Two rows of five horizontal cogwheels each are installed in a wall. Each cogwheel has five cogs protruding from the wall at any time. On each of these cogs is printed a single letter or a blank space. Thus, each row shows an adjustable line of text twenty-five characters long.

By spinning each of the cogwheels completely around, you have been able to determine what letters are on each of the cogs.

The first of the first row's cogwheels, for example, has sixteen cogs that show the characters:

["w", "h", "e", "n", " ", "d", "i", "s", "s", "o", "l", "v", "i", "n", "g", " "].

It can therefore be in sixteen possible positions, with sixteen different groups of five characters showing through its window, for example:

"when ", "en di", "lving", "g whe", etc.

Currently it is showing " diss".

Here are the characters that appear on all five of the first row's wheels:

["when dissolving ", "your being so that", " your stock of primetime ", "games is sufficiently", " hardy remember salt"].

(You see they have different numbers of cogs; but each displays only five at one time.)

The second row's wheels feature these characters:

["we nevertheless ", "want to let you know", " that down around ", "your neck of the woods", " is an unguarded grove"]

Currently, the cogwheels are in the following positions, and so seem to read:

" diss|ing s|our s|ames |ember"
"less |want |round| the |grove"

or simply:

" dissing sour sames ember"
"less want round the grove"

Your task is to spin the wheels until they spell something intelligible!

(As it's not entirely impossible that what constitutes "intelligible" might be debatable, here is a hint that can also serve as a kind of checksum of your answer:

The correct couplet can be reached by a minimum total of 64 moves, or nudges, left or right, from the wheels' current positions.)

  • $\begingroup$ Is " that down around " meant to have a space at the beginning and end? $\endgroup$
    – Dr Xorile
    Sep 27, 2021 at 23:32
  • $\begingroup$ Yes indeedy do. $\endgroup$ Sep 28, 2021 at 1:00

1 Answer 1


I believe the answer is:

solving sometimes is hard
never let down your guard

One small problem. This is (I think) 65 bumps...

In terms of how I solved it, I wrote a short python script that displays the wheels and allows you to change them one at a time. It's a simple loop in the text so that you can change the positions relatively quickly (e.g. hitting enter just repeats the previous command). Going through gave good options relatively quickly.

A better coder might have looked for real words and found a bunch of good candidates (maybe there aren't that many). But that felt slightly cheat-y and felt like more work. This was using code to make a working example of the set of cogs and then playing with it.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You got it! (I guess one of us counted the bumps wrong.) --That's the same approach I took to solving it (or test-solving ones like it): writing a little interactive program to simulate the rotation of the cogwheels, since paper and pen seemed awkward, and trying on a computer every permutation and then looking through them or checking them against a dictionary looked daunting. Cheers! $\endgroup$ Sep 28, 2021 at 1:06

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