To whom it may concern:

As I’m sure you’re aware, the annual Puzzleball Championships begin soon. Every year, thousands of people spend countless hours researching all the teams in order to fill out a perfect bracket and win the coveted million dollar prize, but inevitably there’s always some upset in the initial rounds that nobody saw coming and the money goes unclaimed.

Well, not this time: I’ve managed to get myself in a position where I can collect valuable intelligence on the teams’ highly classified puzzling strategies. I have complete confidence that if we can figure out these strategies, we can predict the winner of each match-up. However, there’s one problem: the teams seem to have obfuscated their strategies with puzzles!

I am writing to you with the hope that you can solve these puzzles, discover the teams’ secret strategies, and then leverage that information to fill out a perfect bracket. All I ask is that we split the prize money 50/50.

Each day I’ll send you the classified documents of five of the Puzzleball teams. My sources tell me that each strategy can be boiled down to a common English word or phrase.

Good luck,

anonymous

To whom it may concern:

While digging through the discarded communications between various teams, I’ve discovered something tremendously important: it looks like this year’s 25 teams have split themselves up into three different conferences. Each conference has decided to adopt and follow another secret strategy that is somehow based on the strategies of each of the teams in the conference. I know, it’s all very “meta”. I need you to find out each conference’s strategy.

There’s another thing: I’ve found out that 9 of the 25 teams are about to be disqualified for some reason. It’s important that we find out why. These 9 teams won’t be allowed to compete in the finals.

I’ve enclosed whatever information I could cobble together about the three conferences and the disqualified teams. I also obtained a fresh copy of the empty bracket and the seeding of the 25 teams going into the finals. Hopefully this should be enough information to come up with that perfect bracket.

Good luck,

anonymous