boldfaced letters "down" over the puzzles yields the message:
ODD ROWS OF SAMPLES
This points teams towards looking at the odd rows of each sample puzzle across *all* fifteen components. They should notice that each row has five cells that are black or white. Black=1, White=0 results in binary letters:
Reading across puzzles again, this makes the message
PATH SIXTEENTH GRID MAKES ON SUDOKU IS TELEPHONE CODE
This suggests that teams have to find a sixteenth grid somewhere, and also suggests that a Sudoku is involved somewhere. The big aha is to figure out that the sudoku is created by adding up the black squares from all sixteen grids.
The sixteenth grid (1=black, 0=white):
111000000 001111000 000001100 000000110 001000010 001000010 001001110 001111000 000000000
863529174 174638592 259147386 598716423 316294857 427853619 645971238 731482965 982365741
Path the sixteenth snake makes on the sudoku grid:
Interpreting as phone code, this becomes
TO FIND US DIAL 1-321-284-1576
The number is answered by "Donna Nooth":
Gazillion Corporation. What do you want?
Oh, you want to talk to Perry and Lergey, I'm sorry they are busy working for me. Who is this?
You think you're smart don't you calling this number, but I don't think so. You might think your whole team can save Perry and Lergey if you come to Damascus. Or you might think that the answers to the company puzzles might help you, but you would be wrong. So just stay where you are and don't you dare come to Damascus. [hangs up]
With luck, teams will clue in that they should send their entire team to Damascus in building 40, and they'll bring the list of company answer words.
In Damascus are Perry and Lergey, huddled over computers coding or writing or doing something. And being whipped by someone.
Perry: "Hurry, help us. Our graduate school advisor has tricked us!"
Donna: "Quiet, you. Less talking, more TeXing."
Sergey: "Donna won't let us go until we finish our dissertations. But we're no where close."
Perry: "If you can at least help us the title we may be able to sneak out while she thinks about it."
Sergey: "But it's gotta be a good thesis title. Something like 'An architecture for a web search engine is'-"
Perry: "We have an idea for a title but we need you to fill in the gaps."
Donna: "That's enough out of you -- back to work. I want to see those experimental results. You call those graphs? Pfft - where are the error bars."
Sergey: "Hurry, help us!"
On the white board in Damascus is a madlib written on the white board:
There are 8 blanks, for the 8 puzzle answers, and each blank has a description of the word that should be put in there. Teams should either read aloud the title, or write it up on the board. When they do come up with the right answer:
Destiny of a Deity: on the Intersections of the Wavelength of the Loudest Gaits of the Wendigo and the Artiste
Donna: "Hm, let me think about that for a moment..."
Perry: "Hurry, let's get out of here while she's thinking!"
Then, just as Perry & Lergey are leaving the room, Donna snaps out of her thought-induced trance. "No, that's not quite— hey, where do you think you're going? Come back here! Argh, curses! I've lost them to industry again. Just you wait. I'm not retiring until you guys get your degrees, even if I have to beat them out of you!"
Sergey: "Wow, thanks for saving us!"
Perry: "Yeah, I don't know if I could have taken another 5 minutes of the constant torture of writing code or reading papers."
Sergey: "Me, neither. Hey, listen, Perry & I need to make some phone calls to let everyone know we're okay. But we should all meet up again later today. Let's say, 5p in Tunis?"
Team: OK, see you there/then.