This puzzle is part of the Monthly Topic Challenge #9: Game/Quiz Shows.

Sergeant Sequence had it all sussed out at last - his nemesis Patrick Terne was funding his criminal operations via an enormous quiz show scam. His MO was plain to see: Plant his highly knowledgeable and trained operatives as game show contestants, win a show, come away with a big cheque, and simultaneously acquire further funding from the production company (via threats, blackmail, strongarm tactics - whatever necessary). These additional (and illegal) transactions would be cloaked by the legitimate prize money payments, making it more difficult to detect the wrongdoing while substantially boosting Terne's gang's funds yet further.

Sequence had received reliable intel that today's recording of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was the next target, and had come to the studio with his team to make the arrests. However, it was essential to do so without drawing too much attention and spooking the gang, and so he had planted himself in the front row of the audience, waiting patiently for the end of the show when he would be able to swoop in and round up all of Terne's collaborators.

On Sequence's arrival, Terne's associate was sat in the chair and had just correctly answered the £8,000 question. As the production took a short pause before the next one, Sequence gazed around the studio and his eyes connected with those of somebody standing by the door, who then promptly disappeared through it. Had he been recognised? Was this cause for concern, or was he just over-thinking things?

The recording resumed, and the contestant continued to do very well, breezing through the questions...

For £16,000: In the United Kingdom's Shipping Forecast, which compass point precedes the word 'Iceland' in the name of one of its 31 'sea areas'? A) South-East B) North C) East D) South

For £32,000: At the start of a game of chess, which piece occupies the corner spaces of the board? (Sequence didn't pay attention to the options in this round while surveying the room...)

For £64,000: The name of which chemical element is derived from the Ancient Greek for 'violet-coloured'? A) Uranium B) Oxygen C) Tantalum D) Iodine

For £125,000: St Helens R.F.C. play their home matches in which UK postcode region? A) East London B) Warrington C) Llandudno D) Portsmouth

For £250,000: Which US state is home to Zion National Park? A) North Carolina B) Pennsylvania C) Colorado D) Utah

For £500,000: Under Microsoft Excel's default settings, which of the following commands appears in the Quick Access Toolbar? A) Flash Fill B) Redo C) Open D) Cut

Finally, he reached the £1,000,000 question...

For £1,000,000: In Roman numerals, the symbol for which of the following numbers-

Suddenly, halfway through the host reading out the question, there was a great commotion as the contestant slumped down in their seat, apparently having fainted under the pressure. A medic standing off to one side rushed on to the stage, and the host implored the audience to remain seated while production took a brief hiatus. When the contestant came round, the medic ushered him backstage to give him time to recover, and the audience waited for the resumption... It never came.

Sequence was incensed. Somehow, Patrick Terne was one step ahead of him and had managed to orchestrate his agent's extraction, presumably by using his influence with the producers to convey some kind of secret message... Later, in the debrief, he would swear to his bosses that the 'medic' involved was definitely the same person he thought might earlier have recognised him. This was not how things were supposed to have gone...

TASK: What message did Terne manage to pass to his associate? Please provide the full message text in your answer...


1 Answer 1


The secret message was:


Terne encoded this message into:

The possible answers for each question, using abbreviations for each answer

A = SE, B = N, C = E, D = S

We don't know the answers for certain but the abbreviations for chess pieces are PQKNBR, for Pawn Queen King kNight Bishop and Rook, lets call these ? for now.

A = U, B = O, C = TA, D = I

A = E, B = WA, C = LL, D = PO

A = NC, B = PA, C = CO, D = UT

These are sneakily not abbreviations of the answer names, but the hotkeys used in conjunction with ctrl for each: A = E, B = Y, C = O, D = X

Again, we don't get to hear the answers here, but possible roman numerals are: IVXLCDM, let's use * for these to differentiate with the chess pieces.

Taking each in turn:

The A answers spell out: SE?UENCE*, B answers are: N?OWAPAY*, Cs are: E?TALLCOO*, and Ds: S?IPUTX*

Putting these together we have:

SE?UENCE*N?OWAPAY*E?TALLCOO*S?IPOUTX*, we can guess the first ? will be Q, giving the agent a warning that seargent SEQUENCE is present. At the end, SLIP OUT is not possible with the expected letters, but SKIP OUT is, using K for the king chess piece.

After some more educated guesses:

We can substitute in our remaining chess pieces and roman numerals to form the message: SEQUENCE IN ROW A PAYMENT ALL COOL SKIP OUT XX


Which answers were right doesn't matter - after all, Terne's agent might not have known all the correct answers! @Rubio accurately points out that in this game show format you don't hear all the questions unless you answer correctly.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ rot13(Gur nafjref znggre n yvggyr ovg .... lbh unir gb znxr vg guebhtu rabhtu dhrfgvbaf gb urne nyy gurfr bcgvbaf, nsgre nyy :)) $\endgroup$
    – Rubio
    Apr 12, 2023 at 2:33
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, good point, I didn't think of that! $\endgroup$
    – Chengarda
    Apr 12, 2023 at 2:34
  • $\begingroup$ Well done, this is all as intended - and well deduced on the missing questions. $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Apr 12, 2023 at 8:12
  • $\begingroup$ Imlx Qrnk would like to compliment you. $\endgroup$ Sep 25, 2023 at 17:21

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