# What in the shells is this puzzle?

Clergyman's wife tells story of picking up a muscle.

Solution: $\require{color}\definecolor{hint}{RGB}{1,124,233} \small\color{hint}{\textsf{5 words}}$

• Are you sure you mean muscle and not mussel? Aug 6 '17 at 6:23
• @benzene Quite sure.
– Rubio
Aug 6 '17 at 6:24
• Making me think of she sells sea shells along the sea shore Aug 6 '17 at 15:19
• Is it about Socrates's wife called Xanthappe's quarrelsome attitude leading to heated vocal conversation @Rubio ?! Aug 6 '17 at 17:10
• I think I've seen all the components of solving this, other than the actual 5 words themselves, correctly guessed at by people contemplating this puzzle in The Sphinx's Lair. Of course I won't say which guesses were right and which were wrong, but given that the right guesses have been made, how the puzzle works is within potential solvers' grasp. Without further comment, I'll note that most (all?) the commentary in TSL about this puzzle can be found at/near the relevant looking hits on this search.
– Rubio
Aug 10 '17 at 19:27

From the title:

The word that jumps out the most is "shells". My first thought was that this might mean that we need to find synonyms and only take the outer/inner letters, but this didn't lead me anywhere. Later in The Sphinx's Lair @Alconja suggested that maybe "shells" means the words could be arranged in a matryoshka doll-like pattern, i.e. A(B(C(D)E)F)G, which I thought was a really good idea.

From the hint:

The color of "5 words" is 0x17ce9 = 97513, which I think gives the length of each of our 5 words in order.

Putting this together:

Clergyman's wife tells story of picking up a muscle.
a

Clergyman's wife tells story of picking up a muscle.
lat

Clergyman's wife tells story of picking up a muscle.
elate

Clergyman's wife tells story of picking up a muscle.
relates

Clergyman's wife tells story of picking up a muscle.
prelatess

• Good job! What was the relevance of picking? Aug 10 '17 at 20:56
• @DavidFoong it's there to indicate that the verb tense doesn't match with the answer.
– ffao
Aug 10 '17 at 20:57
• Nicely done! And yes - the ing was italicized to indicate it was just there for surface reading, as guessed by @Sp3000
– Rubio
Aug 10 '17 at 21:05

Is it

A Story of Two Lives,
a chapter in the book Miss Margaret's Stories, By A Clergyman's Wife, Author Of 'katie's Counsel'? It talks about an orphan boy who works with a spade in the garden, who told the stories about Miss Margaret, a clergyman's wife.

I'm not so sure if this is the intended solution though, since I didn't get the shell reference in the title and I don't understand how fifth word may escape me. Also I don't understand why 'ing' in 'picking' is italicized.

• Sorry, but that is not the solution. The title is an important clue to solving this.
– Rubio
Aug 7 '17 at 21:16

I decided to

Take the sentence and look for alternate meanings.

To start off,

I took Clergeyman's wife and turned it into Presbytera (I know, technically that's a preacher's wife). Then, I took "tells story" and changed it to "preach(es/ed)" in order to keep with the religious theme. Next, I gave up because I couldn't fit the rest of it. That leaves us with Presbytera preaches [word] [word] [word]

Thoughts:

I'm hoping this is along the right track. It seems to me like this is the right way to solve it, especially with the wordplay tag attached to the puzzle. Picking makes no sense to me. Maybe it's supposed to separate the word?

It's just a guess, but it seems

"pickING up a muscle" might tell us to literally pick ING up MUSCLE (...which leads us to MUSING-CLE)???

• To quote from the puzzle: "Solution: 5 words" Aug 10 '17 at 17:57