Solution - The Azran Vault (#011)

To solve this puzzle, teams needed to transmit a nine-letter English word via five three-letter English words, which would be scrambled in transmission. There are many ways to do this, and we didn't have a “correct” solution in mind, but successful teams often used one or more of the following observations to get their code across.

Your scheme doesn't always need to work. Teams had as many tries as they wanted (within reason), so they could just try with another word if their first transmission wasn't successful.
You don't need to transmit all the letters. On a related note, transmitting most of the letters will often suffice to reconstruct the codeword. It's even more likely to work if you transmit only the word's consonants.
Decompose the word. A lot of teams used the letters in their given word to build three-letter words which would clue the answer. Many nine-letter words are unique enough that they can often be completely determined from their letters alone.

Here are two simple example codes that we saw teams using:

When teams successfully transmitted their 9-letter word, we gave them the answer, which was JOUST.

For curiosity's sake, here is the list of words we used at the hunt:


Finally, a few teams asked about whether the words used in the puzzle had to be English. The puzzle is a little trickier when we require English words, but it turns out to still be interesting when we're allowed to send arbitrary strings!

In fact, this puzzle was inspired by a computer science contest problem called Parrots, which allows you to send any string you like with your parrots. On the flip side, that puzzle is harder in other ways (for instance, your scheme must work with 100% probability). Take a look if you're interested in the other interpretation!