/dev/joe wrote (Feb 15, 1997):
I am creating a trinket worth A$5 named baa baa food. The Little Lamb likes to eat baa baa food even more than it like to eat grass, but since the rules don't allow trinkets to be eaten, it can't.
I am holding the baa baa food in front of the Little Lamb's nose.
I would like to visit fnord's house, and I am requesting permission to do so. I would also like to visit mother's house, but I can't seem to find it on the map.
/dev/joe wrote (Feb 15, 1997):
I am visiting fnord's house. Nice place, but I have to run. I am returning to my home. I am holding the baa baa food. I would like to visit fnord's house (a.k.a. The House of the Techno-Discordians, Ackanomic Activity Department (AAD)) again. [By the way, I'm not going to be able to fit all that on the map, but I might if I abbreviate the last part as AAD. The previous name of your house was so long I had to write in in 8pt and this is longer.] I would also like to visit all of the following: The Revolving Shed, Malenkai's Castle, FunkyTown, The Castle on a Cloud, and Lestrade's Lighthouse. /dev/joe Doh! the 5 was really a 5!
fnord wrote (Feb 16, 1997):
My, such a social butterfly you are! Zigzagging all over Ackanomia like that. And, somehow, you managed to find that treasure I buried. Such a good treasure hunter, as well. I'm sure that everyone's house you visit will be happy to see you arrive with No Tea. And please, be careful with The Sacred Chao, it's a religious icon!
/dev/joe wrote (Feb 16, 1997):
For those interested in my solving technique, read on.
The text was encoded in such a way as to look like hex digits, except there was a single Q in the encoding. (Red Barn has a map with a similar-looking encoding, but about 20 X's in it, which I have not yet figured out.)
I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of 7's and 8's in there; the 8's made it look distinctly non-ASCII, but I decoded it as ascii (and simply into decimal bytes) a couple different ways (including simply ignoring the Q). It still didn't look like ASCII or any obvious sort of rotated ASCII. So I went back and looked at the ditribution of characters instead of character pairs. I found: 6 2's, 14 3's, 22 4's, 8 5's, 18 6's, 20 7's, 22 8's, 7 9's, 4 A's, 3 B's, 1 D, 6 E's, 1 F, and 1 Q.
Hmm, no 0's or 1's at all, what's up with that?
I considered the possibility that it was a straight cryptogram. However, there were only 14 different characters, and 3 of these appeared only once each. It didn't seem likely that a message of this length used so few letters. I did try "the treasure" for the first two words, which matches the A and E near the beginning, and three repeated numbers match with the same letter twice, but it makes 7 represent both r and s, and 8 represent both t and u.
It was at this time I thought of a kind of code I'd solved as a puzzle before. It's called a "telephone code", where each letter is replaced by the number it appears with on a telephone dial (in the US; I don't know if European or other telephones have this same system). The code is: 2=abc 3=def 4=ghi 5=jkl 6=mno 7=prs 8=tuv 9=wxy Each number can represent any of 3 different letters. Q and Z do not have an encoding in this system, so the Q was obviously a real Q. I'd already guessed the letters represented themselves in my previous try, so I set to work decoding the rest of the puzzle. This was tougher than the codes of this type I'd solved before, because they usually give you the spaces between words and punctuation. On the other hand, I had a dozen or so free letters.
The first approximately half of the message was pretty easy: "The treasure will be found by the first player to request to visit my house and ..." And what? The next few characters, 5684E7746, didn't seem to make any sense.
I continued by working on other parts of the message; two 843's were probably "the", and the latter of these was followed by "word". Working backward from the end of the message, the last words were "in its name", and between that and "word" was B2A which must be "baa". I tried a couple possible Acka terms that could be named, and found 8746538 for "trinket" shortly before "the word baa in its name"; the word between them was "with". I made some more guesses which helped fill in the rest of the message: "The treasure will be found by the first player to request to visit my house and 5684E77 in the same public post while holding a trinket with the word baa in its name."
I couldn't figure out what 5684E77 could possibly represent. No word fit this pattern, and few two-word pairs did, and none of them made any sense here. It was just one digit away from "mothers" (6684E77) so I thought it might be that, and posted so. When I came back to look at it again after fnord's post earlier tonight, I figured out that it meant "5 others" -- the 5 was a real 5, not an encoded letter.
I thank fnord for a fun puzzle, and for the trinkets which I will undoubtedly bury later as treasures.