Nothing too special, a crossword to complete, with some layers beneath.

All you'll need lies within the puzzle. Cross-words are cool aren't they?

Click on it to enlarge image. enter image description here

Normally you'd use 4 before 7, but this time I'd suggest doing the opposite.

Optpr asmz nsqg lsa siyriv gzy skkmzp xukw emdwnii gce, xugvw qd sag javlp ggwl nzv lqy lw cifqpnm. Nlreo lpp wresfl xifueym hmgj cgcc wresfl nsqg.


R ub bai kqcco rsl byts, mlv cltilyin sdc wijrlt, bai vwx dn mlzb jjhspv. Fbpb tq Z?


The grid:

enter image description here

To solve the ciphers,

notice that there is an unusual hyphen in the comment from the poser: "All you'll need lies within the puzzle. Cross-words are cool aren't they?". In conjunction with the anagram tag, this hyphen clues us to the fact that we should look at anagrams of the cross letters. This yields FIRST LETTERS.


as Deusovi notes, taking first letters from the down clues we get CLSENIE, which anagrams to SILENCE; and from the across clues we get TJRPUIE, which anagrams to JUPITER.

Applying these to the first and second ciphers respectively yields:

While your code has helped you figure this message out, there is one final test for you to resolve. Check the second message with your second code.


I am the thing you seek, the treasure you desire, the end of this puzzle. What am I?

(M Oehm decrypted these using analysis.)

The solution to this riddle is:


Constructive criticism:

Some of the cluing was bit unfair, in my opinion. Answers like "dietary", "expenditure" and "lavish" violate the constraint that definitions agree grammatically with the words they are cluing; "Cool numbers that like the number 1" doesn't make much sense as a clue for "primary"; assuming 11 is correct, "in a raging frenzy" may not be an established enough construction to warrant a missing-word clue (although it does have some currency); and, assuming "serendipitous" is correct, the definition is a bit loose. I would recommend using more checked letters in future crosswords as well as adhering to the grammatical agreement rule in clues.

The first cipher is a bit superfluous: It tells you to use a keyword that you already have on ciphertext that is already available to you.

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  • $\begingroup$ If you assume that the riddle in the last blockquote has the form "I am the ...; What am I?", you can determine the Vigenère key. It's rot13(WHCVGRE). $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Mar 5 '17 at 10:36
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    $\begingroup$ @n_palum, No problem. I look forward to your next creation! $\endgroup$ – GoldenGremlin Mar 5 '17 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ @Silenus Ha thanks, although Moehm didn't technically answer the riddle, so I don't know who to give answer to yet $\endgroup$ – n_plum Mar 5 '17 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ (If I may chime in on the criticism, I've got a mild complaint about the presentation: It would be nice if you could present the clues as text and have the image contain only the grid in future puzzles. I think that would be more readable. It also allows for easy copying and pasting for the answer. Apart from that, it's a nice multi-layer puzzle.) $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Mar 5 '17 at 18:03
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    $\begingroup$ I'll second @MOehm's last comment. I actually used the same site you did to build the grid for the PSE Assessment Exam puzzle, but cleaned up the grid and added the clues as text below the grid image instead of using the clue layout provided by that site (which looks clunky and cuts clues short anyway). Either paying for the site to get nicer output, or doing something more than just screen-shotting it, would give much improved presentation. $\endgroup$ – Rubio Mar 5 '17 at 18:28

This answer decodes the two messages at the bottom of the puzzle by analysing the messages. That's clearly not the intended way, so it could ba called cheating. It might still help other solvers to find the correct way to obtain the cipher keys. (I haven't got a clue at the moment, despite Silenius's good work on the crossword.)

The second message

This message ends in a question and the puzzle has the tag. Many riddles have the form "I am (the) so and so. What am I?". The letter counts fit and the first shot is a hit. The riddle reads:

  I am the thing you seek, the treasure you desire, the end of this puzzle. What am I?

The key is JUPITER.

The first message

This message doesn't have an obvious structure. There are many three-letter words, all different. But there are two ocurrences of the word NSQG, 105 letters apart, and two occurrences of WRESFL, 21 letters apart. If these occurrences are really the same words, a likely key length is 7 letters. (21 letters would also fit, but let's go with the shorter key first.)

The word NSQG is at an offset of 2, covering • • NSGQ • and the word WRESFL is at an offset of 3, covering FL • WRES. Both words cover the whole key.

I've written a small script to attack this problem and it turns out that the words are "code" and "second". The decoded message reads:

  While your code has helped you figure this message out, there is one final test
  for you to resolve. Check the second message with your second code.

The key is SILENCE.

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    $\begingroup$ They're anagrams of the clues' starting letters. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Mar 5 '17 at 15:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Deusovi You would be correct, and if people appropriately got my hints at "Crossed-words" you'd check the intersecting words, and get an anagram for First Letters, then use the hint for Down then Across and you'd get SIlence and Jupiter $\endgroup$ – n_plum Mar 5 '17 at 16:37
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, I see. I had seen the anagram tag, but wondered where the J should come from. $\endgroup$ – M Oehm Mar 5 '17 at 16:37
  • $\begingroup$ @MOehm Yeah, and that's why Sil had some trouble, I stretched the clues a bit to fit the letters I needed. $\endgroup$ – n_plum Mar 5 '17 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ Aw man, I picked up on the "cross-word" hint yesterday and even publicly conjectured that we needed to look at anagrams of the intersecting letters. Unfortunately, I didn't notice the anagram. $\endgroup$ – GoldenGremlin Mar 5 '17 at 17:14

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