Thursday, October 9, 2014

Another Plea For Help! Part Nine of The Case of the Lady Slipper Stalker

[This is part of The Case of the Lady Slipper Stalker. See also Parts OneTwoThreeFourFour-and-a-HalfFour-and-Three-QuartersSuggestions for My Dear ReadersA Note from Mrs HudsonFive,  A Plea For HelpSix, SevenSeven-and-a HalfSeven-and-Three-Quarters, Eight, and A Most Ingenious Theory.]

I brought the remainging slices to an English Department
meeting, & one English teacher ate THREE slices! Can
anyone guess the name of that gluttonous Anglophile?
(It certainly wasn't me!)
What a week I've had, Dear Readers! I've been busy making and delivering slices of Chocolate Pie to various Suspects and Commenters, which made for a busy start to the week. I was hoping that the pie-recipients might let slip some clues while in the throes of a chocolate-induced ecstasy, but no such luck, Dear Readers. Clearly, I am dealing with cunning and careful conspirators.  

The Donation
Then, I had to make sure that the Twenty-Five Year Club received my donation, and when I returned to my room late Tuesday afternoon, I noticed a piece of paper on the bulletin board by my door. It was yet another Coded Message, but one of a Higher Order than the last one, consisting of both a riddle and some kind of number puzzle. 
A Second Coded Message

When I showed it to Mr Mattson, he suddenly remembered that he had spotted the lovely Mrs Birnbaum on campus after school on Monday, the 6th. He said she was walking in a most determined but yet surreptitious manner towards my classroom. He is quite certain that she must be the one who delivered (and perhaps also composed) this second Coded Message. (Perhaps we should promote her to Suspect #1 status?)

The numbers, my Dear Readers, are beyond me. I notice only that both 145 and 163 repeat, that there are ten groups of three digits, that no single digit higher than 7 is represented, and that there are 

  • three zeroes, 
  • nine ones, 
  • one two, 
  • two threes, 
  • five fours, 
  • five fives, 
  • three sixes, 
  • and two sevens. 
I somehow feel that this is not a simple substitution cipher, like the previous Coded Message. I did have a chance to show this puzzle to some of my students, and Lillian M said right away that she thought it must be some kind of matrix problem. I was advised to show it to Ethan F, who promised to work on it as he travels out of town next week. I also asked Tiffany W to take a look, and her eyes lit up with exitement at the prospect of this challenge! 

I sent an email to three of my suspects, asking them if they knew anything about this Message. I present their responses below: 
Such Charming Denials!
In their defense, I do think the Message had probably been left the night before, as I said above, by Mrs B

During Wednesday's morning assembly, Mr Pearson asked to look at the Message. He seemed to confirm what my students had said, that this involves some kind of matrix problem. Pearson said a "two by two" matrix is needed to solve it. (I have no idea what that means!) Of course, he could say anything mathematical, and I would have no way of judging the validity of his words.

As far as I am able to understand, I think the numbers for the matrix must be derived from the Riddle, and at that point, a graphing calculator can be used to turn the number sequence into letters... Perhaps this online matrix calculator will help? 

So, I turn my attention to the words of the Riddle, which has nine lines. The "octo" in October means "eight," as October was, in Roman times, the eighth month of the year. I assume the Riddler makes reference to Chariots of Fire, the 1981 film about the 1924 Olympics which took place in Paris. The film is about a Scottish runner, Eric Liddell, who refuses--because of his religious principles--to run a race on the Sabbath (a word that is associated with the number seven). Mr Mattson told me that the DVD case for the movie features a picture of a runner wearing a jersey with the number 451 on it. I am a bit baffled by the reference to a German student, but perhaps one will read this and help me out! (I begin to sense an international flair to this Riddle, and the French and Scottish references make me think, of course, of Madame Greenan!) 

I find the last line of the Riddle most intriguing. The imperative verb "Ponder" makes me think of two former students, though I really don't think they have anything to do with this. Although I know nothing of football, I do know that there is a football player named Christian Ponder, who wears a seven on his jersey... I'm not sure which "name" I should "ponder," but I wonder if it's a place-name, because I am then prompted to look "South West," but south west of what? Am I to "ponder" the name by which the writer signs his/her work, "October Riddler"? I'm not sure that gets me anywhere, but it makes me think of the Batman villain, the Riddler! The earlier reference to a "Roman origin" made me look at a map of Europe to see what is southwest of Rome, but that didn't seem to help, either.

Later today, Mr Diener sent an email to the faculty, urging us all to look up at the sky tonight, in a southwest direction. Notice the numbers 730 and 732 in his message...
Just another Cryptic Response from Suspect #1
Is Mr Diener's "yup" an indication that he knows what was in the Message? Or was he unaware of this Message, as he claimed to be, after eating my "truth serum" pie? The link in Mr Diener's email takes one to a NASA site where one can check on the current location of the ISS (International Space Station). Are these the names I am to ponder? NASA, ISS? The site includes some other numbers, which I reproduce here.
Are these numbers helpful?
Are Mrs Birnbaum and Mr Diener working together? Was Mr Pearson being helpful or was he bamboozling me? Is the Language Department being drawn into this conspiracy? 

I am left with these very perplexing questions, but when I got home today, I found in the mail a most sweet and colorful thank-you note from the family of the Ely Scholar (my DNR-intern friend), a family whose youngest member is a boy named Noah who just happens to be the grandson of the lovely Mrs Birnbaum! This beautiful art-work serves as a most pleasant distraction from puzzles and riddles. Noah's message, at least, is clear!

I am informed that this note depicts, in part, a Lady Slipper
I don't think I've ever received a sweeter note! 
Well, my Dear Readers, consider this post another Plea for Help. I am interested to know what you think. The Riddle advises me to seek the help, yet again, of the League of Mathematical Scholars, so perhaps they will come to my aid. In the meantime, I will continue to examine the artistic intricacies of young Noah's note...


  1. Since I'm an Emeritus Member of the League of Mathematical Scholars, I'll pitch in with this link: