An entry in Fortnightly Topic Challenge #50: Escape Rooms

Without revealing too much, knowledge of geek culture and/or superb Google skills are required for this puzzle.

Coming from an anime convention and looking for something else to do, you and your friends find yourselves in the Puzzling Free-to-Play Escape Room. After scouring the geek-culture-themed room for clues and completing some physical puzzles that can't be replicated on PSE, you are left with five numbered clues in front of you. The door to freedom is locked with a five-letter combination lock; attached to it is a card that says "𝜈, 1, 5, 3, 4". Your phones (ie. Internet resources) are allowed for information gathering and cipher solving, but brute-forcing a cipher is forbidden. What five-letter code will lead you to freedom? Collaboration and partial answers are encouraged, but the one who gets the final code with a reasonable amount of explanation will get the green check.


  1. After a while with not a lot of progress, a voice comes from a speaker in the corner of the room asking, "Do you want a hint?" You accept, and the voice continues:

"Not to worry you, but the note attached to the lock could be a trap."

  1. (Bigger hint) Seeing you still working on the first puzzle, the voice goes on:

"It's time to d-d-d-d-decipher!"

  1. "If you're stuck on the first puzzle, you can try...

...working on the fourth one; the rebus can be solved independently of the other puzzles."

  1. "In addition to the extra information provided in bold for #3 (which really should have been there from the start), something to note for the rebus is that...

...the enumeration of its solution is (4: 4 9). In other words, there is a 4-letter word, then a colon, then a 4-letter word, then a 9-letter word."

  1. (Bigger hint since it's been a year) "I'm noticing that the rebus puzzle is taking a lot of time. Speaking of taking, when you take away anything in this rebus...

you will have to do so non-consecutively.

Was that unfair? Maybe, but I mean you have to solve the rest of this escape room that way so whatever. It also makes sense, then, that since you need to approach things in this room in different ways, that...

the number signs in the rebus will also have to be approached in different ways!"

  1. "Another note about the rebus: there is more significance to the first entry on the second line than one might think.

What is the arrow pointing at?"

  1. "It looks like there hasn't been much progress on the Shingoki....

Before you can solve it (something you actually need to do), you need a way to convert the letters to numbers; all the clues you need to do so are either in Deusovi's partial answer or the rhyme accompanying the puzzle...."

The Clues

  1. A version of Egyptian mate
    From head to foot; his name is great
    A king that holds a thousand years
    Embodying our spirit here
    ____ ____

  2. Zlkiw inh kctmdue olx mmy (10)
    Zbgf ymoe fbbghm pquw cd fkbfovs (7)
    Pyvbufx gmgkpaq zcr uoz mzmsp urt (9)
    Ecvy yzzmd ntgry un pclusmzqza aspv (4)
    Kien Gstuji ofnp jygle nh xcurwgmr (4)

  3. A Shingoki with nothing added.
    Extra letters make it padded.
    Use the second for this third,
    Taking firsts of every word.

    (penpa-edit link here; Shingoki rules and Markdown transcription at the bottom).
    Shingoki puzzle with the letters N, O, D, C, R, A, L, S, and E instead of numbers

  4. ### A picture of a Fiat that has "with #" in parentheses beneath it and a colon to the right of it. Then, a picture of a ripoff of the video game "Among Us" minus a hamster in a ball from Among Us. Finally, a male symbol in the middle of the flag of Peru that has "without #" beneath it, plus the album cover for "iii" by Miike Snow with the "iii" circled and two lines beneath it, the right one slightly shorter with a rounded rectangle above it, plus a mostly-blue square with a yellow horizontal rectangle at the top and bottom.


Shingoki Rules

Adapted from A Shingoki Puzzle. However, it looks like these rules can't be directly applied to this specific Shingoki....

  • Draw lines between the dots to form a single loop without crossings or branches.
  • The loop should pass through every circled number in the grid.
  • For white circles, the loop must pass through in a straight line.
  • For black circles, the loop must make a 90-degree turn when passing through them.
  • The numbers in the circles show the sum of lengths of the 2 straight lines going out of that circle.

Shingoki Markdown Transcription

πŸ… Ⓝ Β· β“„ πŸ…“ Β· πŸ… Β· Β· β“„ Β· Β·
Β· πŸ…’ Β· Ⓡ πŸ… Β· πŸ…ž πŸ… πŸ…› Β· πŸ… Β·
β“„ Β· πŸ…‘ Β· Β· Ⓝ Β· Ⓝ β“„ πŸ…‘ Β· Β·
Β· Ⓡ β“„ Β· Β· Β· πŸ…ž πŸ…› Β· Β· Β· β“ˆ
πŸ…‘ Β· Β· Ⓝ Β· Β· β’Ά Β· β“ˆ Β· πŸ… Β·
πŸ…” Β· Β· Β· πŸ…” Β· Β· πŸ… Β· Β· πŸ…“ Β·
Β· Β· Β· β’Ή Β· πŸ…› β“ˆ Β· Β· πŸ…’ πŸ…“ Β·
πŸ…› πŸ… Β· Β· πŸ…› Β· Β· πŸ…“ Β· Β· Β· πŸ…“
β“„ Β· Ⓝ Β· β“„ Β· Β· Β· Β· β“„ Ⓡ πŸ…’
Β· Β· πŸ…‘ πŸ…’ Β· Β· Β· πŸ…’ Β· πŸ…‘ Β· πŸ…ž
Β· Β· πŸ… Ⓡ Β· Ⓝ πŸ…ž Β· Ⓡ Β· Ⓛ πŸ…’
Β· Ⓛ πŸ…ž Β· Β· Β· β’Ά πŸ…“ Β· πŸ…› Β· Β·
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Just double-checking: if I assume that the shingoki is normal except that we don't have numbers (it might turn out that e.g. the letters somehow determine numbers, but for the moment I'm not assuming that) I quickly get a contradiction in the lower right corner. Obviously you're not telling us explicitly what the rules are, nor even whether we should be trying to solve this thing at all, so this could be perfectly correct, but I'd just like to make sure it isn't an oversight. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 20:12
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan The rules provided are for a standard Shingoki (to keep the puzzle self-contained), but the Shingoki provided is not standard; part of the puzzle is figuring out what to do with it. I've gone over it myself countless times (including once more just now) and I am reasonably certain that there are no oversights in the Shingoki. Hope that helps! $\endgroup$
    – samm82
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 20:33
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ That's pretty much what I expected :-). $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 20:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can we take hints, like a real escape room? :) $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 6, 2021 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ What is the arrow pointing at? THE RED PARTS! $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 9, 2023 at 19:27

2 Answers 2


Partial answer

Since this has been around for so long, I figured I'd share my progress so far.

[NB: I did need to bruteforce the first cipher, and I would've never gotten it without doing that. I also bruteforced the other one, but don't plan to use the information until I figure out how I was supposed to have gotten the key.]


This appears to be a riddle with answer YUGI MUTO, a character from the anime Yu-Gi-Oh. I am only vaguely familiar with the show, and know there is some Egyptian theming involved in it; I'm not sure what the other references in the poem are.

Decoding this as Vigenere with key YUGIMUTO gives five cryptic clues:

Break out mineral and gem (10)
Fish eggs lining head of lettuce (7)
Reptile somehow got air after all (9)
Sick after taste of disgusting herb (4)
D_ + ILL
East Nevada club leads to jealousy (4)

The first letters of these clues' answers spell TRADE; I'm not sure how relevant that is.

The images here appear to be:
- ??? - a hamster ball

- PERMU (symbol for male in flag of Peru)
- iii, ??? (this is the album Miiike Sn!!!w by the band Miike Snow)
- the nautical flag for D

I have no idea what the remaining images are cluing, or what we're supposed to do with these. The second row almost makes the word PERMUTED, but I don't see a reasonable way to get "TE" from the second image.

I'm not sure what was supposed to give this to us, but decrypting the text with keyword HIE gives the following (with spaces and punctuation added by me):


Some completely wild guesses for 3:

In the Shingoki, the black letters anagram to ANDROCLES / COLANDERS / AND CLOSER, and the white letters anagram to RONALDS/ARNOLDS. Neither of these seems to be productive.
The Shingoki grid has the right dimensions to be dissected into Braille letters, but they don't seem to all fit in the A-Z range.
The counts of the letters in the Shingoki grids aren't particularly enlightening:
counts of letters in both black and white

In the answers for 2, ROMAINE is a proper subset of TOURMALINE, both of which are isograms. If this is important, I can't figure out why.
The answers are strange enough that there's probably more to them than just their first letters. There are 34 letters in them, and 39 black circles and 27 white circles; these add up to 100... which would be nice if the grid was 10Γ—10, but it's actually 12Γ—12.

  • $\begingroup$ Your anagramming could also yield rot13(YBFR P NAQ E / NAQ Y BE F)' - would doing that make the grid puzzle solvable at all? $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Commented May 14, 2021 at 18:06
  • $\begingroup$ Apparently a mistake with clue 5 slipped in - your decoding of it is correct, but the key should have been different - my bad! The key is relevant and one could (hopefully) deduce it from the rest of the puzzles, so revealing its relevance would spoil too much, but I thought I'd let you know in case it prompted any further investigation! :D $\endgroup$
    – samm82
    Commented Apr 19, 2023 at 21:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I don't have enough ideas to create a new partial answer but I think rot13( sbe gur erohf, gur frpbaq ragel ba gur svefg yvar vf sebz n tnzr pnyyrq "Cergraq" naq gur guveq ragel vf Unzcgba, n crg sebz Nzbat Hf. Fb, gur jbeq vf znlor "ERAQ" (CERGRAQ - CRG). V guvax gur frpbaq ragel ba gur frpbaq jbeq vf "XUNA" : gur frpbaq jbeq (erq pvepyr) bs gur guveq genpx (VVV pvepyrq va erq) bs gur nyohz ZVVVxr Fa!!!j.) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 25, 2023 at 6:37

Partial answer

I figured out #3:

From the preamble to the shingoki, we can figure out that we need to use the results of the second puzzle for this one, and use the first letters of each. The answers to the clues in #2 are TOURMALINE, ROMAINE, ALLIGATOR, DILL, and ENVY (see Deusovi's answer for the solve there), and the first letters spell TRADE.

If we take each letter in the word TRADE and replace it throughout the shingoki with its corresponding clue number from 1-5 - noting that no Ts appear in the puzzle because it's impossible to have a 1 clue - we can get some useful information. We're also told from the preamble that there are extra letters in the puzzle, so if we remove any letter not in the word TRADE, we end up with something that looks solvable:

the empty grid we must solve
This actually doesn't give us a unique solution, but it's pretty clear what the intended solution is supposed to be:
the solved grid

Maybe somebody more familiar with Pokemon can shed some light on how to proceed with the rest of the puzzle.

  • $\begingroup$ Very nice! Hopefully it's clear why I added what I did πŸ˜‰! Taking another look at the preamble should give you enough information to get a unique solve, and rot13(gur gbc-evtug "4" fubhyq or n "2"). Also note that from hint #3, rot13("gur erohf pna or fbyirq vaqrcraqragyl bs gur bgure chmmyrf") - I'll be more explicit and say rot13(#4 qbrf abg qrcraq ba guvf NG NYY) $\endgroup$
    – samm82
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 17:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ ah thanks for the catch on that 4 vs 2. I had mistranscribed it at first then I realized I messed up at the end of the solve and I obviously treated it as a 2 but forgot to actually change the number πŸ˜‚ as for the preamble, I thought it was strange that it said {gurer jnf abguvat nqqrq} given that I had to {erzbir n ybg bs pyhrf sebz gur chmmyr}. does that have anything to do with it? $\endgroup$
    – juicifer
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 18:12
  • $\begingroup$ Every line of the Shingoki's preamble is intentional πŸ˜‰ $\endgroup$
    – samm82
    Commented Sep 27, 2023 at 22:51
  • $\begingroup$ @samm82 {vf vg whfg gung vg'f gur fubegrfg cngu lbh pna gnxr? v.r. nal rkgen yratgu jbhyq or "fbzrguvat nqqrq"?} $\endgroup$
    – juicifer
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 15:23
  • $\begingroup$ Nope! Since you already solved the Shingoki, I wouldn't worry about that justification too much; regardless, I'll probably add a hint about that specific part later for you (and anyone else who wants to try and figure it out!) $\endgroup$
    – samm82
    Commented Sep 28, 2023 at 15:45

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