# A mysterious paper: a collection of words around a star?

I found this paper which I think has a clue I need, but part's been torn off, and I don't recognize these words. Some of them don't even seem like words, just sets of characters. I'm sure there's a pattern though, maybe even more than one. What does it mean?

Hints:

It's significant that there are 7 unique characters on the page.

The 3 letter sets aren't words, but their order does matter.

NAR and ARN could also be added to the first column.

The old picture can be found here, though it shouldn't be needed.

• Out of character, I think this may be too hard as is. I feel like there needs to be one or two more clues, but I don't know what clues to give that wouldn't make it too obvious (though maybe still not easy). Commented Aug 2, 2020 at 0:21
• I've added a hint. While I'd prefer to incorporate all the hints into the picture, I'm still not quite sure how. Commented Aug 3, 2020 at 4:00

## 2 Answers

Look at the letters used.

There are seven unique letters, AEIMNRS, which could form three possible words as anagrams: REMAINS, MARINES, SEMINAR.

Look at the pattern drawn on the back.

It's a seven-pointed star formed by joining each point to the one two along from it. (Since seven is prime, there are different ways of forming a seven-pointed star, by joining each point to the one two or three along from it. Five is equivalent to two, four to three, and one and six simply give heptagons.)

There's a connection given by

the number seven: seven letters, seven-pointed star. The only question is how to order the letters.

Maybe the three-letter strings are given by

putting the letters in one of the three possible word orders and going along taking every (second, third, nth) letter.

Explicitly:

RNA from REMAINSREMAINS (every 4th letter)
IRE from REMAINSREMAINS (every 3rd letter)
RAM from MARINESMARINESMARINES (every 6th letter)
SIM from REMAINSREMAINSREMAINS (every 5th letter)
NES from MARINES (every letter)
NAE from REMAINSREMAINSREMAINS (every 5th letter)
IMN from MARINESMARINES (every 4th letter)

RAS from REMAINS (every 3rd letter)
RAN from SEMINARSEMINARSEMINAR (every 6th letter)
AME from REMAINSREMAINSREMAINS (every 6th letter)
ASM from REMAINSREMAINS (every 3rd letter)

REM from REMAINS (every letter)

The only one not expressible in this form is

SIN. Maybe this is the solution, as there are seven deadly sins?

• You're on the right track, but rot13(lbh ner abg znxvat hfr gur ebjf naq pbyhzaf). Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 8:51
• @JoshuaTaylor I figured there's that information I haven't used yet, but couldn't work out how to incorporate it. Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 9:26
• I might be able to redraw the picture to make getting started a little easier, but I won't have time for that until later tomorrow. Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 9:54
• I suppose in the meantime I can describe the changes I'm thinking of making: rot13(va EAN nqqvat n qbggrq yvar pbaarpgvat gur E gb A, A gb N naq N gb E, naq punatvat gur fgne gb gur bgure frira cbvag fgne) Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 10:07
• I uploaded the new picture with those changes I mentioned. Commented Aug 4, 2020 at 22:59

Apologies to anyone who's still working on this.

Step 1:

There's a seven point star in the background and seven unique letters among the words on the page, but how to put them together. This is the leap of logic that I couldn't find a good way to hint, but the dotted arrow and the triangles are supposed to suggest that three letter groups are the order you'd encounter the letters going around a circle.

Step 2:

If you try this with all the groups of letters, they don't all fit together. However, if you try it with just the first column, there's exactly one order that works: RNAESIM, but what about the rest of the words?

Step 3:

There's not enough letter sets in the second column to get a unique permutation. Maybe if we could fill in the blanks? There's no blanks in the first column, so does it work if we fill in the blanks from the first column? It seems like it might, but we can't quite tell if IMN should be copied over or not since the page is torn.

Step 4:

There's one more clue that we haven't really used yet; the star in the background. The 1, 2 and 3 step stars (the 1 step being the heptagon) are highlighted differently. We have one order for the letters and seem to be looking for two more. There's only a few ways match columns and stars and if you try them out, assigning the first column to the heptagon and the second to the 2 step star gets everything to match up with RASMNEI

Step 5:

That leaves the 3 step star for the last column. If we copy over the previous column again, we can verify that everything matches up. That third ordering gives the word REMAINS. One last clue to verify this is that all three columns begin with R..

Extra thought:

You can probably shortcut a lot of this by checking the anagrams of those letters and then trying the three possibilities, but you still need to know how to interpret the three letter groups to be sure which word is right though.