Edit: all the unhelpful clues, including bad hinting and misleading ASCII art, were removed and other, (hopefully) more sensible ones were added.

You just moved to a new city, and your childhood friend, who happens to live nearby, has invited you for lunch. On your way, however, you get too engrossed in counting the fire hydrants and stray from the correct path. Before you know it, you end up in a strange park surrounded by all kinds of bizarre stone sculptures.

Upon closer inspection, you discover that each stone has some sort of code written on it.

The first stone is shaped like a boiler and has the following inscriptions on it:


The second stone is shaped like a bowl of macaroni, decorated with these digits:


The third stone is a sculpture of Rudolph, the red nosed reindeer. There is a quite verbose branding on him:


The fourth stone looks perfectly normal. It looks like a bottle of champers with all the numbers from 674 to 702 listed on it. Apparently, there was not enough space left for 703.



This doesn't seem to make any sense!

The question is:

What is this place?

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Is the description of the second stone's "ladder on the right and snake on the left" deliberately the opposite of what we see? Or typo? $\endgroup$ Apr 21 '16 at 14:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @BaSzAt That doesn't make sense - why would we (the POV character in the puzzle) describe something completely incorrectly just because we don't know the encryption method? $\endgroup$ Apr 26 '16 at 12:39
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ When you say "lossy," do you mean that we can't unambiguously reconstruct the plaintext from the ciphertext? $\endgroup$ Apr 26 '16 at 22:28
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @2012rcampion That's what I mean. But I made it so you wouldn't have a problem with ambiguity. $\endgroup$
    – BaSzAt
    Apr 27 '16 at 5:55
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Still hoping for some sort of hint or resolution or something! I hope the exams have gone well. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Jul 8 '16 at 14:04

Possible partial answer perhaps maybe (mainly based on Hint 1 and the fourth stone):

First stone and Hint 1:

Samuel Pepys's diary, in which he provided an account of the Great Plague and the Great Fire of London

"counting the fire hydrants"

The Great Fire of London

Fourth stone:

Pepys died in May 1703

Second stone:

Pepys rose up the social ladder but was susceptible to giving way to pleasures [this connection may be a stretch]

Hopefully unrelated:

Pepys suffered from bladder stones

I have no clue about the code. Might be related to:

Pepys used shorthand in his diary, which could be considered a form of lossy compression in the sense that at an abbreviation could be ambiguously expanded.

  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately, this answer doesn't fit with his statements of the story not being part of the puzzle, and the stones not having a direct connection to each other in the comment to the other answer. :( $\endgroup$ Apr 26 '16 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ Hmmm, I'm really bad at giving clues. One of your spoiler blocks contains something that is close to the truth behind the stones (not the bladder stone one), but even that wouldn't get you anywhere in itself. $\endgroup$
    – BaSzAt
    Apr 26 '16 at 18:47

I am completely stuck on the codes, so far at least, but would I be right in discerning

a connection with Dante Alighieri and the Divina Commedia?

It looks to me as if there are at least two indications of this (and I wouldn't be surprised to learn I've missed more):

"stray from the correct path" is a rather unusual turn of phrase and just happens to be rather close to what Dante describes himself as having done at the start of the Inferno; and there's no obvious reason why angels' wings should make a statue "comical", but it happens that for reasons largely unrelated to what we now call "comedy" that Dante's poem has the title it does.

If so, then one possibility would seem to be

that the first three statues represent the three books of the D.C. -- an overgrown closed book for hell, the ambiguous snake and ladder for purgatory, and the angel's wings for paradise

though in that case I'm very puzzled by the last statue.

674 is probably approximately Dante's age in months when he died, but so far as I can tell no one knows his dates with much precision so I bet that's coincidence even if the puzzle is in fact about Dante.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Interesting idea, but only a coincidence. The clues don't have a direct connection between them. And the story is just a story. Without loss of solvability, I could have said you were teleported there. $\endgroup$
    – BaSzAt
    Apr 19 '16 at 5:56
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, that's a pity! Then I'm even stucker than I thought. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Apr 19 '16 at 8:44

Here is a possible partial answer:

About statue 4:

For the last one the numbers are 674-702 not finishing 703. I think this could relate to the Provinces of East and West Jersey which were two distinct political provinces of the Province of New Jersey from 1674-1702. In 1702 the two provinces were disestablished and Queen Anne's government took over in 1702 (see this wiki article for more info). The clue could either mean the answer is something related to New Jersey, or Queen Anne.

About statue 1 and maybe the other statues:

If the numbered statue is related to Queen Anne, then the first statue may be related to the diary of Anne Frank, and the other two sculptures may have some relation to an Anne

I'm going to see if I can follow the trail any deeper, but maybe someone else may find this helpful (if it is accurate)


Unrelated to previous findings, here are the thoughts I have on the 2nd sculpture:

It features a snake and a ladder. This could be a reference to the game snakes and ladders (later renamed by Milton Bradley as chutes and ladders). I can't seem to find any connection to an Anne or New Jersey so it's possible this is merely a red herring (or my other assumptions are incorrect)

  • $\begingroup$ Another impressive piece of research, but don't follow that trail. And I'm really surprised no one has paid any heed to the science tag so far. About the snakes and ladders, you are right. $\endgroup$
    – BaSzAt
    Apr 29 '16 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ @BaSzAt the only thing I could thing about for science was 03 was o3 or ozone and that it had to do with space since no ozone, but that seemed too much of a stretch $\endgroup$ Apr 29 '16 at 16:45

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