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“Well, that's all great but how do you remember it?” George asked.

“Easy,” I replied pointing at a nearby board. “Just remember these words: Clue, Fox, Rain, Basket, New, Haze and Quiz, Jades, Moved, and Gypsy.”

“It’s good you're using the Oxford comma. That does help. Thanks."

What were they talking about?

Hint:

“And you say that a devious, devious person knows all about this, eh?” confirmed George. I smiled. “Yes. They recently introduced me to it.”

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  • 8
    $\begingroup$ *ponders the puzzle while distractedly wondering if an Oxford comma can be verbally communicated. $\endgroup$ – SteveV Mar 10 at 17:58
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ It's all in the intonation $\endgroup$ – Dr Xorile Mar 10 at 19:26
  • $\begingroup$ do we need knowledge? $\endgroup$ – athin Mar 11 at 1:45
  • $\begingroup$ No for an acceptable solution (I don't think). Yes for an exact match. $\endgroup$ – Dr Xorile Mar 11 at 4:25
  • $\begingroup$ I have a sort of an explanation, though at present it's an explanation that itself seems to require further explanation, but I have to ask: are you absolutely sure about Moving? (I think that e.g. "moved" would be more correct.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Mar 17 at 14:20
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Take a look at this:

..C........L........U..... clue      3 mod 9
.....F........O........X.. fox       6 mod 9
........I........R........ rain      9 mod 9
.B........K........T...... basket    2 mod 9
....E........N........W... new       5 mod 9
.......H........Q........Z haze/quiz 8 mod 9
A........J........S....... jades     1 mod 9
...D........M........V.... moved     4 mod 9
......G........P........Y. gypsy     7 mod 9

What we have here is

in row N (numbering from 1), all the letters whose alphabet position is (3N rem 10) mod 9, where "rem" means "the remainder on dividing by". The Nth of our allegedly mnemonic words (or in one case word pairs) contains all of those letters and a few more in order to make an actual words (though not as few of them as possible; e.g., we could have had JARS instead of JADES, and RIM instead of RAIN).

I'm quite at a loss, though, as to

why anyone would want a mnemonic for this, still less why one that puts other letters in the words. I suspect I'm missing some other way of looking at what's going on that makes it all much clearer...

Aha, noedne has cracked it in a comment on this answer.

It's a mnemonic for which letters go in which boxes for the "Elian Script" version of the pigpen cipher, as found in this puzzle solved by Deusovi. (To whom the hint was obviously pointing.) So e.g. the letters CLU correspond to the top-left box, hence "J-like" encodings, then the letters FOX to the top-centre box, hence "U-like" encodings, then the letters IR to the top-right box, hence "L-like" encodings, etc.

You might want to go and upvote some of noedne's things :-).

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  • $\begingroup$ You're headed in the right direction. Try to find another way of representing it $\endgroup$ – Dr Xorile Mar 17 at 15:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Spoiler $\endgroup$ – noedne Mar 18 at 14:04
  • $\begingroup$ Good catch! Answer edited, with appropriate credit. $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Mar 18 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ I actually used this mnemonic to teach my kids the Elian Script. Surprisingly it makes it quite easy to write in Elian. The key is writing out the words in a 3x3 grid. $\endgroup$ – Dr Xorile Mar 19 at 16:38
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The words

form a pangram,

so perhaps they are talking about

the English alphabet.

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  • 4
    $\begingroup$ This does leave some things unexplained. $\endgroup$ – noedne Mar 10 at 19:37
2
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Partial idea

The Oxford comma is used to separate the list items Moving, and Gypsy.
But there is no comma in Haze and Quiz which suggests that they belong as a pair.
There is already an and in the sentence, so it is not needed for the pangram suggested.

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  • $\begingroup$ But the first one isn't needed either... $\endgroup$ – Alconja Mar 11 at 1:26
2
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Building again on Gareth McCaughn, could it be

A cypher, such as the one where you wrap a strip of paper round a something-o-hedric cylinder. So the mnemonic would be for mentally decoding the cypher.

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  • $\begingroup$ You're on the right track. Note the significance of the 9. How could that be tabulated? $\endgroup$ – Dr Xorile Mar 18 at 14:42
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Most of it has been presented by Gareth McCaughan, but I want to add that maybe he wants to remember the

alphabet?

Evidence:

enter image description here

Perhaps this would be better:

A........J........S....... jades     1 mod 9
.B........K........T...... basket    2 mod 9
..C........L........U..... clue      3 mod 9
...D........M........V.... moved     4 mod 9
....E........N........W... new       5 mod 9
.....F........O........X.. fox       6 mod 9
......G........P........Y. gypsy     7 mod 9
.......H........Q........Z haze/quiz 8 mod 9
........I........R........ rain      9 mod 9

Hint:

devious devious: 1st devious: anagram indicator; 2nd: base; result = @Desouvi

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  • $\begingroup$ But then why list the words in the order given? (And I don't at all understand your explanation of the hint. Not that I have a better one.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Mar 18 at 0:16
  • $\begingroup$ (I mean, I understand what you're saying but I don't see how it connects with the puzzle.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Mar 18 at 0:16
  • $\begingroup$ You're right about the hint. $\endgroup$ – Dr Xorile Mar 18 at 1:01
  • $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan same... stuck here $\endgroup$ – Omega Krypton Mar 18 at 1:08
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Could the answer be:

Each letter represents a decimal digit?

Because

As @GarethMcCaughan showed, the letters form patterns modulo 9.
Modulo 9 is commonly used in casting out nines, and in decimal addition.
Not sure what exactly the puzzle would be though.

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