After abandoning my job as a researcher due to a pirate attack, I've taken up a job as a galactic cartographer. To support my craft, I've made it my business to explore whichever galaxies I can. Unfortunately, this sometimes lands me in a sticky situation - like a recent incident in which I became completely lost. Here's what happened: I was cruising along in my FTL cruiser, and stopped by some random planet to refuel. Unfortunately, when I stopped by the aetherium station, the prices were exorbitant. When I attempted to bargain with the station owner, they took one look at me, shouted, "Scram, tatterdemalion!", beat me with a cudgel, and left me for dead in the wilderness.

With my last bits of strength, I limped my way to an inhabited area, which had three ornate temples made of pure gold, an expansive lawn, and a smaller central temple made with flawless diamond. I made my way into the main temple, whereupon I had my ears nearly pulverized as a monk in more jewelry than clothing greeted me. With. A. Foghorn. "HELLO STRANGER! WELCOME TO OUR HUMBLE ABODE! WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW?" One fainting spell and one pair of noise-reducing earmuffs later, I was able to inquire about the temple. I learnt that the worshippers were on pilgrimage to respect the planet, which was good news for me, since I needed to know which planet I was on. After narrating my story to the monk, he was very sympathetic: "FIGURE OUT WHICH PLANET WE'RE ON, AND I'LL HELP YOU PAY FOR FUEL". I was irritated - I clearly didn't know the planet's name, and none of the devotees would tell me. I interrogated the monk why he would ask me a question he knew I didn't know the answer to, but he only guffawed (grr!) and directed me to a stela in the main temple:


I exited the main temple, and began to observe the grounds and ornamentation:

        |        (_______Π_______)        |
       _|_                               /|\
      _|||_              Ʇ              /J|S\
     _|Q|O|_        _  _= =_  _        /VX|IQ\
    _|EI|PO|_      / \/ _-_ \/ \      /TPI|AMX\
   _|NYC|CJU|_    /__/_/___\_\__\    /LWXI|TWXV\
  _|AZFH|EYGC|_   | ǁ | ǁ ǁ | ǁ |   /CJVEG|XMSRE\
 _|SLNTG|SFGLA|_  | ǁ ^ ǁ ǁ ^ ǁ |  /XIHQSV|WIGSHI\
_|______Π______|_ |_ǁ_|_ǁΠǁ_|_ǁ_| /_______Π_______\

                  411 511 111 112
                   14  12 313 113
                   1   1   11 311
                           1   1
                           1   1

After a series of deductions, I told the monk the planet's name, refueled my spacecraft, and directed my spaceship's autopilot to a healing station.

What was the name of the main temple? What was the name of the planet?


Realize that a triangle has 3 sides, and deduce the pattern

  • $\begingroup$ Interestingly, the temple grounds and temples look like an arrow pointing upwards. Uninterestingly, that is not relevant to the puzzle's solution. $\endgroup$ – Avi Dec 18 '19 at 21:28
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Lots of things seem not to work for me at the bottom if I take the "nonogram" tag literally. Would you like to clarify whether (1) that part of the puzzle is intended to be a standard nonogram and (2) you've checked it carefully for errors? (Of course the answer may well be no, and I would bet that any inconsistencies I'm finding are errors of my own.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Dec 18 '19 at 23:36
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan My apologies. I was of the impression that putting numbers on the bottom of the nonogram required the numbers to be flipped - apparently, that is not the case. It's been fixed now. $\endgroup$ – Avi Dec 19 '19 at 1:02


  1132 #   #  ###  ##
111111# # # # #   #
 11123#   # # ##  ###
 11311# # ### #     #
 11132 #  # # ### ## 
  1233 #  ##  ### ###
111111# # # #   #   #
 11233# # ##  ### ###
 31111### # # #   #
111133# # # # ### ###
      411 511 111 112
       14  12 313 113
       1   1   11 311
               1   1
               1   1

which is to say


If we

apply rot-22 to the right-hand temple's letters, we get the message: FOR TEMPLE WITH STEPS TRY FRACTIONATED MORSE CODE. Breaking fractionated Morse seems pretty painful with so little ciphertext, especially as it's not 100% clear what order to take the letters in or whether we should be rot-22ing them first. Fortunately, it turns out that there's no key here; we just use the alphabet in order, and get TOP TWO SIDES KEY IS FOREVERS. (Taking the letters in reading order, without doing rot22 first.)

So now

presumably we have to decode REDECOPINICSENEPNAYTGGHERESTIEREKEHV with key FOREVERS. Unfortunately I've no idea what cipher we should be using for this. It's not Vigenere, either forward or backward. It doesn't seem an appropriate key for fractionated Morse; we could suppress the repeated letters to get FOREVS, but I tried that and unless I screwed up it doesn't work out. Applying ROT22 first doesn't help with either Vigenere or fractionated Morse. There are any number of other ciphers, of course, but surely we aren't expected to try every cipher we can think of until we find one that does the job?

Aha! Luke Bickell, in comments, points out something I missed:

the outermost edges of that top temple, read right to left, say VIGENERE CIPHER; and (I am still following Luke here) if you continue reading inward boustrophedonically it continues ... ENCODING THE STEPS ARE KEY. I assume "THE STEPS ARE KEY" is just there in case we figure out this bit before the left-hand temple. So, how exactly to apply the cipher? There are lots of possibilities. I tried a bunch that didn't work and OP took pity on me and gave me a nudge in chat. The right thing turns out to be: do Vigenere decryption on the whole pyramid of letters in reading order, and then read the lowercase letters boustrophedonically.

It turns out to say:


which is obviously

a reference to the famous Towers of Hanoi. (And fits well with the annoyingly loud monks.)

We aren't quite done yet. We have to SHUFFLE THE NAME OF OUR TEMPLE TO FIND AND HONOR OUR PLANET'S, whatever exactly that last bit means. Well,

TEMPLE OF ANNOY is an anagram of PLANET OF MONEY, which makes it reasonable that they would offer to pay for fuel rather than providing fuel directly. And that they could afford all that gold and diamond.

  • $\begingroup$ rot13(Arneyl gurer! Lbh'ir sbhaq rirelguvat lbh arrq gb fbyir vg nyernql.) $\endgroup$ – Avi Dec 19 '19 at 2:55
  • $\begingroup$ rot13(Vs lbh ernq gur gbc gjb fvqrf, fgnegvat sebz obggbz evtug pbeare, vg ernqf 'IVTRARER PVCURE'. Znlor gel erzbivat gur gbc gjb fvqrf sebz gur fgevat naq/be ernqvat gur fgevat sebz gur bhgfvqrf va?) $\endgroup$ – Luke Bickell Dec 19 '19 at 17:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ rot13(Vs lbh pbagvahr gb evqr gur gbc fvqrf vajneqf, lbh trg va gbgny: IVTRARER PVCURE RAPBQVAT GUR FGRCF NER XRL bvefgtjwwsorfc) $\endgroup$ – Luke Bickell Dec 19 '19 at 18:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Gawd, how did I miss that? I even looked at that specific subset of the letters, in ... the two plausible orders that aren't the right one :-). $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Dec 20 '19 at 1:26
  • $\begingroup$ The monk says, “THAT’S IT! WELL DONE!” $\endgroup$ – Avi Dec 20 '19 at 3:26

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