What did the clusters of notes mean? What was the Vigenere code? What was that last “red letter” clue? Where in the world was the Sunstone of Cortes buried? 


There were five types of clues hidden in the Fall 2016 Sunstone animations: red words, hidden letters, international flags, clusters of musical notes, and of course, the hidden sunstones, keys, and other items. Here’s how everything fit together.


Hidden Sunstones, Keys, and Other Itemsdecoder ring

Each episode contained three hidden objects that related to the overall story: a sunstone, a key, and something tied to that week’s bonus challenge (decoder rings, geiger counters, small statues, coins, and sundials). These images related symbolically to the treasure hunt, but neither the objects themselves nor their placement in the animations contained any clues to the location of the buried treasure. These images were intended to provide motivation, a diversion, and a feeling of accomplishment to some of the program’s younger participants who might otherwise have felt overwhelmed by the more intricate puzzle.



red lettersRed Words

The first episode of each week of Brain Chase began with a quote by or about a famous composer, or about music in general. Certain letters of each quote were highlighted in red. As the other letters disappeared, the red letters remained, with each set of letters spelling a word that would prove a vital hint to solving the treasure hunt: classical, Vigenere, accelerando, composers, oldest, and rnaamga (or, if unscrambled, anagram).

More on these words later…



Hidden Letters

Each episode concealed several hidden letters scattered throughout. As the first ‘red word’ implied, these notes had something to do with classical music. In fact, the letters correspond to musical notes that comprise the melody of a famous classical piece. In episode 1, for instance, the notes ‘G-G-G- Eflat, F-F-F-D’ comprise the famous melody of Beethoven’s 5th symphony. In subsequent episodes, the letters were encoded (you can’t play a ‘K’ on the piano!) – but as the second and third ‘red words’ indicated, these letter sequences could be deciphered with a Vigenere code, with the Vigenere key “accelerando.” When solved, the letters revealed:

  • Symphony No. 5 by Beethovenhidden letters
  • Four Seasons by Vivaldi
  • Lullaby by Brahms
  • Water Music by Handel
  • The Entertainer by Joplin
  • A Little Night Music by Mozart
  • Ode to Joy by Beethoven
  • Pomp and Circumstance by Elgar
  • Blue Danube by Strauss
  • The 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky
  • Stars and Stripes Forever by Sousa, and
  • Minuet by Bach (although some of you found evidence of another composer! Nice sleuthing!)



International Flags


Each episode also concealed the flag of a certain nation. These flags correspond to the birth places of each composer referenced by the hidden letters. They functioned simply as a confirmation clue, letting adventurers know they’re on the right track.






Clusters of Musical Notesnote clusters

Finally, the note clusters. Each episode contained one or two groups of notes, comprised of everything from dotted whole notes to thirty-second notes. In these clusters, neither the pitch of the notes themselves nor their order in the groupings carried any significance. Instead, it was simply the ‘count’ of the notes that mattered. In the first episode, the notes followed the symbol of a 4/4 time signature, indicating that throughout the program, a quarter note will receive one beat. If four quarter notes were pictured, the resulting number was “4.” In some of the more complicated groupings, like the one pictured here, the number is “19.” And you thought Music Theory was a waste of time.



Putting It All Together

As the next ‘red word’ indicated, the key to solving the riddle was the composers – specifically, the first letter of each composer’s last name. By themselves, the letters BVBHJMBESTSB don’t mean anything. But… what if you run them through a Vigenere code? To do so, you’d need one more thing – a group of numbers. Here’s where the note clusters come in. Using the Brain Chase decoder medallion (or this link), the letters plus the numbers can be converted into the code: CELLO DUET LESSON EIGHT. Sounds musical and significant, right? It’s not. Not yet.

To make sense of the code, you need the last ‘red word:’  RNAAMGA, or if rearranged, “anagram.” An anagram is made when the letters of a word or phrase can be rearranged into other words or phrases. The ‘red word’ OLDEST was given as a hint to get you started. When unscrambled, the code reveals: OLDEST COLLEGE IN THE US.

And there it is, folks. The Sunstone of Cortes lies buried near Harvard College in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Congratulations to all of you who pieced it together, and especially to our Fall 2017 winners. Great work, Adventurers!



What do you think? Were you able to solve the mystery? Did you find other clues we didn’t mention here? Let us know by emailing

There’s more adventure where this came from. Register today for the next Brain Chase program, and you could be the next treasure hunter traveling around the world to claim your prize. 


Good luck!


Dad and Co-founder

Team Brain Chase