Pablo's Armchair Treasure Hunt

Armchair Treasure Hunt 2005

Title: The Fox Hunt
Setter: Paul Coombs
Themes: Fox Hunting, Past ATHs

Hunters' Tales

A selection of extracts from your emails and answers.

Getting Started

"How do I get a registration key?"

"We can only get the Start pages. We presume that there are more! Including questions?"

"I've just found your ATH Christmas Armchair Treasure Hunt and would love to enter it. In looking at the History of the ATH Christmas Hunts, there are a variety of questions. Here I only find the story of the uncle and the map. Will there be no questions in this year's hunt?"

"Have to say that I am getting really frustrated at not being able to get past the first clue. In previous hunts I have enjoyed being able to pop in and out solving bits as I went along, doing research and finding out all sorts of new things along the way. This time if you can't get the first password you can't carry on. Seems to be all or nothing this year :("

"Thank you so much for your puzzle, but you have me totally stumped! The only things I have learned is that the music on the starting page is Mozart's Horn Concerto No.4 in the key of F. I've learned of a parody done of it by Flanders and Swann and another done by Russell Street. I've learned of the poem Xanadu by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and that it had a parody done to it by Stuart McLure Cracraft called Hackadu. The link between the 2 parodies is that they have to do with computers...but, I have searched view source on every page that I can get to in order to find a place for a password and to find the questions and I can't find them!!! AGGGHHH!!! However, I will continue to search each day until January 11th to try to find them. If nothing else, I exposed my son's saxophone teacher to a Mozart horn concerto! Everyone learns something on armchair treasure hunting."

"The sacred Ralph ran through here. The only thing I can think of is Ralph I on the right trail? Still having fun!! Off to Atlanta for a few days, so I'll be taking a few days off. This will be good as it will let things set in. You rock!"

"It's quite some time before I realise that it refers to the sacred river Alph, and not the sacred Ralph - all thanks to a blogger who's called his blog Ralph the Sacred River!"

"Wanted to keep you abreast of my findings in the hunt. May not seem much to you, but I am thoroughly excited!! On the second page, I have found the password to French horn B. All by myself!! Yay!! I believe that the "2 clubs" refers to the fact that there are 2 social clubs, not the 2 of clubs. So I researched all the clubs involved in Hellfire Caves past and have come up with ziltch except for a ton of knowledge that I didn't have before. But, alas no password for French horn A. However, I did try to follow the directions for A on the Google map and if I did it correctly, I believe that I would be in Bledlow Ridge. I've discovered that "Why do the heathen rage" is a story by Flannery O'Connor published in Esquire in 1963 and that the story wasn't finished. I even read the story that was available on the internet! French horn B's password was totime that I got from the inscription and it lead me to the next page. To be honest, I tried to follow the Google map using the directions and got completely lost!! But, I made it to the next page! Still haven't found "blessed is the man from fairest creature". And don't know what to make of the swordfish (broadfish, marlin) and the orb. Still working on the cigarette card, the actor or fellow in the picture looks familiar. Don't know what the chrome thing is. Page in progress!! I noticed that the 32 is 1/2 of the 64 and I think I see catch in the graffiti...maybe a catch 22. hmmm upon looking at that Google map...I may need to invest in a paper map of areas around London if I can find one here...I see no A road on the Google map, lol. Thanks for the fun and the new found knowledge. I really thought that the first page French horn A password would be Dilettanti 10 letters and a second club....but alas upward and onward. Also, I got the Paul Coombs but didn't get the candlestick. Can't wait for the can only help me out for next year."

Are You Sure?

"Film director Alfred Hitchcock coined a term Egg McGuffin for the object in his films that existed only to move the plot along."

"Tangerine is an album by Led Zeppelin."

"A nice picture of Mark Abbott dressed as Philip Marlowe."

"All books by Ellery Queen. Another of her books is The Murderer is a Fox."

"Hounds of Love by The Futureheads. Kate Bush also did a version."

"Pablo refers to Picasso, who used the Venus Anadyomene pose as a conventional sign."

"This spells out 'and red herring' so I will ignore it."

"Not using Pishill Bottom, a location between Stonor and Watlington, was an opportunity missed. What would have been wrong with the Manneken Pis, subtract a mannequin doll, a picture of a hill (or Benny Hill) and finally Adrian Edmonson and Rik Mayall?"

"I have reached a page in this year's ATH that appears to require some knowledge of your past life in order to identify a password. The relevant text reads as follows : "However, I had no time to eat, so I tried to clear my mind of thoughts of food by envisaging a wild part of the country, indeed a particular hill where I used to walk with my dog, and the name of the pit just south and east of it."

"'A couple of horsemen' could be a reference to Tony Adams and Steve Bould, the well known donkeys who once patrolled a mean defensive line at Highbury (Password C)."

"The sentence we found was 'Where does Anna send John Burns'. John Burns was an English Trade Unionist, and one of the boats on the Woolwich Ferry is named after him. 'Anna' may refer to the many places and buildings in the Greenwich area named after Queen Anne."

No More Unlikely Than The Actual Answers

"An old hero' also anagrams to Leonardo (da Vinci) + H which could also relate to the puzzle and the H is part of the town, ANCHIANO, where he was born."

"Hugo Meynell is the name on the spaceship and he wrote a non-fiction book called The Intelligible Universe - A Cosmological Argument which is neatly placed above the Evazan quarrel."

"The reference to Amazons allude to Wild Cat Island in J Arthur Ransom's Swallows and Amazons."

"The [business] card could be a "magic eye" (as per ATH 1996) grouping of letters but we cannot make it work, despite a lot of squinting..."

"DFW 30/5/36 refers to Keir Dullea, who appeared in 'The Fox' and was also Bowman in 2001 A Space Odyssey and was born on that date. He was involved in a theatre whose nearest airport was DFW Dallas"

"[Joss Stone lyrics] The unexpected small 'i' after 'started at' looks like a microdot but in fact matches all the other ?i?s? in that passage ? makes one wonder if Morse Code is involved in the passage but time didn't permit further investigation."

"Paw prints - trying to get them to spell something out, the only phrase I can come up with that uses all the letters is "Andy Penn won last test". This may be totally wrong but doing searches on Andy Penn, there is a New Zealand cricketer called Andy Penn. There is also a taxidermist called Andy Penn and the website shows the swordfish (shown earlier in the ATH) and also a fox and bear (both of which are in this ATH). There is also a place called Penn very near West Wycombe. William Penn is buried here who worked with George Fox."

"In birthday sequence, the 9th letters of the names spell 'yrertfox'. Unjumble the first 6 to get Terry Fox. Terrance Stanley 'Terry' Fox, CC (July 28, 1958 - June 28, 1981) was a Canadian humanitarian, athlete, and cancer treatment activist. He is considered one of Canada's greatest heroes of the 20th Century, and is now beginning to be celebrated all around the world."

"Boot and St Paul - St Paul and Tacoma Lumber Company is a mill on the River Boot, who have been involved in litigation with R S Fox et al."

"Tangerine Dream's albums include Sorcerer, and Green Desert meaning move out the green letters which form an anagram of 'ectoplasm' = password A."

"Best guess is that this is a Tosk Ship from Star Trek Deep Space 9. The Tosks sound like a familiar breed: 'Tosk are bred and trained, from birth, to take part in a grand adventure they refer to simply as the "hunt": At a predetermined time, a Tosk will set out into the galaxy while being relentlessly pursued by Hunters. Tosk view the hunt not as a burden, but rather as the greatest adventure that anyone could ever desire.'"

Slightly More Than We Needed to Know

"The main logo is from Superbowl 20 - where the Chicago Bears beat New England Patriots, 46-10 in New Orleans"

"The undoctored photo is of V117 MEV (fleet number TA 1117) on route 472, standing at North Greenwich."

"The html file names. Capital letters identify the page and source - the first (A to T, Y,Z) are in alphabetic order by page, and the second (A,B,C,D,E) distinguish the different routes to that page. The letter distribution of the lower case letters looks non-random (it is similar overall to that arising from a substitution code), four letters are the same in the last two pages, and some pages have repeated letters or combinations of letters. With only two letter changes (hte to dte and pps to tps), eight pages have file names with consecutive first letters, in alphabetical order by password, which together make up exactly the complete alphabet (e.g. the page 16 file names start jklmn). Over one third of the 4th lower case letters are ?g?. But page 13B has only five lower case letters. Despite all these intriguing features, we are not sure whether or not there is an embedded code in these names (perhaps leading to another treasure, and with clues in the Start page storyline), but could not find it if there is."

"The Egyptian god Set was sculpted in the form of both a hippopotamus and a desert fox. There is a type of fox called the kit fox."

"The Frog is the pub you come to in Skirmett. There might also be a Kermit pun going on? A wonderful pub with several frogs and even selling Fredo chocolates. Has a distinct Irish theme with a signed picture of Istabraq and the leaning towards rugby with Keith Wood looking to be a regular. But be warned trying to get a car out of the car park is a tricky undertaking."

"The chainsaw is found in the kitchen in Old Mine Road."

"John Peel, the disc jockey etc, was a lifelong fan of Liverpool football club. He was married in the club colours and included the names Anfield, Shankley and Dalglish in his children's names. Tommy Smith was a Liverpool footballer who had a really 'scarred, thickened' face."

"Astrology chart - It's a chart for Y2K. More precisely, January 1, 2000 at 12:01:00 A.M. Eastern Standard Time in New York City , New York , USA . (Longitude: 074W00'23" - Latitude: 40N42'51"), using the tropical zodiac."

"Leviathan called all creatures of both land and sea to come to him. All came except for the fox. Leviathan wanted to eat the fox's heart so he could be as clever as the fox. So he sent his two most faithful messengers, the bass and the swordfish, to go and retrieve the fox. Once the fox was on the messengers' backs, they told him why Leviathan wanted him. The fox quickly thought of a plan. He told the two messengers that he left his heart at home and that foxes never travel with their hearts unless there is a special occasion. So the two messengers dropped off the fox at his home and he ran off as fast as he could, tricking Leviathan and his two messengers."

Cracking The Password Encoding Algorithm

"You say that the brightest minds are working on this problem, but I suggest you do not solve it. Of course I tried to hack your javascript but the fact that a lot of false passwords generate junk pages protects your code against brute force attacks like the one I added as an attachment. Just open the page and enter aaa as password. My code now starts to try aaa to zzz. This would be an easy job if only the right password (you) would generate a page. I tried the same on a four letter password but I stopped after a while, afraid of a repetitive strain injury!"

"Examination of the JavaScript source code of the web pages we?d visited suggested that the passwords might be susceptible to some automated cracking, so we devised a general purpose method of altering the JavaScript so that it could automatically test a list of words and report any that successfully decoded the page. Knowing the lengths of the words made it practical to use this method to search for passwords using a dictionary word list, and hence with a little midnight oil being burnt we cracked sufficient passwords to access all 20 village pages plus the two 'woods' pages. It soon became apparent that all the passwords leading to a particular village began with the same letter, which significantly reduced future searching time. Overall we solved just under half of the clues using this dictionary search technique. With most of the other passwords being solved by traditional puzzle solving methods, this left just two: Bledlow Ridge [B] (5,7) and Stokenchurch [A] (7). Neither of these would succumb to dictionary searches, so an exhaustive search of all 7-letter words beginning with R was kicked off. This took over 12 hours to run before it came up with RUELAKE. Clearly a similar approach is impractical for cracking the remaining 12-letter password."

"I'm not proud of what follows, but the author of the java script is. To quote his email, 'it's not cheating, there's no rules defined in this hunt, it's using your skills, whatever they happen to be. Some people are good with codes, I'm good with coding.' So, we less than proudly present ASTRONOMER which I'm fairly sure comes from the day/month part of the 10 birthdays and TRIPLE which needs a better and more astrological person than myself to understand. As I understand it, multiple longish words need a few more years to crack with current processors and some 7 letter words beginning with R just aren't in the dictionary and otherwise take days of computer time. We claim no score from this underhand behaviour, but we present our confessions and ask for forgiveness."

Alternative image text
Seen on the way...

Finding The Treasure

"Still high on YPO4, we spent much of the afternoon trying to guess the missing letters, and as home-time approached we had contrived to plan out a promising trip past silver benches in two trucks in search of a basket."

"Picked my son (aged 6) up from his sports club at 3:30. As we approached Henley, he was eating an apple and one of his teeth came out. Got lost around Watlington. By the time we reached the car park it was completely dark. We set off down what we thought was the main track - marked with a series of white arrows. In the dark we couldn't see any L's and as far we know we didn?t pass a bench (even after going through three gates). Gave up - turned back. As we left the car park we spotted two other tracks leading off. One has a NT sign and board about red kites, which I suspect is a better bet."

"We have been to the Sculpture Trail at Christmas Common, having found all 20 locations. It was a great day, especially as we managed to see the red kites. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to decode the line, word, letter codes yet as we cannot find the text!"

"The most beautiful treasure site we remember. Spectacular view, red kites circling overhead; but we spent so long admiring them that 12 other people got there first."

"Although he wasn't sure whether the treasure was at West Wycombe or Christmas Common, GS decided on the spur of the moment to check out CC on the way home on the Wednesday night. Because of the route that he took, he never saw the pub, and what he saw at the car park didn't quite fit in with what he expected to see from trying to fill in the gaps in the directions. He didn't know that the car park was at 'WH' - that is on the other Milvus page. So he wasn't sure if he was at the right car park - there are NT car parks at both Christmas Common and West Wycombe. Not being prepared for nocturnal treasure hunting, he went home."

"Nigel got to the site by 2 15 to find, to our horror, that we had only got ticket number 8. As Brian didn't have Nigel's mobile number, he set off for the site later and retrieved ticket number 9. They missed each other by about 10 minutes."

"In a dead straight line with and halfway between the two trees the box was barely covered by leaves and we are sure now that we were not the first to arrive - we lifted the lid. Sure enough, the next ticket was number TEN, and I'd been so sure that we would be earlier than that. Never mind, it's the first thing we'd ever dug up so we came away happy. A few hurried photos by torchlight (most of which didn't come out), cover the box again and away. Just as we leave the site one torch fails and now there's four of us to the one torch (five if you count the baby) slipping and sliding up the lane again towards the car. After scraping off the mud which makes shoes look the size of boots, it's back on the road for the long trip home at just after 5.45pm. Twelve and half hours round trip! "

"By now it was about 11pm and with batteries fading, we agreed to one last try down the main path...And there we found the plastic box (sorry, luxurious casket). We picked out Ticket 11 and headed back to the car. One celebratory mince pie each (the pubs were way past closing time) and we headed back home. Despite the promises from the numerous information signs we did not see any red kites."

"There was a brief couple of hours hesitation after discovering the whereabouts of the box (do we go out into the cold, dark, wet Oxfordshire night?), but enthusiasm from newer members of the team ruled the day and in the event the rain had cleared up by the time we started out from the Fox and Hounds at about 10.30pm. And at least we couldn't waste time looking for the Logica L's that weren't there in the dark! After a bit of panic about the whereabouts of the bench (and bizarrely, the whereabouts of the pub) we found the path down past the silver birch trees and the box relatively easily. I then got lost going home. "

"There was nothing for it but to seek solace in The Fox and Hounds - a fine establishment in which the beer more than compensated for the need for both a second mortgage and a degree in three foreign languages to order a sandwich. "

"A tad deflated, we retired to the Fox and Hounds and were feeling much more chipper after a couple of pints of "O be Joyful". It was a splendid spot you found, with fine views, and the crisp sunny winter's day was classic hunting weather. Very nice pub too, although the grub's a bit posh?!"

"Unfortunately it turned out to be the sixth ticket, but we consoled ourselves with a really great meal at a pub in the splendidly named town of Fingest (which sounds so like it should be the superlative of Finger, as in 'that was the Fingest pub we've ever eaten in')."

The Point Of It All

"I really like the puzzle and learned a lot during the process of working it. That is the reason I work all the puzzles I do, not for the reward of treasure but for the reward of knowledge."