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WitchOfDoubt 02-22-2012 09:07 PM

The Witch's Epigraph [forum game]
Inspired by When the Seagulls Cry (Umineko no Naku Koru ni)
The difficulty of this Prologue is Fairly Simple. Would you care to give it a guess?

The Sphinx's Decalogue

I. A fair riddle should require no highly specialized knowledge that the readers cannot easily obtain.

II. Any fair riddle must contain the information needed to solve it, and no "false clues" that mislead.

III. It should be clear what the answer had to have been in hindsight.

IV. The worst riddles contain outright false clues. All clues in a riddle should be explicable in light of the answer.

V. If the answer is "Nothing" or "I can't guess," it is not a fair riddle, but rather an anti-riddle.

VI. A literal, trivial answer to a question is scarcely an answer at all. The chicken must cross the road for an actual reason.

VII. Riddles that rely on spoken homophones should be told in speech or not at all.

VIII. A truly fair answer must be as simple as possible, but no simpler.

IX. Obscure or improbable puns must not be required for a riddle's answer.

X. If any player's answer neatly fits every single clue of a riddle without breaking these rules, it is a correct answer.

* * * * * * * * *
This is a riddle of riddles and a mystery of mysteries, a challenge of locked safes and sealed rooms.
Do you think you can solve this by guessing? Do you think you can solve it alone?
Do you think I'll underline or bold every riddle for you?
Don't be absurd!
If you demand fairness, feel free to wait for it. You'll starve first.
If you demand hints, lean on each other.
If you demand the truth... good luck.
Without hope, the truth cannot be found.

The Sapphire Witch

* * * * * * * * *
The First Safe:

The Hapax Club is a museum of riddles and adventures. There are no placards distinguishing the exhibits from the fixtures or, for that matter, from the staff and visitors. This is meant to encourage an all-consuming curiosity among its patrons. Is the flickering light in the men's lavatory delivering a message? Indeed, but it took two men a rather long time to be fully sure it is; a puzzle like that can be easily missed, though we all know of it now. As you see, a person must look beyond surfaces here.

(On the other hand, a hapless guest left once her purse on a pedestal on a busy morning, and by noon, seven people had come up with solutions for it. )

Eleven days ago, it was announced that the proprietor of the Club was retiring. All of the treasures and mysteries held in those blue-painted halls and scarlet-curtained chambers would pass to whoever could best a final challenge. See the guests standing outside the Club's great gargoyle-flanked doors, new solvers and old! As each one approaches, they are given a sheet of paper, the very sheet you hold in your hands right now. This first set of puzzles is an entrance examination.

This safe has two locks.

The first is a prime example of a 4-digit number lock.

The second is a digital display, which reads - - - - - - - - -, attached to a scanning pad, on which shapes (presumably letters) can be drawn with a stylus.

WitchOfDoubt 02-26-2012 12:41 PM

(The rules of the game are simple at this point - try to solve the riddles by posting guesses. Later on, gameplay will include some roleplaying/adventure elements. As guesses are posted, characters will be introduced and the plot will advance.

If you're entirely stuck on the first safe, here are some hints:

Getting the word part of the combination requires a few steps. You might want to start by searching for and decoding a set of hidden words inside the post.

The number is not a particularly interesting puzzle yet. Don't overthink it. Just search for possible candidate combinations.

TimovieMan 02-27-2012 09:12 AM


Originally Posted by WitchOfDoubt (Post 601440)
Indeed, but it took two men a rather long time to be fully sure it is; a puzzle like that can be easily missed, though we all know of it now. As you see, a person must look beyond surfaces here.

Do we need an Enigma machine for this???

WitchOfDoubt 02-27-2012 07:48 PM

The guests milled around the doors muttering, trying to work out the first puzzle. Surely the first one wouldn't be insanely difficult, would it? Would it require an Enigma machine to solve?

Of course not! The first puzzle can be solved without using any program or device, though it may be helpful to look something up online.

As the guests debated, a neatly-dressed woman in her mid-thirties rounded the corner, shoes clicking evenly on a pavement still wet with that morning's rain. She was running a few minutes late - she had to drop her daughter off at home - but it looked like the others hadn't gotten inside yet, so it hardly mattered.

"Good evening, Samuel," said Ocean Zweidler to the doorman, in crisp and formal tones. "Do you mind if I examine the clues?"

He nodded. "Indeed, Ms. Ocean." The ever-formal old man called her this as a compromise. She would never have accepted "Ms. Zweidler," and he would never first-name her until the ocean itself dried up.

As she examined the paper for clues, it occurred to her that the puzzle was, one might say, slightly inequitable. "Having never been in the men's bathroom," said Ocean, "how am I to make sense of the flickering light?" She spoke like a book, subordinate and ordinate clauses neatly delimited.

Samuel refused to drop any hints. "You've got everything you need right there, Ms. Ocean. Sorry. All I can say."

Hmm... she thought. What kind of coded message might a person send with a flickering light?

Ocean Zweidler's inventory:

Smartphone (with sound recorder, camera, GPS, notepad, and Internet access)
Magnifying lens (worn on a loupe around her neck)
Purse, containing:
* First aid kit
* Three pencils and a pen
* Two erasers
* A calculator
* Magnifying lens
* A paper notepad
* Paperclips
* Chewing gum
* Emergency whistle
* Reading glasses
* A small portable umbrella
* Plug-in phone charger
* A cigarette lighter (but no cigarettes)
* Nail clippers (which double as tension wrench for picking locks)
* Assorted detritus, receipts, etc.
* Wallet, containing:
** Driver's license
** Credit and debit cards
** $123.25 in cash
** Assorted membership cards, including a library card and a membership to the Detection Club
** Organ donor card
** Lockpicks (in hidden pocket)

(The above will not help you break the code in any way, but may eventually come in handy. What is missing from Ocean's inventory might also be worth noting.)

TimovieMan 02-28-2012 08:42 AM

I'm not sure I'm supposed to give my entire train of thought as to how I reached my guesses, but I'm going to do that anyway. :D

So my guess for the number lock is a total stab in the dark: we need four digits and no number combinations are apparent, so I'm going to take this literally: the text contains three written-out numbers - two, seven and eleven - which combined makes 2711 my best guess.

As for the digital display, when turning the italics and bold letters into dots and dashes for morse code - the flickering light hint definitely helped -, I get "AZURE CYAN LIME INDIGO". I'm not sure what to do with these colour names to get a 9 letter code. Lots of 7- or 8-letter words but no 9-letter words come to mind. However, it may not necessarily be a word, so what I CAN think of is using the 9 colours of the rainbow/light spectrum and turning those into a letter code, which gives:
Infrared-Red-Orange-Yellow-Green-Blue-Indigo-Violet-Ultraviolet = IROYGBIVU

I hesitantly enter 2711 on the number lock and use the stylus on the pad to write IROYGBIVU.

WitchOfDoubt 02-28-2012 09:37 PM

"Aha!" A guest had hit on something. Why not enter 2711, a four-digit number culled from clues in the text? Hmm. Was it a prime number? A quick search on an Internet phone revealed that it certainly was, while most of the other permutations (7112, 1172, 2117 and 1127) weren't.

The colors in Morse code were clearly important as well, but IROYGBIVU was not the second code.

Quite close... we must be getting quite close... thought Ocean. Are there any colors on these pages?

Meanwhile, another guest, gruff old Walter Sexton, had already noticed something odd about the Sphinx's Decalogue. "There's a hidden message in those lines," he said. "But it's unfinished."

Puzzles upon puzzles, and they hadn't even gotten in the door yet!


Meet the Pieces (Part One of Many)

Ocean Zweidler
Age: 32
Profession: Author

Quote: "My Grandma Margareta made scarecrows all the time. When I was a girl, she showed me the faces she gave them - laughing, smiling, crying... I still remember hearing them! It was Grandma who taught me what a writer does.

My stories are puzzles. A little dry, a little silly, filled with straw people. But I prop them on a stick and put faces on them, and my readers create the rest for themselves."

Background: The daughter of a neuroscientist and a chef, Ocean is the author of the bestselling Vanishing Island series of mystery novels. As a relatively recent initiate to the club, she specializes in folkloric riddles and Victorian letterplay. She also has a working knowledge of both English and German, acquired during her childhood in the town of Bernkastel-Kues.

Random Fact: Once, after receiving a negative review, she anonymously tricked the police into putting a highly inconvenient barricade around the reviewer's house.

Sample Riddle: As Ocean waited for the rest of the guests to finish cracking the first two locks, she pulled out a pencil and penned a simple challenge to the others to kill the time.

On paper or tablets from man or Divine,
I am made of ten parts, and yet only of nine.

TimovieMan 02-29-2012 10:23 AM

And to say I was more convinced of my IROYGBIVU than of 2711... :D

What did prime numbers have to do with it, though? I just took 2, 7 and 11 in the order they appeared in the text... :crazy:

The coloured stars in the Sphinx's Decalogue are (using the azure-cyan-lime-indigo hint):
Indigo-Lime-Lime-Orange-Green-Indigo-Cyan-Azure-Lime = ILLOGICAL

Why am I the only one playing??? :frown:

UPtimist 02-29-2012 11:44 AM


Originally Posted by TimovieMan (Post 602173)
Why am I the only one playing??? :frown:

For you are the Chosen One! The bravest, and most cunning of all of us!

TimovieMan 02-29-2012 12:02 PM


Originally Posted by UPtimist (Post 602178)
For you are the Chosen One! The bravest, and most cunning of all of us!


Fantasysci5 02-29-2012 12:10 PM

Because I'm pants at puzzles.

UPtimist 02-29-2012 12:54 PM


Originally Posted by Fantasysci5 (Post 602185)
Because I'm pants at puzzles.

No, you're trousers at puzzles :P

Intense Degree 02-29-2012 01:13 PM


Originally Posted by UPtimist (Post 602192)
No, you're trousers at puzzles :P

Hurrah! God bless Her Majesty!

WitchOfDoubt 02-29-2012 10:55 PM

(It's possible for a single player to solve this, but it will be much easier to play the puzzle-based 'boss duels' if you have at least one partner. You might want to recruit a friend.)

Someone looked askance at the safe clue. Prime number? Surely that wasn't even necessary to answer it... maybe it was just there to check the answer. Or was there another layer to this puzzle that -

His thoughts were interrupted by a shrill bell. Some idiot had pulled the fire alarm inside the building. While most of the guests outside looked mildly annoyed at this, Dr. Alicia Tressler laughed. "Hope we don't wear out our welcome," she said.


Almost without thinking, Ocean Zweidler took stock of all the people who were by the door when the alarm sounded, and thus had alibis. They were:

* Ocean herself
* Samuel Voronov, the doorman.
* Dr. Alicia Tressler
* Walter Sexton
* Professor Otto Rinaldi - the mischievous old scientist would've been her prime suspect otherwise, given his penchant for poking around emergency doors
* ... and Kenichi Nakamura (who was already taking a note of the exact time the alarm rang out - 5:54 PM. Good for him.)

Oh, no. Alibis? Why was she even thinking this way? It was probably nothing to worry about! And indeed, within minutes, someone had shut off the errant alarm. Soon after, the last three players - L. V. Seaton-Ford, Nat Foreman, and Batsheva Ellis - rounded a corner and came into view.

"Well, dudes," said L. V. giving the group his best 'aw shucks' grin and not even bothering to explain where he'd been. "Guess we'd better crack these locks, huh?"

"Yes," said Nat, avoiding L. V.'s gaze - a little guiltily, Ocean thought.

"You bet!" said Batsheva, with blatantly false cheerfulness.

I see. "The safe?" said Ocean, always looking for a chance to one-up L.V. "I just solved it."

But was the solution offered - '2711' and 'ILLOGICAL' - really correct? They would have to test it to find out.


Meet the Pieces (Part Two of Many)

Louis Vuitton Seaton-Ford
Age: 30
Profession: Lounger and dilettante, or so he claims.

Quote: "Call me L. V. What does it stand for? So awesome you asked! It stands for 'Lovin' Volcano.'"

Background: As the heir to the Ford-Seaton fortune, L. V. has never had to work a day in his life - though he must have some other source of income, given the sheer amount of money he burns jetting around the world. Sandy-haired and flirtatious, L. V. sounds and acts the part of a stoned surf bum.

Don't be fooled. He's a member of the Club in excellent standing for good reason.

Random Fact: Won a Forensic DNA Analysis championship.

Sample Riddle:

L. V. places a Diamond Express credit card on a table and waves over a few guests. "Well, I say!" he says in an ironically bad British accent, "This plastic rectangle reminds me of a puzzle. Okay, okay, I'll cut the accent. How many credit cards can you lay flat on top of it without letting 'em overlap each other? Here are the rules.

Numero uno: They're all 3.4 by 2.1 inch standard-size credit cards.

Numero dos: To count as being 'on top' of the Diamond Express, a card has to, like, cover up at least a tiny little bit of it.

Numero tres: The cards you put down can't overlap each other, and they gotta be sitting flat. No making some kinda wacky pyramid dealio.

Come on, dudes and dudettes! How many can you fit?"


(There are currently at least four unsolved puzzles lurking in this thread. One involves finding a hidden ten-letter message in the Sphinx's Decalogue. One involves noticing what is missing from Ocean's inventory. One is Ocean's riddle, given in her 'Meet the Pieces' profile. One is L. V.'s credit card puzzle.

To unlock the next event, at least two of these mysteries must be solved.

Note: There is currently insufficient information to work out who pulled the fire alarm.)

TimovieMan 03-01-2012 11:53 AM

The Sphinx's Decalogue:
Taking the first letter from the first point (I.), the second from the second (II.), the third from the third, etc. you get "ANSWERS ARE". Could that be the hidden message?

What's missing from Ocean's inventory (apart from cigarettes and an actual ID) are keys, imo. Does she not have a house or a car?
Oh, dear God, she's a squatter! She's got lockpicks but no keys.

The answer to Ocean's riddle is possibly COMMANDMENTS. There's ten of them in the Bible, and the word itself is composed out of 9 different letters.

As for the credit card thingy. The best I could do when trying it out was 7.

WitchOfDoubt 03-01-2012 10:09 PM

(If this were a Sierra adventure game, that 'point earned' jingle would be playing so often that you'd mistake it for a cellphone going off.)

"ANSWERS ARE..." thought Mr. Sexton. "Perhaps the coded word finishes this off."

(Insert points jingle here. Deedle-ee-doot!)

Meanwhile, Ocean Zweidler rummaged through her purse again. Where were they? She'd walked here from her house after dropping off Faith, and she must have used them to unlock the front door. She could have sworn she put her keys back in the purse...


Well, it was probably nothing, just like that fire alarm. And Nat Foreman seemed to have something to say to her. "Ocean, I think I've solved the riddle on that page," he said. "It's COMMANDMENTS. Nine different letters, but Ten Commandments."

(Deedle-ee-doot! Another solution is possible.)

"I would hardly know," said Ocean, raising an eyebrow, "as I was not really the author of that riddle. But it is a sound answer. I've thought of another... one right in front of us, actually."

Meanwhile, Batsheva Ellis had managed to just barely fit 7 credit cards on top of an eighth - but L.V. shook his head. With a bit of strategy and care, she could do better.


Answer Key for the First Safe

The sheet of paper with Ocean's profile had been hidden in the mouth of a gargoyle at the right side of the front door; its riddle about divine tablets fell swiftly, but that was little more than a distraction compared to the first safe. As its opener, Ocean was given the honor of unsealing the envelope inside.

It contained a sheet of paper with two stories, the very sheet you are reading right now. What? Why does this other story say the beach bum solved it? His guess was ridiculous - it had nothing to do with the clues!

Ocean's answer, in contrast, had been entirely well-grounded. First, she entered the numbers mentioned on the page in order: 2, 7, 11. She then solved the Morse code on the page (which matched the flickering lights in the men's room), giving her a list of colors. Finally, she matched the colors to the asterisks on the page, and found that their first letters spelled out the answer.

"ANSWERS ARE ILLOGICAL?" she wondered aloud.

Ignoring the story below, she read this page aloud, then followed these instructions to proceed to the Foyer of the Club. It was time for the challenge to begin in earnest.


The sheet of paper with L.V.'s profile had been hidden in the mouth of a gargoyle at the left side of the front door, and posed one of his favorite party riddles. As the opener of the first safe, he had the honor of unsealing the envelope inside. It contained a sheet of paper with two stories, the very sheet you are reading now. He read both aloud, sounding a little put off when it began with a bogus account of how Ocean had been the first to open the safe.

Why would she make the answer to one of these puzzles a word like "ILLOGICAL?" It was almost like saying, "Hey, guys, my riddles don't make sense!" And that four-digit prime number was totally random! '2711?' Why not make it today's date, 1231? That's prime. Why not make it today's year, 2011? That's totally a prime number.

At least they got it right in the second story! My answers were way better. Everybody in the Club knows me and my parents, and it's obvious that I'm gonna inherit everything, right?

It's not as if strangers are playing. They wouldn't stand a chance. No way they'd guess the year Mom married Dad - two years before I was born - or her name.

Still... weird that the Witch knew that either he or Ocean was gonna solve the first safe. Shrugging and ignoring the story above, he followed the instructions on this page to proceed to the Foyer of the Club. It was time for the challenge to begin in earnest.

A Clue Towards L. V.'s Answer:


================================================== ======================

The sheets of paper end here for now. If you're confused by that last set of stories, perhaps it will become clear soon. In the meantime, I'm certain you'll have no trouble working out L. V.'s answers to the first safe!

The Sapphire Witch

TimovieMan 03-02-2012 11:07 AM

About the credit card puzzle: I've tried some more combinations, and I made 8 cards fit on top of a 9th.
To prove I'm not just randomly guessing one number higher than last time, here's what it looked like (more or less):

If that's not the right answer, then I could say "9", "10", etc. in consequent guesses, but I'm not trying it out again. Barring it being a trick question, 8 is the highest I get... :D

As for the new safe, the number is the year L.V.'s parents got married, or 2 years before he was born. Given that the date is December 31st 2011, L.V. was born in the wonderful year of 1981 (just like me), and thus his parents were married in 1979 (just like mine - coincidence?). And wouldn't you know that 1979 just happens to be a prime number??? :D

As for "her name", those letter combinations in that clue are anagrams for colours.

Not sure how to proceed from here on in, though.

If only some other forum members would try to help. It's not like they're not following this thread. I can sense their presence and feel their eyes lurking, for I am the Chosen One... :D

WitchOfDoubt 03-03-2012 12:48 AM

L. V. was impressed - Dr. Rinaldi had come up with almost exactly the same solution to the card puzzle that he always used. The trick was to take full advantage of the diagonal:

1979! A banner year for the Sapphire Witch. In that year, she married her first husband and met her second. Yes, it was no surprise that this was a possible code.


The colors were certainly a step in the right direction. Indeed, using those colors and information from the first typed page, the message that begins this thread, an attentive lurker could find L.V.'s answer. Will this be the puzzle that brings in a new player?

TimovieMan 03-03-2012 09:58 AM

Applying the colours to the coloured stars in the Decalogue, you get:
Aubergine - Neon Green - Neon Green - Safety Orange - Emerald Green - Aubergine - Turquoise - Opal - Neon Green

This spells:

WitchOfDoubt 03-03-2012 09:58 PM

As the name of Ann Seaton was spoken, there was a sound of distant thunder. Ocean felt a drop of drizzle strike the back of her neck.

The guests hurried into the Club, and Samuel shut the great wooden doors behind them. It was going to be a long night - a night of thefts, betrayals, and mysterious disappearances, a night to be sealed in secrecy forever.


(Congratulations! You've solved the first chapter's puzzles and unlocked its Witch's Banquet! One minor challenge remains, and newcomers to the thread are invited to attempt it:

* A second solution exists to Ocean's riddle of stone tablets, and it has not yet been stated.)

Banquet of the Prologue

A figure in a blue riding cloak gently laid a hand on the Club's front door. Though it had surely been locked, it opened before the magic of the Sapphire Witch in an instant. Passing by the newly installed ticket booth, through the foyer, and finally into the study, the Witch opened a door and was greeted at once by Dudeney, ever the loyal butler.

"Annabel. It has been some time. I trust you're well?" said Dudeney. In truth, ten years had gone by since the day of the inheritance challenge and the ruinous scandal that followed. All the same, Dudeney would ever be the Witch's friend.

Dudeney was one of the Witch's first Animates, imbued with human personality and character by the power of magic. Old-fashioned, perhaps, but he would always have a place in Annabel's heart. "As well as could be expected!" said the Witch. "And yourself?"

"Alas! Nobody has fed me for years. Still, it is to be, as you say, expected," replied Dudeney. Though the portly, squat little fellow still bore himself with dignity, his outer vestments showed signs of neglect. The black ribbon he wore was faded and worn, and half of the buttons at his breast had their sigils worn off. "In the year 2021, it is a miracle that I even exist at all. I shan't complain if I'm given few opportunities to serve. My joints are creaky with age."

"Ha! Rejoice, old friend!" said the Witch, laughing. "Tonight, you shall have a banquet, for our mystery is being re-opened! Come, let us begin - just like old times. You can take down my dictation while you eat."

And so the butler feasted through the night with a clashing of teeth and clattering of utensils.


But this feast is interrupted by the arrival of a number of newcomers. Some have been silent, or nearly silent, while reading the typed pages that purported to describe the events of New Year's Eve, 2011. One, however, has been quick to answer the puzzles of that mysterious night... so far, in any case.

"What an intriguing group," says the Witch, face hidden behind a Venetian carnival mask. "Good evening. I am called the Sapphire Witch, and I welcome you to our Banquet of mysteries. Please, do be seated and introduce yourselves!"

The Witch gazes at you - yes, you - expectantly.

WitchOfDoubt 03-04-2012 12:00 PM

A Message from the Sapphire Witch

There are many of you out there, I know. Why do you not speak? Do you think you will guess incorrectly?

What then?

How many times have you thought, while playing an adventure game, 'I can't solve this puzzle, so let me try using every object on every other object!' Did you worry about 'guessing wrong' back then?

How many times have you accidentally killed the hero or heroine, only to 'restore' the game to an earlier state? Did winning become impossible simply because the protagonist died once? Hardly! As long as you kept trying, you would eventually win.

This is a game of Witch's Chess. The only way for the Human Side to win is to find the answers. The only way for the Human Side to lose is if they all stop thinking.

I will assure you of one thing with the Red Truth: In this game, you cannot lose unless you stop thinking. Silence is 'game over.'

So speak up -- choose an alias, if you like! -- and introduce yourselves.

TimovieMan 03-05-2012 08:33 AM


Originally Posted by WitchOfDoubt
One minor challenge remains, and newcomers to the thread are invited to attempt it

I'm the only one here that's NOT a newcomer... :D

Anyway, to anyone who's prepared to assist me (and unwilling to scroll through too much text), we're still looking for a second solution to this riddle:

"On paper or tablets from man or Divine,
I am made of ten parts, and yet only of nine."

The solution that I've already come up with was 'Commandments'. Ten Commandments are in the Bible, and the word itself is composed of nine different letters.
A second solution is beyond me, though...

As for my introduction, the name is Timothy. I'm an avid movie watcher, which has led to my (imo rather fitting) online alias of 'TimovieMan'. My presence here is because I'm rather fond of puzzles (which is also why I love adventure games), and so far I am greatly intrigued by what the Sapphire Witch has already offered...

Intense Degree 03-05-2012 10:10 AM

Intense Degree shuffles forward looking more than a little tired, nervous and overweight. For some reason he seems to be referring to himself in the third person.

He nods approval at Timovieman's sound reasoning with regard to the answer "Commandments" which seems to answer all aspects of the riddle so exactly, despite the arching of Ocean's eyebrow and her protestations otherwise. Of course, Decalogue is another term for the 10 commandments which has only 9 letters, but that is realistically the same answer.

Noting the reference to things right in front of us there are treasures, mysteries, exhibits, people, puzzles, some of which have 9 letters but none of which seem to answer the riddle.

The only "famous 9's" that spring immediately to mind are circles of heaven or hell according to that Dante chap, and for 10's; numerical characters in the decimal system and the aforementioned commandments of God to his people, Israel.

Intense Degree is stumped and begins to return to the pavillion with bat under his arm.

Fantasysci5 03-05-2012 10:13 AM

I'm not sure about this at all, but I felt bad for TimovieMan being the only one.

Can the 2nd interpretation be "The Divine Comedy"? It is both written down on paper, and people can probably view "Dante's Inferno" on their tablets. :P

In the books, there are usually 9 circles of the Inferno, followed by Lucifer; 9 rings of Purgatory followed by the Garden of Eden, etc. I get this information from the Wikipedia page, "The structure of the three realms follows a common numerical pattern of 9 plus 1 for a total of 10" here:

I'm probably way off, but I thought I'd try. *shrug*

EDIT: I wrote this before I saw Intense jump in with the same answer...

TimovieMan 03-07-2012 03:09 AM


Originally Posted by Fantasysci5 (Post 602607)
I'm not sure about this at all, but I felt bad for TimovieMan being the only one.

No need to feel sorry for me. As long as I'm not making (more of) a fool of myself (than usual), it's all good... :D

I actually feel sorry for WitchOfDoubt. He's going through all this trouble to launch what is essentially an interactive text adventure game on this forum, and despite all the adventure gamers present, there's very little response... :frown:

UPtimist 03-07-2012 01:00 PM


Originally Posted by TimovieMan (Post 602772)
No need to feel sorry for me. As long as I'm not making (more of) a fool of myself (than usual), it's all good... :D

I actually feel sorry for WitchOfDoubt. He's going through all this trouble to launch what is essentially an interactive text adventure game on this forum, and despite all the adventure gamers present, there's very little response... :frown:

Well, one sometimes feels oneself rather stupid. Not The One, of course, but one who refers to oneself as one, for one hadn't even had time to properly read the riddles when The One had already solved them :P One would also refer to oneself as trousers in puzzles, at least verbal ones :D One is too impatient and busy ;)

But one shall try, nevertheless.

WitchOfDoubt 03-07-2012 07:07 PM

(I've been a bit ill - sorry for the delayed response! Now we're moving along nicely.)

The Witch bowed politely and motioned Timothy to sit on the east side of the table, facing a great window. "Welcome. I do trust our little entertainment meets with your approval."

Intense Degree was the next to enter. "Ah! Dante? An interesting guess... I shall have to discuss it with the animates." But the other word... "Yes, 'DECALOGUE' is the other answer I was expecting. Well solved." He was motioned to a seat opposite Timothy, on the Witch's left.

FantasySci, whose reiteration of the Divine Comedy answer gave it a little more weight, was welcomed and seated at the same side of the table as Timothy. Perhaps this would become relevant later...

UPtimist, too, received a seat - on IntenseDegree's side, opposite FantasySci. "I counsel patience," said the Witch. "Not everyone will solve every puzzle immediately. The time will come."

Several seats remained on both sides of the table, but the last person to enter ignored them and sat at the opposite end from the Witch. It was a boy of about eighteen. "Hey. Sorry I'm late," he said, and rather impertinently neglected to mention his name. All the same, the Witch seemed to know him. "We're about to get into the Club, right? Let's get on with it."

"... yes," said the Witch. "But a question. Would 'The Divine Comedy' stand as an answer to the 'decalogue' riddle?"

"Big stretch," said the boy. "I call Sphinx's Fourth. What about the 'tablets' part? What's the Inferno got to do with that? But y'know, the Golden Witch would have gone for it..."

"Of course," said the Sapphire Witch. "Of course she would have. In that light, I cannot turn down such an appropriate answer, ahaha! Very well, they shall take their first stone now. The Witch Side can afford to be generous for the moment."

The Witch slid a hemispherical, yellow-brown stone to the center of the table. It bore a set of letters - U A A. Initials of some kind?


(Nicely done on finding two alternate answers; more people are, of course, welcome to join - there's plenty of room at the table.

I'll most likely post the opener for the next chapter tomorrow!)

WitchOfDoubt 03-08-2012 09:09 PM

With the guests arrayed, the board was set.

Inspired by When the Seagulls Cry (Umineko no Naku Koro ni).
The difficulty of this chapter is Slightly Tricky. Would you care to guess?

The story so far...

December 31, 2011. Tonight, the members of an exclusive riddle club have gathered to compete for a grand prize. Upon arrival, they received a set of rules for fair riddling, The Sphinx's Decalogue. On these pages were clues to open a safe and prove their worthiness to enter the Club. The first to solve this safe was...

* Ocean Zweidler, an author of mysteries, who guessed similarly to some of the cleverer posters in the thread. The line below this one is a lie.

* L. V. Ford-Seaton, a child of wealth. Nobody in the thread could have anticipated his answers. The line above this one is a lie.

Now, a new page begins. What will our guests find written in the foyer?

Without hope, the truth cannot be found.

Chapter 1: The Room of Six Locks

or, The Courtship of the Sapphire Witch

Young Matthew Ford - no relation to the car-maker - was a Wall Street alchemist. He could turn lead into gold, and not only that, he could turn tin into silver, iron into copper, and, judging by the fortune he made in semiconductor commodities trading, silicon into gallium. But he was reckless and wild, winning and losing fortunes on a throw of the dice, until the evening he met the Sapphire Witch.

At the time, she bore a different name. No matter; her magic remained unchanged. Although she was a geneticist in her human life, she knew powerful conjurations and transfigurations, which she taught to Ford in their years of marriage.

Nowadays, it is generally considered impolite to remind Mr. Ford that his wife has passed away. For how could that be so? Even now, the Witch wanders the hidden ways of the museum, weaving strange and secret enchantments.


The guests found this page - the very page you are reading - in the foyer. Though normally spacious, boasting tall windows and a grand 39-step staircase, the foyer was cluttered tonight with trunks, tables, and shelves. Amid this paraphernalia, many of the Club’s staff had gathered to present themselves and play their assigned roles.

"Ladies, gentlemen, I don’t mean to alarm you, but there was supposed to have been a signet ring in that first safe," said Lana Rodriguez, the Club librarian, stepping away from a set of bookshelves that held the proprietor’s favorite novels. "It had a big sapphire in it… not easy to miss. I'm afraid that either whoever opened it just now palmed the ring, or somebody broke in early. Bill, anything on the safe's records?"

"Sorry ‘bout the bad news, but I just checked. Looks like someone got in right before it got solved and opened the safe using its back panel." said Bill Jackson, the club's resident tech wizard. He lit a cigar and slouched back against a table that carried a model train set.

"Shoot!" said Samuel, the doorman, raising his eyes from a box of vintage 45 records. "I stepped away to shut off the fire alarm! Anyone could've opened it from the other side!"

Margaret Ye, the proprietor’s attorney, pushed aside the trunk of toys she was assigned to watch over. “Security just locked down the building. Nobody will enter, nobody will leave. Not before we find our culprit.”

The guests protested, but all of the staff had solid alibis. And if they eliminated the eight staff members as suspects... well, there wasn't nearly enough information to figure out who had done it just yet, but perhaps, as the evening wore on, the culprit would slip up. Ocean already had made a few deductions...

"Maybe it was the Witch!" joked L. V., only to receive angry glares from several of the staff, and, in particular, from a young boy at Mrs. Ye's side.

"You'll regret saying that," said the boy. "The Witch is real. She's gonna take us all to El Dorado."

"Cut it out, Mark." hissed Margaret. "Do I have to send you home?" Then, noticing that the others were staring, she said, "What? Mr. Jackson! Give them the damn riddle!"

Mr. Jackson shook his head and pointed to a tall mahogany cabinet leaning against the wall, bearing an ostentatious lockplate in the shape of a winged man. “Second safe’s in here,” said Jackson. “But the key’s somewhere else in this room. Here’s your clue.”

He showed the guests what looked like a crude handicraft made in summer camp, a string of little ornaments. “Some of these are rusted, but you should ignore any oxidation. In fact, you’d better ignore any minor ingredients in these things!” Jackson added, making sure each guest saw it fully. "Start from the end with the sinker. Be careful; it's got sentimental value."

The ornaments were made from glass beads, old fishing sinkers, loops of lead-free solder, and steel rings, and were arranged as follows:

Sinker, Glass, Glass, Solder, Steel, Sinker, Glass, Sinker, Glass

Racing to make sense of this clue, the guests rummaged through the room for the hidden key. Some dug through the bookshelves for reference materials, while others used their smartphones to access the Internet.

WitchOfDoubt 03-08-2012 09:12 PM

(This one's a bit involved, so it makes more sense to solve it one step at a time and share your results than to try to go it alone.

The guests can consult the bookshelf about specific topics. You may want to ask to do the same.)

Intense Degree 03-09-2012 08:02 AM

OK, I certainly don’t have a solution but here is my thinking so far…

Fishing Sinker - presumably made of LEAD - transformed to GOLD
Glass - mostly SILICON - transformed to GALLIUM
Solder - no lead then must be TIN - transformed to SILVER
Steel - mostly IRON - transformed to COPPER

So: Sinker, Glass, Glass, Solder, Steel, Sinker, Glass, Sinker, Glass
Becomes: Gold, Gallium, Gallium, Silver, Copper, Gold, Gallium, Gold, Gallium

Not sure where that gets us…

However chemical symbols may be involved?

Gold - Au
Gallium - Ga
Silver - Ag
Copper - Cu

I can’t see any anagrams there or anything else spelt out at first glance, anyone else got any ideas?


OK, picking up on the geneticist hint, wikipedia shows that the letters denoting amino acids in genetic code bear a striking resemblance to the letters representing the chemical elements as above.

Therefore: Gold, Gallium, Gallium, Silver, Copper, Gold, Gallium, Gold, Gallium
Becomes : AU, GA, GA, AG, CU, AU, GA, AU, GA
Which we group in 3's like the genetic code thing: AUG, AGA, AGC, UAU, GAA, UGA

and the letters denoting the amino acids specified by each 3 letter code gives us M, R, S, Y, E, Stop.

Therefore Mrs (Margaret) Ye has the key.

My brain hurts.

UPtimist 03-09-2012 09:34 AM

*jaw drop*

Okay, I'm way out of my league here :P I had no idea what to do there...

Fantasysci5 03-09-2012 10:27 AM

Me as well, Up. :crazy:

TimovieMan 03-10-2012 12:29 AM

Congrats, Intense!

I hereby distance myself from the title "The Chosen One", for I am not worthy... :crazy:

WitchOfDoubt 03-10-2012 08:16 PM

(Long, slow clap. Impressive - you're almost there!)

The guests had gotten significantly further in finding the location of the key. L. V. seemed to have an advantage on the final step, owing to his experience with DNA, but there was someone even more prepared to tackle the final translation than him. Professor Otto Rinaldi, fruit fly geneticist and meddler, had all 64 codons memorized.

"Look," he said, his voice calm, but with the slight quaver of age, "The proteins that run our cells, they're all made by translating mRNA. The mRNA gets translated in groups of three "letters." We call those groups codons. First codon's always AUG, the start codon. Every time a codon gets read, a new amino acid gets put on the protein.

This codes for methionine, arginine, serine, tyrosine, glutamate... we abbreviate those MRSYE."

But the toys Mrs. Ye was watching over were a motley assortment of knickknacks and playthings, and they could hardly expect to break open every one. Surely there was a final clue in that sequence to help them narrow it down further!

Kenichi Nakamura, a programmer and fan of codes, squinted at the explanation that Otto had written on paper. "That's 5 amino acids. 3 letters each. But we had 9 elements, 2 letters each. Doesn't "MRSYE" leave us short?"

"No, no, no," said Otto, "that's not how it works. See, the last codon, UGA..."


Meet the Pieces: (Part 3 of Many)
Otto Rinaldi
Age: 71
Profession: Professor emeritus

Quote: "I like it when they put up 'Do Not Enter' signs. They tell me where the interesting things are."

Background: A fruit fly geneticist of considerable renown, Professor Rinaldi was born in Florence, Italy, amid the tumult of World War II. He never knew his father, who died when his submarine was destroyed by Allied forces, but his family managed to escape with enough of their fortune to establish themselves after the war. Perpetually curious, Otto worked his way through university and become a classical geneticist, an expert on both fruit fly development and practical jokes. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, playing the flute, and painting.

Random Fact: He has eaten fruit fly pupae, and claims they have the texture of grape nuts.

Sample riddle: Shortly before one of the Club's sumptuous dinners, Otto was snooping around the back halls, when he heard Jaime LaSalle, the chef, muttering to himself. "Coulda sworn I bought five loaves," Jaime was saying. "We've got five tables and need one each... shoot! Better tell Celia."

As LaSalle left, Dr. Rinaldi slipped in behind him, washed his hands, then worked quickly and dextrously with the bread and a kitchen knife. When he was done, he absently picked up an end piece, gnawing on it as he left.

Upon returning, LaSalle was perplexed to find the bread in the following arrangement:

It appeared to be five loaves, give or take a little bit here and there, but how many loaves did the chef have before Otto's meddling?

stepurhan 03-11-2012 08:39 AM

There were originally three loaves.

Five end pieces in the picture, plus the one Dr Rinaldi absently munches on as he leaves for six in total. Each loaf would have two end pieces so divide by two to get the three loaves.

stepurhan was pleased with his simple maths, though he still felt very much in awe of the intellects already at the table. He lurked at the back of the room, not yet ready to join such august company. Hopefully, with a bit of mental application, he could prove himself worthy of the honour.

TimovieMan 03-12-2012 09:13 AM

The stop codon UGA appears in 'opal' or 'umber mutations' (well, according to the wikipedia at least).
Umber could refer to clay, so we're possibly looking for something that's either opal or clay.
What are the contents of the trunk of toys Mrs. Ye is guarding? Are there marbles in there by any chance?

WitchOfDoubt 03-13-2012 08:41 PM

(Sorry for slow responses - I've been sick!)

The puzzle on Dr. Rinaldi's sheet, which the guests had found on the reception desk near the Foyer, was quickly solved. However, as soon as they finished, Nat Foreman called their attention to the paperweight that had been used to hold down the typed sheet.

"Look," he said. "It has some letters engraved on it - UAA. And a chess pawn engraved on one side, it looks like." He pocketed it, certain that it would be a clue for later.

(Foreman has found an ochre stone that matches the one the Witch showed to the group at the Banquet. What will it be used for?)


Suddenly, as the guests were searching the toy chest, the ground began to shake violently.

"Earthquake!" shouted Mark, more excited than afraid. As a child of Los Angeles, he'd lived through a few of these. A few guests from farther afield were startled, but there was barely any time to panic, as the shaking ended within seconds. A toy boxcar fell off of the table with the model railroad set, crashing violently on the ground, but was miraculously undamaged, and a few books fell from the top of the bookcase.

As everyone gathered their wits, Alicia Tressler, the only medical doctor among the guests, quickly checked everyone for injuries. Fortunately, nobody was hurt, but as she was helping Mrs. Ye to her feet, she saw something glinting in the toy chest. One of the jewels set into a costume crown, a cheap plastic trinket, was not an imitation at all, but a real opal. It came loose with a click, revealing that its underside bore the inscribed symbol of a chess knight.

"My God," said Alicia. "Look at it shine!"

But attempts to use the opal on the lock were fruitless. Even though the opal would prove useful later on, the sequence also referred to something entirely different in the toy chest.

This safe puzzle is almost, but not quite, solved.

Meet the Pieces (Part 4 of Many)

Alicia Tressler

Age: 43
Profession: Doctor

Quote: "Well, differential diagnosis is a little like solving a puzzle or being a detective. You have to work it all out by elimination and follow all the clues. But you don't get to screw around until you're sure of your answer. The germs don't wait!"

Background: Born in Madrid, Spain, to a British diplomat and a local teacher, Alicia Tressler loved medical news and strange tropical diseases from childhood on. With the same verve that made her the queen of the youth soccer field, she chased a career in medicine. Now that she's well-established as a practicing physician, she enjoys medical mysteries, the piano, and poetry in the Romance languages.

Random fact: She once drove a van decorated to look like a giant mouse for 500 miles.

Sample puzzle: It was Puzzle Career Night, when guests at the Club brought in challenges that were relevant to their jobs or fields of expertise. Dr. Tressler had a particularly cogent example.

"Let's do some epidemiology," she said to the assembled guests. "Here's the story.

First-year students in Layton House at Gressenheller University room together in pairs. During the first three weeks at the university, however, they rotate between rooms, switching roommates every week. Unfortunately for them, one of the new arrivals carried the Blah virus.

Luckily, a student with early symptoms was diagnosed and they were all tested and treated. But who was Patient Zero, the person who first brought the virus to Layton House?

Here's a schedule showing which students were rooming together during each rotation, and what their test results were. We'll refer to them by number to keep them anonymous:"

"Now, some rules!

One: The virus only passes between students who are currently rooming together. However, between two roommates, its transmission rate is 100%.

Two: Everyone who tested positive had the virus, and everybody who tested negative was uninfected.

Three: Students 12, 13, and 14 all arrived a few weeks early to campus, and could not have been patient zero.

Who was patient zero?"

(Note: The rough format of this puzzle was borrowed from a biology class, but the scenario is mine. Reference available upon request.)

* * * * * * * * *

And this is far from the last of this room's riddles.

Enough! If you give up, surely someone else will guess it for you!

Stop thinking! Go find a game where there is one "answer" to every problem!

STOP! Leave this place, and my secrets will be safe.

The Sapphire Witch

stepurhan 03-14-2012 06:11 AM

There is a typo in the table. Rotation 2 Roommate number 12 should be number 1, not number 11 as currently shown.

stepurhan 03-14-2012 06:26 AM

Patient Zero is number 5.

12, 13 and 14 are excluded by the third rule. All the other students have had a room share with someone that is uninfected at the end.

The newly infected each week are
  • Week 1 - 14
  • Week 2 - 4 and 6
  • Week 3 - 1, 9, 11 and 13.

stepurhan noted that, epidemiology and the exponential expansion of infected demonstrated by this puzzle is a good reason for not rotating room shares

WitchOfDoubt 03-17-2012 05:00 PM

(Ah! Sorry about the typo! I'm still a little sick, so it's taking me time to post puzzles, but I think that the pace will pick up soon!)

Batsheva stared at the progress they'd made on the safe. "Mrs. Ye, stop," she muttered. "MRS YE STOP." Wait a minute... if it's a toy chest, then maybe...


Dr. Tressler's puzzle fell quickly to a bit of careful deduction, but almost as soon as the group had solved it, they found another puzzle waiting for them! This one was under the green tower in the center of the model railroad tracks, and seemed to hold a profile of Batsheva Ellis.

Meet the Pieces (Part 5 of Many)

Batsheva Ellis

Age: Not telling
Profession: Herbalist, tarot reader, clock repair technician

Quote: "Wait, wait, wait, I got it, I got it! I know the answer! Imagine we're an ant in that room, thinking about it like an ant. We'd have to feel our way around with our antennae, and antennae rhymes with penny. So the answer is a penny.

Well, of course I'm right! Why do you look so surprised?"

Background: Batsheva Ellis's parents never knew what she was going to do with her life. Born in Manhattan to a family that was Jewish, but not terribly observant (she always listed their denomination as 'not Christian'), she was a brilliant but unfocused student early in life, changing her major at the University of Chicago no less than five times before somehow emerging with a degree. Since then, she has lived on her wits, relying on her power of radically outside-the-box thinking to pull her through.

Random Fact: Batsheva's entire life is a random fact.

Sample Puzzle: "You know, that exponential disease growth puzzle reminds me of vampires!"

Did you know that it takes a lot of energy to fly? It sure does, no joke! That's why vampires gotta drink so much. A flying vampire's gotta drink the blood of exactly three people every hour. Of course, this turns them into more vampires, and soon you got vampires up to your ears.

Let's say Dracula takes off at 12:00 PM to fly around Manhattan. If anybody who gets bitten by a vampire changes right away and starts flying, how many vampires will there be after four hours?

stepurhan 03-17-2012 11:36 PM

stepurhan muses on Batsheva's cryptic comment. The odd phraeseology makes him think that an anagram may be involved. He is able to get the word "toy" from the statement but is stuck on anything from the remaining letters. Could the chess symbol on the bottom of the opal found in the chest be a clue?

As he muses on these matters, he also strongly thinks get well thoughts in the direction of WitchOfDoubt. The Sapphire Witch should have a better health plan in place for her faithful puzzle-posting staff.

I believe I know how to solve the vampire puzzle, but having solved the last couple of mini puzzles I'll leave it for someone else to have a go at for now.

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