The computer scientist's assistant is late at work once again, trying to once again decode their bosses directions for the day. Under meetings, the boss has listed only a single meeting:

URGENT: asfto1eoenz 12:30pm in Get me to mst3enk for a lt3eh meeting

We're out of cfto1eore

He has been ranting about how his new venture will make it big, and he will finally be able to hold a title other than computer scientist.

Unfortunately, the boss is keeping the cards close to their chest so you are stuck trying to figure out who they would be meeting with tomorrow at 12:30 and arranging the boss's transportation.

Where do they need to go?

Edit: 2023 03 24

Turns out on the ground you find a sticky note that was hanging onto the note originally:

Woops I mean Mt3eo Pto1eok.
Get cfto1eoer or pfto1eoer jto1eok.

Edit: 2023 06 08

On the back of the original note you see:

Always o1e or t3e?
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ The number of letters from zotfsen makes me think of some kind of numerical substitution, but I'm not getting anywhere with it. $\endgroup$ Mar 19, 2023 at 4:31
  • $\begingroup$ Is it deliberate that you have cfto1eore in the main puzzle, but cfto1eoer in the edit? $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    Mar 25, 2023 at 8:37
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    $\begingroup$ The repeating groups t3e and o1eo look like a big clue, but I have no idea what if anything they reference. $\endgroup$ Apr 1, 2023 at 0:45
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Goinghamateur, sorry, but I used the forbidden and most ridiculous method to (probably) solve it. But yes, if that's the answer, it's funny. I just got the answer but don't quite understand the reasoning myself. Should I post it as an answer? $\endgroup$ Jun 6, 2023 at 14:35
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well when you post it I will review. I would say I did not give enough to solve it IMO. $\endgroup$ Jun 6, 2023 at 18:23

1 Answer 1


The boss's message should be decoded as:

URGENT: Andreessen Horowitz 12:30pm in Get me to MenloPark for a lunch meeting

We're out of cheese

And the extra sticky note reads:

Woops I mean Menlo Park.
Get cheddar or pepper jack [sic].

How?! First, focus on the two recurring triplets of characters highlighted in the second hint: 'o1e' and 't3e'. Notice anything about these? Because they are...

...the spelled-out numbers ONE and THREE with their middle letters removed and replaced by the number of middle letters. i.e. O[N]E becomes O1E and T[HRE]E becomes T3E. It is coincidental (well, craftiness on the part of the setter, really) that in these instances the number of middle letters happens to equal the value of the number itself...

We now need to apply this number-of-middle-letters-replaced-by-a-number logic recursively to the encrypted words in the text. So, step-by-step:

asfto1eoenz has 'o1e' at its heart - this is the number '1' encrypted...

Sub in '1' for 'o1e' to get asft1oenz. Now, we see 't1o' at its heart - this is TWO!

Sub in '2' for 't1o' to get asf2enz. Now, we have 'f2e' in the middle - this is FIVE...

Sub in '5' for 'f2e' to get as5nz. The central 's5n' can only be SIXTEEN.

Ultimately, we end up with a16z. We now seek a word or phrase that begins with A, ends in Z, and has 16 letters in between. There aren't many things that fit here, but Andreessen Horowitz does - and this is the name of a venture capital firm who conveniently are also commonly known as 'a16z'! We're on to something...

Decode the other encrypted words...

mst3enk → ms3nk → m7k which can be MENLOPARK, the California location where a16z has its headquarters. (The reason the sticky note in the first hint says "Woops I mean Mt3eo Pto1eok" is that 'Menlo Park' should be two words, which would more accurately be encoded in this way...)

lt3eh → l3h which - given the scheduled time is 12:30pm - could well be LUNCH.

cfto1eore → cft1ore → cf2re → c4e which my first instinct said could be COFFEE, but can actually be disambiguated by the hint sheet...

cfto1eoer → cft1oer → cf2er → c5r which could be CHEDDAR (a variety of cheese)

pfto1eoer jto1eok → pft1oer jt1ok → pf2er j2k → p5r j2k which should really decode to two words of length 7 and 4 of the form P*****R J**K. However, I suspect the first word should actually be 'p4r' which would give us PEPPER JACK which is a variety of Monterey Jack cheese.

So what is the boss doing?

He has a meeting at 12:30pm with a venture capital firm - this is his chance to gain funding for whatever his brand new invention may be. Let's hope it's not this encoding system of his... If it takes three and a half years to crack every time it's used, it may not make for the speediest correspondence!

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Wt1ot a nto1eot afto1eorr yo1eu hto1eoe! $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2023 at 6:44
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    $\begingroup$ What a neat answer you have indeed! $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2023 at 15:00
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    $\begingroup$ Only notes: recurring meeting is meant to indicate the recursive solution. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2023 at 15:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Huh, so my hunch about the numerical substitution was right. I'll count that as a moral victory. $\endgroup$ Jun 9, 2023 at 20:29

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