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A friend of mine who works with computers sent me this handwritten short story in the post with no explanation whatsoever.

It raises many questions, for one he usually just emails me, and he's never expressed any interest in creative writing.

  1. The young man approached the train station, he had been out on the slopes by himself this morning, but only for a short while because it was so cold.
  2. Outside the station building he spies a purple and yellow flower, awash with sunshine.
  3. And a large old tree is looking a little worse for wear following a series of frosty mornings.
  4. Through the entryway and above on a sign, a lipstick mark serves as the logo to a small bookshop.
  5. Just inside the doorway a middle-aged Indian woman is organising the shelves wearing a colourful one-piece garment.
  6. In the middle of the platform, a small circular booth is serving snacks, newspapers and other essentials. A man in overalls kneels, polishing the yellow metal of the shop with a cloth and container of orange liquid.
  7. A young girl surreptitiously slips a chocolate into her pocket.
  8. The station guard reprimands her and the young girl cries and insists she wasn't shoplifting.
  9. The owner of the shop stands by watching the scene play out, uncertain how to respond.
  10. On the other side of the booth, two burly men are leaning, both are wearing T-shirts labelled 'Sydney to Hobart 2011'.
  11. One is relating a story with a wide grin, miming the action of rowing a boat.
  12. The train arrives, passengers disembark and cargo starts to be unloaded. Workers struggle to hoist a large crate containing dangerous snakes, to be delivered to the zoo.
  13. They urgently call out for more workers to come and assist with the weight.
  14. He boards the train and makes his way towards the back. In the dining car, the chef removes huge cuts of bone-in meat from a container of marinade, to be prepared for lunch.
  15. He sits and orders a coffee. In the newspaper, an aristocrat has unexpectedly paid to release a pair of prisoners, currently awaiting trial for a bizarre crime.
  16. He flips through the pages, there's a photo from a chess match, a moustached British gentleman finally captures his opponent's piece and brings it to his lips in celebration.
  17. Rumours circle that a football referee may be under investigation following a series of questionable decisions.

He reaches the end of the newspaper and turns to the back page. The crossword today is strange, none of the 17 rows join up, and they each have 13 letters.

Why did my friend send me this?

Hint #1:

The 17 crossword answers each contain the same 13 letters, note the anagram tag.

Hint #2: Some extras, these didn't fit in the story and are a bit more tenuous:

X1. Noah's group always sit alone and watch the fish in the pond.

X2. Trumpet player's tell-all book annoyed the Biblical king.

X3. Is there a chance that the sash belt could become unfastened? Possible, but unlikely.

X4. The spaceship's captain is crying as well

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is a very intriguing (and challenging!) puzzle :) Can I just confirm, please - 'they each have 13 letters': this figure, 13, is correct, yes? Not saying there's definitely any mistake, I'm doubtless just not finding the correct intended solution yet, but confirmation either way would spur me on to persist and keep thinking... Thanks! :) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Sep 16 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ @Stiv, That's correct, I've added Hint #1 (more to come) that provides an extra clue about the 13 letters. $\endgroup$
    – Chengarda
    Sep 16 at 22:41
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks for confirming :) I'd already been working on the assumption that what you say in Hint 1 was the case, but although I have no new information it's good to know I'm at least on the right track! $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Sep 16 at 22:44
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    $\begingroup$ I'm glad Stiv asked for confirmation -- I was working under a completely different assumption. I share Stiv's view that this puzzle is intriguing. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Sep 17 at 6:32
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I think I almost have an entirely complete answer here, but am still missing three of the main puzzle anagrams (see entries in italics below)...

Your friend has stopped using his computer because he has learned about:

ROKO'S BASILISK - a thought experiment about the risks involved in developing artificial intelligence. Fearing that a powerful AI from the future might punish those who could have helped to create it but did not, he would much rather quit his job in computing altogether so as not to receive any blame when this event occurs!

His 17 bullet points...

...all provide clues to 13-letter phrases that are anagrams of 'ROKO'S BASILISK'.

  1. The young man approached the train station, he had been out on the slopes by himself this morning, but only for a short while because it was so cold.

In other words, he had A BRISK SOLO SKI.

  1. Outside the station building he spies a purple and yellow flower, awash with sunshine.

LOOK! IRIS BASKS...

3. And a large old tree is looking a little worse for wear following a series of frosty mornings.

Not entirely sure about this one, but possibly OAK RISKS BOILS with the temperature changing so suddenly from cold to hot...

  1. Through the entryway and above on a sign, a lipstick mark serves as the logo to a small bookshop.

i.e. It's a BOOKS-LAIR KISS.

  1. Just inside the doorway a middle-aged Indian woman is organising the shelves wearing a colourful one-piece garment.

The woman has two things of note: SILK SARI, BOOKS.

  1. In the middle of the platform, a small circular booth is serving snacks, newspapers and other essentials. A man in overalls kneels, polishing the yellow metal of the shop with a cloth and container of orange liquid.

The workman is using BRASS KIOSK OIL.

  1. A young girl surreptitiously slips a chocolate into her pocket.

Tut, tut - LISA ROBS KIOSK.

  1. The station guard reprimands her and the young girl cries and insists she wasn't shoplifting.

In a brazen act of deceit, our KIOSK LIAR SOBS.

  1. The owner of the shop stands by watching the scene play out, uncertain how to respond.

KIOSK BOSS: RAIL? - that's the decision facing them...

  1. On the other side of the booth, two burly men are leaning, both are wearing T-shirts labelled 'Sydney to Hobart 2011'.

Over at the next kiosk (i.e. 'Kiosk B') we can see two KIOSK B SAILORS.

  1. One is relating a story with a wide grin, miming the action of rowing a boat.

He's experiencing KIOSK OAR BLISS!

12. The train arrives, passengers disembark and cargo starts to be unloaded. Workers struggle to hoist a large crate containing dangerous snakes, to be delivered to the zoo.

Not entirely sure on this one, but they're definitely dealing with BOAS (or even BASILISKS...).

  1. They urgently call out for more workers to come and assist with the weight.

They shout out about the dangers of the snakes' weight, i.e. the BOA KILOS RISKS.

  1. He boards the train and makes his way towards the back. In the dining car, the chef removes huge cuts of bone-in meat from a container of marinade, to be prepared for lunch.

i.e. The chef SOAKS RIB KILOS.

  1. He sits and orders a coffee. In the newspaper, an aristocrat has unexpectedly paid to release a pair of prisoners, currently awaiting trial for a bizarre crime.

The headline reads: SIR BAILS KOOKS.

  1. He flips through the pages, there's a photo from a chess match, a moustached British gentleman finally captures his opponent's piece and brings it to his lips in celebration.

The photo shows the moment of the BASIL ROOK KISS.

17. Rumours circle that a football referee may be under investigation following a series of questionable decisions.

Not the foggiest. Possibly we might be looking for the name of a particular referee here...

As for the extras...

X1. Noah's group always sit alone and watch the fish in the pond. = Not sure, but we can get ARK, SOLO, LOOK, KOI and BASS among our words (not all at once) so possibly some of those in combination... (e.g. ARK IS KOI SLOBS)

X2. Trumpet player's tell-all book annoyed the Biblical king. = Again, not sure. Possibly something along the lines of AL BOOK IRKS SIS (if 'Sis' were a Biblical king and 'Al' referred to Al Hirt)...

X3. Is there a chance that the sash belt could become unfastened? Possible, but unlikely. = ASK OBI RISKS? LO

X4. The spaceship's captain is crying as well = KIRK IS SOB ALSO (this is actually the clue that allowed me to formalise what clue #1 should be - I had 'BRISK SKI' but nothing else - and then break into the puzzle proper...)

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm open to ideas on the remaining ones :) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Sep 17 at 9:24
  • $\begingroup$ Well done! This particular human pseudo-intellicence operated under the assumption that the friend couldn't use e-mail, because rot13(fbzrguvat VF OEBXRA. Naq V unir R'f naq C'f rireljurer, orpnhfr lryybj-checyr sybjref ner CNAFVRF, evtug?) $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Sep 17 at 9:32
  • $\begingroup$ @MOehm Same here for a long time! Also that the KEYBOARD might be MISSING which had lots of common letters with my partial solves. Eventually I found versions for #1 and X4 that were anagrams of each other and worked off that using my partials. Took a looong time! $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Sep 17 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent work! You got so many of them! I'll leave it for others to discuss and then provide my intended answers a bit later on. $\endgroup$
    – Chengarda
    Sep 17 at 12:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Chengarda I'd be intrigued to see if others can find the missing ones - I've put out a call in the main chatroom on the site to see if anybody else feels inspired :) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Sep 17 at 12:55

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