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Your good friend told you about a wise man named The Oracle, who once helped them discover the meaning of life. You've led a content life, but you're dying to discover the secret to true happiness. Because of this, you've trekked through jungle and tundra, across mountaintops and deserts, into giant caverns and beneath the ocean to find The Oracle. Finally, after all your hard work, you find him. He sits alone in an opulent palace, never moving, never blinking, allowing each visitor to ask one question of him. You take a moment to catch your breath after climbing the steps to his throne, gather yourself, and ask:

"What is the secret to eternal happiness?"

You already have your pen and paper out. You were warned about the nature of his responses.

You hastily scrawl down each word as The Oracle cryptically answers your question. After he finishes speaking, you read back over what he's written. "This doesn't make any sense," you muse in frustration. "I don't understand."

The Oracle simply smiles.


A man of prowess hides them both
preparing for his calling.
Another man provides them both
with sparks and cinders falling.
Two snakes slither, silently
surrounding unaware
a line about what's lost between
triumph and moving air.

A penciled confirmation
performs music to the dance
of clocks and creepy crawly things
at rest inside your pants.
A sudden motion shocks you
in a thousand different ways.
In other words, the seventh note
sings Casey's gone astray.

The dispossessed are missing one
to become shrouded skies.
Perform on it this action
as you do with dotted eyes.
The aforementioned snakes return,
though this time stick together.
A bird of death approaches them
with blackened, shedding feathers.

Unseen to the untrained eye
vast treasures within lie,
and bones are ever rattling
as good men herein die.
A waterfall appears from fears
no longer held within,
and paper tiger cardinals
let waterfalls begin.

In pairs, the strangers take the rear
as giants lead the way.
Manipulate them slightly
and your answer's clear as day.


Can you discover the secret to eternal happiness from The Oracle's message?


Okay, fine, fine, I'll add the tag.


A small hint to aid anyone trying to solve this:

Not all of each stanza is cryptic-style. Also, each stanza corresponds to one word.


Aaaaand here's some incentive:

There will be a bounty to the correct answer. Anyone with questions/clarifications can feel free to either post an answer, post a comment, or ping me in chat, and I'll be sure to respond.

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  • $\begingroup$ OH NO! ANOTHER ONE... No, I must not look. Not looking... Oh, whatever. $\endgroup$ – AJL Jul 25 '15 at 1:15
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ No matter how many times I read vast treasures within lie, I still automatically transpose within and lie every time. $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Jul 25 '15 at 2:56
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    $\begingroup$ Knowing the style of your puzzles, I'm guessing that the last paragraph isn't a clue, but is instead what to do once we've figured out all the others. For example, two small words that are rarely used, followed by two big words, and from there we do the "cryptic crossword" bit. It also fits with the fact that there are 4 stanzas leading up to that. $\endgroup$ – PrincessTrevor Jul 27 '15 at 17:21
  • $\begingroup$ @PrincessTrevor I'm glad to know that my puzzling style is recognizable :) you are correct that the last paragraph is more instructional. $\endgroup$ – Bailey M Jul 27 '15 at 17:22
  • $\begingroup$ Don't despair that no one has answered yet. I'm working on it, and I'm sure others are, too! $\endgroup$ – GentlePurpleRain Jul 27 '15 at 17:32
4
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So, to gather it all together in one:

Stanza 1 (From Zandar's answer)

Taking "Two snakes slither" gives us the beginning and end, "a line about what's lost between triumph and moving air" gives us row, from "a line about...", and the letter d, since it is the difference between "win" and "wind." Putting this all together, we get "swords". The line "a man of prowess hides them both" reinforces this, as a samurai is an example of a man of prowess, with "hiding them both" referring to their swords.

Stanza 2 (From Patrick's answer)

The first few lines are hints relating to the word, however the crossword bit comes in starting at "A sudden motion shocks you in a thousand different ways." A sudden motion can be referred to as a "tic", while one thousand is often represented with the letter "k", giving us "tick". Additionally, the other lines of the stanza support this. ("A penciled confirmation" being a checkmark, also known as a tick, "the dance of clocks", since clocks tick, etc.)

Stanza 3 (From Patrick's and dennisdeems' answers)

As Dennis found, "The dispossessed" refers to the story Les Mis. Adding the letter "t" to this gives us "mist", or shrouded skies. The phrase "perform on it this action as you do with dotted eyes" refers to the phrase "cross your t's", giving us the word "cross". "The aforementioned snakes return, though this time stick together" supports this by saying that there will be 2 consecutive s's in the word. A crow, from "bird of death... blackened", approaches the snakes, meaning this comes before the 2 s's. Removing the w from crow, hinted at by the "shedding feathers", we again get "cross".

Stanza 4 (From dennisdeems's answer)

Again, the ending lines are where the crossword bit comes in. "A waterfall appears from fears no longer held within", gives us "cry", while "paper tiger cardinals" gives us "pt" from the first letters of "paper tiger". Putting them together, we get "crypt". The previous lines support this with "bones are ever rattling", something that one would expect from a crypt, "unseen to the untrained eye" could refer to the fact that many crypts, like the tombs of pharaohs mentioned later in the answer, are difficult to find unless one knows where to look.

And finally, stanza 5,

"In pairs" tells us that there are 2 strangers and 2 giants, fitting with the 4 stanzas present in the puzzle. The giants are the words that come from the higher-numbered stanzas, followed by the ones from lower-numbered ones. This gives us "crypt, tick, cross, swords". To "manipulate them slightly", we must simply remove a few letters, being the "t" and "k" from tick and the "s" from the beginning of swords.

Which, all together, gives us

CRYPTIC CROSSWORDS

Indeed, the secret to eternal happiness. Huge props to everyone mentioned above for getting all the actual puzzle answers.

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  • $\begingroup$ Hoping to get the checkmark by gathering others' work? ;-) Good on you, and +1! $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Aug 10 '15 at 11:43
  • $\begingroup$ @randal'thor I've seen it done before on similar puzzles, and I figured I should get them all together for convenience if I was going to add the fifth like I wanted to. Thanks! $\endgroup$ – PrincessTrevor Aug 10 '15 at 11:46
  • $\begingroup$ I'll tell you that the 2 strangers and 2 giants do have meaning. Think about synonyms for 'strange' and you might find yourself on the right track! :) Also, the full 'cross' paragraph is missing, so I can't quite accept this yet. For the crow part, blackened was just a hint about it being a crow. Shedding is the real word that says to lose the 'w'. The Dispossessed is not referencing the book - rather, something else that has been referred to by that name. If you add a 't' to it, you get shrouded skies. $\endgroup$ – Bailey M Aug 10 '15 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ "A man of prowess" is a samurai or his ilk -- just someone who uses swords. The other man is of course a blacksmith. I told Dennis what I meant by "strangers" and "giants" in the last stanza. If you update this answer with the aforementioned information, I'll give it the ol' green tick, since it encompasses everything together very well. :) $\endgroup$ – Bailey M Aug 17 '15 at 13:57
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+100
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The secret to happiness is

Cryptic crosswords!

Fourth stanza:

CRYPT: The first four lines are a relatively straightforward definition. "Unseen to the untrained eye" could refer to encryption. A crypt is a tomb where "bones are ever rattling" of those buried there. "Vast treasures" might be found buried with the dead - in the tomb of a pharaoh, for example. "A waterfall appears from fears no longer held within" when we CRY; "Paper tiger cardinals" means the first letters of "paper tiger" = PT.

The whole:

CRYPT + TICK + CROSS + SWORDS

Fifth stanza: tells how to assemble the solutions to stanzas 1-4 into the overall solution.

The words are joined in pairs, so the solution is two words, each composed of two stanza solutions. "Strangers" take the rear; a synonym for strange is "odd", so it is telling us about the placement of the odd-numbered stanza words, "Cross" and "swords". The "giants" that lead are the stanzas with "giant" words: "vast" in stanza 4 and "thousand" in stanza 2. Manipulate slightly: remove the extra T and S, and the unwanted K.

Addendum: Stanza 3
Could the dispossessed refer to

Les Mis? Then adding a T to MIS gives MIST ("shrouded skies")

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  • $\begingroup$ Good find on Stanza 3, that's exactly what I was looking for. You're overthinking stanza 5. What's a common synonym for strange? Also, 'giants' could hardly be much more baseline than my intended solution. (Though you have the words in the right order, so this is just formalities at this point.) $\endgroup$ – Bailey M Aug 10 '15 at 19:40
  • $\begingroup$ Think I got strangers sorted, still wracking brain over giants. $\endgroup$ – dennisdeems Aug 10 '15 at 19:54
  • $\begingroup$ You're right about strangers. It may help you to know that there is a 'giant' in each of the two pairs that make up the two-word final answer. $\endgroup$ – Bailey M Aug 10 '15 at 19:57
  • $\begingroup$ A giant crypt and a giant cross? $\endgroup$ – dennisdeems Aug 10 '15 at 19:58
  • $\begingroup$ I'll just tell you since it's likely too simple for you to solve down the path you're going, and it's fairly irrelevant anyways: The 'giants' are just the words that come from higher-numbered stanzas. So it goes 4-2-3-1. :) $\endgroup$ – Bailey M Aug 10 '15 at 20:02
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Another partial answer, the first stanza:

Swords. Not sure if the "man of prowess" is a specific reference, but "Another man provides them both with sparks and cinders falling" refers to the byproducts of a blacksmith beating a heated sword into shape. "Two snakes slither, silently surrounding unaware" suggests two S's around "a line about what's lost between triumph and moving air" - the "line about" being "row" backwards, and D being the difference between "win" and "wind". S-WOR-D-S becomes "swords".

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  • $\begingroup$ Looks good to me! $\endgroup$ – Bailey M Aug 9 '15 at 2:22
  • $\begingroup$ Just... ubelievable... $\endgroup$ – 355durch113 Aug 10 '15 at 13:18
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I'll post partial progress here.

The second stanza:

Tick. A penciled confirmation (checkmark) performs music (conducting: a "tick" is informally a beat of music) to the dance of clocks (clocks tick) and creepy crawly things (a tick is a kind of insect) at rest inside your pants. A sudden motion shocks you (a "tic" is an involuntary motion) in a thousand different ways. ("k" means "thousand".) In other words, the seventh note ("ti", as in "a drink with jam and bread") sings Casey's gone astray ("kc" = "Casey", gone astray in the anagram sense).

The third stanza (much more tenuous):

Cross. The dispossessed are missing one to become shrouded skies. ("The Dispossessed" is a book by Ursula le Guin, set in the Tau Ceti system. Remove the final word from it to get "tau", which is the Greek "t". Not sure about the "shrouded skies".) Perform on it this action as you do with dotted eyes ("dot the i's and cross the t's") . The aforementioned snakes return, though this time stick together. A bird of death approaches them with blackened, shedding feathers. ("crow", "w"ith blackened, adding "ss" for the snakes, though I don't know where the feathers have gone.)

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  • $\begingroup$ Looks good so far! $\endgroup$ – Bailey M Aug 9 '15 at 2:22
  • $\begingroup$ Ah, though your description for cross is not quite correct. $\endgroup$ – Bailey M Aug 9 '15 at 2:24
2
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The Secret:

Ability, Passion, Curiosity and Truth.

A man of prowess hides them both preparing for his calling.

As in a man with his arms behind his back, anticipating, Standing still.

Another man provides them both with sparks and cinders falling.

As in a man facing trouble;

Two snakes slither, silently surrounding unaware

The two snakes are Life and Death

a line about what's lost between triumph and moving air.

"Triumph" refers to our sentience, "Moving Air" refers to the non-sentient around us.

A penciled confirmation performs music to the dance

A Heart Beating in response to action.

of clocks and creepy crawly things at rest inside your pants. A sudden motion shocks you in a thousand different ways.

"A sudden motion" as in an Emotion, making the snakes slither and the music change;

In other words, the seventh note sings Casey's gone astray.

The last breath (The Seventh (last) note) shows a Man's fall to air.

The dispossessed are missing one to become shrouded skies.

The dispossessed miss reality or ability, becong distant.

Perform on it this action as you do with dotted eyes.

"Dotted Eyes" as in unseeing and/or unfocused eyes

The aforementioned snakes return, though this time stick together.

The Dispossessed prefer neither to be alive, nor dead, for their dreams tend to be their reality.

A bird of death approaches them with blackened, shedding feathers.

"Blackened, Shedding Feathers" and "Bird of Death" refer to Old Age, and th death of the Dispossessed

Unseen to the untrained eye vast treasures within lie,

Vast treasures lie within the world, which only curious eyes fathom.

and bones are ever rattling as good men herein die.

Men die constantly in the world.

A waterfall appears from fears no longer held within,

Men crying at liberation of Long-Held fears

and paper tiger cardinals let waterfalls begin.

Paper tiger cardinals as in Tissues?

In pairs, the strangers take the rear

Strangers: Ability, Passion. "Strangers" in the sense that nobody possesses these traits at birth.

as giants lead the way.

Giants: Curiosity, Truth. "Giants" in the sense that without them, the strangers would never meet.

Manipulate them slightly and your answer's clear as day.

Ability, Passion, Curiosity and Truth.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is a cool answer, but my intended answer has much less lateral explanations and a much more concrete final answer. Still, +1 for some very interesting work! $\endgroup$ – Bailey M Aug 6 '15 at 13:47

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