ATH 1988:

Armchair Treasure Hunt 1988

Title: Armchair Treasure Hunt 1988
Setters: Paul Coombs & Brian Jackson
Themes: Connections, G.Bernard Shaw

Hunters' Tales

After a first pass through the "connections", and identifying scarcely half a dozen, I almost abandoned the Hunt at that stage. However, with a few more answers from other members of the family, I resumed the quest. After checking dictionaries, encyclopaedia and other reference sources, I reached a static position with just a third of the "connections" answered. It was clear at this stage that the phrase formed from the first letter of each answer was a quotation beginning "a life spent...", but I was unable to identify this quote, despite searching books of quotations. Having reached an impasse in that direction, I then decided to work backwards from the Epilogue. It was clear that this was some sort of code, where each word probably represented a character, however the number of different words used was more than 26. On re-reading the Prologue it occurred to me that all the words used in the Epilogue were present in the first two paragraphs of the Prologue. On counting these words there were 91 - precisely the number of "connections" Questions (and answers); so this was the key to decoding the Epilogue! I- substituted all the letters corresponding to the answers I had determined, leaving blanks everywhere else - still a considerable number! The next stage involved a certain amount of inspired guesswork, filling in the blanks according to likely letter-combinations (such as THE, YOU and TREASURE). The extra code letters thus generated were inserted in the "quotation" and further words in this were subsequently deduced which in turn led to more blanks filled in the Epilogue etc. After a number of iterations, the "quotation" was completed and the Epilogue decoded. The clue to identify the start of the search was the snake, on which was written ASP. In conjunction with two other clues (the number of, chequer-board squares in each picture, translated to letters spell out St Peter and all the pictures were representations of plays by George Bernard Shaw, who- lived at Ayot St Lawrence), the place to start had to be Ayot St Peter. I checked the map and, sure enough, such a place did exist. I was now convinced I was right and, following the instructions given in the decoded Epilogue, I was led directly to the 'treasure'.

Martin Milnes

OK so I'm obsessed with general-knowledge treasure hunts. I quite look forward to the annual struggle of good against evil. The first step is to co-op a well-read colleague. He lives in Liverpool, so my phone bill took quite a hammering over Christmas.

First stop for me was the Encyclopedia Brittanica, which solved quite a few and gave me hints as to where to look next. I was also tuning in to the compiler's devious perversions1. Quite a few questions relied on that red herring to good communication - the false assumption. Then my old friend serendipity turned up; whilst looking for something else, my eye caught the word "Gaspar". The swine! Making anagrams look like items of Spanish food!

Anyway, with 50 right and wrong answers, the first words of the quotation could be divined. The initial sweep of Shaw anthologies failed to find it, but it eventually surface in a less well-known biography. By this time I felt I couldn't trust anything in the wretched quiz. So we made heavy weather of the simple replacement code. In among the red herrings we found Saint Peter but if it was the St Peters near Broadstairs, then the treasure could jolly well stay there! Being a denizen of NW London, I thought of Chalfont St Peter and made an abortive attempt at following the directions. Useless. It was far too built up. Then I followed the DH/TE/LARRY clue in picture 6. Perhaps there was a village called Lawrence? Consult atlas-index. No. What about Ayot St Lawrence? Ohmigod - look at the next entry! Ayot St Peter "Understand the snake" made sense at last. A real cynic would have looked for Stevenage on the map right at the beginning.

My weekends are too precious for treasure hunt activities so, as in previous years, I went at night. (Now you know I'm mad) Ayot St Peter was so small that I was almost though it before I had entered it. The directions were very good - ho hum what a doddle - found the tree and looked for the faded yellow plywood Logica L2. Oh no! The vandals have got here first. Crawled around the undergrowth looking for the plastic box, scratched my face - couldn't find it. Now it was raining harder (yes, it was on January 5th). Soddit. I'll trample all the grass an then give up. Eureka! - the famous ice-cream carton glowed in the torchlight. Intense elation. Open up. Intense horror. Tickets 1 and 2 already gone. Ah well, hide it again for the next person. Then I noticed a 2-inch high letter L marked in black ink on a dark bark. Good God! I'd have hold trouble spotting that in daylight! Some people have no consideration for others ...

So I'd missed the automatic prize for getting there first. Well I wasn't wasting all that effort. Time to co-opt member number 2, a retired teacher of English and General Studies. It's amazing what a fresh mind can bring. At the end "Glorishears" might have been a figment of Paul Coombs' imagination and Sergeant Murphy et al failed to gel even when we thought we knew all about them. Dali managed to die without telling me What he had in common with Blondie. Meucci had died in 1931, so he was useless. And if Ria Langham turns out to be someone's girlfriend I'll shoot myself!

Ken Kirkman