I have here a happy heptet of little riddles, or is it an octet?


His eyes were plucked out by the tip of a knife,
And his skin was shaved off with the blade.
He was then left over a roaring flame,
In a roiling cauldron to bathe.
When this was done, they whisked him away,
And stamped him down into his grave.


One less and I can't be any sooner,
Two less and I'll feel a little pain,
With a little space to sit, I can rest on a shelf,
So there's something to do with your brain.


I was conceived without a mother,
I was hatched without an egg,
I was executed without trial,
But that failed, so now I'm dead.


Soundless it screams,
Voiceless it utters,
Sightless sees,
And featherless flutters.


We're a tight-knit group, working in secret,
In plain sight, not that you'd think it,
We're hidden in spice, in mice and in rice,
But not in your semiconductor device.


I breeze through life, just like my name,
I have more than I need - again it's the same.
Sometimes I'm mistaken for an old man's bane,
But it's only my folly that brings him to shame.


Without one, you're already doing it now,
Without two, what you'll be up to soon,
A little tree spirit, vowel for a vowel,
With a different first step it's some food.



Partial answer because I should really be working rather than digging further on this:

First of all, let's answer the individual riddles. A couple of them I'm not too sure about; one I'll go so far as to say is probably wrong.

His eyes were plucked out ...

POTATO (eventually mashed; most likely his "grave" was actually "gravy"). Could also be SPUD or its eventual fate of MASH.

One less and I can't be any sooner ...

KNOW (one less: NOW; two less: OW; add LEDGE to get KNOWLEDGE)

I was conceived without a mother ...

PLAN (though PLOT or SCHEME would also work OK). The lines are straightforward description; it's just that "conceived", "hatched", etc., are being used less literally than one might think. I'm a little concerned that the last line doesn't seem like a great fit for any of these.

Soundless it screams ...

I'd thought this was just a variant on the very similar riddle in The Hobbit with answer WIND (and was concerned about "Sightless it sees" which doesn't seem to fit); in comments, MOehm makes the excellent alternative suggestion of BAT. I think this must be right.

We're a tight-knit group, working in secret ...

CELL (first line is literal; second is I think just filler; third and fourth are about biological cells, not the coincidental -ice ending).

I breeze through life, just like my name ...

Maybe EASE which fits the first two lines in various ways (with a hint of "E"s)? But I can't make this match the last two lines, so it's probably wrong.

Without one, you're already doing it now ...

DREAD. ((d)READ is what a solver is doing now; D(r)EAD is everyone's fate all too soon; a DRYAD is a tree spirit, and BREAD is food.)

So we have:


What now? Well, here's my current best guess.

Beneath each riddle there's a line made mostly of "=" but with a small number of "+". If we count those, we get 3322121. Maybe pick letters with those indices into each word? That gives us, depending on which version of the first answer we pick, TOLACAD or UOLACAD or SOLACAD -- the penultimate letter being especially doubtful. If we go with MASH for the first answer and suppose that the second-last has E for its second letter, then we get SOLACED, which means something at least a little like "happy".

Some other unproductive maunderings:

We could count ==== segments instead of + separators, getting 4433232 or AWATESR; again, not a word, and AW..E.R is no better. Maybe count ==== segments from the line above each word? That gives 1443323 or PWNTLAE and no small number of corrections is going to save that.

Some even more unhelpful maunderings:

PLEASED means happy and most of it is a substring of CELL EASE DREAD; a RAINBOW is a happy sort of thing and the last letters of POTATO KNOW PLAN all fit into it, but that's not consistent with CELL and DREAD which I'm fairly sure of; looking for letters shared between consecutive pairs of answers we have O, N, A, [none], E, [E or A] which doesn't seem useful even if EASE is completely wrong. If we write SPUD instead of POTATO and stick with WIND instead of BAT, then everything is four letters long, which is nice ... except that DREAD is five letters long and there doesn't seem much doubt about that one. If we use SPUD then the initial letters are SKPBCED which seems like the sort of thing that might be close to a word meaning "happy", but nothing in Qat's UKACD dictionary even matches .K..C.D (initial letters of answers I'm very confident about).

Credit where due:

MOehm made the ingenious suggestion of BAT for #4.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The third one makes me think of a cebprff be fpevcg $\endgroup$
    – ferret
    Sep 21 '21 at 14:26
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I had also looked into this, but with less success. For what it's worth, I had rot13(ONG) for the fourth riddle. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Sep 21 '21 at 15:21
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MOehm Oh, that's a very nice idea. (And if it's right, it's particularly nice that they were able to make a riddle so similar to the one in The Hobbit but with an entirely different answer.) $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Sep 21 '21 at 15:41
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Rot13: V unq THG sbe #6, jvgu "thfg", "tyhg", "tbhg", naq "thvyg" orvat fhopyhrf. Ubjrire, THG qbrfa'g svg jvgu "fbynprq". Creuncf gur nafjre vf YRFF ("yvsryrff"/"anzryrff", "arrqyrff", "gvzryrff", "funzryrff")? $\endgroup$
    – JS1
    Sep 22 '21 at 11:00
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JS1 Those are both ingenious ideas but neither feels to me as if it really fits the clue. (For the first one, there's no indication in the riddle that we're meant to be adding letters. For the second, it just all seems too indirect.) Still, both are better than anything I've come up with yet :-). $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Sep 22 '21 at 13:53

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