MATRIX METAPUZZLE  SOLUTION
Solving this final metapuzzle was quite a long and involved process. Fortunately we had started solving the sticks several clues earlier, so we were a little ahead of the curve. Still, there was a lot more work ahead. In fact, some teams didn't actually solve the entire metapuzzle  they were docked time by GC to compensate for this (their time on this clue was rounded up to 3 hours and 30 minutes, regardless of how much time they actually took.) Luckily my team was able to solve it, though no thanks to my nonexistent knowledge of linear algebra which, as you'll see, comes into play in the end. The first part of the solution of the metapuzzle is a simple letter substitution cryptogram. You do not have to know any Japanese to do this! Each of the characters on the sticks represents a letter of the English alphabet, or a space, comma or period. The cryptogram starts with stick 1 and reads from top to bottom, then repeats with stick 2, etc. all the way through stick 17. For the purpose of the cryptogram, you should skip over the numbers and blank areas on the sticks as though they weren't there. The first step in solving this cryptogram was to do a frequency count and assign the most frequent symbol
as the space character. This separated the cryptogram into words. People use different approaches to solving cryptograms but a basic first step is to look for words that might match the pattern for 'THE' and 'THAT' (if you find them, you've got the T,H, E and A). Or even if you don't find both words, 'THE' is very common, and it doesn't hurt to try it out on all the three letter words and see if the corresponding placement of T, H and E in other words makes sense. Next, look at the shorter words. A one letter word is usually 'I' or 'A.' If you find a letter that begins a two letter word and ends another two letter word, your best bets are O, N, T and S. Also look at repeating (double) letters  this will narrow down possibilities as well. In the case of this cryptogram the words 'THE' and 'THAT' do occur, so with that as your start, it's easy to solve the rest, with the following results: 

A


L


U


B


M


W


D


N


Y


E


O


SPACE


G


P


PERIOD


H


R


COMMA


I


S



K


T



Using the letter substitutions above, the cryptogram reads: YOU MAY THINK THAT IN THE REAL ALL IS AS IT APPEARS,BUT IMAGINATION AND SIMULATION ARE INSEPARABLE.ALWAYS SEEK A DEEPER TRUTH IN THE REAL. Note that there are a couple of missing spaces  after APPEARS, and after INSEPARABLE. (No, this is not significant!) 

if you substitute the letters of the alphabet in order for the numbers above, you'll get: S O L V E M A T R I X W I T H M E 

There are two steps to solving the matrix using linear algebra which, despite a crash course in the van from my teammate Han, I still don't understand. First you have to convert the 17x17 number matrix into its inverse, also a 17x17 matrix. Second, you have to shrink down this second matrix to a single row of 17 numbers (using the numbers on the green slip above to convert them), then convert those numbers into letters of the alphabet (1=A, 2=B, 3=C). You can see how our team solved this by opening this excel spreadsheet. All the formulas are in there. We actually had this clue down cold from the start except for two things: first, we didn't know that we had to solve the inverse matrix first, so that required a call to GC. Second, we had one  exactly ONE  number out of place in the original number matrix. We had forgotten the final period  the number 42  on stick number 17 (column Q) and if even one number is out of place, the entire matrix solves as garbage. Go ahead, click on the spreadsheet and then change Q11 to 263 and Q12 to zero, then see what happens (don't worry, you won't permanently overwrite the copy on the web site). So, we made a frustrated second call to GC and Charlie read them every single number off the matrix, and it wasn't until he got to the 287th number out of 289 that we found our mistake. After that, it was all smooth sailing! And the answer is: ONE ONE SEVEN ALPINE 