I got a strange message from a friend a few minutes ago:

You wanted to know what my favourite book was? See if you can work out the answer. I'll give you a clue:

Saranac Lake \United

Which book is this?

Edit 1: I just got another message. It looks completely pointless, but it might be a clue. (I hope I haven't made a typo typing this out!)

`$=P0a4&P0U8P0O2B K*P0N:O5B b'9b5!U8a<0U'O5]*
 Hahaha I'm so meta! Did you figure it out then?

Edit 2: I hadn't really heard anything for a while, so I sent a request for clarification:

I give up. What is your favourite book?

and received the following reply:

23^39 is a high number. Look it up.

Edit 3: Just got another one. I think it's a follow-up to the last one:

High. Meta. Seriously, you haven't got this yet?

Oops; I meant &. You probably figured that out, though.

Edit 4: I think I might be in trouble.

You posted this on Puzzling SE? You were meant to solve it on your own! @Tahel's going about it all wrong, though; you're more likely to find the author in space than in Saranac Lake.

Come on. You don't see anything the tiniest bit strange about Saranac Lake \United? Nothing note-worthy at all? Oh, just look it up already.

And nobody even bothered to solve the coded message in the follow-up! No, that's unfair; if you could solve that highly Alternate/Meta puzzle then you'd already have solved the first clue, and hence found the book.

The second clue is more of a clue to a clue. Or… a meta clue! Haha! This works better than I intended! (Could you really call it a code though? I mean, technically it's a cipher. But it's more of an enciphered encoding of a cipher. I'm sure you can work it out; you're good with this sort of thing.)

And then, a few seconds later:

You're not going to add this to the question too, are you?

Edit 5: I got another confusing message; I think it might be another clue but I'm not sure.

Everyone's wrong so far, but @panda-34's on the right track. Try to solve the second clue, or meta. You're not going to be able to do it by hand, unless you have a big book full of tables full of pictures and writing.


4 Answers 4


Is the book

Cosmos by Carl Sagan


If you take ascii codes of letters in "Saranac Lake" and "Unite" each pair of them using "U" (logical OR) you get "ssocmo" which is anagram of "cosmos", a famous book whose author can be found "in space" (an asteroid named after him)

  • $\begingroup$ Apparently not, but it'd be interesting to see how you got there. Could you elaborate? $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 9:10
  • $\begingroup$ @wizzwizz4, expanded the answer $\endgroup$
    – panda-34
    Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 9:32
  • $\begingroup$ It looks like you're "close", and that you should try to solve the second clue. $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Mar 10, 2019 at 9:45

I hope I got the answer:

Saranac Lake-

In this place Author Mark Twain vacationed on Lake Flower in 1901 and he Wrote a book called "A Double-Barreled Detective Story".


United Airlines, Inc., commonly referred to as United -This is an airline. And as is known writer-Twain dreamed all his childhood to be a Steamboat pilot and Steamboat pilot Horace E. Bixby took Twain on as a cub pilot to teach him the river between New Orleans and St. Louis for $500, Piloting also gave him his pen name from "mark twain" And he did indeed work as a pilot for some time until the Civil War in 1861.

In conclusion the favourite book is

"A Double-Barreled Detective Story" by mark twain

  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, no; this isn't it. $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ I got a new message, though; maybe that'll help. $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Mar 8, 2019 at 18:19

The first hint:

This has an unusual rhythm. The character set reminds me of UUencode at first, but the lowercase letters rule it out. I used CyberChef's "XOR Brute Force" on it just to see what it would do, and while skimming the results for keys over 0x80, I had the feeling that it looked like Mojibake, so I had the tool decode the results as UTF-8 and received this result for key 0x80:

ऽаᴦаոаϲ ˪аκϵ ⧹ⵡոἰէϵݪ

The unusual rhythm was caused by the UTF-8 format's variable length encoding.

The other parts of the riddle seem to be bits of computing terminology. "Alt" and "Meta" are keys on old computer and terminal keyboards which would enable the high bits of the key codes sent from the keyboard to the remote system. Some keyboards (which?) used ASCII character codes as their key codes directly, and holding "Meta" while typing another key would enable the high bit 0x80 in that key code, producing "High-ASCII" characters (characters whose values are 128 or higher). Those values do not have characters specified by the ASCII standard and their characters generally varied by region and manufacturer. This proliferation of "High-ASCII" encodings first resolved itself as a list of character encodings and code pages that allowed different systems to translate between each others' code pages (given that the code pages on each end are known, which wasn't always the case). Eventually Unicode solved the problem once and for all by replacing all of the smaller code pages with what is effectively a single, enormous page.

This description of the "Meta" key somewhat fits the hint that the second puzzle is a "meta clue", as it seems to be written as if holding Meta while typing the puzzle into such a terminal would produce a valid UTF-8 sequence. How anachronistic. Performing a similar operation on the first puzzle gives me nothing I know what to do with.

The \U in the puzzle is a clear reference to Unicode. Many programs and programming languages allow characters to be written indirectly using their Unicode code point values, prefixed by the \u syntax. For example, the code point for the lowercase letter a is 97 in decimal, is 0x65 in hexadecimal, and is written as \u0065 using this "unicode escape" notation.

Hint 2:

Given the context implied by the first hint, the ^ operator in 23^39 probably means bitwise XOR rather than exponentiation. The result in this case is 48 in decimal, 0x30 in hex, and 0b110000 in binary. Hint 3 goes on to say "oops, I meant &". If the bitwise AND & replaced ^, 23&39 would give 7, 0x07, and 0b111 respectively.

I can't tell what I'm meant to do with this, either. I think I am meant to try various combinations of bitwise operations and text encodings on the puzzle until the result resembles the name of a book.

  • $\begingroup$ I just noticed the puzzle text has a regular even/odd rhythm. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 6:15

I thought about it a second time and I hope that this answer may be correct:

Saranac Lake

The writer Robert Louis Stevenson spent the winter of 1887 in a cottage in Saranac Lake(Today this cottage is a museum dedicated to his life).


The story discusses the interaction between good and evil in human personality Also in the course of the story the main character's friend does an act that causes the evil that existed in him in a minor way to be exaggerated to unite with the good in him and overcome him.

Your friend wrote:

I'm so meta!

Meta -The word originates from Greek and describes an abstraction behind another concept. The story presented in the book according to the opinion of many is an allegory after his wife wrote about this story Footnotes in the draft to this story claimed that this story is allegorical although written as a Plot Story. If so, the story is an abstraction of the ideas the author wanted to bring to his readers.

23^39 is a high number

In November 1867, Stevenson entered the University of Edinburgh to study engineering And therefore has a high potential for being able to deal with such exercise in a wise and intelligent manner (and without a calculator as opposed to me).

High. Meta. Seriously, you haven't got this yet?

Oops; I meant &. You probably figured that out, though.

The friend guessed that you probably tried to solve the exercise and reached the result and he hopes you will be able to solve the name of his favourite book .

And finally,his favourite book

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

  • $\begingroup$ Sadly no, this is also incorrect. $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 19:05
  • $\begingroup$ It looks like you're "going about it all wrong, though; you're more likely to find the author in space than in Saranac Lake." $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 19:22
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for putting me on my mistake, however I will try to re-calculate route. $\endgroup$
    – Tahel
    Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 20:06
  • $\begingroup$ Just please tell your friend that maybe it's easier to find a friend in space (he believes in aliens ?!) But the best classics have been written on the earth and maybe even in saranac lake... $\endgroup$
    – Tahel
    Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think it's talking about aliens. It's a clue. Maybe someone whose ashes were sent to space, or who has something in space named after them. But I think it's mostly saying that Saranac Lake itself is a red-herring. $\endgroup$
    – wizzwizz4
    Commented Mar 9, 2019 at 20:43

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