The inspector sighed as she lifted her head from the mess of notes, scribbles and diagrams on the desk. The air in the office was so thick she could barely make up the "no smoking" sign through the mist of smoke.

-"We need some air in here. Gosh, how I hate this man!"

Her sergeant quietly opened the only tiny window in the room. He took a deep breath, relishing the cold, clean winter air as it filled his poor, mistreated lungs.

-"Let's take a step back, shall we?" - said the inspector, gently massaging her tired eyes - "This guy has been missing for months, hasn't he".

-"That's right ma'am. His last activity on a puzzling forum dates back to August, and no one has heard from him since. Back then we realised that one of the other musicians of the chamber ensemble where he played second violin was likely to be responsible, but we couldn't pin it on any of them."

The inspector turned her head to the pinboard, where photos of the suspects seemed to stare at them mockingly:

  • Melody Handel, an academic who played first violin.
  • Harmon Britten, bricklayer and virtuoso of the viola.
  • Viola Mahler, primary school teacher, played the cello.
  • Canon D. Pachelbel, a clergyman who played the harpsichord.

-"Months later, while we are at a dead end, we get a message, purportedly from the victim himself. I mean, if you were held prisoner and managed to smuggle out a message, what would you write?"

-"Something very clear, so I can be easily found, surely."

-"Not this guy. He sends us this:"

enter image description here

Text version here

-"Unbelievable. Does he even want to be found at all?"

-"I'm sure he does, but, from what we've learned of him, he can't be trusted to do the most logical thing at any given time."

Edit: I removed the music tag added after I posted the puzzle. Although there is a musical theme, no specific musical knowledge is needed for the solution.


-Ma'am - The sergeant rushed into the office brandishing a scribbled piece of paper - Constables aznbanana9 and Punintended have had an idea. They seem to be on to something.

The inspector grabbed the note, more brusquely than she would have liked. She perused it intently for a few minutes, then barked:

-Unless it means that he's in space, I don't see how this helps. Unless...

She paused for a moment, then mumbled:

-The great art... ars magna... he's into puzzles, isn't he?

She sat at her desk, grabbed a notebook and started to scribble, to the bemusement of the sergeant.

  • $\begingroup$ rot13(Vf gurer nal jnl sbe hf gb xabj jurer gur frcnengbef ner nsgre gur svefg fgrc?) $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 11:24
  • $\begingroup$ Abar, ohg vg fubhyq or snveyl rnfl gb erpbtavfr gurz. Jryy qbar ba oernxvat gur svefg ynlre! $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 11:32
  • $\begingroup$ Gunaxf. Lrnu, bayl guerr bs gurz ner nzovthbhf, ohg V thrff gung'f abg n terng ahzore bs gevny naq reebe erdhverq. Zl thrff vf gung nyy unir gb or bs yratgu 2, ohg yrg'f frr $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 11:34

1 Answer 1


The culprit is:

Melody Handel

Taking line 11 of the pastebin link in the problem (a text representation of all the notes):

I mapped each note from A-G to a number between 1-7, skipping all the rests. This gave a bunch of strings: ['41', '162', '421', '44', '12111455', '41', '5', '743', '26651', '44', '513', '6327', '255422', '553516', '24', '234', '46354', '14', '14234', '63', '4523', '5', '51734', '5', '212', '455', '6437', '23', '14432', '6242', '51111', '4154', '5', '33752', '32', '41', '743', '41', '36', '52', '44', '214652', '5233543', '73432', '261', '6552312', '5771', '7211363', '5', '5531', '44651', '626236', '7345', '1323', '63177', '72632', '556171', '14361', '331241', '131']

Summing all the digits in each 'word' gives:

[5, 9, 7, 8, 20, 5, 5, 14, 20, 8, 9, 18, 20, 25, 6, 9, 22, 5, 14, 9, 14, 5, 20, 5, 5, 14, 20, 5, 14, 14, 9, 14, 5, 20, 5, 5, 14, 5, 9, 7, 8, 20, 25, 19, 9, 24, 20, 23, 5, 14, 20, 25, 19, 9, 24, 20, 25, 15, 14, 5]

Converting to letters:

by mapping a number to a letter in the alphabet 0->A and 25->Z gives: fjhiuffouijsuzgjwfojofuffoufoojofuffofjhiuztjyuxfouztjyuzpof

By some brute force, I found that

rot25('fjhiuffouijsuzgjwfojofuffoufoojofuffofjhiuztjyuxfouztjyuzpof') => 'eighteen thirty five nineteen ten nineteen eighty six twenty sixty one' (spaces added where I thought it made sense) => 18 35 19 10 19 86 20 61

Not sure where to go from here!

With a clue from @Punintended:

1835, 1910, 1986, and 2061 are all years that Halley's Comet was visible (and will be visible) from earth. Halley's Comet is named after Edmond Halley who is credited with calculating the periodicity of the comet (and why it's visible from earth every 75-76 years).

@Gahja pointed out that:

Edmond Halley is an anagram of Melody Handel which is confirmed to be the answer, rather anti-climatically!

My guess as to what the The Great Art has to do with this is that it is

a book on algebra, which is related to academics which is what Melody Handel does for a living.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Another way to say rot25 on a0z25 is just a1z26, which is also standard (or you can just do a0z25 on the first part as well) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 21:27
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @aznbanana9 rot13(Gubfr ner nyy lrnef va juvpu Unyyrl'f Pbzrg cnffrf Rnegu) $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 21:32
  • $\begingroup$ Nu crevbqvp pbzrg, gung znxrf frafr! $\endgroup$
    – dhuang
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 21:43
  • $\begingroup$ And it looks like the right track, as rot 13(Gur anzr bs gur fhfcrpg Zrybql Unaqry vf na nantenz bs Rqzbaq Unyyrl.) $\endgroup$
    – Gahja
    Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 18:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well done - just to clarify rot13("Gur terng neg" (nef zntan) uvagrq - va n irel ebhaqnobhg jnl - gb gur svany fgrc: "nef zntan" vf gur nantenz bs... "nantenzf") $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 2, 2021 at 19:23

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