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A Discovery

In Samuel Beckett's absurdist play, Waiting for Godot, two characters wait endlessly and in vain for the arrival of someone named Godot. His identity has long been the point of contention, and there are many interpretations as to who or what he symbolizes. During his lifetime, Beckett himself never explicitly revealed Godot's identity. It wasn't until after his death that archivists analyzing papers from his estate uncovered a single page, thought to be an early outline, with the following three cryptic messages and quotes from the play pointing to Godot's true identity1.

The Message

1

$______
allover
veldbee
alsoear
______$
seeclan
____$__
  1. Oh I'm only a small smoker, a very small smoker . . .
  2. Approach, my child.

    Enter Boy

  3. That was nearly sixty years ago . . . His long white hair falls about his face.

2

tne____
nil____
eld____
______!
____cni
____ner
___!ir_
  • Well just fancy that! I could have sworn it was just the opposite.
  1. You're as bad as myself.

3

*cssaap
saeecne
oneeeae
czn?cnk
aetaotc
strriia
kaytncn
  1. Vladimir sways back and forth, doubled in two.

Who, or what, is Godot?


1. Knowledge of Samuel Beckett's life and works is not necessary for uncovering Godot's identity.

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    $\begingroup$ Will there need to be any quantum leaps made here? $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2016 at 18:51
  • $\begingroup$ @Ian MacDonald Could you explain your reference? $\endgroup$
    – WHY
    Aug 25, 2016 at 18:53
  • $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Beckett $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2016 at 18:59
  • $\begingroup$ @IanMacDonald Oh, I wish! Maybe in a future puzzle. This one is quite "self-contained" as far as references to literary or popular culture. $\endgroup$
    – WHY
    Aug 25, 2016 at 19:04
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @IanMacDonald I know that I'm hoping each time that the next answer would be the answer of Godot. $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2016 at 19:42

4 Answers 4

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Six years on, I can contribute further to this question by presenting solutions for all three 'messages' (only one was found up until now). However, using that information to deduce quite who or what Godot is still eludes me, though I do have one suggestion that may be worth a shout (in bold text in last spoiler block). Perhaps someone else can finally close this one off?

Message 2:

As @GarethMcCaughan discovered in August 2016:

The second message is actually a partially completed 7x7 word square, with rows and columns reflected (reflection clued by a reference to 'just the opposite'). I reproduce it here (reflected back to a readable state):

B R I[S]T L E
R E N E W A L
I N C L I N E
[S]E L F D O M
T W I D D L E
L A N O L I N
E L E M E N T

The 'S' is the letter represented in the original message by an '!' icon. And as Gareth surmised, the word 'SELFDOM' (which was entirely absent in the original message) is clued by the quote "You're as bad as myself."

We can use similar thinking to solve the other two messages...

Message 1:

This message can be solved by noting that:

Each ROW is an anagram of a word required to make a 7x7 word square. Moreover, the three quotes beneath the grid provide clues/confirmation for the identities of the three totally absent words - TOBACCO (smoker), CALLANT (boy) and OLDSTER (white hair and general gist).

[T]O B A C C O
O V E R A L L
B E V E L E D
A R E O L A S
C A L L A N[T]
C L E A N S E
O L D S[T]E R

The '$' icon represents three instances of the letter 'T'.

Message 3:

This message can be solved by noting that:

Each COLUMN is an anagram of a word required to make a 7x7 word square. In the absence of any totally missing words, the significance of the quote underneath is less immediately obvious. It might possibly be to help differentiate the ambiguities in the two icon-marked spaces: '*' could be C, H or L to form _ASSOCK, while '?' could be I or R to form SER_ATE, but 'Vladimir sways back and forth, doubled in two' might suggest an image of somebody praying on a HASSOCK and 'doubled in two' might suggest 'SERIATE'. Possibly though it suggests something else entirely...

[H]A S S O C K
A Z T E C A N
S T Y R E N E
S E R[I]A T E
O C E A N I C
C A N T I N A
K N E E C A P

As for finding Godot himself...

...what do we do next?

If, as Gareth surmised, we are to anagram the four character-concealed letters, among other possibilities Godot might be HIST(ory) or a SITH, or we may be learning that "IT'S H!" (Though I somehow doubt that Godot is a member of the TSHI people of Ghana...) Using the alternatives from grid 3 yield nothing more obviously correct - except that just maybe, THIS is Godot; as in these missing letters within this puzzle, missing exactly as our mysterious Godot has been all along, meaning that by finding these letters we have actually found 'Godot' and no more 'waiting' need be done! It's a thought...

I had also considered that perhaps the second word square might need to be presented in its reflected form (as originally), but can spot no real utility of doing this. Overlaying grids and looking for commonalities yields very few (seemingly none of use), and I'm struggling to spot any benefit of using three T's and two S's as per the total number of hidden characters in their grids.

Putting this all here in an answer to see if it inspires anybody else to (re)visit this one and see it through to the end at long last...

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    $\begingroup$ There are only 24 anagrams of a 4-letter word. You can try them all and get some hits. $\endgroup$
    – Florian F
    Jul 6, 2022 at 12:05
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    $\begingroup$ @FlorianF (I see what you did there!) I've also just realised that if the 'H' were a 'V', the answer could actually be me! What a twist if it turned out I'd been Godot all along and just never knew... $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Jul 7, 2022 at 11:06
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It looks to me as if the second one is

a wordsquare (i.e., same words horizontally and vertically) mirrored left/right and up/down. ("Just the opposite".)

It's not clear to me whether

the exclamation marks should be taken to indicate letters (perhaps they will be used in the final answer), or "blanks" where a word has only six letters, or something else; the first looks like the most plausible option to me.

After a bit of fiddling

there are at least two solutions using at least one really obscure word, and I suspect there are several such solutions, but I haven't found any using only "normal" words.

Here is one:

B R I S T L E
R E N E W A L
I N C L I N E
S E L F D O M
T W I D D L E
L A N O L I N
E L E M E N T

which can readily be turned into another by

putting a G in the top left instead.

If either of these is the intended completion (which I have no very strong reason to believe) then

the letter that replaces the exclamation mark is S. (In both places, of course, because the exclamation marks are symmetrically placed and a wordsquare is always symmetric.)

The really obscure word here is

SELFDOM, which is perhaps gestured towards by the "You're as bad as myself" comment (??).

I guess, without any real evidence, that

to solve this thing we need to complete all the 7x7 squares, filling all the spaces with letters, and then maybe anagramming the letters from the spaces marked by symbols $,!,*,? will yield a somewhat-plausible answer to the actual question. (If so, do we use both of the ! ones from #2? I'm guessing yes, but far from certain.)

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For 2:

Each set of 9 is made up of three words which go horizontally and vertically

tne
nil
eld

tne
nil
eld

tne
nil
eld

The words formed are:

tne, nil, eld

And for the second set of nine:

cne, ner, ir_

Don't know what to make of it all though

For 3:

By reading vertically the letters form words:

*so cask / *soc ask,
can zeta,
seen try,
see ? art,
ace coin,
an antic,
peek can

I think the fact that

Each horizontal line forms 2 words

Might be something to do with

Vladimir sways back and forth, doubled in two

And maybe the back and forth bit indicates vertical

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    $\begingroup$ @Sleafar thanks, I always get those two mixed up $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2016 at 19:15
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    $\begingroup$ Think about a sunset at the beach next time. ;) $\endgroup$
    – Sleafar
    Aug 25, 2016 at 19:16
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in 1 and 3, I'm finding lines of 2 words stuck together,

1.

all over
veld bee
also ear etc.

3.

peak can
ace coin
see ?art (maybe art, maybe part, or cart, or fart...)
seen try

less sure, but 2. has

mirrored: Tilden and _nicer?

Not an answer yet, but maybe a start?

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  • $\begingroup$ I've cleaned up all the pairs for 3, interesting points for the rest though $\endgroup$ Aug 25, 2016 at 19:23

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