20
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Nigel came inside from his back garden carrying the peas he'd harvested, and dumped them onto the table to be sorted according to which were edible and which weren't. Just as he did so, he noticed a letter lying on the table, now mostly buried by the peas, in what looked like the handwriting of his colleague Richard. He scrabbled through the sour pods, picked up the cryptic missive, and read:

1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128

I1, Y1, O8, A5, R1, U6, V3, M4, D2, A4, S4, U3, E3, J1, E11, A13, M2, I3, A2, F3, I6, O5, W1, S4, Y3, A14, U4, S1, P1, A8, E6

What does the message say?

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  • $\begingroup$ For readers: " I " is an uppercase i :) $\endgroup$ – Sean Sep 6 '16 at 8:13
  • $\begingroup$ Does solving this require a copy of the corpus alluded to in the story? $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Sep 6 '16 at 11:17
  • $\begingroup$ It is probably A1Z26 and the following number, then binary rotated, then ascii. I may be wrong as primary attempts went cuckoo. $\endgroup$ – user27395 Sep 6 '16 at 11:28
  • $\begingroup$ @ArkaKarmarkar, there is a hint embedded in the question and it seems like the solution will have to have something to do with the thing hinted at. Yours doesn't, so I bet it isn't what RA'T has in mind. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Sep 6 '16 at 11:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Sean Yes, and O is an uppercase o (not zero). Every pair is a capital letter followed by a number. $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Sep 6 '16 at 11:59
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The bit in the text about

scrabbling through the sour pods

is a hint that this has to do with

Scrabble, and the so-called SOWPODS word list.

The list of powers of two indicates

that we should consider two-letter words.

So we'll make use of

the list of 2-letter words in SOWPODS in alphabetical order as found e.g. here.

Now we interpret each item in the message as follows:

"I1" means "1st two-letter word beginning with I", "U6" means "6th two-letter word beginning with U". And then we take the second letter of each of these words.

So, e.g., we begin as follows:

I1 -> ID -> D
Y1 -> YA -> A
O8 -> ON -> N

and eventually we get

DANGER!MEETMEATTENBYTHETOWNHALL

where the "!" represents

a word that doesn't exist (there are no 2-letter words in SOWPODS containing a V).


User IAmInPLS cunningly notes that

Nigel and Richard are two names extracted from the full name Nigel Richards, who is the world's highest-rated Scrabble player.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good job! FWIW, the V3 (as well as being a very evil distraction) was meant to be a dash, as in "not applicable". $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Sep 6 '16 at 14:11
  • $\begingroup$ I assumed it was something like that (once I got past thinking it just indicated I was barking up the wrong tree). $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Sep 6 '16 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ Wow! But how does the list of powers of two indicate.that the letter-number combos refer to two-letter words? I took it to be a hint that there might be some bitwise things going on. $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Sep 6 '16 at 14:18
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    $\begingroup$ @MOehm, I think the idea is to suggest that you use "the power of two". It seems pretty contrived to me and I confess I don't like it at all (sorry, Rand al'Thor) but I think that's what's going on. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Sep 6 '16 at 14:35
  • $\begingroup$ (The list of powers of two was, so far as I know, in no way part of my thought processes when I first thought of looking at two-letter words. Though who knows what might have been going on unconsciously?) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Sep 6 '16 at 14:36

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