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I am very worried about my auntie. I have not heard from her for nearly a month now, and our last phone call was very strange:

-"Hello?"

-"Hi auntie, how are you?"

-"Who is it?"

-"Your only nephew. You always do that..."

-"Oh yes. I'm good, thanks for calling. Bye."

-"Wait! what's going on? That was rude even for you!"

-"Listen Barry, I would love to hear you waffling, but I can't speak right now."

-"Why? Do you have a gentleman caller?"

-"You impudent git! If you must know, I am going abroad."

-"What?! In the middle of a pandemic? At your age? Are you out of your mind?!"

-"It's essential travel. None of your concern. Bye Barry."

She then hung up. I was shocked, but I knew better than calling her back to investigate further.

Yesterday I decided to check on her again, hoping she would be back by now. She didn't pick up the phone and I saw no sign of her at her place. So I decided to drop by the little restaurant she owns to ask if they had heard from them. I was greeted by Florence, the trusty manager.

-"Good afternoon Mr Poppins. Please, take a seat, I will be with you shortly."

-"Thanks Florence, but I've just come..."

-"I know. Take a seat, it's on the house" - she insisted with a smile.

I obeyed, driven by my growing curiosity and by the prospect of a free lunch. Florence came a moment later with some cutlery and one of their peculiar placemats:

Edit: as Deusovi noted in the solution below, there was a mistake in the previous codeword. I have replaced it for the benefit of future solvers. Note that, although the solution to the codeword published by Deusovi is now obsolete, the rest of the puzzle remains unchanged

Placemat

Text version of the codeword (0 indicates a block):

22,0,14,0,0,0,18,0,18,0,0,0,2,0,16

2,25,9,14,5,25,21,15,18,22,0,15,6,25,12

3,0,5,0,2,0,9,0,4,0,16,0,9,0,21

6,23,4,18,25,0,9,14,5,9,4,24,18,14,25

23,0,0,0,9,0,14,0,14,0,10,0,4,0,1

9,21,24,0,23,6,23,4,18,0,14,6,5,2,14

0,0,2,0,21,0,0,0,18,0,0,0,26,0,23

2,16,5,0,18,2,23,23,21,14,25,0,21,9,25

17,0,9,0,0,0,2,0,0,0,16,0,25,0,0

9,12,21,14,7,0,24,23,6,26,14,0,12,21,20

21,0,5,0,4,0,1,0,23,0,14,0,0,0,14

13,2,3,4,26,21,25,12,6,0,9,4,25,14,23

6,0,14,0,14,0,9,0,13,0,21,0,18,0,2

13,4,5,11,0,19,4,24,8,6,14,18,21,5,14

25,0,9,0,0,0,23,0,21,0,0,0,17,0,25

-"This is from your aunt, Mr Poppins"- she said laying down the placemat. I gave her a perplexed look, and she made sign to turn over the placemat. When I did, I was faced with my aunt's old-fashioned handwriting:

Barry,

Quite predictably, you have once again failed to mind your own business. I am tempted to write you to leave me alone and that I will be back when I will be back.

However, I think I should at least let you know where I am, partly because I know that your concern comes from some sort of misguided affection, partly because if I didn't I would never hear the end of it. The thought of your petulance can be quite convincing.

So here it is: For a while now I have felt that something was missing in my life, some sort hole if you wish. After some thought I realised that what I really need is to go back to my roots, to the place where I belong. Only that place could fill that hole.

Of course I am not just going to telegraph you the name of the place! You will need to fill the hole too. After all, I do not want to encourage your curiosity too much. Enjoy your complimentary meal.

Sincerely,

Your aunt.

-"Is that it?"- I asked Florence.

-"I'm afraid it is, Mr Poppins. Sorry..."

-"That's OK, Florence. The best thing I can do now, I think, is to get my revenge."

-"I'll bring you the menu. If I may advise, the fillet is rather expensive..."

Thanks to Florence G.-S. for Henry the Hog. There are a few things that I have tried for the first time in this puzzle, so any feedback will be more than welcome. Thanks to Deusovi for spotting the error in the previous codeword, I hope the new one works better.

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3
  • $\begingroup$ Do you have a text version of the Codeword? $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Aug 2 at 21:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Deusovi I can make one - are you thinking of a table of numbers with indication of the blocks? $\endgroup$ Aug 2 at 21:40
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, something like that would be nice to have. (I've done the transcription, it's no longer necessary for me, but later solvers may find it useful still.) Also, is there an error in the Codeword - specifically, in the fourth Down entry? $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Aug 2 at 21:47
14
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Codeword:

The first Down entry is ??G?RT, which is likely YOGURT. That gives O?T?T in row 2 and O??O?OGY in row 4 - guessing OCTET and [something]OLOGY gives enough letters to make the rest of the puzzle fall fairly easily. (The fourth Down entry seems to have an issue, though, and J isn't in the puzzle at all.)

filled codeword

Maze:

maze with walls highlighted

Only the US is accessible - I've highlighted the walls to show this. The solution is given by going through the maze between the blue and the red walls.

Solving the puzzle:

The top and bottom of the Codeword say YELLOW STRIPS. In the maze, the sections of the yellow strips that are traversed are:
maze with blackened yellow strips

This forms Morse code spelling out OH PA MD VA KY. These are five US state abbreviations - specifically, they are the five states surrounding West Virginia, which must be her destination!

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2
  • $\begingroup$ Absolutely correct. And you are right there is a mistake in the codeword. Oh, the shame! I knew it might have issues, but that was just silly... I will replace it for future solvers, I promise I'll pay more attention this time. $\endgroup$ Aug 3 at 7:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ There's another clue in the text: rot13(Gurer ner ylevpf sebz Wbua Qraire'f "Pbhagel Ebnqf" uvqqra va gur synibe grkg, abgnoyl "gb gur cynpr V orybat") $\endgroup$ Aug 3 at 13:43

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