Kevin is a vegan. But not the good kind of vegan. The kind that insists everyone in his neighborhood needs to stop cooking meat at dinner time so he can run outside. Kevin pushed everyone around him so hard, even his vegan friends found it annoying. Now he feels alone. While eating his 2nd kale salad of the day, Kevin wrote a poem. He hid the lesson he learned within it. What's the lesson he wants to share with PSE?




likened to


Hint 1:

The line breaks are intentional, as are "."

Hint 2:

This one may be early, so keeping it simple: keep the tags in mind

Hint 3:

Up to one letter of the solution can be found per line

Hint 4:

There was an original draft, containing the same hidden message/following the same pattern.

[...] No changes to the rest

Hint 5:

After a few days, Kevin was able to make amends with his friends. He wrote another little poem, using the same cipher, just to give everyone at PSE a fifth hint.


like a flash,

Hint 6:

The poem is written by the cipher. As in, you don't start with a known work or other poem but start with your message to encode, and build around that. (It's not an efficient cipher in that sense). It may be possible to accomplish with known works, but highly unlikely.

Hint 7:

A line following a blank line must contain 0 letters of the solution, and are the only lines(other than blank) that don't contribute to the solution.

  • $\begingroup$ I doubt if the sixth hint adds a significant benefit for the solvers as I believe most of us can infer the sixth hint from the fifth hint. $\endgroup$
    – Ébe Isaac
    Mar 11, 2020 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ Good to know, I'm not sure how to describe it without giving it away $\endgroup$
    – TCooper
    Mar 11, 2020 at 20:10
  • $\begingroup$ Hopefully combined with 7 and 3, 6 is more helpful? 7 is necessary, not arbitrary, based on another rule(really the only rule) of the cipher. $\endgroup$
    – TCooper
    Mar 11, 2020 at 20:23
  • $\begingroup$ I'd actually guessed something that implies hint 7, though I haven't yet been able to make it work. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Mar 11, 2020 at 20:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm pretty sure I have the answer, and I can see there is a pattern on how to get to it, I'm just not sure what the pattern is exactly... $\endgroup$
    – Johnson
    Mar 11, 2020 at 22:19

1 Answer 1


Update - Thanks to @hagfy, the pattern has emereged.

The final message is:


Which fits the story quite nicely.

The message can be extracted from the cipher poem as below:

The line of each section has a letter of the answer at a particular index. The full-stops indicate word breaks.

How to know which index to chose?

Originally I thought that the first line after a line break somehow contained some cipher metadata which identified the indexes to choose. However, this was misguided.

With some guiding light from @hagfy, the way to select the index is to take the number of syllables from the previous line and multiple them by two, and use the result as the index. He - 1 syllable, next index = 2 alone L - index 2 - 2 syllables, next index = 4 societally I - index 4 - 5 syllables, next index = 10 will - 1 syllable, next index = 2 evoke V - index 2 - 2 syllables, next index = 4 alienism. E - index 4 - 5 syllables, next index = 10 And - 1 syllable, next index = 2 randomly, A - index 2 - 3 syllables, next index = 6 seemingly, N - index 6 - 3 syllables, next index = 6 reproduce. D - index 6 - 3 syllables, next index = 6 Those - 1 syllable, next index = 2 placebos L - index 2 - 3 syllables, next index = 6 likened to E - index 6 - 3 syllables, next index = 6 sensitivity. T - index 6 - 5 syllables, next index = 10 Even - 2 syllables, next index = 4 scolders L - index 4 - 2 syllables, next index = 4 invite I - index 4 - 2 syllables, next index = 4 bravoes V - index 4 - 2 syllables, next index = 4 silently. E - index 4 - 2 syllables, next index = 4
Because blank lines obviously have no syllables, any lines following a blank cannot contribute a letter to the solution, as index of zero is empty.

Regarding a couple of the hints:

Hint 4

Spells the same thing, but without splitting "LIVE" across sections:
He alone L - index 2 societally, I - index 4 adversatively V - index 10 insociable. E - index 10 will randomly, A - index 2 seemingly, N - index 6 reproduce. D - index 6

Hint 5:

Literally spells out HINT FIVE
Look ahead H - index 2 resited, I - index 4 instance N - index 6 rectified. T - index 4 Forgive gaffs F - index 4 like a flash, I - index 2 persevere V - index 6 blithely. E - index 6

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You've got the answers correct, will confirm that. +1 - but waiting for the why. Why must a line after a blank line have 0 characters of the solution? $\endgroup$
    – TCooper
    Mar 12, 2020 at 2:29
  • 7
    $\begingroup$ I notice that rot13(vs lbh gnxr gur flyynoyr pbhag bs rnpu yvar ['frrzvatyl' = guerr] naq qbhoyr vg [fvk], gung frrzf gb zngpu gur vaqrk bs rnpu sbyybjvat yvar [ercebQhpr]) $\endgroup$
    – hagfy
    Mar 12, 2020 at 15:26
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks @hagfy - very well spotted! That works perfectly. I've updated the answer with this detail now. $\endgroup$
    – Johnson
    Mar 12, 2020 at 19:52

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