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This puzzle is part of the Puzzling Stack Exchange Advent Calendar 2022. The accepted answer to this question will be awarded a bounty worth 50 reputation.

< Previous Door Next Door >


My brother and I have a Christmas tradition, in which each year we contrive ever more intricate and obscure ways of providing each other with a clue to what we have bought them for Christmas. This year, he’s posed me quite a puzzler…

Imagine my surprise the other night when I answered the front door of my London townhouse to a crowd of forty people. My attention was immediately drawn to a banner being held by those stood at the front, comprising ten different images:

A banner containing 10 Christmas-related symbols

Before I could really process what I was seeing, one of my visitors started singing, but when she had sung only a few words she suddenly stopped, and another person started singing instead. However, this second singer didn’t sing for very long either, and soon a third person was singing in their place. And it didn’t end there – soon, every single person present had sung a little to me, their words completely discordant with those that came before and after… and then they went around again! Quickly, I grabbed up a notepad and pen from the hallway table and wrote down everything they sang:

…A PASTY TREAT…
…A WIDOW ABOVE…
…AND ROLE TOO…
…ANT YOU NEAR…
…CAN COOP MUCK…
…CHAR SHE BROKE…
…DIE FOR PRY…
…EAT THEM OLD…
…FRUTTI MY HEAT…
…FUTURE HE RINGS…
…GIRL FOR WHO…
…GOD FRIENDS SHOULD…
…HOW TO SHOO…
…JOINING THE BACK…
…LONELY LONELY TIES…
…MATTERS TO LATE…
…MAYBE DIDN’T…
…NEEDED FOR ANTHER…
…ONE AND THROWN…
…OPEN YOUR YES…
…OUR PLANE’S WOMB…
…REPLY KEY WORKERS…
…ROLLS AND WIN…
…SATISFIED LITTLE THINS…
…SHE’S LIKE HONE…
…SHIVERS OWN MY…
…SHOULD HAVE SID…
…THE BAFFLED KIN…
…THE MAJOR LIT…
…THE RIFLE BOWL…
…THE WIND BOWS…
…THESE WEEPING SHOES…
…TOP TO NOTICE…
…TORY OF LOVE…
…VEGANS ARE INVOLVE…
…VERY POUND FOR…
…WE HAVE WAKED…
…WHAT BOUT SUNRISE…
…WORKING TOGETHER HEY…
…YOU MUM’S COOKING…

In all, every singer sang four times, then the whole crowd dispersed without a word. As I closed my door in bewilderment, my phone rang and my brother’s voice reached my ears. The line sounded very crackly, but I could just make out his opening words…

“Hey, little bother… Hop you’re well…”

Then he said, “Okay, some important things to bear in mind: Number One –” and then the line went dead!

Now I’m left scratching my head and wondering where to begin. Can you help me?

TASK: Use the words that were sung and the images on the banner to find the 10-letter Christmas present my brother has bought for me this year…

Image credits: 1 2 3 4 5 & 7 6 8 9 10

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1 Answer 1

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The 10-letter Christmas present your brother has bought for you is

a CHESSBOARD!

The way the puzzle works is

Each of the lyrics @Stiv wrote down are one letter off from the actual lyric. This checks out with @Stiv's brother saying "bother" rather than "brother" and "Hop" rather than "Hope", which hints to missing letters. Thus, you need to bring back the missing letter for each lyric. You also need to list down the song where the lyric comes from.

In the order presented, the lyrics (with the missing letter in boldface) and their corresponding songs are:

…A PAST(R)Y TREAT… (Don't Stop Me Eatin' by LadBaby)
…A WI(N)DOW ABOVE… (Only You by Yazoo)
…AND ROLE(Y) TOO… (Can We Fix It? (Bob the Builder theme song))
(W)ANT YOU NEAR… (Only You)
…CAN (S)COOP MUCK… (Can We Fix It?)
…CHA(I)R SHE BROKE… (Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen)
…DIE FOR PR(A)Y… (Reet Petite by Gordy, Davis and Fuqua, popularized by Jackie Wilson)
…EAT THEM (C)OLD… (Don't Stop Me Eatin')
…FRUTTI MY HEA(R)T… (Reet Petite)
…FUTURE HE (B)RINGS… (Saviour's Day by Cliff Richard)
…GIRL FOR WHO(M)… (Reet Petite)
…GO(O)D FRIENDS SHOULD… (Can We Fix It?)
…HOW TO SHOO(T)… (Hallelujah)
…JOINING THE B(L)ACK… (Saviour's Day)
…LONELY LONELY TI(M)ES… (Always On My Mind by Pet Shop Boys)
…MATTERS TO(O) LATE… (Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen)
…MAYBE (I) DIDN’T… (Always On My Mind)
…NEEDED FOR AN(O)THER… (Only You)
(G)ONE AND THROWN… (Bohemian Rhapsody)
…OPEN YOUR (E)YES… (Saviour's Day)
…OUR PLANE(T)’S WOMB… (Earth Song by Michael Jackson)
…REPL(A)Y KEY WORKERS… (Don't Stop Me Eatin')
…ROLLS AND WIN(E)… (Sausage Rolls For Everyone by LadBaby)
…SATISFIED LITTLE THIN(G)S… (Always On My Mind)
…SHE’S LIKE HONE(Y)… (Reet Petite)
…SHIVERS (D)OWN MY… (Bohemian Rhapsody)
…SHOULD HAVE S(A)ID… (Always On My Mind)
…THE BAFFLED KIN(G)… (Hallelujah)
…THE MAJOR LI(F)T… (Hallelujah)
…THE (T)RIFLE BOWL… (Sausage Rolls For Everyone)
…THE WIND B(L)OWS… (Bohemian Rhapsody)
…THESE WEEPING SHO(R)ES… (Earth Song)
(S)TOP TO NOTICE… (Earth Song)
(S)TORY OF LOVE… (Only You)
…VEGANS ARE INVOLVE(D)… (Don't Stop Me Eatin')
(E)VERY POUND FOR… (Sausage Rolls For Everyone)
…WE HAVE WA(L)KED… (Saviour's Day)
…WHAT (A)BOUT SUNRISE… (Earth Song)
…WORKING TOGETHER (T)HEY… (Can We Fix It?)
…YOU(R) MUM’S COOKING… (Sausage Rolls For Everyone)

Then, group together the lyrics that come from the same song, then from there gather the added letters. For example, "matters to(O) late", "(G)one and thrown", "shivers (D)own my", and "the wind b(L)ows" all come from the same song, Bohemian Rhapsody.

Now,

From left to right, then top to bottom, the ten images represent TOYS, a GIFT, a STAR, a TREE, a BELL, GOLD, SNOW, the MAGI, MARY, and a CARD. Notice that the missing letters in our lyrics from Bohemian Rhapsody can be rearranged to spell out "GOLD", which is exactly one of the things represented by the images. So here we have a pair: GOLD and Bohemian Rhapsody. And this can be done for the other sets of lyrics from the same song as well. In other words, each image can be partnered with a song whose lyrics have missing letters which can be anagrammed to form the name of that image.

Doing this gives us

Nine more pairs of the images partnered with the songs. In the order of the images mentioned in the previous spoiler, all ten pairs are:

TOYS (Can We Fix It?)
GIFT (Hallelujah)
STAR (Earth Song)
TREE (Sausage Rolls For Everyone)
BELL (Saviour's Day)
GOLD (Bohemian Rhapsody)
SNOW (Only You)
MAGI (Always On My Mind)
MARY (Reet Petite)
CARD (Don't Stop Me Eatin')

And so

When you take the first letter of each song and spell it out in the same order, you get CHESSBOARD!

Also, @JeremyDover found something which I did not, so thanks to him for this. He found out that

All of these songs are on the list of singles that rank #1 on the UK Singles Chart during the week where Christmas Day falls! This also checks out with what the brother said, which was that Number One was an "important thing to bear in mind".

And finally, additional notes from OP:

According to @Stiv's comment below this answer, he had hidden the following flavor text clues: 1) The use of singers to clue that the phrases @Stiv wrote were parts of lyrics; 2) the title ("from the TOP"), FORTY singers, and the London setting all combine to hint toward the UK TOP 40 (which are the first 40 singles in the UK Singles Chart); 3) "Number One", and 4) the Christmas setting of the puzzle.


My thoughts:

1) This turned out to be more difficult than I thought! Google wasn't particularly helpful many times. I found Earth Song first. Then I found Bohemian Rhapsody since I noticed that the lyrics were familiar even without one of their letters. I found four more songs before my mind gave up (and so I stopped thinking about it for a while by focusing on dinner instead). When I came back, I thought about the puzzle again for a while, and then I speculated that maybe "coop" could be "scoop", and so my progress continued from there. Thankfully, Google did help me in the last unsolved parts of the puzzle.

2) Also, I admittedly didn't look at the flavor text at first (since I was scanning rather than reading slowly), so I only speculated that I had to supply the missing letters by looking at the list alone (though after a short while I did read the puzzle more slowly, then saw the flavor text which confirmed my suspicions).

3) A while after @JeremyDover had found out the common theme between the songs, I suspected the significance of the title (which as said earlier was eventually confirmed by OP to be indeed the case), but I did not want to edit it in immediately, since I did not want to edit-bump. (I only edited it now because I was prompted by the OP to do so.)

4) Looking back, if I had known that these songs were on the UK Christmas Singles Chart's top 1 singles list, I would have solved this faster. But unfortunately that's not what happened.

5) Refer to @Stiv's postscript below and @justhalf's reply. I also had that small head-scratching moment Stiv was saying. :P In the middle of solving I wondered at first why Bohemian Rhapsody corresponded to five lyrics, rather than four (since for all the other songs I had found so far, each of them corresponded to only four lyrics).

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    $\begingroup$ GAH! 4 MINUTES! But a win's a win :-) Awesome puzzle though! Definitely not time wasted... $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2022 at 14:37
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, as someone who has been sniped more than once before I feel the pain. >_< On a (hopefully) more positive note, your answer was neater than mine (ROT13(lbh tebhcrq ylevpf sebz gur fnzr fbat gbtrgure engure guna ergnvavat gur bevtvany yvfg)); I should have done that format as well. $\endgroup$
    – oAlt
    Dec 3, 2022 at 14:46
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    $\begingroup$ No worries, brother! One thing missing that you may want to add: rot13(Nyy bs gurfr fbatf ner ba gur HX Puevfgznf #1 yvfg: uggcf://ra.jvxvcrqvn.bet/jvxv/Yvfg_bs_HX_Fvatyrf_Puneg_Puevfgznf_ahzore_barf). I missed this in my hurry at first, but suspected it. $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2022 at 14:48
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    $\begingroup$ Very well done (to @JeremyDover as well) - especially given you were hampered in your progress by not actually spotting the connection (and by being based outside the UK), which would have made for a massive shortcut! The main flavour text clues I hid included rot13(1. Gur hfr bs fvatref -> fbat ylevpf; 2. 'sebz gur GBC' (gvgyr), SBEGL fvatref, naq gur Ybaqba frggvat nyy pbzovar gb uvag gbjneqf gur HX GBC 40, gur anzr bs gur Fvatyrf Puneg urer; 3. 'Ahzore Bar', bs pbhefr; 4. gur Puevfgznf frggvat bs gur chmmyr) - but you managed with spotting only some of these! :) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Dec 4, 2022 at 9:30
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    $\begingroup$ PS @JeremyDover I'm glad that in your (deleted) answer you spotted the devious use of OPEN YOUR YES - I hoped that might make for a small head-scratching moment! :D $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Dec 4, 2022 at 9:31

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