Once when I was travelling through the Himalaya, I came to a small cottage. It was getting dark and I was looking for a place to spend the night, so I knocked on the door. After a while an old man with long hair and a curly grey beard opened the door and in impeccable English asked me what he could do for me. I explained to him that I was looking for a place to sleep. He told me that he had a guest room in his own house that I could use, but he would only let me in if I could tell him what his profession was. What a curious man! He then gave me two pieces of paper and told me that all the information I needed was on there: the first consisted of 13 seemingly unrelated random sentences and the second contained 13 lines of what looked like crossword clues. I was completely flabbergasted and had no idea where to start...

Can you figure out what the man's profession was?

No. 1

  1. The imperium was blown away like in a hurricane, despite all their war tactics.
  2. A hidden Italian visitor once came to San Francisco.
  3. Keep going, one more division and then you will have solved this Chinese problem within an hour.
  4. Every few days the sisters clean up and they continue until their house is the tidiest.
  5. On my first day I went on to dismantle a heroine lab and sent the imbecile of an owner straight into rehab.
  6. Now Jack's eating eastern protein, he's bound to be a muscled boy.
  7. Louis did not see his cousins, who persist in playing the violin, while passing by Baker Street 62.
  8. You know you're earning money beyond your wildest dreams, when you're making risotto for the queen.
  9. For a mythical creature this caged gorilla is pretty wild.
  10. It's like singles are all idealistic and perfect in your view.
  11. Recklessness coincided with hunger can lead to a funeral when a woman poisons her husband with an avocado.
  12. Staggeringly exact, is how a dentist should measure the size of that molar.
  13. To become a champion in billiards doesn't necessarily mean playing for the greater good.

No. 2

Now remove ancient numbers to find the following:
$$\begin{array}{align*} &\text{South American country (+7,+12)}&\text{ $\implies$ Atypical }\\ &\text{Chicken (+1,+2)}&\text{ $\implies$ Insignificant }\\ &\text{Child (+8,+9)}&\text{ $\implies$ Understand}\\ &\text{Quiz (-11,-6)} &\text{ $\implies$ Amy Farrah Fowler }\\&\text{Buzzing insect (-7,-5)}&\text{ $\implies$ Cube }\\&\text{Purpose (-7,-6)} &\text{ $\implies$ Portrayal }\\ &\text{Not off (-6,-4)}&\text{ $\implies$ Travis Barker }\\ &\text{Cardinalpoint, set (-4,+5)}&\text{ $\implies$ Questions }\\ &\text{Ripen (-3,+1)} &\text{ $\implies$ Computer instructions }\\ &\text{Cardinalpoint, rise (-3,+2)}&\text{ $\implies$ Own dignity}\\ &\text{United (+7,+11)}&\text{ $\implies$ Amateur}\\ &\text{Consume (+4,+6)}&\text{ $\implies$ Too low}\\ &\text{Taverns (-2,+7)}&\text{ $\implies$ Movies}\end{array}$$ Hint: Look for 13 words, all longer than 13 letters


I may have made this slightly too vague and enigmatic, so I'll try and provide a little bit of a guideline here:
Step 1: Use the clues on no. 2 (the left part) to find certain words in no. 1. Be sure to read the instructions above!
Step 2: Use the numbers next to the clues to find more words and combine this with the information on the right side of no. 2 to find the 13 words needed.
Step 3: Use some hidden info of no. 1 to make sure you're reading these 13 words correctly.

I hope this doesn't take away the challenge of the puzzle while at the same time providing some sort of idea where to start.


2 Answers 2


The man was ...


Thanks to the hints, we know that the first step is ...

... to look for words that fit the clue on the left hand side of the second note. These words don't appear verbatim, but they are hidden in other words. All excess letters in these other words are letters that can be Roman numerals ("ancient numbers"), for example the buzzing insect is a bee and the corresponding word is "imBEcilE".

There's one such word on each line and the. These words and their positions are:

 South American country: PERU - imperium (1, 2)
                Chicken: HEN - hidden (2, 2)
                  Child: SON - division (3, 5)
                   Quiz: TEST - tidiest (4, 16)
         Buzzing insect: BEE - imbecile (5, 16)
                Purpose: USE - muscled (6, 11)
                Not off: ON - violin (7, 12)
     Cardinalpoint, set: WEST - wildest (8, 8)
                  Ripen: AGE - caged (9, 6)
    Cardinalpoint, rise: EAST - idealistic (10, 6)
                 United: ONE - coincided (11, 2)
                Consume: EAT - exact (12, 2)
                Taverns: BARS - billiards (13, 6)

The next step ...

... is to find two words on the same line. The index of these words is given as two offsets of the position of the words above. For example, "imperum" is the second word on the first line and it has the offsets +7 and +12, which yields the words at positions 9 and 14, "hurricane" and "tactics":

                imperium -> hurricane tactics
                  hidden -> italian visitor
                division -> chinese problem
                 tidiest -> sisters continue
                imbecile -> dismantle heroine
                 muscled -> eastern protein
                  violin -> cousins persist
                 wildest -> earning risotto
                   caged -> mythical gorilla
              idealistic -> singles perfect
               coincided -> funeral poisons
                   exact -> dentist measure
               billiards -> champion greater

From this, we can get the thirteen words by ...

... anagramming the two words. The result is (more or less loosely) described by the hints on the right hand side:

                Atypical -> UNCHARACTERISTIC
           Insignificant -> TRIVIALISATION
              Understand -> COMPREHENSIBLE
       Amy Farrah Fowler -> NEUROSCIENTISTS
                    Cube -> THREE-DIMENSIONAL
               Portrayal -> REPRESENTATION
           Travis Barker -> PERCUSSIONISTS
               Questions -> INTERROGATIONS
   Computer instructions -> ALGORITHMICALLY
             Own dignity -> SELF-RESPECTING
                 Amateur -> UNPROFESSIONAL
                 Too low -> UNDERESTIMATES
                  Movies -> CINEMATOGRAPHER
(I haven't yet found a suitable anagram for "Cube", but I supspect it's something-HEDRON or something-HEDRAL.)

According to the last hint, finding the man's profession ...

... requires the use of some hidden property in the phrases of the first note. Techidiot has found out that the first letters of the sentences in the first note say "Take only first" and that the last letters say "Sort by 2nd word". Sorting the thirteen resulting words by the second word of each phrase of the first note, we get:

 9            For a ...           Algorithmically
13             To become ...      Cinematographer
11   Recklessness coincided ...   Unprofessional
 7          Louis did ...         Percussionists
12   Staggeringly exact, ...      Underestimates
 4          Every few ...         Neuroscientists
 3           Keep going, ...      Comprehensible
 2              A hidden ...      Trivialisation
 1            The imperium ...    Uncharacteristic
 6            Now Jack's ...      Representation
 8            You know ...        Interrogations
10           It's like ...        Self-respecting
 5             On my ...          Three-dimensional
And taking only the first letter of each word gives the answer.

  • $\begingroup$ Computer instructions would probably be something closer related to ALGORITHM, although I'm not sure what all letters are used. $\endgroup$
    – tfitzger
    Feb 27, 2017 at 18:29
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, yes, you're right. (That happens when not all words are in the word list. That's also why I haven't found the cube yet.) $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Feb 27, 2017 at 18:40
  • $\begingroup$ That's it! For the last one, I could have added 'sphere' or 'cone' and typically there may be a dash inside the word.. $\endgroup$
    – Levieux
    Feb 28, 2017 at 8:58
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, got it! (But why don't my word lists have this word? It's common enough I and I practically use it every day at work. Chambers has only two-dimensional and Scowl has only threedimensionality. I had tried to find an anagram by hand and got mixed up finding X-hedron, X-solid and tri-X. Then I went to bed. :)) $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Feb 28, 2017 at 9:10
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent solve. I had to read it twice to understand what was going on in there :) +1 $\endgroup$
    – Techidiot
    Feb 28, 2017 at 9:17

Very very partial

The first letters of the NOTE 1 say TAKE ONLY FIRST. So, we need to take the first letters -


@dcfyj observed

Last letters of the Note 1 say SORT BY 2nd WORD

Sorting it by second word gives -

F or a
T o become
R ecklessness coincided
L ouis did
S taggeringly exact
E very few
K eep going
A hidden
T he imperium
N ow jack's
Y ou know
I t's like
O n my

  • $\begingroup$ Good observations! But neither of them are needed yet. First try to figure out what the clues on page 2 could mean.. $\endgroup$
    – Levieux
    Feb 24, 2017 at 10:58

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