Now that exam week is over and all of the tests have been graded, the professors of the Faculty of English Language and Literature finally have some time for themselves again. However, when Prof. Johnson logged into his account at the University this morning, he noticed someone had changed some of the grades in the University's administration system. Curious about who had been tampering with the grades, he took a look at the editor of the changes: 'N/A'. That was strange, since everyone at the University has his/her own login ID. Someone must have hacked into the system!

The grades of the following students were changed:

Cooper, S
Marsh, S
Morgan, D
Smith, W
Swanson, R
White, W

One of them must have hacked into the system and changed their grades, but who? Suspending all of them is not a possibility, because it isn't certain that they are all involved. When Prof. Johnson looked further, his eyes were drawn to the 'comment' field of the edit. There was something written there:

To whom it may concern:

I've always struggled here, so I had no choice. There's a cross for everyone, and there's a cross for me. Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall, but I will not be here anymore when that happens. We all have to meet our match sometime or other, so I had to do something about this. I won't be bothering you again. Don't be afraid of enemies who attack you. Be afraid of the friends who flatter you.

PS: The trouble with being inspired to perform the impossible was that the inspiration gave you no clues to the practical means.

That seemed quite strange and a bit overdramatic, even for a student who just failed his/her exam. Although, after studying the text for a while, professor Johnson suddenly realised what was hidden behind the message, and had one of the six students expelled for fraud. Who was it?


Note that professor Johnson didn't need a lot of time to identify the message behind the comment, using his knowledge of English literature. All of the quotes are from books he knows, but one of them is quite hard to find. One of the first names (or Christian names) might come in handy...

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    $\begingroup$ Is "do" missed on purpose from "so I had to [do] something about this"? $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 23, 2016 at 23:55
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    $\begingroup$ ...obviously it was the student not on the list who was absolutely expecting to ace the exam but didn't quite; cleverly, she changed the curve whilst implicating one of these poor saps using her extended knowledge of English literature. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 1:16
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    $\begingroup$ @JonathanAllan It's not on purpose, I've fixed it, thanks :) And even if these six students are innocent, you can at least find out who is framed for fraud... $\endgroup$
    – Wu33o
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 7:24
  • $\begingroup$ OK, and yes - that was tongue-in-cheek. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 7:26
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    $\begingroup$ I know :) I just hate to see someone taking advantage of those poor, hard working students. $\endgroup$
    – Wu33o
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 7:28

1 Answer 1


Some observations:

The "comment" is full of fragments stolen from elsewhere. In order:
"There's a cross ...": a hymn by Thomas Shepherd, whose first line is "Must Jesus bear the cross alone?". [Actually, it appears that only the first stanza of that hymn, as now sung, is by Shepherd. And it's mutated a lot; the words quoted here are not actually his.]
"Life starts ...": F Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby"; I think the words are spoken by Daisy Buchanan. [EDITED to add: Nope, Jordan Baker.]
"We all have to ...": Richard Adams's "Watership Down"; the words are spoken by Holly.
"Don't be afraid ...": Dale Carnegie's "How to win friends and influence people".
"The trouble with ...": Ken Follett's "Eye of the Needle"; I think the words are described as what one character is thinking rather than being said out loud, but I don't know which character.

This seems like it ought to be what's needed, but

I'm failing to see any particular connection between those quotations, authors, works, and characters, and any of the names on the list. Nor does any of the names seem to indicate "compulsive plagiarist" or anything like that. Clearly I'm still missing something important...

As SendersReagent mentions in comments,

several of the student names are also those of prominent characters in TV series; it seems plausible to guess that somehow their forenames, or the series titles, or the creators of the series, or the actors who play those characters, match up with the quotations (or their authors or contexts or whatever) somehow -- perhaps leaving one left over to be our culprit. But I'm not seeing enough halfway-plausible matches for this to do me any good, nor for that matter is it clear to me how finding such matches would justify accusing the other party of fraud in-story...

The nearest thing I have to an answer:

If it happens that the "cross for everyone" quotation is found in a book whose title begins with I, then the titles' first letters in order of appearance are ITWHE, an anagram of WHITE, which could suggest that W White is our culprit. So far, the only novel I have been able to find containing that quotation is a terrible self-published Christian thing, which I see no reason to think a literature professor would be likely to know.

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    $\begingroup$ Recognize any of the student names? Sheldon Cooper, Stan Marsh, Dexter Morgan, Will Smith?, Ron Swanson, Walter White... $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 7:53
  • $\begingroup$ I thought of Sheldon Cooper and Walter White, but didn't recognize any of the others (though I wondered...). I don't watch a lot of television. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 14:17
  • $\begingroup$ As noted by the OP in reaction to my jest, we cannot identify the culprit exactly but either the culprit or the student being framed; let's just assume we can work out which of these it is after the fact (from the grade changes actually made maybe?). No idea on how these are linked BTW. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 24, 2016 at 18:14
  • $\begingroup$ F Scott Fitzgerald apparently has a book, Winter Dream, that follows a "Dexter Greene." Dexter is a rare enough given name that it may not be a coincidence. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 27, 2016 at 19:52
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    $\begingroup$ Cool. So, er, what is the first book? Putting "there's a cross for everyone" into Google Books yields four pages of results, none of them in any way useful here so far as I can see. Putting it into Amazon yields more, but again I haven't found anything useful. I'm not sure how else to find an obscure book containing a given phrase... $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Commented Apr 30, 2016 at 16:08

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