Clues, Riddles, and Guesses for Treasure 189

Game State:

Alfvaen picked 'm' on November 11th.
/dev/joe picked 't' on November 14th.
Alfvaen picked 'n' on November 16th.
Fortunato picked 's' on November 18th.
/dev/joe picked 'r' on November 20th.

*****nt **mm*s: *****nt **mm*s
*r*** ****: **m*ns *n* ****r*s
t***: *n**rt**
s*** *s***m: *n* t** **rs* t*** r*** *n *n
**t*r* t***: ******n*
*r*n m****n: ****rs****
********n: t** **st t** r*st t** r*r*
**m* t***r*: ****t* n*t**n
n*** s*r*: ********
m*r*****n: m*s****** *********
****: **r***r ***n**s
**n**s *: *r*t***n ***s t* n**r*s**
**r ****nst: ****m**r
r** t*m*** s**r*ts: **n**n* t* r*st*r* *n *****s** m**n
**: ***n t** m*rr*r *r***s
**n* *****: *n*m**s
***s*r*n*: sm*s*
*r*s*r*: t** *nn***nts
t** **** m***m*n: ***********
**m**r **n ***t****n: *** **m* ***
**r*n**** *****s: **r**n
t** ***rm: *****r*t**n
** *n**n*s: **n***st***r
** t**: ***m*n*t*r
**s: t** **s ****m
**r**: tr***t**n *r****r
**n**r st***: n***r ***** ****s

/dev/joe guessed on November 20th (81 points for the win):

violent femmes: violent femmes
uriah heep: demons and wizards
tool: undertow
soul asylum: and the horse they rode in on
jethro tull: aqualung
iron maiden: powerslave
helloween: the best the rest the rare
game theory: lolita nation
nada surf: high/low
marillion: misplaced childhood
love: forever changes
king's x: gretchen goes to nebraska
for against: december
red temple spirits: dancing to restore an eclipsed moon
q5: when the mirror cracks
pink floyd: animals
offspring: smash
erasure: the innocents
the dead milkmen: beelzebubba
camper van beethoven: key lime pie
barenaked ladies: gordon
the alarm: declaration
13 engines: conquistador
zz top: eliminator
yes: the yes album
x-ray: tradition breaker
wonder stuff: never loved elvis

/dev/joe wrote (Nov 20, 1997):

> /dev/joe's list is worth 81 points and thus he has
> found the treasure.  We await the details...  I assume
> "tradition breaker" was the last one you figured out?

Yes, tradition breaker was the last one I figured out, from the r's.
I had already run the pattern of first word in that one through a word
list and come up with tradition as one of the few matching words, the
only likely looking one, but none of my searches showed an album with
a name that matched the pattern, using tradition as the first word.
Finally the r's reinforced my belief of "tradition" as the first word,
and gave me a pattern I could search word lists for -- 77 matches, with
breaker being the first that looked like a good match.  A quick altavista
search for "tradition breaker" turned it up, with the title and artist
in the title of the #1 match, and a listing of the album for sale at
another site down the list a bit... apparently x-ray is a Japanese group;
the first few matches were pages in Japanese.  The japanese CD web page
had a large selection, all of which cost on the order of $30-40.

"q5: when the mirror cracks" was the next-to-last album I got, after the
s was filled in, though that wasn't what gave it to me.  "When the"
was a lucky guess; the album showed up in the all-music guide.

"red temple spirits: dancing to restore an eclipsed moon" was the
3rd-to-last I got, before the s's were filled in.  This was even a
luckier guess than the other; I guessed "dancing to" and "moon" and
searched altavista and found a match.  This one is in the all-music
guide but the name is truncated so I probably would have missed it there.

Going back to the beginning, I started by downloading the catalogs of
Columbia House, BMG, and CDHQ from the cd-clubs web page.  I combined
these databases, converting case and throwing out duplicates, and did
searches on this list for the initial patterns with no letters filled in.
This found several matches, and for several albums found multiple matches.
Sometimes based on my knowledge of the bands and albums, I could mark some
choices as more likely than others, and in many (but not all) cases I
chose the correct album back at the beginning.  About a dozen albums I
found no match for.

Now, having found Barenaked Ladies: Gordon as a sure match, I remembered
Malenkai having once posted a list of some of his favorite groups.
I searched through my personal e-mail archives for "barenaked ladies"
and found this:

- from Malenkai's message of jun 4 1997 (ack-97jun):

>> 3)What are your tastes in reading and music?
>My favorite groups are (going down the CD collection): 13 Engines, the
>Alarm, Barenaked Ladies, Blind Mellon, Blue Aeroplanes, the Call,
>Camper van Beethoven, Caravan, Crack the Sky, Dead Milkmen, 
>Drivin N Cryin, Erasure, For Against, Helloween, Iron Maiden, Jethro Tull,
>Love, Marillion, Meat Loaf, Metallica, October Project, Offspring,
>Pink Floyd, Renaissance, Rush, Social Distortion, Styx, Tool, Uriah Heep.
>Sorry to TMBG and all the other great bands in the collection that did
>not make the first cut :(
>There is (was?) also a band in the Philly area called Crossharp Sharp's
>Blues Review [sic] who has the best slide guitar player in the world
>(at least after a few beers, anyway).

as well as this:

- from Malenkai's message of oct 17 1996 (ack-off-96q4):

>Robert Sevin is thus burnt as a heretic, and is now Enlightened, and
>can join the Round Earth club.
>frinks are on snowgod!! 
>I hereby order a double shot of Bacardi 151, a double of Stoly 100, one
>of those Blazing Camel things, and, throw me in Gaol, a beer chaser.
>I then slink off to my castle and listen to Blind Melon's first album,
>Barenaked Ladies first album, and 13 Engines "Conquistador", and some
>Marillion, and write some proposals.

The second message explicitly names one of the albums on the list, and
the first message lists more than half of the bands in the list.
I searched for some of these groups in some web databases I couldn't
download all of (such as the all-music guide) and just in altavista,
and filled in a few more; this also marked several other first choices
among those albums where I had multiple matches.

The first letter confirmed a lot of my answers, and further reduced the
multiple answers on others.  I did some other web searches and found some
additional lists of albums, including the mother of all downloadable CD 
atabases. This is the xmcd database, a database intended to be accessed by
computer cd-player programs, to display album/artist/track information
while a CD is playing.  I found this interesting, because I encountered
the xmcd program years ago -- originally a cdplayer program for Linux.
At that time it had the ability to read from a database file which you
could build with the information for your CDs, and there was one you
could download which had a couple hundred popular CDs.  Eventually the
database got so big that it was impractical for each user to download
the entire database, so to make the information more accessible a
server was set up which had all this information in it.  Later the
ability to read from such a server was added to other cdplayer programs
on other platforms.  Anyway, they have data on over 100,000 CDs today,
and a number of mirror sites for the database around the world.
The entire database is available for download as a gzipped tar file,
35 MB, but the file I downloaded was corrupt about a couple MB into the
file so I didn't get much this way.  The database is also web-accessible,
but rather than provide their own search capability they let the robots
index it, and provide a cute form which adds their site name to the search
arguments so it's almost like searching their site.  I found some things
like this, before some playing with URLs revealed the "hidden" web pages
intended to let the robots archive the site -- a web page with nothing
but links to other pages, each link consisting of a single "?", and
each of the other pages had links to several hundred of the actual
database pages, each of these also consisting of a single "?".
I wrote a simple python program to harvest all the artist/album data
from the headers of these web pages; this was still much less than their
full database, though -- apparently all that has been converted to HTML.

With this database to search through, I found answers for all but a few
albums, though there were still some multiple-choices, and found additional
options for others.  The second and third letters solved essentially all
the multiple choices; the n cemented "nada surf: high/low" as the answer
to one of the ones that had been most annoying in the numbers of
possibilities, and also gave me "wonder stuff: never loved elvis" when
I searched on just the album name, in my accumulated database -- the band's
name was listed as "wonderstuff", though.  This left me with just the last
three listed above unsolved.

URLs mentioned above:
The All-music Guide:
CD-clubs page:

Some databases I searched: (found through altavista)
Industrial/Gothic music database:
Lakeshore Records database:

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