I have just fluffed my exam. See, Grades don't matter to me but it apparently does to my parents and the head teacher who has asked me to write a letter explaining the reasons of my disastrous results. So, begrudgingly I had to do it and here's the letter I have written (I have omitted the usual formalities and just showing you the body of the letter)

Exams prepare us for the plenty of tests that lie ahead in life. I have realised we ought not to bluff, about our preparation, accept the cold truth. Exams are much more than just exclaiming "Hurrah!" after a test gone well or "Alas" after a disaster. Just before the exams there was a lot of buzz among the students about the questions that are important.

No,it wasn't,not,that. I repeat again. For perhaps the first time, I was nervous, with even my comb being lost somewhere.It was lucky charm. I had just lost it. It didn't sit well with me at all,for loss affected me psychologically.

Day had just begun. My anxiety grew and thus evidently I still couldn't focus on the quadratic equation to be studied. The nerves got the better of me that day. And then, 'twas the plateau (Geography) that stumped me and soon everything went downhill beyond repair and no respite from the tragedy if I may say so that had befallen me in this crucial period of my life as I was frozen in fear. This test, I reiterate , has opened my eyes made me aware and has rightly called my bluff on my preparations and I promise that this would not be repeated and I would try to do better.

This letter, I had deposited last week. As, I was returning to my home,I had a sly smile on my face. The head-teacher would never find out what I had really written.

Can you find out the real reason?


Cipher tag is not only for what Rand'althor has found out. Look Carefully.

Hint 2:

I tend to be very literal with my words. Think of phrase ad a verb. There is one more word that can be formed from "sum of phrase"

Hint 3:

Only the commas and dots are important.

Hint 4:


  • $\begingroup$ Is there any extra meaning hidden in the text outside the letter, or can we solve it just from the quoted text? $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 1 '16 at 17:56
  • $\begingroup$ @randal'thor The quoted text has everything in it to be solved... $\endgroup$ – Sid Oct 1 '16 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ @Sid even and odd number of letters in the words, punctuations are to divide letters for some reason? if so i asked the very same question before somewhere else :) $\endgroup$ – Oray Oct 2 '16 at 12:51
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Oray No, it's just a coincidence.. $\endgroup$ – Sid Oct 2 '16 at 12:52

First half

Count the number of words in each sentence, and convert that number to a letter for as long as doing so makes sense.

This gives:

MORSE CODE 13, 4, 17, 9, 44, 36.

So let's try

using commas and full stops as dashes and dots for Morse code.

This yielded the following code (with spaces for separate lines and line breaks for separate paragraphs):

., ,. . .
,,,..,, ..., .
. .., .,, .

Respacing (and using Hint 4) gives:

.--. ..- --.. --.. .-.. .. -. --. which decodes to PUZZLING.

Second half

I noticed that there are certain words which seem a bit out-of-place: uncommon words, whose inclusion in the letter is probably significant. These include "plateau", "comb", and "quadratic" - all of which, interestingly enough, appear at the ends of lines and have unusual final letters. This inspired me to take the second step of

looking at the final letters of lines in the letter: FHZ BS CUENFR, which after a quick ROT13 becomes SUM OF PHRASE.

Which I'm not quite sure what to do with yet. The best idea I've had is to

sum the letters in all the words in each phrase ... but how is the OP defining "phrase"?

After further hints and prods from the OP in comments:

  • "Just think of two words meaning sum and phrase." -- Sid

  • "Think Phrasing rather than Phrase(I think that's the verb form of phrase)" -- Sid

... I tried looking for

synonyms of the words "sum" and "phrase". Sum led me fairly quickly to the word "add", and then by a lucky chance, phrase led me to "diction". Putting these together, and forgetting about the "of", we get the word ADDICTION.

So you fluffed your exams because ...

you have a PUZZLING ADDICTION! :-D (Don't we all.)

Another observation (maybe not relevant):

the punctuation in the letter is very strange, particularly the spacing around commas (and occasionally full stops too). Sometimes commas are written with,no,spaces; sometimes they're written in, the, normal, way; sometimes they're written with , double , spaces. This must be significant somehow, and can probably be turned into a message in Morse code as suggested by the message we've already found.

  • $\begingroup$ Ok, good start. There is more in the puzzle, you will get only a part answer with your idea.. $\endgroup$ – Sid Oct 1 '16 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ There is only one word remaining. DOn't get too literal with sum of phrase. Just think of two words meaning sum and phrase. $\endgroup$ – Sid Oct 12 '16 at 7:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Sid Add of clause? Sigma of sentence? Stack of exchange? :-P $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 12 '16 at 15:57
  • $\begingroup$ You got the first word. As I said, think of phrase as verb and a synonym of that verb.. $\endgroup$ – Sid Oct 12 '16 at 16:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Sid Synonyms of "phrase" as a verb include "word", "formulate", "couch" ... none of which goes together with "add of" to make anything very meaningful, as far as I can tell ... $\endgroup$ – Rand al'Thor Oct 13 '16 at 0:06

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