# A very strange letter

Today, you receive an unusual delivery in the mail - a plain white envelope marked not with your address, but a question:

What’s my sign?

You open the envelope to find two pieces of paper with the most curious symbols on them.
What could they possibly mean?

Page 1

Page 2

UPDATE: Thanks to Gareth McCaughan, the puzzle has been decrypted to form the following riddle:

No good will come from solving this verse
A fuss will only make matters worse
Four quarts will be all the liquid you need
French water will certainly sate your greed
Allow me to hint at your means of escape
Push yourself to the limits to stay in shape

HINT:

The first five lines each give a word. The word lengths are 3, 3, 6, 3, 3 respectively.

Note: The word lengths are irrelevant. I went for poetic style over significance.

• i thought this has something to do with uchiha :) Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 10:41
• I wonder whether a hint might be in order. Commented Nov 19, 2016 at 11:38
• @GarethMcCaughan - Hint added. Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 9:50
• @jmoriarty Hint used :-). Commented Nov 20, 2016 at 14:38

## 1 Answer

Step 1: decoding the symbols

If we

interpret the symbols on the wheel on the reverse as A..Z, running clockwise from A just clockwise from the bottom vertex of the big triangle

and then

swap adjacent pairs of columns in the square,

then aside from possible transcription errors on my part we almost get

NO GOOD WILL COME FROM SOLVING THIS VERSE A FUSS WILL ONLY MAKE MATTERS WORSE FOUR QUARTS WILL BE ALL THE LIQUID YOU NEED FRENCH WATER WILL CERTAINLY SATE YOUR GREED ALLOW ME TO HINT AT YOUR MEANS OF ESCAPE PUSH YOURSELF TO THE LIMITS TO STAY IN SHAPE

I say "almost" for two reasons. The first is that

the eighth letter is R not I (I suspect this is just a mistake, and it looks to me like it's a mistake in the puzzle but maybe I've goofed)

and the second is that

many, but not all, double letters (in words like WILL and ALL) have had an X inserted between the doubled letters (I think this may be just to make decryption harder and get the number of letters right to make a nice rectangle). The positions of the Xs don't seem obviously significant.

Step 2: decoding the riddle

With the questioner's helpful hint in hand, everything becomes obvious. The first five lines

give the following words: BAD (no good), ADO (a fuss), GALLON (four pints), EAU (French water), LET (allow).

And then

we look at the limits -- i.e., the first and last letters -- to get BAGEL on the left and DONUT on the right.

So I suppose your sign is, homophonically,

TAURUS to sound like TORUS. (Though I've always pronounced the first syllable to rhyme with "cow"...)

• Nice! I didn't expect it to be deciphered by swapping pairs of columns. My intention was that pairs of symbols be swapped across the circle as alluded to by the Zodiac symbol. Using this method, the Xs break up pairs of letters that are the same, as in the Playfair cipher. Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 5:04
• Oh! So the idea was to start with A at top centre rather than bottom centre, then replace XY with Y'X' where ' means "move to opposite side of wheel"? I take it I still do need to figure out what the verse means to actually solve the puzzle, though... Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 10:12
• That's correct. Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 10:20
• @jmoriarty if its correct, pease select this as the correct answer Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 7:12
• It even says so right at the start in big bold letters :-). I'm still thinking about the riddle, I promise. (I hope other people aren't staying away from this because it's got a long answer already...) Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 9:50