Important things to keep in mind:
- Do steps in the given order.
- "The labels of X and Y" always means their labels in that order (first X's label, and then Y's label). When you change labels to turn one element/state abbreviation into another, read the labels in the same order.
- Unless a step says otherwise, there should be only one possible way to do the step, without any need to look ahead to future steps.
Start with a cormorant with label G, a crow with label M, an emu with label M, a flamingo with label B, a lark with label E, an owl with label P, a peacock with label N, a sparrow with label H, a starling with label U, and a woodpecker with label S.
- 1. Exactly three birds all have the same label as each other. (There may also be pairs of birds with the same label, irrelevantly to this step.) Change all their labels to E.
- 2. The labels of the woodpecker and emu make an element abbreviation. Change both of these labels so that they instead make the abbreviation of the next element (i.e. the element with atomic number one greater).
- 3. The cormorant and woodpecker are now labeled with the same letter. Caesar-shift both of these labels two forward.
- 4. The labels of the crow and peacock make a state abbreviation. Caesar-shift them both by the same amount to get a different state abbreviation. (There are two options, but the next step should make it clear which to use.)
- 5. Now the labels of the peacock and owl make a state abbreviation. Change one of their labels (not both) from a vowel to a consonant, so that they still form a state abbreviation, but now the state borders the Atlantic (including the Gulf of Mexico).
- 6. Change the label of the cormorant so that it has the same label as the sparrow.
- 7. There are exactly three birds whose labels have never changed so far. Two of those three have the same label as each other (and that label is a consonant). Change the label of the alphabetically earlier one of those two to E and change the label of the alphabetically later one of those two to A.