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In the "Ready Player One", the third clue to the Easter Egg is:

"If you know the answer ultimate,
divide it by the number magic..."
and what you need, want and desire...
"will be found in the fortress tragic."

The answer was * "The Adventure" game from 1976 released on Atari 2600.

But how the clue is related to the answer? "The answer ultimate" seems to be 42, taken from "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", but what is "the number magic"? Many numbers are treated as magical - 3 (three times a charm), 7 (lucky number), 13 (unlucky), 666 (biblical "numer of the beast") etc. How this supposed to lead us to the answer?

I don't think I need a spoiler tag here?

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  • It wasn't the clue to "Adventure" because that was part of knowing the history of the easter eggs. It was a clue to whatever battle planet it was on. Which I think the corp goons brute forced anyway, may be why it's not well explained.
    – Radhil
    Jan 8, 2020 at 18:56
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    Technically speaking, there is a bunch of magic numbers. But, if someone put a gun to my head, told me that they are thinking of a number that's magic, and that I have two guesses, my first guess would be 3. My second guess would be the really tough one, but I would probably make sure to get 3 out of the way fist.
    – Misha R
    Jan 8, 2020 at 23:48

3 Answers 3

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This site provides a possible solution:

In the next scene, we see Wade meet up with the real world people behind his friends Aech, Diato, and Sho where he's informed that IOI has already solved the riddle. Helen (Aech) tells him that IOI knew they needed to look in sector 14, and eventually discovered the key's location by searching every fortress in the sector. So we know the answer is 14, but here's how you come up with it.

Let's start with the "Number Ultimate." This may be the easiest part of the riddle to decipher, as the ultimate number is pretty famous, even if you're not directly familiar with the source material that created it. That would be The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The work by Douglas Adams began life as a radio production, though likely became the most famous in book form, published in 1979. It tells the story of Arthur Dent, one of the last human beings in the universe after the planet is destroyed to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Dent learns that the Earth was actually a massive computer built to help discover the ultimate question to life, the universe, and everything. The reason the question was being investigated was that the answer had already been learned. The answer to life, the universe, and everything, it turned out, was 42. Check out this clip from the 2005 movie for the full explanation.

Now, the Number Magic is probably a bit harder for many people, although, if you've read the Ready Player One book you know the answer already, as this number is the one part of the hunt for the egg that actually survives the book and makes it into the movie, though the way it's used in the book is quite different. The other people who will know the answer are those who grew up watching Schoolhouse Rock on TV, because they know that "Three is a Magic Number."

So we take the Number Ultimate (42) and divide by the Number Magic (3) to get the answer of 14. By going into Sector 14 of the OASIS you can find Castle Anorak, the fortress which is tragic because James Halliday felt more at home there than in the real world.

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  • Alternately, as Radhil suggested (scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/225708/…), they may have IOI may have just brute-forced the solution.
    – FuzzyBoots
    Jan 8, 2020 at 19:04
  • They've brute-force the game, not the location. So was the Atari 2600 already present in the Castle Anorak then? I was under impression that IOI uploaded it and all they were missing was the right game.
    – Yasskier
    Jan 8, 2020 at 19:12
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    Having read the book, the "3 is the magic number" is pretty obviously the intended reference.
    – DavidW
    Jan 8, 2020 at 19:18
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According to Schoolhouse Rock!, "3 is a Magic Number".

Since you already solved the first part, with "the answer ultimate" being 42, that yields

42 / 3 = 14

Schoolhouse Rock! had its original run from 1973 to 1984, which fits in the time period James Halliday based his clues on.

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  • Actually answered this before having read the reference to Schoolhouse Rock! in the quote in the other answer.
    – SQB
    Jan 9, 2020 at 8:05
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The number magic is reference to the holy Trinity, talked about through many different mythologies. Take 42, and divide it by 3. Your answer comes out to 14, which meant sector 14, as stated by Aech.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. What is your evidence that this is what the writers intended? Especially in the face of an explicit reference to the Schoolhouse Rock song?
    – DavidW
    Nov 10, 2022 at 20:55

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