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Thought I'd get back into puzzle-making by giving Fortnightly Topic Challenge #22 a go.


As you work through one of your countless puzzle books, you find a sheet of paper inside with a poem on it. It's been a while, you think – almost a year in fact. You suppose your brother was just too busy chasing down his dreams to be trying to vex the puzzle addict that you are. Is this some sort of twisted Christmas present? You take a closer look...

The World

On the surface, the world seems to give you a choice:
Take the head of an ostrich? A grasshopper's tail?
Maybe eggs of a fish left beheaded on sale!
Is that wonder I hear coming from your posh voice?

But beneath the appearance, it looks to you old:
There you see a hyena's true heart on the ground,
With a donkey's hind feet lying back and around,
And the murmured assent is unstarted, untold.

At its core, though, there lies a most wonderful street
Where the secrets of Burgess's Toad are revealed,
And the wings of a swift are high over the field;
Just a second of time makes it all but complete.

What is your brother trying to tell you?


Note: don't read the poem too closely; a good number of words (especially rhyming words) are there only for the rhyme/meter.

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In the poem, ...

... each stanza refers to some letters, defined several times in each of the four lines.

The first stanza ...

... encodes OR: a choice (this or that?); the head of an ostrich and a grasshopper's tail; roe reversed and with the first letter removed; a homophone of awe.

The second stanza ...

encodes YE: an old form of you; a hyena's true heart – I guess hyenas have their hearts towards the left side like humans too; The donkey's hind feet reversed; and aye without its first letter.

The third stanza ...

... encodes ST: an abbreviation for Street; the secrets of Burgess's Toad; the wings of the swift; s (second) and t (time)

The final answer ...

... is obtained from these letters. They could be treated as a simple anagram, but Gareth McCaughan has found how to construct the solution from the first words in each stanza:

OR is At the surface.
YE is Beneath the appearance.
ST is At its core.

The pairs are nested so that ST is the inner core, YE the intermediate layer and OR the outer layer:

(O (Y (ST) E) R).

A very appropriate construction for an OYSTER!

Finally, the title ...

... is a reference to a proverb, as Ankoganit points out in the comments below: My brother wanted to tell me that the world is my oyster.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nice work! You have the correct answer, although I won't accept until you find how the poem tells you how to get it from the letters. For "a hyena's true heart", that one was a bit of a cop-out, by taking the heart of "ahYEna", but I figured it wouldn't be too bad. $\endgroup$ – Volatility Dec 13 '16 at 11:41
  • $\begingroup$ The remark about the hyena's heart was more of an observation, not a criticism. The hard thing is to fnd out that each line describes the same letters, which I noticed first in the third stanza. Hmm, the order probably has to do with the rhyming scheme, although I really don't see how at the moment. $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Dec 13 '16 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ It's probably worth adding that the title refers to the quote The world is my oyster :-) $\endgroup$ – Ankoganit Dec 13 '16 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ I think the key words for the overall construction are "on the surface", "beneath the appearance", and "at its core". $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Dec 13 '16 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ @Ankoganit: Thanks. I didn't know that saying, but now the final question - What is my brother trying to tell me - makes sense. $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Dec 13 '16 at 17:42

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