An ARG I am participating in has an unsolved puzzle, apparently musical.
August 12, 2015 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Here is a photograph. We believe it is a musical puzzle because the circled letters (circled in gray naturally, and I've re-circled them in blue where they appear in found words) are all potentially notes, and elsewhere in the ARG the clue "The message hidden within the grid of letters is not comprised of words, but belongs to the spheres" has been given. Does anyone have any insight? Do you recognize the tune?

For those who can't get to the linked photo, the circled letters are CEDFEGFDCEGEC; including only the ones that are in found words reduces that to CEDFEGEGE in grid order, or DCFGEEEGE in alphabetical order by word. The words are all nautical-themed; a sea shanty, perhaps? (The gray rectangular smudge across the middle appears to be ink transfer from the facing page, and is probably not part of the puzzle. The red circle marks a misspelling, which is probably also irrelevant.)

The ARG is a product of The Mysterious Package Company, which publishes a quarterly newspaper called "Curios and Conundrums" that serves as an ARG trailhead. (I do not work for them.)

Regrettably, the solution to this puzzle -- should we find one -- may or may not be verifiable until the next issue comes out, but so far they have been fairly good about puzzle solutions being unambiguously correct once you've found them.
posted by rifflesby to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
They could be guitar chords.
posted by carmicha at 2:55 PM on August 12, 2015

Response by poster: (by request, the circled but unfound letters are FDCC.)
posted by rifflesby at 3:00 PM on August 12, 2015

Any connection to Music of the Spheres?
posted by spacewrench at 3:14 PM on August 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

When I put the letters in Google it took me to a hinky-looking news site

Could it be related?
posted by tacodave at 3:38 PM on August 12, 2015

Response by poster: An interesting thought, tacodave, but probably not. The ARG generally has more of a faux-edwardian styling and doesn't refer to current events.
posted by rifflesby at 3:43 PM on August 12, 2015

This is my last, best attempt. I put the first five notes - CEDFEG - into this music database and the first tune that popped up is called "The Drunken Sailor."

I don't know if that helps, but it is nautical-themed...
posted by tacodave at 3:49 PM on August 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: That may well be significant, thank you!
posted by rifflesby at 4:01 PM on August 12, 2015

Response by poster: That looks like a really useful resource for puzzle-solving generally, so double-thanks!
posted by rifflesby at 4:04 PM on August 12, 2015

CEDFEGEGE is apparently the "Largo" movement of Antonin Dvorak's "New World Symphony", which Neil Armstrong took to the moon during Apollo 11.
wikipedia link

The nautical theme of the crossword also reminds me of "Neptune, the Mystic" from Gutav Holst's "The Planets", but the melody doesn't match up.
posted by Chicoreus at 4:09 PM on August 12, 2015 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: And the music from Largo was also used for a song called "Goin' Home", which is actually a concept previously referenced... That may really be something!

I apologize for not being able to provide you guys with a lot of context or confirmation, which can't be very satisfying, but I promise to update as more of the ARG is revealed.
posted by rifflesby at 4:41 PM on August 12, 2015

CEDFEGFDCEGEC is the sort of bog-standard tune that I remember playing in piano lessons as a child. It's almost too simple to be a proper tune.

CEDFEGEGE is apparently the "Largo" movement of Antonin Dvorak's "New World Symphony", which Neil Armstrong took to the moon during Apollo 11.

Where did you find this information? The excerpt posted on the wikipedia page doesn't have these notes in it (at least, not in this order), and as far as I can recall, neither does the rest of the movement.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:12 PM on August 12, 2015

What about reading CEDFEGFDCEGEC as groups of thirds? CE DF EG FD CE GEC could recognizably be part of the melody from Impossible Dream (from Man of La Mancha).

I agree that taken as single notes, it's basically a warmup exercise for musicians, or at least that's what it's been nagging at me.
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 9:41 PM on August 12, 2015

This is some top-level metagaming here but: The Mysterious Package Company is based out of Toronto. The Drunken Sailor (as mentioned by tacodave) is a song that was, inexplicably, on the music curriculum for Ontario elementary schools in the 1990s (which is when the type of people working for this type of company likely attended elementary school).

If you look at it as "what do Ontario-educated 30-somethings thing of when they think of nautical songs," The Drunken Sailor would be right up there.

(also it's in my head now so thanks i guess)
posted by AmandaA at 6:52 AM on August 13, 2015

That set of notes is a scale in thirds followed by an arpeggio, all in C major. It's an etude you would get out of (eg) a Suzuki beginning violin book. (It is definitely, for sure, not from the New World symphony)
posted by range at 7:37 AM on August 13, 2015

Right, but that's totally not the Drunken Sailor.

The drunken sailor starts with the same note repeated seven times then another note a fifth below it.

EEEEEEEACE would be the drunken sailor.
posted by blue t-shirt at 7:39 AM on August 13, 2015

Theme for the New World Symphony / Goin' Home would be EGG EDC DEGED.

posted by blue t-shirt at 7:46 AM on August 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

So for example here is an example from the Clarke trumpet etude book. Every exercise ends with this note pattern (shown in F# and G major in these examples).

It's such a standard way of practicing scale patterns on basically every instrument that I would be inclined to think it's cluing something like MUSIC, or PRACTICE, BEGINNER, ETUDE, SCALE, etc. Do you have any context for the format or usage of meta solutions?

(Just for completeness, I tried listening to it with the rhythm implied by the vertical spacing and that doesn't transform it into any melody I recognize.)
posted by range at 9:18 AM on August 13, 2015

Oops. Reading comprehension problem. Given the nautical theme I propose a solution of SCALES.
posted by range at 9:24 AM on August 13, 2015

Actually it occurs to me that SKATE (the fish) could also be an answer, using the T-L transposition error in the grid as an instruction to swap out the L in SCALE. That would at least use something from the solved puzzle to solve the meta, rather than being directly deducible from the flavor text. Not a huge fan of this either but it sort of depends on the general puzzle vibe.
posted by range at 10:06 AM on August 13, 2015

(I am also used to, eg, MIT mystery hunt constructors using super-bogus "cluing" such as "the musical theme clues to sound out the word, so C = K." Ymmv with these folks.)
posted by range at 10:11 AM on August 13, 2015

Response by poster: Do you have any context for the format or usage of meta solutions?

The solutions are frequently sentences, either a clue to another puzzle or instructions to find another puzzle. However, a single word would also make sense, as there is an associated website (which I hesitate to simply link because of spoilers) that has in the past given new stuff when you add /keyword to the address. In fact, we're currently sitting on two such keywords, and waiting for the site to be updated to accept them. (Or to find out why it isn't.) So the solution could honestly be just about anything.
posted by rifflesby at 2:56 AM on August 14, 2015

Response by poster: For what it's worth, none of your suggested words resolve to anything on that site, though I wouldn't expect them to until our other ones do as well. :/
posted by rifflesby at 3:13 AM on August 14, 2015

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