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This puzzle is part of the Puzzling Stack Exchange Advent Calendar 2023. The accepted answer to this question will be awarded a bounty worth 50 reputation.

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Santa Claus slipped down the chimney, brushed the soot off his coat, and turned to the fireplace where the stockings were hung, waiting for presents. There were seven, so he had to take care to put the right presents into the right stockings. Fortunately, the family living in this house was very organized: they labeled each stocking with the gift that was supposed to go into it.

  • The first three stockings were a breeze: they were hung out in a neat row, and the labels said “a set of toy soldiers”, “a vial of water”, and “a scratch-resistant ring”.
  • The fourth stocking, oddly, said “nothing”. Santa Claus double-checked his bag, and indeed there were fewer than seven packages for this house, so he left the stocking empty.
  • The fifth and sixth stockings clearly fell from where they used to hang next to the others and laid on the floor, turned inside out, with one of the stockings completely inside the other. Santa untangled them carefully and put the presents into them as well - “a very strong, very light ring” and “a bracelet carved from deep red stone”.
  • The last stocking had a larger label on it. It said “Dear Santa Claus, thank you for the presents for the rest of the family. If you’ve been paying attention to them, you’ll know what present I want. Merry Christmas!”

Help Santa Claus figure out the present for the owner of the last stocking.

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6 Answers 6

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Thanks for everyone’s contributions especially to the user John’s insight into the toy soldiers without which I wouldn’t have had a chance of solving this!!

I believe the present wanted is:

(I had this as the original answer)

Snow at night!

Because

First paragraph:

Each present holds a clue as to the element which composes it completely or partially

Toy soldiers = Sn (tin)

Vial of water = Vial of H2O but what the vial of the formula, it’s the O since it resembles a container of a sort.

Scratch-resistant ring = W (tungsten)

In order consecutive order as hinted we get SN+O+W

Second paragraph:

Nothing = air or N for nitrogen

Third paragraph:

Very strong and very light ring = Ti or titanium

Bracelet of deep red stone= HgS or cinnabar - s you get hg

Now the third paragraph hints at the reversal of letters in each stocking and the encompassing of the letters of the 6th stocking by the 5th so you get ‘ight’.

So we have:

snow night (a little pun on Snow White I presume linking this puzzle to Snow White and the seven dwarves which makes sense since there are 7 family members in the house).

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  • $\begingroup$ Almost there! The stocking with "nothing" in it follows the same decoding logic as the other presents, so the final phrase is slightly different, but very close :-) $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2023 at 2:50
  • $\begingroup$ Yes! Just need to take into account that rot13(gur oenpryrg vf gjb yrggref, abg guerr, naq frpbaq cnentencu qbrf abg unir gb or n frcnengr jbeq) $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2023 at 4:31
  • $\begingroup$ You're getting away from the answer, I'm afraid - you had the bracelet material correct on the previous iteration, just had to use fewer letters, and the empty stocking had a better guess earlier. The same principle is used for extracting letter(s) for all stockings $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2023 at 7:32
  • $\begingroup$ Perfect on third paragraph, still needs work on the second one :-) (And yes, you're very close for the past few attempts). Here's a hint: rot13(Lbh'er pbeerpg gung "rzcgl" zrnaf "nve", ohg vg'f erthyne nve va n erthyne ubhfr. Jung vf nve zbfgyl pbzcbfrq bs?) $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2023 at 16:19
  • $\begingroup$ Well I initially did get snow night $\endgroup$
    – PDT
    Dec 15, 2023 at 16:24
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I don't have the answer but I'm pretty sure

The gifts represent chemical formulas
Toy soldiers = tin = Sn
Vial of Water = H2O (not sure if the 2 is relevant)
Scratch Resistant Ring = diamond = C = tungsten = W (credit to @fljx)
"Nothing" = a space to separate words?
Light and strong ring = titanium = Ti
Bracelet of deep red stone = ruby = Al2O3 (again not sure about subscripts)

Since stocking 5 & 6 got inside'd out and mixed up, I would assume Ti and Al2O3 are jumbled together somehow.

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  • $\begingroup$ Aaand we have the first person on track of the answer!! Correct identification for first, second (though that one needs a bit more decoding) and fifth one, the other three still need to be identified $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2023 at 22:22
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    $\begingroup$ I was thinking along similar lines, but went wrong with the soldiers. But, rot13(V nffhzrq gur evatf jbhyq or zrgny (V xabj gurl qba'g unir gb or), juvpu jbhyq yvxryl znxr gur svefg bar Ghatfgra = J, juvpu tvirf lbh n cbffvoyr FaBJ sebz gur svefg guerr.) $\endgroup$
    – fljx
    Dec 14, 2023 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ @fljx And that's completely correct on the first three stockings! $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2023 at 22:45
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    $\begingroup$ Maybe the second is rot13(UBU), since that's a common representation? And the ring might be rot13(erirefrq), since its stocking was inside-out. $\endgroup$
    – Someone
    Dec 14, 2023 at 23:38
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Help Santa Claus figure out the present for the owner of the last stocking.

Well,

since the story (at the fourth stocking) indicates that he was able to check his bag and determine that had the correct number of gifts for this household, he must know which one remains. So

I help him figure it out by

process of elimination. Indeed, that's why the last stocking's owner indicated that "If you’ve been paying attention to them" (the other gifts) Santa will know what remains: if he stuffed the stockings in reverse order, he'd have no way of knowing.

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    $\begingroup$ This approach has a certain practicality to it (if I were Santa Claus with the rest of the world to get to, I'd definitely try it!), but no. Gift packing accidents happen, so he needs to know what the present should be to validate that it matches, and this approach doesn't address that. $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2023 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ Enigmatic puzzle bro $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2023 at 15:53
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Complete guess with a bit of logic behind it, the seventh person wants

A trinket

Because

The first letters of the actual items are important (maybe?) Toy Soldiers (T) vial of water, aka bottle (B) Ring (R) Nothing (N) Ring (R) Bracelet (B) With all of these we have T, B, R, N, R, B, assuming symmetry plays a role, an item starting with T should be next, and unfortunately I cant think of anything more specific than Trinket at the moment. Perhaps some form of toy rather than trinket

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  • $\begingroup$ Hmm, that's an interesting observation (I didn't plan it that way, promise!), but that's not the right direction of thought $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2023 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ @MariiaMykhailova Eh, fair enough, just thought I'd take the guess. Its a tough puzzle you made, kudos $\endgroup$
    – murrag
    Dec 14, 2023 at 20:47
  • $\begingroup$ I had to, to compensate for my day 13 puzzle that lasted for all of two hours :-) $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2023 at 22:11
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My guess with credit going to Prince Deepthinker and John (for parts of their answers).

Snow White

Stocking 1:

Toy soldiers = Sn (tin)

Stocking 2:

Vial of water = H2O

Stocking 3:

Scratch resistant ring = W (tungsten)

Stocking 4:

Nothing = Hydrogen (H)

Stocking 5:

Very strong and very light ring= Ti or titanium

Stocking 6:

Bracelet of deep red stone= Se or selenium

So finally we get:

Now all together we get “SNOHHWHTISE”. But last is jumbled, so "SNOHHWHITES" or "SNOW WHITE". There are 7 stockings, so Santa is most likely visiting the seven dwarves.

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  • $\begingroup$ This looks further from the answer than @Prince Deepthinker's version - stockings 4 and 6 are incorrect (I don't think this material is deep red), and the final anagram doesn't really work $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2023 at 5:08
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The owner of the last stocking wants

Santa Claus to put the last gift in the stocking labeled "nothing" because they thanks for the gifts for the rest of the family.

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  • $\begingroup$ No. The owner of the 4th stocking doesn't like stuff they didn't pick out themselves, and the rest of the family respects that :-) $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2023 at 16:32

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