Solution: The Answer to This Puzzle Is...
Answer: HALT

Idea by Brian Chen, Lewis Chen, and Anderson Wang
Clues by Lewis Chen, Anderson Wang, Rahul Sridhar, Ben Yang, Jon Schneider, Colin Lu, and more

Initially, the only text on the puzzle page informs us that “[t]he answer to this puzzle is the country in the United Kingdom.” There are four countries in the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. When we submit the answer ENGLAND, we’re told that the answer is actually “the non-radioactive element whose atomic weight is between 142 and 152.” This clue has three different answers: neodymium, europium, and samarium. Submitting any of these answers leads to even more clues.

If we type in enough answers, we’ll notice a few things: many (but not all) clues have multiple answers, and almost all of the answers begin with either N, S, E or W. These four letters correspond to the four compass points (north, south, east, and west). Using this, we can organize the clues into a grid, with the original United Kingdom clue at the center, and the four clues that appear when we submit Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales appearing to the north, east, south and west respectively.

Observe that each pair of adjacent cells in this grid is connected by a one-way arrow. Notably, five of the clues have unique answers that do not start with N, S, E, or W. Submitting any of these answers simply takes you back to the same vertex. Read from left to right, these answers are “GOING BACK TOWARDS UNITED KINGDOM”.

This phrase obliquely clues the final step. The majority of the arrows point away from the center of the grid.

If we highlight the arrows that point towards the center, we spell HALT, which is our final answer.

Here is the full list of clues and their answers:

#ClueAnswer(s)
1...the surname of the character who invites Superintendent Chalmers over for "steamed hams"SKINNER
2...the Egyptian God Card whose name includes an actual Egyptian god (disregarding any leading article)WINGEDDRAGONOFRA
3...the season with a solsticeSUMMER / WINTER
4...the Monopoly utilityELECTRICCOMPANY / WATERWORKS
5...the country that contains the Blue NileETHIOPIA / SUDAN
6...the three-letter SI prefixEXA
7...the airline company that also appears in two other clues in this puzzleUNITED
8...the automobile brand mentioned in "We Didn't Start the Fire"EDSEL / STUDEBAKER
9...the second word in the name of the web browser with a majority market share in the late 1990sEXPLORER / NAVIGATOR
10...the character in the Super Smash Bros. franchise whose name starts and ends with the same letterSAMUS
11...the Boston T station between Newton Centre and WoodlandELIOT / NEWTONHIGHLANDS / WABAN
12...the first name of the Supreme Court justice appointed by Barack ObamaELENA / SONIA
13...the restaurant that has topped Restaurant Magazine's list of best restaurants in the world at least 3 timesELBULLI / NOMA
14...the country that won gold medals in both men's and women's speed skating events at the 2018 OlympicsNETHERLANDS
15...the first word of a Phil Collins studio album that is also the last word of a different Phil Collins studio albumGOING
16...the surname of the literature Nobelist born in a Caribbean countryNAIPAUL / WALCOTT
17...the two-syllable D&D statWISDOM
18...the last Scrabble-playable word in the 2018 Oscar nominee for Best Picture whose title is at least 4 words longEBBING / NAME / WATER
19...the seven-letter preposition containing the letters A and WTOWARDS
20...the League of Legends character based on a canineNASUS / WARWICK
21...the title character of a Pixar film released in the 2000sNEMO / WALLE
22...the surname of the man who directed a live-action movie starring Batman in this centuryNOLAN / SNYDER
23...the four-letter Scrabble-playable word using each of the four compass points exactly onceNEWS / SEWN / WENS
24...the Aaron Sorkin TV series that ran for at least two seasons (disregarding any leading article)NEWSROOM / SPORTSNIGHT / WESTWING
25...the country in the United KingdomENGLAND / NORTHERNIRELAND / SCOTLAND / WALES
26...the non-radioactive element whose atomic weight is between 142 and 152EUROPIUM / NEODYMIUM / SAMARIUM
27...the digit in the top row of a standard numpadEIGHT / NINE / SEVEN
28...the lion Zazu babysits at the beginning of The Lion KingNALA / SIMBA
29...the mountain (without Mount) that is the tallest in its continent and also shares the same first letter as that continentELBRUS
30...the puzzle game commercially released by Increpare GamesENGLISHCOUNTRYTUNE / STEPHENSSAUSAGEROLL
31...the body part that could also appear as a button on your browserBACK
32...the force unified by a Grand Unified TheoryELECTROMAGNETIC / STRONG / WEAK
33...the zodiac constellation that contains another constellation as a substringSAGITTARIUS
34...the day of the week that Lent starts on, in Roman Catholic traditionWEDNESDAY
35...the fictional country in the Marvel Cinematic UniverseSOKOVIA / WAKANDA
36...the wind in Greek mythology whose name is 5 letters longEURUS / NOTUS
37...the first name of the artist who helped design a "shoe hat" and a "lobster dress"ELSA / SALVADOR
38...the surname of the president of the United States who resignedNIXON
39...the 2016-2017 Premier League team whose name ends with "on"EVERTON / SOUTHAMPTON / WESTBROMWICHALBION
40...the part of the Freudian psyche that is not present at birthEGO / SUPEREGO
41...the film starring Jake Gyllenhaal set entirely in Los AngelesENDOFWATCH / NIGHTCRAWLER
42...the Neal Stephenson novel whose title is a palindromeSEVENEVES
43...the online game that was purchased by the creator of the JumpStart games from Viacom in 2014NEOPETS
44...the Pink Floyd album that contains a nine-part songWISHYOUWEREHERE
45...the Japanese prefecture whose flag is a blue symbol on a white backgroundNAGASAKI / WAKAYAMA
46...the surname of the author of a famous novel whose title refers to an "invisible man"ELLISON / WELLS
47...the play by Sophocles that shares a name with one of the PleiadesELECTRA
48...the blue planet that isn't UranusEARTH / NEPTUNE
49...the taxonomic rank shared by scorpions and giraffes but not giraffes and venus fly trapsKINGDOM

Author’s Notes

This puzzle went through a lot of different design iterations and quite a few people helped with coming up with both ideas and clues. The clues are quite constrained because the answers must begin with N/S/E/W, especially when limiting yourself to only a few quantifiers, so it was truly a group effort to come up with all of them.

The initial idea was conceived by Brian (although the only recognizable vestiges remaining are the answer submission abuse idea, as well as questions with multiple answers). Then a group of us tried to brainstorm more interesting ways to extract from a graph, and the idea of taking edges with reversed directions for extraction was by Lewis. We experimented with various different grid layouts, but when the initial grid ended up being too difficult in testsolving, Anderson proposed the current grid with arrows pointing out from the center, which is much more symmetric. Even so, more testsolving indicated that we probably needed a cluephrase to help hint at extraction, so the cluephrase spelled out by the sinks was created by Rahul.

Some things were unfortunately a consequence of the grid layout. For instance, HALT has to be read top-down then left-right instead of the normal reading order, since the L cannot be in the bottom left corner. If it were, then the corner of the L would be an inaccessible source node, much like the center node is right now. We had to ensure that the grid contained only one such node.

Also, even the clues with only a single answer were worded ambiguously such that they could conceivably take on multiple answers.

Throughout the long process, we encountered many interesting stories and/or issues, including:

  • The discovery that the four countries of United Kingdom start with N, S, E, W, respectively.
  • To a lesser extent, that we could relate the Strong, Weak, and Electromagnetic forces via the Grand Unified Theory.
  • Initially, before we had a cluephrase, our sinks were literally questions that had no answer, such as “...the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction”.
  • In a previous grid, one of our testsolvers had the correct idea of considering arrows pointing in different directions. However, instead of drawing out these edges on the picture, instead he interpreted them as Morse code. And lo and behold… they took on ONLY the letters N, E, W, and S. Moreover, drawing out the first sequence (EWWESS) resulted in drawing out a T, and while the second sequence was a bit less compelling (SSENNE), this coincidental and totally unintended red herring floored us!

For even more statistics about this puzzle, check out this PDF!