The Clock Without a Face: Solutions Part 1
As a storybook, there’s a childish charm on the surface that clashes with the cruel abuse and betrayal of the narrator bubbling just underneath. As a treasure hunt, the bright, detailed illustrations are fun to sift through and reveal endless potential clues, but the final solutions are ambiguous and unsatisfying.
I’ve put off writing up the solutions for The Clock Without A Face because every time I start trying to piece it all together from the few confirmed answers (some from the author, others from shouty arguments on the Internet) I am left frustrated and annoyed. Trying to solve the puzzles in the book sucks all the joy out of it. It is an awful puzzle book in this regard and there’s no getting away from that.
But, needs must when the blogger procrastinates. So here is my best attempt at providing a reasonable set of solutions to the Clock Without A Face. This first post covers the 12 missing objects from each floor and tracks the first 6 missing numbers from floor 13. The last 6 numbers, and the location of the doubly-hidden number 12 will be covered in part 2.
The missing objects
First, the easy bit. The residents of each of floors 1 to 12 claim to have been robbed by a pair of men dressed as gorillas. Each has had a special object stolen from them. These objects are actually hidden on one of the other floors.
Finding the hidden objects doesn’t lead you to any buried treasure, but is more fun. Even so, there is some uncertainty over the final solution.From top to bottom, here are my best answers as to which lost object is on each floor:
- 12. The horn of a Victrola is peeking out from behind the “tea IN” tunnel. This was lost by Vera Mazel and Josie Grey on floor 5.
- 11. A blue lunchbox is at the bottom of the pile behind the pink donuts. This is the Burpy Bear lunchbox lost by Amber Kaulken on floor 8. The magnifying glass by the pile of toasters is too small to belong to a master detective!
- 10. There are several grey bars marked “Pb” behind the pond. These are the bars of lead lost by P.K. Quello on floor 12.
- 9. A many headed monster is in the laundry basket in the bedroom. This is Rosa Tse-Levy’s twelve-headed figurine from floor 3.
- 8. There is a leaky jar with a green vegetable drawn on it in the pantry. This is probably Ida Mayfield’s zucchini from floor 11. There are competing theories, but this answer seems most likely.
- 7. A unicycle is in plain sight beside the TV. This was lost by Bert D’Grnp on floor 6.
- 6. A purple shoe is just visible underneath the sofa. This is Jigsy Squonk’s lavender bubble-shoe from floor 7.
- 5. A pink toothbrush is on the cupboards near the door to the bathroom. This is Krieger Manzarek’s pink pony toothbrush from floor 2.
- 4. The barrel of a rifle is sticking out from the maze of twisted pipes near the left corner of woodchip filled room. The rifle was lost by General Klobberduck on floor 10.
- 3. A large magnifying glass is on the drafting table in the main room. This was lost by Travis Pupkin on floor 1.
- 2. A metronome is hidden behind the lamp next to the bed. This was lost by Montecore on floor 4.
- 1. A pair of red and blue moon boots is by the side of the blackboard. These are probably Munari Bakula’s anti-gravity boots from floor 9.
The missing numbersFinding the 12 missing numbers requires solving a separate puzzle on each page. There are two clues to the nature of the puzzle, the most important being on the Fifth floor. Vera and Josie have a meta-copy of the Clock Without a Face on their kitchen table and say they’ve got the state and the mile, but can’t figure out the highway.
This is the key to solving the whole puzzle. Every page of the book contains three hidden piece of information: 1. a US state, 2. a number for an Interstate Highway, and 3. a distance in miles along that highway.
Finding the three hidden pieces of information on each page is a trial. Some of them are easy, while some of them are so cryptic that working them out even knowing the answer is impossible. Even the easy clues are often ambiguous and Internet puzzle forums at the time of the hunt were filled with stories of people searching in plausible, but wrong, places.
The second clue to solving the puzzle is drawn on the blackboard on Floor 1 (see further up this post). The tree in the picture has the pentagonal outline of the Clock Without a Face book drawn on it, and an object buried in the ground beneath it. This is a clue that, in the real world, metal plaques were placed on trees at the location of each buried number. Helpfully, this meant treasure-seekers didn’t need to dig up an entire Interstate rest-stop to find the prize!
Reports of people finding the 12 hiding places were published on the official website for the book. Unfortunately, the authors never fully revealed all the answers, and most of the reports do not explain how the three pieces of information leading to the burial site were found, or even exactly what they were. Using the reports, I have done my best to put together this list of final locations and an explanation for why.
I am linking to archived copies of the official website where I can. If you find these archival links useful, please do support the Internet Archive: Wayback Machine.
The US State on Floor 12 is provided by the most obvious clue in the book, yet potentially points you in completely the wrong direction. On the Periodic table near the left corner, a big red circle is written around the letters “Mi”. This could mean Michigan, until you realise that the letters Mi should instead be “Ar”, for the element Argon. The correct state is Arkansas.
There are all sorts of things that could be counted up to get an interstate and distance. Test tubes, drawers, eyeballs… The correct answer comes from the four tea cups going into the machine and the four t-shirts coming out. 4-t, meaning forty. The highway is I-40.
The distance comes from the formula on the blackboard: 6*pi + y^2 = 61985/100 + (1197*15). Solve the equation to get the answer y=136.
The number from floor 12 was found about 136 miles along I-40 in Arkansas.
The archived copy of the official website reports that these clues led to the discovery of the number 6 in November 2010.
The US State on floor 11 is indicated by the huge $1 bill on the wall of the bedroom. The president featured on this bill is Washington.
More bills are being ironed in the main room. If you look carefully, there are four 20s and a 10, adding up to 90 to give you the highway.
The final number is in the pile of toasters. One of them is remarkably expensive at $89. This is the distance.
The number from floor 11 was found about 89 miles along I-90 in Washington.
The finder of the number 3 blogged about it on his website in May 2010.
The US State on floor 10 is Florida, indicated by all the guns and animals looking at the alligator above the fireplace.
The tag numbers numbers on the lion and tiger and bear (oh my!) are 24, 25 and 26, adding up to 75 to give the highway.
The distance is found in the three objects in the desert area: a 3 legged stool, a 0 legged snake, and a 7 legged spider.
The number from floor 10 was found about 307 miles along I-75 in Florida.
The official website reported the finding of the number 2 in June 2010.
The US State on floor 9 is Idaho. Idaho’s state motto is “Esto perpetua” which, poorly translated, means “It is forever”, the words written about the door to the apartment.
The highway is written in binary on the machine at the right of the page. 1010100 in binary is 84 in decimal.
I have no idea how to obtain the distance from this image. Nor, it seems, did anybody else at the time as nobody found the correct spot until April 2011, nearly a year after most of the others. The report on the official website suggests it was found around 269 or 270 miles along the highway but gives no details or explanation. Nobody in any Internet argument I have read has ever provided a reasonably convincing explanation for how obtain one of these numbers from the page.
The best explanation is that there is no distance on this page at all. Instead, the number “one” written in tangled wires in the far right corner of the room indicates that the burial spot is the first rest-stop along the I-84, but starting at the far end of the highway as it comes into Idaho from the south. Don’t ask me why. That’s simply the only slightly rational explanation I’ve found.
So, for whatever reasons, the site for floor 9 was found about 269 miles along I-84 in Idaho.
But, in a massive twist, there was no number buried at the site. Instead, as the official website reported there was a note left by Roy Dodge saying that he had already found the number 12 and taken it for himself.
This note revealed another stage in the puzzle: the missing number 12 was somewhere else entirely and hunters had to find Roy Dodge to find the prize. The answer to this puzzle is in part 2 of this solution.
The US State on floor 8 is Connecticut. This is spelled out by the three objects in the middle of the page: a Connect 4 game (CONNECT), an eye (I), and a pair of scissors (CUT).
The highway is indiated in the hop-scotch game, also in the main room. The numbers 5 and 9 have stones in them, giving the highway as 95.
The distance is provided by the unusual blue troll on the shelf in the children’s bedroom. One eye of the doll is an X, meaning 10.
The number from floor 8 was found about 10 miles along I-95 in Connecticut.
The official website reported the finding of the number 10 in June 2010.
The US State on floor 7 is Indiana. The balloons on the right wall cover a map of the US. There is a gap in the balloons over Indiana.
The highway is given by the number of balloons on the wall. Apparently there are 80 of them, though I’ve never bothered counting myself.
The distance is on the ketckup bottle on the dining table. 56 varieties, rather than 57.
The number from floor 7 was found about 56 miles along I-80 in Indiana.
The official website reported the finding of the number 7 in May 2010.
End of part 1
Halfway there! The last 6 numbers and the final location of the missing number 12 from floor 9 will be revealed in part 2.