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Why did the chicken cross the river?

Well, I believe that is a question too vague to classify for a riddle, eh? Well, I had to draw your attention. Actually, my story is a bit more complicated than that.

Not so long ago I received an antique gospel book. It was sold for relatively low price because, quote, "a previous owner has made pointless remarks inside and ruined the leather cover". I didn't give much attention to the fact, but was really surprised when I saw the book.

First of all, on the back cover the words "Why did the chicken cross the river?" were cut (yes, this made me chuckle too). Second of all, inside the book there were occasional phrases written in red and blue ink. Weird... phrases. They appeared to be of a question-and-answers joke, or, how my younger friends tend to call them 'setup-punchline' jokes. I've made some research on the ink and the book -- it appears, both the book and the jokes date back to 1600-s, probably originating from some not-so-faithful priest practicing his humorous skills on the paper he could get. I was very intrigued.

After thorough look through the pages, I have found 22 questions and, unfortunately, only 12 answers. I still believe, however, that all answers were in the book, but the blue ink was less long-lasting, leaving just a speck of blue instead of some answers. Counting the specks altogether with answers, I got the same 22. Judging by the size of specks, the missing answers are strangely short, I'd say, one word each.

Further down I present all the phrases I found. The order is random - seeing how setup and punchline often got into completely different places, I believe, the Jester's intention was to write them at random places.

Red ink:

(0) What is a pillager's favourite musical instrument?

(1) Why can't gnomes make a mechanism with normal wheels?

(2) Why did the kids know that Santa had visited the dragon?

(3) Why did the dragon know that hobbits had visited him?

(4) What does an ogre use to clean the house?

(5) You know what the original title for "Puss in the boots" was?

(6) What tool needs the one desiring to shake hands with kings?

(7) What land is inhabited solely by frogs?

(8) What could save you from being roasted with a dead rat in your mouth?

(9) What did an ogre say when he saw an especially ugly mountain?

(10) How much does a fortune-teller eat for breakfast?

(11) How do you call the Pope's private guards? (finally a funny one) *

(12) What can you get from a person who spent a month in the desert?

(13) How is it called when the king takes all your money and then returns half of it?

(14) Why did a king say he would give me a dollar?

(15) What symbol represents leprechaun's straight-forwardness?

(16) How is it called when the king takes all your money, but you get to punch him in the face?

(17) What is owned by every man, but elfs have got it longest?

(18) Wears a mask, strikes at night, but not as filthy as a heretic?

(19) How do you call a sacrifice made not for, but by the god?

(20) What's the only good thing to be made by a smith?

(21) What's a family name of a mermaid's lover?

Blue ink (the ones you can still make out)

0) Aged manna.

1) Catnip hero.

2) Cog-mania.

3) Meant pence.

4) Minted jug

5) Trade

6) Tree mop.

7) Pee mess.

8) Th grs' rnt. **

9) Often whole rune.

10) Sleigh stripes.

11) Worth.

Where is the puzzle, Tom?

If it was only about connecting the dots, I wouldn't come to the site -- I can make out some of the 'jokes' myself (and they don't seem too funny). But something in these answers gives me a weird feeling. They don't seem natural, it seems as if there is some code I can't see. And if there is a pattern, then, maybe, you can recreate the missing data. So...

1) What are the unanswered setups?

2) What are their missing punchlines?

3) And most importantly... Why. Did. The chicken. Cross. The river. I need to know that. Who knows, maybe it's the only good joke in the bunch?

* 'finally a funny one' was written by the Jester. I suppose, this joke was exceptionally good.

** it's the original spelling, "Th grs' rnt", not a damaged text. One of the phrases that raised my suspicion.

Inserted Hint 1 (20.05):

New tag added: "anagram"

Hint 2 (23.05):

Actually, it's the expansion of the first hint. There was a bookmark sent to me with the book which I didn't happen to notice. That's what it had:

->ghnrrstt->???thgrsrnt->speech impediment joke?
Check on return:
do ogres truly die of sunlight?
are jesuits funny alre

The rest of the list is smudged. I'll keep looking for more clues though.

Inserted Hint 3 (23.05)

After getting a hint on the order from phenomist, I found the correct pattern to order the questions properly. The questions are rewritten in the right order now. For the same reason, I add tag "cards" to the puzzle.
P.S: Maybe it really was unsolvable without the proper order. I apologise then. Now that all the key plotpoints have been revealed, we need a hero to connect the dots.

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  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Seeing how my first cryptic message was solved in a matter of hours, I give you a harder nut to break your teeth at. Good luck. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Blue May 18 '18 at 0:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for adding the tag. Not like I would've gotten it anyway, even with the correct knowledge :D Really creative puzzle and I love the humor $\endgroup$ – ferret May 23 '18 at 16:45
9
+100
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I think I have the final answer. It is heavily based on the work of others, mostly @phenomist, @Chowzen, @VictorStafusa, and those who they have referred to. Please upvote them all.

As they've already figured out, the answers to the riddles

need one letter replaced, and rearranged.
The resulting expressions each represent a card in the Major Arcana. If we order the answers according to the ordering of the cards in Major Arcana, and read the letters that got replaced in the original answers in this order, we get the ultimate answer to the ultimate question.

So why did the chicken cross the river?

To let Charon earn the coin.
solution (click on the image for higher resolution)

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ *river, not road :) $\endgroup$ – LinuxBlanket May 31 '18 at 14:31
  • $\begingroup$ thx, @LinuxBlanket, I've corrected it $\endgroup$ – elias May 31 '18 at 14:38
  • $\begingroup$ As I already gave out the correct order, you can see that "trade" and "worth" questions are a bit mixed up. Also, th grs' rnt is actually an attempt for the reference to "Hobbit" scene with trolls turning to stone. All the other pieces are in correct condition, so I give out the bounty! Hooray! $\endgroup$ – Thomas Blue May 31 '18 at 15:01
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, @ThomasBlue, I've corrected the order, and removed the explanation part of the answers. Feel free to edit my answer if you feel something needs to be elaborated! $\endgroup$ – elias Jun 13 '18 at 9:21
  • $\begingroup$ I think that "gloves" is a more plausible and realistic answer than "shovel". $\endgroup$ – Victor Stafusa Jun 15 '18 at 11:07
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Partial progress

Observation:

Th grs' rnt. with R replaced with an E anagrams to STRENGTH.

Thoughts:

Following this observation, I anagrammed the answers plus a letter.
I did this for CATNIPHERO and one of the words was HIEROPHANT. Aha! These words are the 22 Major Arcana! To help confirm this, the Fool can be numbered 0, just like how our questions are ordered.

This nicely lets us relate the other revealed answers:

0) Aged manna.

HANGED MAN

1) Catnip hero.

HIEROPHANT

2) Cog-mania.

MAGICIAN

3) Meant pence.

TEMPERANCE

4) Minted jug

JUDGEMENT

5) Trade

DEATH

6) Tree mop.

EMPEROR

7) Pee mess.

EMPRESS

8) Th grs' rnt. **

STRENGTH

9) Often whole rune.

WHEEL OF FORTUNE

10) Sleigh stripes.

HIGH PRIESTESS

11) Worth.

TOWER

Speculation:

From the hint, JESUITS are one letter anachange from JUSTICE, so it's probably relevant. So we still need anachanges from: Fool, Lovers, Chariot, Hermit, Devil, Star, Moon, Sun, World.
"What is a pillager's favourite musical instrument?" is LOOT/LUTE, and LOOT can in fact be made from FOOL, which is neat. Perhaps Q2 is CHARITY from CHARIOT, and Q4 is JESUITS. Q16 is probably GLOVES from LOVERS. Unfortunately the search space is quite large and the jokes aren't totally clear cut, so maybe I'm missing some additional correspondence.
While the questions are numbered 0-21, they don't directly correspond to Arcana cards 0-21.

Furthermore:

Documenting the letter changes in Major Arcana order, the new letters seem to spell TO LET C??R?N?ARN?H???I?, which could be the answer to the chicken riddle.

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Nicely done. I wonder if this needs a knowledge tag, because I have never heard of the M**** A****** and would never have been able to solve this puzzle $\endgroup$ – ferret May 23 '18 at 4:44
  • $\begingroup$ trying to fill the gaps, maybe the third word of the hidden phrase is rot13(pheerag)? $\endgroup$ – LinuxBlanket May 23 '18 at 13:14
  • $\begingroup$ rot13(v guvax gung gur nafjre gb frghc guerr zhfg or tha, juvpu vf fha ba ZN) $\endgroup$ – Victor Stafusa May 23 '18 at 19:45
  • $\begingroup$ rot13(ol gur jnl, v guvax gung gur guveq jbeq va gur svany nafjre vf n fpenzoyrq nantenz) $\endgroup$ – Victor Stafusa May 23 '18 at 19:47
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A partial answer, my two "Pence" worth:

(Edited using MAJOR ARCANA breakthrough from @phenomist)
Letter changes in bold

0) Why did a king say he would give me a dollar?

→ 3) Meant pence.
→ TEMPERANCE

(1) How is it called when the king takes all your money, but you get to punch him in the face?

→ 11) Worth
→ TOWER

(2) How is it called when the king takes all your money and then returns half of it?

→ Charity
→ CHARIOT

(3) What could save you from being roasted with a dead rat in your mouth?

→ ??????????????

(4) How do you call the Pope's private guards? (finally a funny one) *

→ *) JESUIT (Swiss Cheese Swiss Guard/Holy See??)
→ JUSTICE

(5) What is a pillager's favourite musical instrument?

→ *) Loot (Lute)
FOOL

(6) What does an ogre use to clean the house?

→ 6) Tree Mop @VictorStafusa
→ EMPEROR

(7) What can you get from a person who spent a month in the desert?

→ 0)Aged Manna @ferret
HANGED MAN

(8) What land is inhabited solely by frogs?

→ *) Tarn
STAR

(9) What symbol represents leprechaun's straight-forwardness?

→ 9) Often whole rune.
→ WHEEL OF FORTUNE

(10) What is owned by every man, but elfs have got it longest?

→ Earth
DEATH

(11) What's the only good thing to be made by a smith?

→ 4) Minted jug ("minted", forged from metal)
→ JUDGEMENT E

(12) What did an ogre say when he saw an especially ugly mountain?

→ ??????????????

(13) What's a family name of a mermaid's lover?

→ ??????????????

(14) Why did the kids know that Santa had visited the dragon?

→ 10) Sleigh stripes. @VictorStafusa
→ HIGH PRIESTESS

(15) Why did the dragon know that hobbits had visited him?

→ 8) Th grs' rnt. ** ( Th(e) (O)gr(e)s' (Bu)rnt )???
→ STRENGTH

(16) What tool needs the one desiring to shake hands with kings?

→ 5) Gloves
→ LOVERS

(17) How much does a fortune-teller eat for breakfast?

→ ??????????????

(18) You know what the original title for "Puss in the boots" was?

→ 1) Catnip hero. @VictorStafusa
→ HIEROPHANT

(19) Why can't gnomes make a mechanism with normal wheels?

→ 2) Cog-mania. @VictorStafusa
→ MAGICIAN

(20) How do you call a sacrifice made not for, but by the god?

→ Son
→ SUN

(21) Wears a mask, strikes at night, but not as filthy as a heretic?

→ ??????????????

Still cogitating the pattern and unanswered riddles...

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  • $\begingroup$ Darn, I missed the comment. But I think that #22 would be "Why did a chicken cross the river?" $\endgroup$ – Victor Stafusa May 18 '18 at 14:29
  • $\begingroup$ @VictorStafusa I said 6/22 meaning that you got 6 answers right. Then I removed my comment, deciding to hold up with any hints until the Sunday. I also did praise your historical reference, though it has nothing to do with the riddle. $\endgroup$ – Thomas Blue May 18 '18 at 15:35
  • $\begingroup$ (Revised) Of interest (among other things): The questions are zero-based (start with 0, end with 21), $\endgroup$ – Chowzen May 18 '18 at 15:38
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Partial answer (more likely guesses than answers):

(0) Why did a king say he would give me a dollar?

3) Meant pence

(1) How is it called when the king takes all your money, but you get to punch him in the face?

Two guesses:

  • 5) Trade (unlikely)

  • 11) Worth (@Chowzen)

(2) How is it called when the king takes all your money and then returns half of it?

Few guesses:

  • 4) Minted jug (unlikely)

  • 5) Trade

(3) What could save you from being roasted with a dead rat in your mouth?

This one seems to be tricky, I have a few guesses (probably all wrong):

  • Water

  • Cat

  • Hungry

  • Ice

Much better idea by @Chowzen:

  • Plague

(4) How do you call the Pope's private guards? (finally a funny one) *

7) Pee mess

(5) What is a pillager's favourite musical instrument?

Don`t know, this is my very unlikely first guess:

11) Worth (unlikely)

(6) What does an ogre use to clean the house?

6) Tree mop

(7) What can you get from a person who spent a month in the desert?

My not so great guess:

Sand (?)

Accordingly to ferret, it must be:

0) Aged manna

(8) What land is inhabited solely by frogs?

France (?)

(9) What symbol represents leprechaun's straight-forwardness?

Some guesses:

  • 9) Often whole rune

  • ♣ (shamrock) (by @Chowzen)

  • |

  • !

  • 🖕

(10) What is owned by every man, but elfs have got it longest?

Ears (?)

(11) What's the only good thing to be made by a smith?

My not so great guess:

Scrap (?)

Better guess by @Chowzen:

4) Minted jug

(12) What did an ogre say when he saw an especially ugly mountain?

8) Th grs' rnt

(13) What's a family name of a mermaid's lover?

Arthur (?)

(14) Why did the kids know that Santa had visited the dragon?

10) Sleigh stripes

(15) Why did the dragon know that hobbits had visited him?

0) Aged manna (?)

(16) What tool needs the one desiring to shake hands with kings?

Tricky. I have some guesses:

  • Catapult

  • Gold

  • Handcuffs

  • Army

  • Crown

  • Gloves

(17) How much does a fortune-teller eat for breakfast?

My guess:

9) Often whole rune

Guess by @Chowzen:

Medium amount

(18) You know what the original title for "Puss in the boots" was?

1) catnip hero

(19) Why can't gnomes make a mechanism with normal wheels?

2) Cog-mania

(20) How do you call a sacrifice made not for, but by the god?

Jesus (?)

(21) Wears a mask, strikes at night, but not as filthy as a heretic?

My not so great guess:

Batman (?)

A better guess by @Chowzen:

Raccoon

Why did a chicken cross the river?

No idea yet other than really silly childish random guesses.

What patterns we do have there?

I looked upon to the numbers of setups and punchlines, but since the OP argues that they are randomly ordered, it probably have nothing to do with that. So, I really don't know yet.

Some other curiosities

The given setups and punchlines references a few things that could be used to constrain the book date:

The ethimology of the word dollar comes from thaler, a coin that started to be minted in 1518. About pence, it dates back to 1394 or earlier.

Saint Nicholas lived in the 4th century. However the personification of christmas as Santa Claus appeared only in the 15th or 16th centuries. 1 2

Puss in boots appeared by the first time in 1550-1553.

The word "Hobbit", at least as how it is understood today, seems to be invented by Tolkien in the 1930s. However it could be an obscure older term from XIX century or even from 1594. Shakespeare's play King Lear (1603) contains a reference for "Hobbididence, prince of dumbness".

So...

This is not really medieval, since the Middle Ages ended in May 29th, 1453 with the fall of Constantinople. The period better matches with the renaissance.

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Riddle #7 is definitely answer #0 $\endgroup$ – ferret May 18 '18 at 6:39
1
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To sum up, following the last hint:

I took Chowzen's answer (go vote them!) and rewrote it with the questions in the right order. Some of the answers don't seem to fit anymore, though...

(0) What is a pillager's favourite musical instrument?

→ *) Loot (Lute)
FOOL

(1) Why can't gnomes make a mechanism with normal wheels?

→ 2) Cog-mania. @VictorStafusa
→ MAGICIAN

(2) Why did the kids know that Santa had visited the dragon?

→ 10) Sleigh stripes. @VictorStafusa
→ HIGH PRIESTESS

(3) Why did the dragon know that hobbits had visited him?

→ 8) Th grs' rnt. ** ( Th(e) (O)gr(e)s' (Bu)rnt )???
→ STRENGTH

(4) What does an ogre use to clean the house?

→ 6) Tree Mop @VictorStafusa
→ EMPEROR

(5) You know what the original title for "Puss in the boots" was?

→ 1) Catnip hero. @VictorStafusa
→ HIEROPHANT

(6) What tool needs the one desiring to shake hands with kings?

→ 5) Gloves
→ LOVERS

(7) What land is inhabited solely by frogs?

→ Charity (previous answer)
→ CHARIOT

(8) What could save you from being roasted with a dead rat in your mouth?

→ ??????????????
→ STRENGTH

(9) What did an ogre say when he saw an especially ugly mountain?

→ ??????????????
→ HERMIT

(10) How much does a fortune-teller eat for breakfast?

→ 9) Often whole rune.
→ WHEEL OF FORTUNE

(11) How do you call the Pope's private guards? (finally a funny one) *

→ *) JESUIT (Swiss Cheese Swiss Guard/Holy See??)
→ JUSTICE

(12) What can you get from a person who spent a month in the desert?

→ 0)Aged Manna @ferret
HANGED MAN

(13) How is it called when the king takes all your money and then returns half of it?

→ ???? → DEATH

(14) Why did a king say he would give me a dollar?

→ 3) Meant pence.
→ TEMPERANCE

(15) What symbol represents leprechaun's straight-forwardness?

→ ?????????
→ DEVIL

(16) How is it called when the king takes all your money, but you get to punch him in the face?

→ 11) Worth
→ TOWER

(17) What is owned by every man, but elfs have got it longest?

→ *)Tarn (previous answer) → STAR

(18) Wears a mask, strikes at night, but not as filthy as a heretic?

→ ??????????????
→ MOON

(19) How do you call a sacrifice made not for, but by the god?

→ Son
→ SUN

(20) What's the only good thing to be made by a smith?

→ 4) Minted jug ("minted", forged from metal)
→ JUDGEMENT E

(21) What's a family name of a mermaid's lover?

→ ??????????????
→ WORLD

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