Recently, one of my friends was confiding in me about her teenage son.

“He’s a good kid. Smart, kind, responsible, but he never talks to me, you know?”

I told her I didn’t.

“Well, for example,” she said, “he had an important math test yesterday, and so when he came home I asked how it went. He smiled and said ‘I knew you’d ask that. Check your voicemail.’ and then he took off for his room and that was it for the day! What kind of an answer is that?”

I asked about the voicemail.

“Yes, I checked, and he’d left me a voicemail. I wrote down what he said.”

There’s a hidden word here. Get it before breakfast! The answer? It really is any. Can you find one word?

“What does that mean?” she said. “It’s just nonsense.”

But I suspected otherwise...

“Then I found a poem tacked to the fridge. But they’ve been studying gerunds in class for months and haven’t done poetry in two years!”

Kill a dream, I can.
A mild hell, I know.
It’s you who empower me, caring when bacteria infected.

A germ to your belief,
surely a new enigma for me.

Hearing a hollow plea, we seek a fragment.

“He’s a better poet than his father, at least. Who begins a proposal with ‘Fill blue dairy cheese…’? I don't care how much he thought I liked Roquefort!” She shook her head. “But this is just meaningless.”

Again, I wasn’t so sure.

“Then I go to use my laptop, and there’s a note attached to it."

Can I have a truly important ID number? Maybe the other password? Obviously, without something I'll be but guessing some number. If length isn't all the question, can it include something vital?

“I’ll give him an ID number, if you know what I mean!”

“Actually,” I said, “he may not be talking to you, but at least he’s answering your question!”

“What are you talking about?” she asked.

What was I talking about?


The cipher tag applies to the voicemail only.

Hint 2

The content of the poem, like much poetry, seems too nonsensical to be meaningful.

Hint 3

How odd to mention breakfast in the voicemail, unless it's some kind of clue. I guess they're not vegetarians!

Hint 4

All the letters you need to decode the poem are in plain sight. You don't need every letter in the poem, obviously.

Hint 5

Check back for more hints on finding the hidden message in the poem.

Hint 6

The number of words in the voicemail might point to a type of cipher. The mis-transcribed part of the voicemail is important.

  • 17
    $\begingroup$ That last note's lengths are the digits of pi. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 3:57
  • $\begingroup$ Are parts of the story necessary to solve the puzzle. I.e. if the part about the father wasn't included, would we still be able to figure out the answer? $\endgroup$
    – Moose
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 14:35
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Moose Everything not in the voicemail/notes is just flavor. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 14:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Deusovi That single observation makes me think I know the answer but I don't know how to get the other two pieces. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 17:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I suspected a Bacon cipher after the vegetarian hint but now I'm sure of it. I couldn't/can't think of anything other than syllables that even comes close though.... $\endgroup$
    – Will
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 18:19

1 Answer 1


Her son said the test was

"easy as pi(e)".

First part

There’s a hidden word here. Get it before breakfast! The answer? It really is any. Can you find one word?

Was the clue from a voicemail. "Breakfast" plus the tag hint at

a Bacon cipher.

The voicemail was partially mis-transcribed.

"The answer is any" doesn't make sense, and should be "the answer is 'N'-y." So we need to look for words that do/don't contain the letter N. This gives the following Bacon pattern, with no-N as "A" and N-containing words as "B":

AABAA AAAAA BAAAB BABBA, which translates to "EASY".

Second part


Because if we

take the last letter of each word from the end backward we get TAKE A WAGER AWAY FROM A DANGEROUS WILD ANIMAL

So we

remove the letters BET from BEAST

Third Part

"PI". As commented by @Deusovi, the number of letters in each word in the note correspond to the digits of pi.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The second part looks to me as if it's meant to be more syntactic (anagrams, wordplay, ...) than semantic (finding unexpected meanings for "kill", "dream", etc.). $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ (But I haven't actually figured out any part of it on that basis, so take my comment with a grain of salt.) $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 13:19
  • $\begingroup$ I couldn't possibly comment on whether the overall three word phrase is correct (it is), but the methods for parts 1 and 2 are off. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 3, 2016 at 2:18
  • $\begingroup$ @Dan How do you like part 2 now? It should not have taken this long.... $\endgroup$
    – Will
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 19:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Will Hidden in plain sight! Looks good to me. Now just gotta get part 1. $\endgroup$ Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 20:18

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