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This puzzle is part of the ‘Twelve Labours’ series. Previous instalments can be found here: Prologue


Having finally deciphered his mother’s map, Hercules got dressed, wolfed down some breakfast and headed across the road to Nemean Iron, the dry cleaners. As he opened the door, a bell tinkled and a few seconds later the tiny, aged proprietor limped forward to the counter.

“Well, well... I swear you’ve grown since the last holidays, young Hercules,” chuckled Molorchos, a wrinkled prune of a man dressed almost entirely in wool. His eyes twinkled behind thick spectacles and Hercules smiled back.

“You’re sure it’s not you that’s shrunk?!” Hercules joked back. It was the same banter they exchanged every time they saw each other, and it still made both of them laugh despite its many (many) retellings.

“Still got that cheeky wit, I see,” said Molorchos. “Typical Libra. Have you read your horoscope for today? It’s a good one – the stars always have the answers...”

Molorchos slid a sheet of paper across the counter to Hercules. It appeared to have been cut out of a newspaper.

“No, thank you, Molorchos. I don’t believe in that,” said Hercules as politely as possible, sliding it back. “Anyway, Mum sent me on an errand – apparently she sent an item here to be cleaned and it’s ready for collection?”

“Oh yes!” said Molorchos. “A very strange item it was too… But I’m afraid that she gave me strict instructions not to pass it on to you until you’d solved a little puzzle of my own devising and could tell me exactly what that item is...” Hercules sighed. He had been worried about this.

“Right – so where can I find that out?”

Molorchos said nothing straightaway, but merely stabbed the page of horoscopes with his finger and slid it in front of Hercules again.

The stars always have the answers...

TASK: From Molorchos’ page of horoscopes (below), deduce the ‘very strange’ item of clothing Hercules is expected to collect.

enter image description here

Image credits: Zodiac symbols, Torn edges.
Horoscope text available in source for copy-paste purposes.

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    $\begingroup$ obvious. it's liBRA. $\endgroup$ – Omega Krypton Oct 11 at 13:28
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The top line gives a hint for what to do:

"Will you listen to their conclusions?" The last word in each line tells you how to extract a message from the rest of it.

The answers to each clue:

Aquarius: "caps": Take the capital letters to get MCC, and E=mc².
Aries: "omnipresent": Take the letter that appears in each word: S.
Cancer: "heart": Take the middle letter of every word to get ROT XIII FBYSRTRYN. Apply rot13 to the second half to get 'SOLFEGE LA'. The note "la" in solfege is A.
Capricorn: "fib": These are the first three letters of "Fibonacci" - take the first three letters of each word in a Fibonacci-sequence position, and then respace to get BAR WITH A 'LESS THAN' OPERATOR. Visually, |< makes a K.
Gemini: "ending": Take the last letters of each word to get SOUTH AFRICAN MONEY. This is the "Rand", written R.
Leo: "seconds": Take the second letters of each word to get BEFORE XENON. The element before xenon on the periodic table is iodine, or I.
Libra: "missing": Take the letter that does not appear anywhere in the horoscope. This letter is J.
Pisces: "repeat": Take the double letters (including across spaces). These spell MORSE DASH, which is T.
Sagittarius: "tips": Take the first letters. These spell ONE HUNDRED IN ROME, which is C.
Scorpio: "afters": Take the letters "after S". These spell INDEFINITE ARTICLE, which is A.
Taurus: "odd": Take every other word, starting with the first. These spell "Take the one that lies in between you and the one shaped like a snake". The letter between U and S is T.
Virgo: "square": Take the words at the positions of square numbers. These spell "A-Team actor Mister [who?]": This is a clue for T.

Rearranging the answers to each clue

by the standard order of the zodiac signs gives the answer: STRAITJACKET.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wow. Pretty sure it took me longer to come up with just the clue for K than it did for you to solve the whole thing! Once you nail down K (you're almost there) the checkmark is yours. Glad you spotted the way to order the answers properly too :) Nicely done +1 $\endgroup$ – Stiv Oct 11 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Stiv Thanks for the edit! Still stumped on this one. I'm guessing that the Fibonacci-position words give a cryptic clue or something, but I can't figure it out. (Maybe "bargaining" turns into "bar gaining"? That's not kosher by the strictest standards, but it's a technique I've seen occasionally...) $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Oct 12 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ It's definitely the 'least standard' of all the clue mechanisms, I'll be honest. At the risk of potentially making it that bit too simple, try asking how the word 'fib' relates to the word 'Fibonacci'...? $\endgroup$ – Stiv Oct 12 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ @Stiv Ah, got it! Clever. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Oct 12 at 23:29
  • $\begingroup$ Spot on :) Well done again and thanks for solving! $\endgroup$ – Stiv Oct 12 at 23:43

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