You're sitting at your Alphabet City Police Department sergeant's desk on a normal Wednesday when the phone rings.

"Oh my god, oh my god! Please help me. It's my pet word. It's been, well, I don't know exactly, but...oh, the horror!" says a frightened voice.

"Calm down, sir. Please tell me what happened."

"I didn't see it. But others did. Just come down to the intersection of Character and Grapheme. SOON. Please! The poor little thing. Only four letters long and then this happens..."

You hang up the phone and glance at the pile of DUIs and B&Es looming on your desk, and can't keep a sigh from escaping. You didn't get into Letter Policing for this, sitting at a desk day after day, going through the motions... Even if this story turns out to be gibberish, at least it's something unusual. You grab your coat.

"I'm heading downtown."

Your ABCPD squad car pulls up at the intersection of Character and Grapheme, and you step out. Several cars are already on the scene, and the crowd is clearly disturbed; you spot one man kneeling near a wall, fighting with each breath not to be sick again.

A junior officer runs up.

"Sarge, thank goodness you're here. I've been taking eyewitness accounts. Apparently this guy tied up his pet word while he was shopping for vowels. Then a gang showed up, four words in all, and started harassing the pet word."

"You sure it was a gang?" you ask.

"Yes, sir. Witnesses all agree the four words were related. But then someone called the cops and the gang panicked. Apparently, to stop themselves from being recognized, the gang viciously ripped apart the pet word, then each gang member took one of the letters from the pet word, added it to himself, and rearranged his letters to make a new word."

You understand why the man was fighting to keep his lunch down. You swallow hard, and focus on the facts.

"What then?"

"Well, each of the disguised gang members fled in a different direction. We got here ASAP though, so each one only made it a block before we showed up."

"Okay, so they're still in the area."

"Yes, sir. But...well, it seems that they've further disguised themselves."

"Dammit! How!?"

"Well, the one who fled north came to a law-abiding group of words having a meeting. He heard sirens, and knew he didn't have time to flee anymore. He also knew that he'd be caught if he tried to blend in with the group, since they were all similar to one another and he wasn't. So instead..."

"Spit it out, officer."

"It seems, sir, that he split himself up into letters, and added one letter to each of the words in the group. He then forced them to rearrange themselves to disguise their relationship so he could blend in."

"Diabolical. What about the other three?"

"Same thing, sir, but they just ran in different directions, and found different groups to hide in."

"So where are these poor innocents who have been dragged into this mess now?"

"We've got them all detained, sir. Waiting for you to inspect them."

It's for days like this that you always carry TUMS. You tilt your head back and drop in enough to quell your body's natural reaction to this senseless butchering. The four groups of words await your interrogation. You stop and think about the facts. Focus on the facts, not that poor little 4-letter pet...

If—you reason—you go to each group of words, you should be able to remove a letter from each, then rearrange the remaining letters into words that are related...those will yield the law-abiding groups who were unwittingly brought into this mess. The letters you remove from each group will form the disguised gang members. If you can then remove a letter from each of those disguised gang members, and rearrange the leftovers, you'll reveal the identity of the gang and its members...and more importantly you can stitch the removed letters back together, and give this guy his pet word back.

Well, you may not be the greatest letter detective in history, but today you're damn well going to make a difference.

Group 1


Group 2


Group 3


Group 4


ABC Police Report

  • What were the four groups of law-abiding words, and what connected each group?
  • What were the four gang members initially disguised as?
  • Who are the four gang members, and what links them?
  • What was the name of the man's pet word?

Partial reports and collaboration are critical for successful letter policing.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Great story and nice multi-level puzzle! Shouldn't "sprains" be just "sprain"? $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Aug 2, 2016 at 6:09
  • $\begingroup$ @MOehm Whoops, good catch. Thought I double-checked everything. Fixed now. $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2016 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ Surely we know the pet? Very nice though :D $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2016 at 17:52

1 Answer 1


ABCPD crest

Final Report

Group 1

... are animals:

sabre: s + bear
aliens: e + snail
coding: c + dingo
others: t + horse
alternate: l + anteater
gyrations: o + stingray

The leftover letters spell closet: e + Colts

Group 2

... are sweets:

creak: r + cake
final: i + flan
morose: o + smore
rotund: r + donut
script: t + crisp
totter: t + torte
replica: p + eclair
saunaed: a + sundae
clobbers: s + cobbler

The leftover letters spell portraits: r + Patriots

Group 3

... are body parts:

naive: a + vein
signor: s + groin
stench: n + chest
twirls: l + wrist
weblog: g + elbow
primate: e + armpit
reunion: i + neuron
cribbage: b + ribcage

The leftover letters spell singable¹: i + Bengals

¹ as confirmed by original caller [Sloppy work, agent. Please be more careful when recording personal details on suspects/witnesses. — Capt. L. Letter]

Group 4

... are state capitals:

boner: o + Bern
cools: c + Oslo
hoard: r + Doha
fiasco: c + Sofia
sprain: n + Paris
another: o + Tehran
hastens: s + Athens
nibbler: b + Berlin

The leftover letters spell corncobs: c + Broncos

The gang members are ...

... names of NFL teams: Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals and Denver Broncos.

The pet word ...

is made up of the letters e, r, i and c and is rice.

OP: Original intent was Eric here, because all my pets are named Eric.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Beat me by about fifteen seconds. :) Good job! I can't figure out the anagram for group three either... $\endgroup$
    – Bailey M
    Aug 2, 2016 at 7:11
  • $\begingroup$ dammit! my search didn't find éclair because of the accent. $\endgroup$
    – Jasen
    Aug 2, 2016 at 7:15
  • $\begingroup$ @BaileyM: Thanks. Sorry to have cut you short, bit of a pity after all the policing legwork. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Aug 2, 2016 at 7:16
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ And awesome logo, too, by the way. $\endgroup$ Aug 2, 2016 at 15:11
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Thanks. The Letter Police setting was just too good, so I had a bit of extra fun with the logo. I dismissed singable and signable because I somehow expected the disguise to be a noun. My first gangsters were Broncos and Colts, which suggested a horse theme and I learned that there is a breed called Belgian draft horse. I noticed the NFL theme only after seeing that one of the gangsters could be Patriots. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Aug 2, 2016 at 17:10

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