14
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Archibald, Beatrice, and Chrysostomus were finally at the end of their journey, at the entrance of the much sought-after room. To get there, they already had sneaked past the guards, crawled through the raindeers' stables, picked locks, and tied up an elf who lay, confused, in a corner of the room.

Santa Claus's treasure, all the presents ready to be distributed, was behind that last door. Archibald tried it. It was locked.

"What did you expect?" mused the other two.

"It's magically locked, but maybe there's a key... hang on, it says something, it's etched here on the wood... maybe it's a password hint!"

"Let me see" Beatrice approached the door, then frowned and rolled her eyes. "It's that bloody Elvish script"

"I thought they spoke English -- that one does" replied Chrisostomus, pointing at the tied-up little guy.

"They do speak English," she said "but they write it in their own alphabet, and it's phonetic. It's gonna take us a while." She glanced nervously at the exit.

This is what the door said:

๐‘ฎ๐‘‘ ๐‘”๐‘ค` ๐‘๐‘ฆ๐‘—๐‘– ๐‘–๐‘ค` ๐‘š๐‘ฆ๐‘ ๐‘• ๐‘›๐‘ฉ ๐‘’๐‘ฎ๐‘ž๐‘ , 
๐‘–๐‘จ๐‘ฎ๐‘ข ๐‘ฉ ๐‘๐‘ญ๐‘— ๐‘ฐ๐‘—๐‘ž ๐‘š๐‘–๐‘ฅ`๐‘– ๐‘–๐‘ค` ๐‘š๐‘ข๐‘’๐‘ฎ๐‘œ๐‘ . 

๐‘‘๐‘ฉ`๐‘š๐‘– ๐‘›๐‘ง ๐‘ญ๐‘ ๐‘•๐‘ฎ๐‘ก ๐‘๐‘ฉ`๐‘ž ๐‘‘๐‘ช` ๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘ญ๐‘—๐‘ž: 
๐‘๐‘ฎ๐‘  ๐‘ฎ๐‘– ๐‘ฉ๐‘ซ๐‘๐‘ฉ๐‘— ๐‘›๐‘ฎ๐‘š ๐‘˜๐‘จ๐‘ฎ๐‘– ๐‘–๐‘ค`? 

๐‘›๐‘ญ๐‘— ๐‘ฉ๐‘˜๐‘ญ๐‘—, ๐‘œ๐‘ฏ๐‘– ๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘ฆ๐‘™ ๐‘›๐‘ง ๐‘ญ๐‘—๐‘ž 
๐‘๐‘ฆ๐‘–๐‘š ๐‘—๐‘ฆ๐‘– ๐‘—๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ, ๐‘—๐‘ช` ๐‘ข๐‘ ๐‘ฉ๐‘ซ๐‘š ๐‘–๐‘ค` ๐‘”๐‘ค`. 

๐‘œ๐‘ฌ๐‘ฎ ๐‘—๐‘ฌ๐‘ซ, ๐‘๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ ๐‘ก๐‘ซ๐‘ฉ, ๐‘”๐‘ค`๐‘• ๐‘ฏ๐‘—๐‘ž๐‘ฉ๐‘š๐‘–๐‘ซ๐‘ž, 
๐‘’๐‘ฌ๐‘ฎ๐‘– ๐‘›๐‘ฉ ๐‘ข๐‘ฏ๐‘—๐‘–๐‘’๐‘ง ๐‘›๐‘ฐ๐‘– ๐‘๐‘ฎ๐‘ฉ ๐‘‘๐‘’๐‘ฆ๐‘™

๐‘ฐ๐‘—๐‘ž ๐‘ฐ๐‘– ๐‘›๐‘ง ๐‘ญ๐‘—๐‘ž, ๐‘—๐‘ฉ๐‘ซ๐‘– ๐‘ž๐‘ฌ๐‘ซ๐‘— ๐‘›๐‘ฐ๐‘– ๐‘‘๐‘ค`๐‘ž, 
๐‘™๐‘ฉ๐‘’๐‘ง`๐‘—, ๐‘ฎ๐‘ข๐‘š๐‘๐‘ญ๐‘—๐‘š๐‘ฎ๐‘•, ๐‘ก๐‘ญ๐‘ ๐‘ž, ๐‘’๐‘ญ๐‘ž, ๐‘˜๐‘ซ๐‘ž. 

๐‘๐‘ซ๐‘– ๐‘›๐‘ง ๐‘ฎ๐‘—๐‘ฎ๐‘ก๐‘ฉ๐‘ ๐‘Ÿ ๐‘ช`๐‘  ๐‘–๐‘ฉ๐‘˜๐‘ญ๐‘›๐‘ฉ: 
๐‘›๐‘จ๐‘ฎ ๐‘๐‘ฎ๐‘  ๐‘ก๐‘ฉ๐‘ซ ๐‘›๐‘ญ๐‘— ๐‘–๐‘ค` ๐‘›๐‘ฉ ๐‘’๐‘ง`๐‘ž๐‘ฉ 

๐‘›๐‘ฉ ๐‘š๐‘ฌ๐‘ซ๐‘—๐‘ž ๐‘ฆ๐‘• ๐‘ข๐‘ฉ๐‘ซ๐‘ ๐‘ž, ๐‘“๐‘ฅ`๐‘ž ๐‘š๐‘–๐‘ฉ๐‘ซ๐‘— 
๐‘ฐ๐‘—๐‘ž ๐‘ฆ๐‘• ๐‘ฉ๐‘— ๐‘จ๐‘ฎ๐‘—๐‘ก๐‘ฉ๐‘—๐‘– ๐‘–๐‘ก๐‘ฎ๐‘ ๐‘ž๐‘’๐‘ฉ๐‘—๐‘Ÿ ๐‘˜๐‘จ๐‘ฎ๐‘™. 

Also available as a picture here in case you have problems with Unicode.

Can you help the trio steal all the Christmas presents in the world by finding the keyword?

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Partial answer: text decoded

The symbols are the Shavian alphabet -- but this won't help decode them, because the phonetic assignments aren't correct at all.

I started with

the most common letters. Five clearly stuck out as most common according to frequency analysis: ๐‘— ๐‘ฉ ๐‘– ๐‘ฎ ๐‘ž. These were likely the most common English phonemes in some order, which were ษ™,n,t,ษช,d. Using the contexts they appear in, ๐‘— and ๐‘– were likely both consonants; they appeared together at the end of the word, so they were either nt or nd. And ๐‘ฎ appeared as the start of multiple two-phoneme words: these were likely "if" and "it".

After that break-in, the rest was decoded by finding words with only a few symbols missing and filling them in. The only potential stumbling blocks here are the vowels (which we'll get to later), and

the clearly out-of-place symbol, a single backquote, which turned out to be the length extension mark (IPA ห).


The decoded message is below. Vowels may not be exactly correct -- it appears to be in British English, and I'm not quite sure of some of the distinctions/mergers made as compared to my dialect of American English. The message itself is clear, though:

ษชf juห wษ‘nt tuห sษ‘lv รฐษ™ rษชdl,
teษชk ษ™ pษ›n รฆnd stษ’หžหt tuห skrษชbl.
fษ™หst รฐi ษ›lvษชสƒ wษ™หd fษ”ห frษ›nd:
wษชl ษชt ษ™สŠpษ™n รฐษชs geษชt tuห?
รฐษ›n ษ™gษ›n, bสŒt frษ‘m รฐi ษ›nd
wษ‘ts nษ‘t nษชษ™, nษ”ห klษ™สŠs tuห juห.
baษช naสŠ, wษชษ™ สƒสŠษ™, juหv สŒndษ™stสŠd,
raษชt รฐษ™ kสŒntri รฐรฆt wษชษ™ frษ‘m
รฆnd รฆt รฐi ษ›nd, nษ™สŠt daสŠn รฐรฆt fuหd,
mษ™riหn, ษชkspษ›nsษชv, สƒษ›ld, rษ›d, gสŠd.
pสŠt รฐi ษชnษชสƒษ™lz ษ”หl tษ™gษ›รฐษ™:
รฐeษช wษชl สƒษ™สŠ รฐษ›n tuห รฐษ™ riหdษ™
รฐษ™ saสŠnd ษ‘v kษ™สŠld, hษ’หžหd stษ™สŠn
รฆnd ษ‘v ษ™n eษชnสƒษ™nt tสƒษชldrษ™nz geษชm.


If you want to solve the riddle,
take a pen and start to scribble.
First the Elvish word for friend:
will it open this gate too?
Then again, but from the end
what's not near, nor close to you.
By now, we're sure you understood
write the country that we're from
and at the end, note down that food
marine, expensive, shelled, red, good.
Put the initials all together:
they will show then to the reader
the sound of cold, hard stone
and of an ancient children's game.

What next?

The riddle seems to say

that we need to answer four clues, take their initials, and we'll get "the sound of cold, hard stone and of an ancient children's game".

"First the Elvish word for friend: will it open this gate too?"
This is probably mellon, the word for 'friend' in Sindarin (famously the subject of a riddle in the Lord of the Rings, and a word that opened a door).

"Then again, but from the end / what's not near, nor close to you."
Not sure what this could be. "Far"? "Afar"?

"By now, we're sure you understood / write the country that we're from"
the United Kingdom? Britain? England? All of these have different initials.

"and at the end, note down that food / marine, expensive, shelled, red, good."
Lobster? Crab?

"Put the initials all together: [...]"
This could refer to either the initials of the words in English, or the initial phonemes. If the latter, it could be reading them visually as letters. (For example, MELLON's /m/ is ๐‘™, which looks like an L. UNITED KINGDOM's /j/ is "๐‘”", which looks like a D.)

But the clues here seem very ambiguous, so I'm not sure how to continue.

EDIT: Lobster gives us, M from Mellon, "ar" from end of "far", L from Lobster, which suggests B from Britain for MARBL. Cold hard stone, and the children's game of "Marbles".

| improve this answer | |
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  • $\begingroup$ Very well done! You're almost there. I would have thought the second part easier, but perhaps you're right, the clues are more vague than I thought. But I'm sure somebody will get there. $\endgroup$ – Bzazz Feb 2 at 21:25
  • $\begingroup$ The phonetically spelling elves should know that "food" doesn't rhyme with "good"! $\endgroup$ – user253751 Feb 3 at 15:42
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Correct answer! If you wrote the solution phonetically, it would make sense as-is, without guesswork. $\endgroup$ – Bzazz Feb 3 at 18:33
1
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The answer is

Mancala.

@Deusovi did most of the work on this one, just seeing if I can finish up.

The riddle seems to say

that we need to answer four clues, take their initials, and we'll get "the sound of cold, hard stone and of an ancient children's game".

"First the Elvish word for friend: will it open this gate too?"
This is probably mellon, the word for 'friend' in Sindarin (famously the subject of a riddle in the Lord of the Rings, and a word that opened a door). โ€œ
"Then again, but from the end / what's not near, nor close to you."
Since Santa Claus lives in the Arctic, this is probably the Antarctic.
"By now, we're sure you understood / write the country that we're from"
Not sure of this one. Canada abbreviated as CA, perhaps?
"and at the end, note down that food / marine, expensive, shelled, red, good."
A land crab?
The answer appears to be M + AN + CA + LA = MANCALA.

Translation done completely by @Deusovi:
โ€œThe symbols are the Shavian alphabet -- but this won't help decode them, because the phonetic assignments aren't correct at all.

I started with

the most common letters. Five clearly stuck out as most common according to frequency analysis: ๐‘— ๐‘ฉ ๐‘– ๐‘ฎ ๐‘ž. These were likely the most common English phonemes in some order, which were ษ™,n,t,ษช,d. Using the contexts they appear in, ๐‘— and ๐‘– were likely both consonants; they appeared together at the end of the word, so they were either nt or nd. And ๐‘ฎ appeared as the start of multiple two-phoneme words: these were likely "if" and "it".

After that break-in, the rest was decoded by finding words with only a few symbols missing and filling them in. The only potential stumbling blocks here are the vowels (which we'll get to later), and

the clearly out-of-place symbol, a single backquote, which turned out to be the length extension mark (IPA ห).


The decoded message is below. Vowels may not be exactly correct -- it appears to be in British English, and I'm not quite sure of some of the distinctions/mergers made as compared to my dialect of American English. The message itself is clear, though:

ษชf juห wษ‘nt tuห sษ‘lv รฐษ™ rษชdl,
teษชk ษ™ pษ›n รฆnd stษ’หžหt tuห skrษชbl.
fษ™หst รฐi ษ›lvษชสƒ wษ™หd fษ”ห frษ›nd:
wษชl ษชt ษ™สŠpษ™n รฐษชs geษชt tuห?
รฐษ›n ษ™gษ›n, bสŒt frษ‘m รฐi ษ›nd
wษ‘ts nษ‘t nษชษ™, nษ”ห klษ™สŠs tuห juห.
baษช naสŠ, wษชษ™ สƒสŠษ™, juหv สŒndษ™stสŠd,
raษชt รฐษ™ kสŒntri รฐรฆt wษชษ™ frษ‘m
รฆnd รฆt รฐi ษ›nd, nษ™สŠt daสŠn รฐรฆt fuหd,
mษ™riหn, ษชkspษ›nsษชv, สƒษ›ld, rษ›d, gสŠd.
pสŠt รฐi ษชnษชสƒษ™lz ษ”หl tษ™gษ›รฐษ™:
รฐeษช wษชl สƒษ™สŠ รฐษ›n tuห รฐษ™ riหdษ™
รฐษ™ saสŠnd ษ‘v kษ™สŠld, hษ’หžหd stษ™สŠn
รฆnd ษ‘v ษ™n eษชnสƒษ™nt tสƒษชldrษ™nz geษชm.


If you want to solve the riddle,
take a pen and start to scribble.
First the Elvish word for friend:
will it open this gate too?
Then again, but from the end
what's not near, nor close to you.
By now, we're sure you understood
write the country that we're from
and at the end, note down that food
marine, expensive, shelled, red, good.
Put the initials all together:
they will show then to the reader
the sound of cold, hard stone
and of an ancient children's game.

| improve this answer | |
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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ CA is Canada, or California state code. China is CN $\endgroup$ – Chris Cudmore Feb 3 at 15:05
  • $\begingroup$ @ChrisCudmore Good catch! Edited to rectify. $\endgroup$ – Krad Cigol Feb 3 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Krad my take is that "Canada" is the intended answer to that particular clue, and your switching from China to Central African Republic really doesn't make any sense. :-) (If you google for maps of the arctic circle, a good portion of Canada does lie within it, and the Magnetic North and Geomagnetic North poles are both closest to Canada.) $\endgroup$ – Hellion Feb 3 at 16:24
  • $\begingroup$ @Hellion Good point, that does make more sense. Edited. $\endgroup$ – Krad Cigol Feb 3 at 17:06
  • $\begingroup$ It's pretty cool that you found another compatible ancient game, but this is not the answer. CA cannot be right because of the accent. The animal you suggest is not marine. Good effort though and thanks for playing! $\endgroup$ – Bzazz Feb 3 at 18:40

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