The Old Man's Story

Jamie Clark


The story

The story is basically a re-wording of the two tales "The Fisherman and the Jinni" and "The Ensorcled Prince", which are both from the translation of "The Arabian Nights" made by Sir Richard Francis Burton. Information about the Arabian Nights (including the text I based this story off of) can be found here.

I expect some people to recognize the source of the story, but perhaps not many. I also expect it to be easy to find the source of the story online, and therefore to know the origin of the story and how it differs from those texts, hopefully this will not lead people too far off the trail.

Because: the story has nothing in particular to do with the answer. It contains some hints, but understanding the story is unimportant.

The misspellings

Many words are misspelled in the story. I expect this to be obvious. Each mispelling is the replacement of one or more letters with an equal number of different letters. In total there are 204 letter-differences, around 5-6 per paragraph (although in one case 13 in one paragraph).

Since each letter-difference leads to two letters (the one found in the story and the correct-in-English one), we can get 204 pairs of letters (in this case, not useful), or two 204-letter streams (in this case, useful).

One might think to treat each paragraphs mispellings as a unit, but that would be incorrect, and hopefully is not too tempting to the solvers. The correct thing to do is string up all of the misspelled letters, and to also string up all of the correct-in-English letters, to get the two 204-letter streams.

The letters should be easy to find, however the puzzle should be solvable even if they miss a small number of the letters (they should later be able to figure out where they are missing letters, and then go back to the story to look again).

Getting just one stream at first should not stop the teams from making progress, but both streams are eventually necessary. Here are the two streams of letters:

From the original letters in the puzzle story:

From the letters which would correctly spell words in the story:

Two 204-letter streams

Each stream is made of a list of items from a well-known set of things which can be easily researched. However, those items are also misspelled. One needs first to get enough information from small clips of each stream to figure out what kind of stuff is in the stream, and then they should be able to use that information to unravel the new letter-differences.


The stream which is composed of the letters from the original document is a list of english pokemon names. This is hinted in the story when the Jinni says "You must not catch them all".

Not all of the 151 common pokemon names are used, but some of them are inserted into the stream with no misspellings at all, so hopefully someone will recognize one or two of them. A list of the 151 pokemon can be found here or perhaps better here (my actual source).

The pokemon names in the list which are already correctly spelled include Eevee, Butterfree, Hitmonchan, Meowth, and Mew (mew is at the end, hopefully that will be an easy hint for fans of Pokemon).

Each of the eighteen incorrectly spelled pokemon has two incorrect letters, leaving us with two new streams of letters, each 36 letters long:

This set comes from the incorrect letters in the 204-stream:

This set comes from the correct replacements for those letters:


The other stream, which is composed of the letters which would correctly spell the words in the original story, is a list of the titles of songs by the Beatles. This is hinted in the story when the King finds the streets "infested with nests of beetles".

Hopefully this will be recognized because of some of the nearly-correct song titles. These include "Whem I'm Sixty-Four" ("whenimsistyfoup"), and "Across the Universe" ("acrossthesinverse"), and "You've Got to Hide Your Love Away" ("yyuvegocoohideymurlovbaway") (which is actually wildly misspelled, but with "hide" "love" and "away", it shouldn't be too hard).

The best source of beatles song titles I found was here

Each song title has between two and five mispelled letters, leaving us with two new streams of letters, each 46 letters long:

This set comes from the incorrect letters in the 204-stream:

This set comes from the correct replacements for those letters:


We now have four streams of letters. Actually when a team is solving I expect them to reach this point with not all of the streams. Perhaps they forgot to try using the "correct" letters, or they haven't found all of the Pokemon. At any rate, each of the four medium-sized streams should be independantly solvable.

Each one is a quote from a play written by Shakespeare. The two streams derived from the Pokemon stream are both from "Julius Caesar", while the two Beatles streams are from "A Midsummer Night's Dream". The texts of these plays can be found here.

I hope that one can guess that these are from Shakespeare merely by looking at the elements within the streams (and knowing by now that it must still be misspelled).

The stream "ydunickbottoexresetdowsforpyraidswhatispyramuy" contains most of "Nick Bottom" near the beginning, and the two "pyr" words should be easily assembled for "Pyramus".

Likewise, "stsinantycombspyramuesweetyouthaadtillandfinds" contains "sweet youth" in full, and nearly all of "Pyramus".

The stream "seenngrhatoutthanecessaryannwillcome" may be difficult if you don't know the quote, but it is mildly popular, and "necessary" "will" and "come" are all correctly spelled.

The stream "tloodanddestructdoeshtllbesoinoosand" may also be tricky, but the "blood and destruction" part of the beginning should be solvable, and if one knows that Shakespeare is involved, then perhaps it could be searched for.

Each of those four streams contains seven misspellings, which then leaves us with eight seven-letter streams:


Seven-letter words

Of course, these are misspelled words (that should be clear by now, I hope). The trick is to find out which word is the correct one, and thus get the new letter-differences. In this case, there are two incorrect letters per word.

I tried very hard to make sure that there is only one possible word which is close in spelling to the bad one, such that if a solver thinks that three letters are wrong then they get too many possibilities, but if they think that two letters are wrong they should only find one.

       omanmus -> ominous (am -> io)
       dexsidy -> density (xd -> nt)
       aonesna -> amnesia (on -> mi)
       stybeai -> soybean (ti -> on)
       nroutan -> crouton (na -> co)
       itdeaed -> indexed (ta -> nx)
       binause -> because (in -> ec)
       tdetoos -> tattoos (de -> at)
By the way, if you can find a list of seven-letter words, then a simple perl script can search for words that differ from the misspelled ones by only two letters.

Now we have 16 two-letter pairs, assuming we do the same thing we've done in all the past streams, which we should do, because that's the correct thing to do.

16 Letter Pairs

The sixteen letter pairs share many letters in common. They are meant to be placed in a "word-chain" formation, such that the end of one letter pair matches with the beginning of the next letter pair - to form a single longer word. The two 'X' characters are used for filler and as delimiters.

The correct word chain is:

      xd de ec co on nt ta am mi in na at ti io on nx
Which spells (removing the X's):
Which is the correct answer. In this case, it is not misspelled, but I seriously thought about it.

Anyway, hopefully a team could reach the letter-pair stage without having all of the pairs, and if they have enough of the pairs they could put together a part of the chain, and possibly derive the answer without having solved the whole thing.