The settings for each segment are noticeably different, and several of them seem to be going out of their way to reference real-world locations. The communists should make solvers think of Russia, “non” of France, and the combination of white houses and eagles with guns, of America.
Some phrases in each paragraph also seem to jump out. Through Googling, solvers should realise that they refer to real-world places. Pig Alley for instance is a nickname for the Pigalle area in Paris, and Saint Georges in the same segment is also a place in Paris.
With enough places found, hopefully solvers can make the logical leap and realise that they are all also the names of metro stations in that city.
To make the station names easier to find, each segment is set in a capital city. Also, there’s one station per paragraph, with the name always clued at the end of each paragraph.
By this point, teams may also notice that the stations are fairly geographically close to each other. It’s a plausible next step to look at official maps of the respective metro systems, and trace the journey from each station to the next. This yields the shapes of letters. The flavourtext “it’s not the destination that counts, but the journey” also confirms this extraction method.
These are the cities, stations, and phrases which clue them:
|It wasn’t the best of meeting places, being too easily watched by the communists who’d seized the country. But he had no choice-- the instructions given via the dead drop told him he had to meet his contact there, so there he was. And there she was, on the corner of the prospekt. Mira.||Prospekt Mira|
|Her eyes widened briefly but she brushed against him otherwise casually, muttering in their tongue: “Not here. Go to the culture park.”||Park Kultury|
|Ignoring his whisper, she continued down the prospekt. “Mira!”||Prospekt Mira|
|“Your Majesty,” said the squire, stepping nervously into the throne room. “The Saint Georges are here.”||Saint-Georges|
|The king looked over his visitors, all dressed in the humble robes of their order, and turned up his nose at them. “You look horrible. Where did you come from, the pig alley?”||Pigalle help|
|“Non,” they replied, speaking in their native tongue. “The chapel.”||La Chapelle|
|“That monstrosity of a building doesn’t deserve such a name,” the king protested. “The last time I visited, it was coloured the most garish magenta.”||Magenta|
|The voice came from behind them, and the two girls dressed in kimono jumped, then bowed their apologies. At the center of the sunshine city, the small statue of the pond owl had come alive. It lifted its wings and preened, then finally turned to face them with unblinking eyes. “Have you seen the bag I use when I come to these waters? My pond bag?”||Ikebukuro help|
|“No, but...can you help us? We were looking for the god of fishermen and luck. The laughing god,” said the braver girl, stammering nonetheless. “We were told he’d help us if we had the password--” she paused, then uttered a heavily accented word that sounded like 'abyss’.||Ebisu help|
|“I can’t help you,” said the owl. “But if you can speak their language, the six trees can.”||Roppongi|
|The city wasn’t an easy place to live in. Not with its gleaming white houses, and free-roaming eagles so plentiful they were practically pests. The politician could’ve sworn he saw one fly off with a gun once. Nonetheless, the city was the beating heart of power where important decisions were made, and brutal betrayals were rife. The politician particularly enjoyed that last bit. “Where I can watch the vote on the bill? At that gallery place?”||Gallery Place|
|His companion replied: “You've missed it, but what you want is the secretary pool. They remember everything. They call themselves the archives.”||Archives|
|“This place is creepy,” said the scientist to her colleague. And it was. Over a hundred years ago the equatorial island had been a proud city-state, known for its orchids and lion-fish hybrids. But the humans had abandoned it for decades, and only the trees were left. The duo stood under a great yew, its branches eerily outstretched in the shape of a tee.||Yew Tee|
|Around them rustled the woodlands.||Woodlands|
|Her colleague nodded, adding: “And you know what else feels strange? The tree shaped like a Y. I shun it.”||Yishun|
|The boy and the girl ran down the cobblestoned alley, the cloaked man hot on their heels, to what they thought was safety-- only to look up and swear. “By the monument.”||Monument|
|The hill before them was full of towers, each one taller than the last. “It’s called the tower hill for a reason.”||Tower Hill|
|“There has to be another way. What about through the gate manned by the Moor?”||Moorgate|
|“You know he hates to be called that,” said their pursuer as he emerged from the alley and closed in on them, his voice an eerie sing-song: “And if you’re thinking about using that run-down bridge? It’s falling down, falling down, falling down.”||London Bridge|
|“But if we jump into that river,” panted the boy, “You can’t get us. It’s beyond your jurisdiction. It’s Canada water.”||Canada Water|
This puzzle was conceived as a homage to Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, which had creative re-imaginings of famous London places-- e.g. the Angel, Islington area was an actual angel named Islington in the book. Bringing geographical spots to life in unexpected ways seemed like a convenient way of hiding station names for a puzzle.
An earlier version of this puzzle used only Singapore’s mass rapid transit stations. However, more stations opened during the puzzle-setting stage of the hunt. To avoid the scenario of a broken puzzle due to changes in the shape of the MRT map, we decided to amend the puzzle and use a different city (with metro systems that were more established and less vulnerable to change) per letter. Hopefully that makes the puzzle more future-proof.