# The Cryptic Tower

You stand before a cryptic tower. On a locked door of crumbling stone is a strange cipher. The text is partially obscured by mold-covered cracks:

HOLLDW
SILENCE
BOUNLER
WASFUS

There are several keyholes and you spot five keys lying on the ground.

Unfortunately, each time a key is used, the internal pins are re-keyed. It will take several tries to open the door. Some keys will be used more than once.
You are not afraid to try your luck, for each correctly inserted key yields a clue. Yet take care… you are not the first who has tried these keys on the door.

The answer is a word related to the picture.

Text Version
(I think this is accurate but feel free to check my work)
Note that no information is obscured. If you cannot see a letter, it is whitespace.

TOWER HEADER:
VI VI IV V V VI VII IV

KEY 1:

FO
UN
NE_
RAL

KEY 2:

OE,Y
R
OHA
_
PY
LREI
DD

KEY 3:

WB
A
S
FNE
U
S
_

KEY 4:
LT
O
SUE
__T
(
5CEL
_

KEY 5:
S
_6T
U
LARM
OUNL
LSH
)SD


"you are not the first who has tried these keys": Which key was tried prior? How do you know? What might that mean?
"several keyholes": Can you find them? How might they work?
Hint: The first "clue" begins with 'S'.

The mechanism is simple, though tedious, and can be solved by hand or in notepad. No computer required. How do keys and pins physically interact?
Hint: The second "clue" begins with 'W'.

Even More Musings:

1) I've been thinking I should hint that this puzzle will take forever to solve unless you make a key observation after working out Clue 1. It should at that point become apparent that a hash/mapping function exists, f(key)=n, whereby you can map each key to a unique integer, which can be used to have retroactively gotten the same result (clue 1) as well as later results in significantly shorter time than the 'mechanical' method. If on the other hand, you saw this right away and easily got Clue 1 but can't find Clue 2, it means you still need to work out what the 'mechanical' method was and how it is impacting the cipher.

Another Hint:

Text version of the puzzle has been added. Begin with key #4 to eject from the tower a six letter word beginning with 'S'. The key must go into one of the bottom four keyholes.

Visual Hint:

• 1. What does "the text is partially obscured by mold-covered cracks" mean? In the given clues "HOLLDW SILENCE BOUNLER WASFUS" what is obscured? ---- 2. There are numbers on some of the keys. Which makes zeroes and letter Os ambiguous. Could you provide a text-version like you did for the cryptic text please? ---- 3. Also some parts of the keys are obscured, are they potentially hiding something (most importantly on bottom-most key, the section above the 6)? Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 17:21
• 1. It is stating that the last char of two words seems to be missing from the 4x7 grid; 2. I added another hint so that the focus can be more on the crux of the puzzle and less on figuring out what the chars are; 3. potentially (or not), I guess for now put a '?' and if no luck I can give more hints later. Whatever is hidden is one of the characters in the full set identified in my last hint.
– Amoz
Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 18:15

Tolls (thanks to @noneuclideanisms for solving the final part)

How to get there:

The roman numerals at the top hint at the lengths of the words that we should "eject" from the tower. The words are formed by the last letters that are pushed out of the tower by the keys. The correct order is

This gives the cryptic clue:
Sounds woeful echo until souls depart, finally lost (5)
The solution to this clue as solved by noneuclideanisms is
TOLLS (sounds) = (_L _O _L _S _T)*

• Answer to the cryptic clue could be rot13(GBYYF? Qrsvavgvba vf "fbhaqf" naq jbeqcynl vf nantenzzvat gur ynfg yrggref bs "jbrshY rpuB hagvY fbhyF qrcneG.") Commented Nov 8, 2021 at 23:56
• @noneuclideanisms Ah, that seems likely! Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 8:24
• Excellent work!
– Amoz
Commented Nov 9, 2021 at 14:18