The Witch's Epigraph Chapter 1: The Room of Six Locks

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not much to add but wanted to echo Mo Ma's kudos and thanks to WOD and also welcome him back. new years and birth days back to back? epic as well I hope.

thinking maybe the chemical abbreviations (au,ga,ga,ag,cu,au,ga,au,ga) might be used in solving the string riddle but have not gotten anywhere with them. Electrum is the only thing i've found that maybe contains all four elements but dont see how that might relate to a toy or model train thingie where some kind of key could be. cant help but to keep at it. most intriguing.

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This was so awesome, I created an account just to post on it. Anyway, the key is in

the toy trunk that Margaret Ye was assigned to watch.

Here's why: plainglazed got closest by looking at the chemical abbreviations. They spell out AUGAGAAGCUAUGAAUGA. If you're a geneticist (like the witch used to be), this might look like an RNA sequence. If you go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetic_code, you find that the amino acids encoded by that sequence spell out MRSYE, or Mrs. Ye. This implies that the key is in the only place associated with her, which is the toy chest.

I'm still not sure about the second part; I'm not quite sure if the colors are significant at all.

Edited by SeaCalMaster
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Wow, sea, and welcome to the Den! Hope you like it!

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(Thank you all for the encouraging words!)

Prior to the opening of the safe:

Mark was a thorough boy, and clever at that. "It could be lots of steps," he said, confidently. "You can jump up to the 38th step or down to it."

"You should look," said Kenichi. "How many steps does the staircase have?"

"Oh." Mark promptly corrected his answer, and presented the three numbers with pride. Meanwhile, the other 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 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 4 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.

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:

breadpuzz.png

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?

---

(Molly Mae's answer to the safe puzzle will be addressed once the key has been found!)

Edited by WitchOfDoubt
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One again the loaf one is really easy (in my opinion)

There were originally 3 loaves.

Ignore all the slices of bread and simply look at the ends.

There are 5 ends in the photo, with one being gnawed on, for 6 ends total.

2 ends per loaf leaves us with 3 loaves total.

As for the answer, excellent job SeaCalMaster. I didn't know enough about biology to make that connection, but in retrospect I should have.

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As for where the key was hidden, that is a really hard part.

I don't see any relevant clues in the reading, but there is the possibility that this is important:

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

The lockplate is in the shape of a winged man, which I would consider an angel. Perhaps Ms. Ye had a small angel as one of her toys she was watching over?

EDIT: I wonder if El Dorado (the golden city) is a hint.

WoD, this is absolutely amazing.

I love this. Is it all original because this should be a game. It surpasses Riven/Myst

Edited by TheChad
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(Thanks!

The puzzles are all my own, except when they're modified versions of obvious old chestnuts - the frog in the well becomes the frog on the stairs, and so on. It's been a challenge! Although riddles sometimes end up with multiple solutions by accident, it's hard to make a riddle have more than one solution on purpose, unless you're willing to play with the rules, dropping clues to the second solution later on. Not every puzzle will have two solutions!

That said, I have to give credit where credit is due. While the organization of these threads, the puzzles, the Club, and a lot of other ideas here are my creation, this is very much a homage to Umineko, a weird, wonderful electronic novel that is, sadly, better known for its awful animated adaptation. So some of the coolest ideas you'll see here are not mine.

Details, spoilered since not many people are likely to care:

Umineko is about family that is trapped in an island mansion during the storm. Seemingly impossible locked-room killings occur. Meanwhile, in a place that sits just outside of these stories, one of the family members debates these mysteries with Beatrice, the Golden Witch. If he can explain all of the mysteries by human means, without recourse to the supernatural, the torment of his family will end. If he cannot, they will be fated to relive their final days over and over again.

The novel takes apart the premises of locked room murder mysteries and turns them on their head with unreliable narration, logical trickery, and a punishing willingness to confront the reader with stories-within-stories-within-stories-within-stories. There are a few traditional puzzles in the final episode, but they only have one solution each - unlike the mysteries of the game itself.

A good analogy would be "Witch's Epigraph is to Umineko as Brainden Riddles are to Old-School Mysteries."

Ideas I took from Umineko:

* "Mysteries as duels with a witch" in Umineko becomes "puzzles as duels with a witch" in this game.

* Unreliable narration being used as a kind of meta-puzzle.

* Some uses of colored text.

* Answers are not set in stone. No detective will sit down and give a full summation of all of the answers. The theme of "double solutions" comes up in Umineko quite a bit.

* Umineko makes heavy use of Knox's Decalogue, Ronald Knox's classic set of rules for writing fair-play whodunits. It can be found here: http://umineko.wikia.com/wiki/Knox's_Decalogue. I wrote my own decalogue for riddles in homage to this.

* Unlockable Witch Banquets.

* Major themes of the plot.

* Some characters are based on Umineko characters. Others may appear to be at first (if anyone here ever reads Umineko), but aren't, really. Others may not appear to be based on Umineko characters, but are.

* Umineko contains one gigantic riddle, "The Witch's Epitaph," which must be solved to win an inheritance. However, it requires so much specialized knowledge that most readers don't really stand a chance of getting it before the characters do!

That said, I've tried not to lift anything that would actually spoil the mysteries of Umineko, which is available for purchase here: http://witch-hunt.com/

Major differences from Umineko:

* Umineko is a take on "closed circle murder mysteries." This game is a take on "riddle-centered adventure games" - much like Riven. - and riddles in general. There will, however, be more mystery elements coming up!

* "Magic" works a little differently in this game.

* The characters in this game are generally different from Umineko's.

* This game has a lot more science in it, and a lot less occultism.

* Umineko is in electronic novel format, for the most part. The player reads the story, but doesn't interact with it directly, instead facing an implicit challenge to solve the mystery.

* This game is far less gory than Umineko, which deliberately pushes the boundaries of taste.

Edited by WitchOfDoubt
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Posted · Report post

Hmm...

UGA is a stop codon. Wikipedia says that it's associated with something called an "opal mutation." Maybe the guests should look for an object that has an opal?

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El Dorado was what actually led me to the 45s. Literally, it means "the gold one" and I asked myself which pile could have a something obviously gold. Gold record? It was my best bet. My second guess was based on the semiconductors perhaps as a reference to a miniature conductor (like in a model train) beyond its normal meaning. Blame PG for making me always try to see second (or third) meanings in every word. =P

But for UGA in the chest....

I think I'm going to check that out.

Edited by Molly Mae
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(Molly Mae: I recommend trying the free demo first; the style of the game really isn't for everyone, but it's worth looking into. That said, the real plot doesn't kick into gear until after the first episode, so...)

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.

Meet the Pieces (Part 5 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:"

rotations.png

"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.)

Edited by WitchOfDoubt
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Is student 5.

That's an interesting puzzle that seemed harder than it actually was.

Edited by Molly Mae
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Posted · Report post

from the hints re the UGA stop codon, maybe it could be Mrs Ye's top? is there one of those in the toy chest?

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(You're knocking these down as quickly as I can put them up! Thank goodness I made some of these in advance!)

Before the opening of the safe:

"That's all it says," said Dr. Rinaldi, shrugging expressively. "MRS YE, STOP."

It was then that Batsheva Ellis swept in, in a flurry of bangles and flora. "Ooh! Wait, wait! Say that out loud again." Rinaldi complied.

Ms. Ellis's idea seemed sound enough. L. V. watched, feigning incomprehension, as Ms. Ellis affected a campy drag queen voice, pointed to an item in the toy chest, and said to Mrs. Ye, "Lemme borrow that top!"

"Excuse me?" asked Margaret. She'd always found Batsheva a bit exasperating.

"That's a cute top! I wanna borrow it! Let me -" Ms. Ellis stopped, seeing that her efforts at lightening the mood were falling flat, and said, "It's a YouTube thing."

Mrs. Ye handed the top over. It was decorated with multicolored dots, but the part that immediately drew Ms. Ellis's attention was the handle. It unscrewed from the disc easily, coming out together with a metal cylinder that fit neatly into the cabinet's lock. The doors swung open to reveal this room's first safe, which bore a maze and compass lock.

"It must be electronic," said Kenichi, noting the lack of notches on the key. "It has a chip inside the handle to signal the door."

One lock down, thought Batsheva, five to go! The safe posed little challenge for the guests, and they opened it in no time.

-----------

(The second half of the page found in the safe:)

With a last careful click, Walter Sexton, one of the Club's more traditional puzzle solvers, spun the compass dial to the last position - E. "Rather like solving a crossword," he remarked. "Fill in the missing letters to find the 'answer.'" As he spoke, the safe swung open, revealing yet another safe inside it - a safe within a safe. On that safe was taped a piece of paper - the very piece of paper you are reading right now - and on that piece of paper were two stories.

The second story told how Walter opened the safe, but the first was an outrageous lie. According to the top half of the page, L. V. had opened the safe using one of his mother's names, a piece of information that would have been entirely inaccessible to anyone else! How absurd... but was it a clue of some kind? This was the second time that they had found two parallel stories inside a safe, and each time, L. V. had been the victor in the alternate story.

"I imagine that whoever wrote these riddles thinks a great deal of you, Mr. Ford-Seaton," said Walter, drily.

---

Regardless of who actually opened the compass lock, the safe inside was entirely different from any they had seen before. Behind the paper bearing the two stories was a second taped note and a microphone speaker. Some of the text on the note was blurred, but the following could be made out:

seq.png

"Maybe we ought to look at the records again," suggested Ocean. The group gathered around the box of records as Samuel wheeled a phonograph into the room. The singles in the box were, from front to back:

* "Kaze wo Atsumete"

* "I've Got Dreams to Remember"

* "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic"

* "Suspicious Minds"

* "Hey Jude"

* "Amor, No Gracias"

* "People Get Ready"

* "There Are Bad Times Just around the Corner"

* "Rhapsody in Blue"

* "Superstition"

* *Respect"

* "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do"

* "Take on Me"

* "The Riddle"

* "Mamma Said"

* "Here I Go Again"

* "Twilight"

* "Ruby Tuesday"

The guests pooled their musical knowledge and considered the problem carefully.

(Batsheva and Walter's 'Meet the Pieces' segments will be posted later.)

Edited by WitchOfDoubt
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@ WoD why is it called "Meet the Pieces"?

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Down, dobedo, down, down

Comma, comma, down, dobedo, down down

Comma, comma, down, dobedo, down down

Breaking up is hard to do. Neil Sedaka

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Sodium = Na.

Lyrics to Hey Jude. Na na na na na na na...etc.

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Sodium = Na.

Lyrics to Hey Jude. Na na na na na na na...etc.

Na repeats 11 times, but I can't find a section that repeats 17 times. I only see it repeat 6 times. *Shrug*

Good find, though. =P

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Sodium is atomic number 11 on the periodic table. Chlorine is 17. NaCl. Salt. Not sure if that means anything. . .

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Na repeats 11 times, but I can't find a section that repeats 17 times. I only see it repeat 6 times. *Shrug*

Good find, though. =P

Um...

The phrase (11*"Na " + "Hey Jude") repeats 17 times.

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Both Professor Rinaldi and Dr. Tressler's puzzles were resolved nearly as soon as they were read off of their respective pages. However, while the guests were retrieving the records from the box, two more slips of paper fluttered out - introductions to Walter Sexton and Batsheva Ellis.

"Why," wondered Ocean aloud, "do these pages refer to us as 'pieces?' Pieces of a puzzle, perhaps? Or chess pieces?" But no answer was forthcoming.

As she said this, Ms. Ellis had already hit on one of the songs that the safe was referring to. It was one of her favorites, reassuring and life-affirming. Nat Foreman, an actor and poet, found the other, revealing a hitherto unsuspected knowledge of 50's pop that Batsheva would probably tease him about for years. All in all, the lock was almost too easy. Were all of the other records truly red herrings?

But when they played both records on the phonograph in succession, the safe door didn't budge. Instead, the microphone in the door crackled to life.

"A Century of American Music," it intoned, in a sexless voice filtered to a state of unrecognizability. Hurrying over to the bookshelf, Ms. Ellis pulled down the volume in question and paged through it rapidly until an index card fell out. The card read:

Turnabout is fairplay?

AT IF BS PG OT

(5 x 5, no Q)

Hardly an original cipher! This would be trivial for a group so skilled in cryptography.

----

Meet the Pieces

(Part 6 of Many)

Walter Sexton

Age: 54

Profession: Patent Attorney

Quote: "I never said that young people are dense as a rule. Some of the brightest minds I know are young! But the bright young people are all silly, and the sensible ones are all dense. Youth, intelligence, good sense - choose two."

Background: Raised in Oxford, sole son of a Latin professor and a nurse, Walter Sexton always seemed older than he really was. As he matured from a dour and cynical child to a moody teenager, his parents prophesied that he should be an old man by the age of twenty. This was true, in a sense. But with his keen mind for precedent and legal argument, he found a career in patent law that gave even him little cause for complaint. As the years went by and he had a little more time for his own pursuits, he mastered the construction of crosswords in the cryptic British tradition. Ever traditional in his tastes, a lover of illuminated manuscripts and fishtail lamps, Sexton is unlikely to be amused by the strange and wild turns that this story shall soon take.

Sample Puzzle: While reading in the Club, Sexton was asked to construct a tutorial for new Club members on how these puzzles worked. With a show of grouchy reluctance, he set to work.

"We begin with the types of clues," he wrote. "The most common type of clue consists of an answer expressed two ways. In the beginning or the end of the clue, the answer is defined. In the remainder, the answer is expressed through wordplay. The number of letters in the answer will usually be given in parentheses...

Tutorial:

* The Double Definition. This is the simplest of clues, in theory. The answer is simply defined twice. Example: "Cannon shot marine armour (5)"

* The Homophone. A word is replaced by its homophone; clues to this include "to the ear", "sound of", "heard", "in conversation," and so on. Example: "Sounds like Mark turned white about the temples (6)".

* Anagrams. Indicated by such words as "broken", "mixed", "wrong", and so on. Example: "Lack of scattered thread (6)". Note that certain words such as "of", "is", "in", "for", "by", "and", and so on may be present in a clue in addition to its wordplay, indicating the equivalence of the two halves. However, these words may also be part of the wordplay itself.

* Charades: The answer is assembled from multiple words. Example: "Monster concealed flower (6)".

* Reversals: A word is read in reverse. Example: "Star running back curses (4)".

* Containers: One or more words are placed inside another. Clue words include "in", "about", "without", "around", and so on. Example: "Everyone surrounded by lousy song (6)".

* Hidden word: The answer is hidden inside the clue itself, often across word boundaries. Example: "SPECTRE is tough, ostracized, concealed (5)".

* Deletions: A word or set of letters is removed from another word. Example: "Paladin loses boy, bringing grief. (4)"

* More than one of the above. Clues frequently involve combining the above tricks, along with abbreviations, acronyms, roman numerals, and so forth. Example: "I speak of a barrier brief, unknown, and weighty. (6, 6)"

Learning these tricks would soon prove critical.

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(Correction to above post: "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" is 1960's pop, not 1950's pop. Oops.)

(Thalia: As it happens, "Na, na na, na na na na, na na na na, Hey Jude" is repeated 17 times, with an extra half or so left over. That this gives us NaCl is a cool coincidence, but nothing more than that.)

(Everyone: I apologize if some of these puzzles have a 'filler-y' quality to them, but I'm focusing on establishing themes, teaching some rules/methods of solving, introducing characters, and keeping the game moving while I prepare for a few key later puzzles, including the nightmare of puzzle writing that is the Epigraph itself.)

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"Cannon shot marine armour (5)"Shell?

"Sounds like Mark turned white about the temples (6)". Altars?

"Lack of scattered thread (6)" Dearth?

"Monster concealed flower (6)" Orchid?

"Star running back curses (4)". Rats?

"Everyone surrounded by lousy song (6)". Ballad?

"SPECTRE is tough, ostracized, concealed (5)".....stuck on this one.

"Paladin loses boy, bringing grief. (4)" Pain?

"I speak of a barrier brief, unknown, and weighty. (6, 6)" I want to say Secret Garden....but can't resolve the weighty bit.

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Turnabout is fairplay?

AT IF BS PG OT

(5 x 5, no Q)

Hardly an original cipher! This would be trivial for a group so skilled in cryptography.

Might this have something to do with the Playfair cipher? Probably not, but you never know...

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Might this have something to do with the Playfair cipher? Probably not, but you never know...

First of all, use spoilers.

Second, it's definitely the Playfair cipher. In fact, I don't think I've ever seen it this clearly indicated. I'm having trouble working out what the key is, though; "turnabout" is the obvious choice, but it gives me garbage. I'm thinking there's a cryptic-crossword-style clue that leads to the key.

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Found something!

If you use the word "trivial" as they key, the message decodes to "VA then NJ MI." Maybe the guests should visit these states?

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