Researchers from Ecuador knocked down an important obstacle in the road to a complete understanding of the human mind. "The initial plan to map specific areas of the human brain is 95% complete", Dr. Ecay, head of the team says. "We have found that the frontal lobe is especially attuned to the solving of visual puzzles. So, art representing visual paradoxes or optical illusions could help us develop that area of the brain."

"There is no limit to the potential of the brain we can unlock. We are certain now of this", Ecay continues. Her colleague, Professor Lavirti, shares her enthusiasm. "There's no reason to remain calm. Using the full potential of our minds is a goal that's closer than ever." The next goal, it would appear, is to telepathically communicate simple concepts.

"That would be a godsend", Ecay says. "Imagine how easier life would be!". "When this realization set in", Lavirti says, "I gave Ecay a big hug. Me and her have been working for so long, it's great to see our research bear fruit."

The reactions to the discovery have started coming in, and not everyone is happy. French thinker George Huran claims that "the very foundation of mankind is under attack". An ethical commitee including him and other influential scholars has been put in place to warn about the possible dangers of this research. "Many great people have devoted their lives to finding the hidden answer to the question of life. Letting this investigation continue would be doing them a disservice."

So, what is the hidden answer to the question of life?

Hint 1

The great people are hiding the answer.

Hint 2

You're looking for a nine-letter word.

Hint 3

The great people are themselves hidden in the text.

Hint 4

All the great people share the same field of work.

Hint 5

Two of the great people spoke Greek.

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    $\begingroup$ Is it 42? That's probably not it, but I had to say it. $\endgroup$ Sep 21, 2019 at 22:28
  • $\begingroup$ @ThePuzzlingPlatypus The original title of the puzzle was "Not 42" :'). It is definitely an answer, but not the answer to the puzzle. $\endgroup$
    – NudgeNudge
    Sep 22, 2019 at 11:27
  • $\begingroup$ My thoughts, which may not be useful: rot13(V jnf guvaxvat "nytbevguz" orpnhfr Ynivegv vf na nantenz sbe gevivny naq "ovt uht" pbhyq zrna "Ovt B" (uht = B va KBKB). Nf n fgergpu, Qe. Rpnl pbhyq or ersreevat gb Qbanyq R Xahgu (rpnl = RX). Ohg V pbhyqa'g svaq nal bgure pyhrf cbvagvat ng nytbevguzf be pbzchgref, naq vg jbhyqa'g svg gur Terrx uvag rvgure. Fb vg'f cebonoyl abg evtug.) $\endgroup$
    – JS1
    Oct 8, 2019 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ @JS1 You're right about it being not right ;) rot13(Gur gevivny nantenz cneg vf pbeerpg gubhtu, nygubhtu vg'f abguvat gb qb jvgu nytbevguzf) $\endgroup$
    – NudgeNudge
    Oct 9, 2019 at 7:43

2 Answers 2


The answer to the question of life is:


The word can be found by

Combining the letters hidden by the "Great people".
These great people are all philosophers and their names are hidden somewhere in the text. Within their names, however, one extra letter has been added. All these extra letters together form the word KNOWLEDGE.

In order the philosophers + letters are:
ecuADOR KNOcked $\implies$ ADORNO + K
PLAN TO $\implies$ PLATO + N
SO, ART REpresenting $\implies$ SARTRE + O
unLOCK. WE $\implies$ LOCKE + W
CALM. USing $\implies$ CAMUS + L
appeAR, IS TO TELEpathically $\implies$ ARISTOTLE + E
godSEND", ECAy $\implies$ SENECA + D
HUG. ME $\implies$ HUME + G
attacK". AN Ethical $\implies$ KANT + E

  • $\begingroup$ You got it! Well done. $\endgroup$
    – NudgeNudge
    Oct 9, 2019 at 10:18

Partial answer

So, from the hints we know that

We're looking for "a nine-letter word" hidden by "great people", themselves hidden in the text. They all work in the same field, and two of them speak greek.

We see that

When reading attentively the text, some parts of the interview doesn't feel quite natural, even if nicely put together.


The game may be to find wich part goes with wich "celebrity".

There my personal knowledge is quite limited but here's my first draft :

map specific areas of the human brain => Paul Broca ?
visual puzzles, visual paradoxes or optical illusions = > Ptolemy ? Escher ? Richard Gregory ?
no limit to the potential of the brain ?
no reason to remain calm ?
full potential of our minds ?
telepathically communicate simple concepts ?
godsend ?
big hug ?
research bear fruit ? => Newton (because of the apple) ?

As long as the field of work isn't identified, it may be quite difficult to search some parts. It may also be a complete miss on my part ^^

  • $\begingroup$ Good try! Thanks for getting the ball rolling. You're right that the wording in the article is slightly unnatural, which is indeed a good place to start. Unfortunately you're not quite close to the solution. If it helps, rot13(V'q fnl lbh qba'g arrq gb xabj gur vaqvivqhny npuvrirzragf bs nal bs gur terng crbcyr vaibyirq.) $\endgroup$
    – NudgeNudge
    Oct 9, 2019 at 7:51

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