For the occasion of my husband's 13th/52nd birthday the other day I created a few (somewhat) thematic puzzles. Most don't necessarily translate, but one was a pencil-and-paper puzzle I think folks here would get a kick out of. As typical for this sort of puzzle, the answer is a word or short phrase. Enjoy! enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ How on earth did you construct this? Not to mention, come up with the idea... $\endgroup$
    – KlaymenDK
    Mar 3, 2020 at 8:27
  • $\begingroup$ @KlaymenDK The idea's a very nice one, but the construction doesn't seem very difficult to me once you've had the idea. (This isn't a criticism; there's not that much relationship between how hard a puzzle is to make and how satisfying it is to solve. This was a fun one.) $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Mar 3, 2020 at 12:22
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    $\begingroup$ @KlaymenDK The idea was the easy part; it being a 52nd (ish) birthday, playing cards naturally suggested themselves, and the suits are a topic with a nice amount of semantic weight to them. Finding enough phrases was a matter of plumbing some pop culture and then doing a little bit of digging using Qat for the stragglers. As Gareth suggests, construction was also pretty straightforward; I don't want to say too much here to avoid spoiling anyone else, but I'll see if I can write something up sometime soon... $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2020 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ @StevenStadnicki You may remember me from another time and place. I knew you as a Tilbury House resident, though only indirectly through someone else. Greetings from the wayback machine. :). Very clever puzzle, by the way. $\endgroup$
    – Rubio
    Mar 9, 2020 at 7:21

1 Answer 1


I think the answer is


Here's a perfectly clear explanation:

enter image description here

What? Not perfectly clear? Oh, OK then.

Each clue leads to a word, name, etc. containing SPADE(S), HEART(S), DIAMOND(S) or CLUB(S). In some cases (e.g., THE ART OF NOISE, HEARTHSTONE) it's slightly non-obviously hidden. This is found somewhere in the grid, with a gap where the suit name occurs. The letters in those gaps -- as is hinted at by the fact that each of these letters occurs in a row and column labelled by the appropriate suit, as shown by the horizontal and vertical lines in my beautiful diagram -- are the things we need, and read top to bottom they spell out BILLY SHEARS BAND.

I thought that was the intended answer, but OP indicated in comments that another step is wanted. Well,

in the Beatles album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (note the suits!) "Billy Shears" is apparently the leader of the band. So perhaps that band is the intended answer here -- though I'm not sure it quite qualifies as a short phrase.

  • $\begingroup$ Very close! But your answer is a final clue itself... $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2020 at 1:47
  • $\begingroup$ Nice work. I was trying to use letters suit-indexed into the words, not the gaps. No wonder it wasn't spelling anything (and why some didn't have letters). :) $\endgroup$
    – Alconja
    Mar 3, 2020 at 1:48
  • $\begingroup$ Oh, there's meant to be another step? Well, rot13(gurer vf na npghny onaq pnyyrq Gur Ovyyl Furnef Onaq) but rot13(ur'f nyfb vzcyvrq gb or gur yrnqre bs Fretrnag Crccre'f Ybaryl Urnegf Pyho Onaq). That of course rot13(pbagnvaf URNEGF naq PYHO); is it rot13(FCYUPO) we're looking for? $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Mar 3, 2020 at 2:08
  • $\begingroup$ That seems likely enough to be what you have in mind that I've put it into the answer. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Mar 3, 2020 at 3:46
  • $\begingroup$ That's the last step, indeed! Well done. $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2020 at 3:53

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