I've received an early Christmas gift with a combination lock and a letter containing a poem and some sentences. There are several typos: I don't believe they're intentional, but they might be. I have not yet solved it.

Who and When is all you need
One letter each,
And gifts are freed!

Renowned Curator Jacques Sauniere staggered through the valuted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery

It was five o' clock on a winter's morning Syria

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

"Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,"
grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

The combination lock doesn't have every letter.


These are the same for every MasterLock, so they likely don't have anything to do with the actual solution, just whether a solution could be valid.

I've already figured this much out:

Every sentence is the opening sentence of a book. The first (Renowned curator...) is from The Da Vinci Code, the second (It was five o' clock...) is from Murder on the Orient Express, the third (It was a bright cold day...) is from 1984, and the fourth (Christmas won't be Christmas...) is from Little Women.

The following codes are incorrect:
* NHNL (nth letter of each title)
* CHNL (nth letter of each title, with no The in Da Vinci Code)
* NIOS (nth letter of each author's name)

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Is this an original puzzle of yours or is it from another source? We require attribution for puzzles, we like to be sure its creator gets credit. Welcome to PSE. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 13:57
  • $\begingroup$ @ThomasMarkov I got this as an early Christmas present. I don't know where the gifter got the puzzle, but it seems to be original. $\endgroup$
    – leo60228
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 13:59
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Like a postcard or something? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 14:01
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. There's precedent on the site for original puzzles from IRL friends: puzzling.stackexchange.com/questions/20825/… $\endgroup$
    – leo60228
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 14:02
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ A realization that could hopefully help others-- the numbers in the titles all relate to the numbers from the book. As @P1Storius pointed out, the prologue in The Da Vinci Code (clue 1) states that it was 10:46 PM. Clue 2 starts with "Tenth," and could relate to it. Clue 2 includes 5 o'clock-- clue 4 has fifth. Clue 3 is from 1984 -- Clue 1 says 8th. Clue 4 is about the March family (3rd month). Clue 3 says third. This might give us the order of an already-tested solution? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 17:36

4 Answers 4


New attempt, I think I have it this time.

It's either SUTH, SUTY, or SUTT

The "crack" to this was realizing that

Each clue's corresponds to another clue if you look at the time. If you read the start of the Da Vinci Code, it begins at 10:48 (tenth). Murder on The Orient Express starts at 5 AM (fifth). The clocks were striking 13-- in 1984 (Eighth). Little Women is about Josephine March. March is the third month (third). The Murder on the Orient Express one is trickier.

From this, we can determine that the order of the clues is not simply top-to-bottom.

But here's the other kicker-- we've got a mystery of who.

I believe that who is a character who was centrally dead in the book.

Consider the following to support this:

The Da Vinci code opens with the murder of Jacques Sauniere. In Little Women, Beth March dies. In Murder on the Orient Express, we have two dead bodies-- Daisy Armstrong and Ratchett (the titular murdered individual). In 1984, Winston is widely accepted to have died figuratively (though not literally).

Now, let's look at how we can use these individuals to solve this.

If we look at the nth letter of the main character's name in the clue that corresponds to the given number, we get a number on each dial. For example: 1984 is about Winston Smith. The eighth letter of his name is "S." The Da Vinci Code is about Jacques Sauniere. The tenth letter of his name is U. The third letter of Beth March's name is s. Murder on the Orient Express is a bit tricky, but I have 3 possibilities. 1) The H in Ratchett. 2) The Y in Daisy Armstrong. 3) The T in Armstrong.

Let me know if one of those 3 works. I'm overly invested in this riddle.

  • $\begingroup$ None of those worked. The chain fell off, so I have my present (some candy), but the lock is still locked. :( $\endgroup$
    – leo60228
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 20:27
  • $\begingroup$ well, drat. If and when you get the correct answer/logic, please let me know. I was so darned certain I had this one.... $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 19, 2019 at 13:01

Could it be


This is based on taking the nth letter of the character or time that appears in the riddle. I had to do a little bit of fudging to make elements work, such as

making Jacques Sauniere's name not count spaces, even though other names count them, and changing "the clock strikes 13" to the clock striking 1-- since a 12 hour clock would strike one, and "I" wasn't an option in the combination lock, and updating Jo's name to include her last name, Jo March.)

Interesting riddle. I'll be interested to know the accurate answer if mine's incorrect-- and it feels like it might be, given the amount of fudging I had to do.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Just tried it, this is incorrect. :( $\endgroup$
    – leo60228
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 14:17
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    $\begingroup$ I figured-- thought I'd give it my best crack! Here's a thought-- maybe it's the nth letter of the character in the timeth sentence? IE, if book reads "It was 3 o'clock. I like oranges. Sam picked flowers" and the riddle said "second," we'd look at the 3rd sentence (3 o'clock) of the book, and the second letter of the character ("Sam")? Trying to figure out that "Who and When" thing... $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 14:20

I feel like this is wrong because it's too obvious, but what about


These letters are the

EIGHTH, TENTH, THIRD, and FIFTH in the letter lists you've provided.

This is very likely not correct, since

I bet those letters are on dials, so there's no point of reference for which should be considered first.

  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, they're on dials. $\endgroup$
    – leo60228
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 20:27

Regarding the clue

Who and When is all you need

Is it perhaps


Because these correspond to

The author names: Dan Brown, Agatha Christy, George Orwell and Louisa May Alcott
The numbers indicate the Nth letter of their names

What I don't understand yet is what the other clue means:

Who and When is all you need
The first three books have a clear time of the day (and in some cases day of the year) that they take place:

Da Vinci Code: Prologue ; Louvre Museum, Paris 10:46 P.M. ; Renowned curator Jacques Sauniere staggered (...) Murder on the Orient Express: It was five o' clock (...) 1984: It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. [which I interpret as 13:00, or 1:00 p.m.] Little women: No time clue in the beginning of the book

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Per the OP's hint, your suggestion is not correct; they have already tried it. As to time-- The book Little Women follows the March family. That may indicate the number 3 somehow, as March is the third month in the Julian calendar? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 17:30
  • $\begingroup$ Oh my, how did I miss that... will have to give it a bit more thought $\endgroup$
    – P1storius
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ I wrote a comment on the overall post, but you caused me to realize something that may be relevant-- The number in each heading corresponds to a number from one of the excerpts. Clue 1 says eighth-- one clue is about 1984. Clue 2 says tenth, and Da Vinci Code starts at 10:46. Clue 3 says third, and March is the third month (family name is March in Little Women). Clue 4 says fifth, and Orient Express starts at 5 o'clock in the morning. Not sure how they relate, but I don't think that that crossover is by accident. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 17:49

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