How They Work: Variation 1

The Structure

All AnagraMelody puzzles have a standard structure.  Here’s an example of a type known as Variation 1:

A Sample AnagraMelody

A Sample AnagraMelody

At the top is the puzzle. At the bottom is meta-information (information about information) – a unique ID for the particular puzzle, and a standard notice from Lilypond that is included in any score created using their software (which is excellent, by the way).

The puzzle itself has a standard structure. There is a title (the first line), a subtitle (second line), the third line provides copyright information for the puzzle’s origins, and the score completes the elements of the AnagraMelody.

Where To Begin

One or more clues are always provided in those first two lines. It can sometimes take some detective work to determine what is an actual clue, what is misdirection (sometimes misinformation), and what is not actually relevant to the solution of the puzzle.

Step 1: Identify The Clue, Write It Down

As a general rule, the first step is to identify the clue and then write it beneath the score, one letter per note. It’s sometimes easier said than done, and may take more than one attempt before a solution takes shape.

In this example, the second line doesn’t actually tell us anything useful – no obvious hints, no unusual phrasing, no outright neon sign flashing “Here’s an obvious clue!”

The first line – the title – is where the clue lies.

So how to turn the clue into something useful?

The first action should be to count the number of notes in the score. For the simplest AnagraMelody, the count tells you how many letters are in the solution – and since this is an anagrammatic puzzle, that’s also the number of letters in the clue.

There are 21 notes in this score, so we should look at the title and see if there is a combination of words that also adds up to 21 letters.

There are 25 letters (excluding spaces) in the title, so that’s four letters too many. By a strange coincidence, the first word – “Find” – happens to contain four letters, so perhaps we should drop that word and focus on the remaining words (made up of 21 letters) in the phrase “A Famous German Waltz God”.

If we write that phrase (no spaces, remember) beneath the score – one letter per note – we produce this:

Investigating A Clue

Investigating A Clue

Where do we go from here?

Step 2: Walk The Walk

The answer is not immediately apparent (unless you happen to have devised the puzzle!) but it’s this: try walking through the score in a different way. Instead of following the melody (a left-to-right walk), try an orthogonal (i.e. at right angles to the left-to right walk) or scalar or top-to-bottom walk.

Begin by looking for the highest note or notes and see what letters in the clue correspond to them. Observe that we don’t need to know the note values (whether a note is F or C sharp or A flat). We just need to start at the highest note(s).

In this example, there are two high notes (both on ledger lines) and if you look down from the first one you can see that it sits above the letter “W” in the clue.

The second one sits above the letter “O” in the clue, so we should begin our solution by writing those two letters down somewhere.

Next, we should move down the scale to the next highest note or notes. In this example there is only one such note, and it sits on top of the topmost staff line, directly above the letter “L” in the clue. So write that letter down, following the first two letters you wrote earlier.

Continue working down the scale, writing down the corresponding letters as you go.

To make working with this example easier, here’s a color-coded version where each note value has been assigned a color:

The Example, Color-coded

The Example, Color-coded

If you map the colored notes to their corresponding clue letters, you should obtain the following:

Color:     Clue Letters:
Red:        W O
Orange:     L
Yellow:     F G A N G
Green:      A M A D
Blue:       E
Violet:     U S M
Gray:       O Z
Black:      A R T

Step 3: Collate The Results

Concatenating the letters above produces “WOLFGANGAMADEUSMOZART”. It shouldn’t be too difficult to work out how to insert spaces in the right places in order to obtain the solution.

Step 4: Review The Result

Compare the solution to the clue. If you know anything about Mozart, you know that he was technically not German (he was Austrian), he was certainly famous, and he definitely did NOT produce any waltzes. But the solution works, without any tweaking, so the clue was actually a deliberate misdirection, designed to put you off the scent.

If you had instead Googled the phrase “A Famous German Waltz God” you would probably have encountered references to a 1997 anagram by Earle Jones, and you might have guessed the solution. But where’s the fun in that?

Test Your Skills

Try the following AnagraMelody using your newly-acquired skills and see how you fare. The solution will be published in a future post:

Test Your Skills

Test Your Skills

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AnagraMelodies – What Are They, How Do They Work?

What Are They?

An AnagraMelody is a musical puzzle. It is normally presented as a score (a musical staff notation containing notes) together with a title and subtitle that contain one or more hints or clues to help solve the puzzle.

There is more background to the origin of AnagraMelodies under the About menu.

How Do They Work?

There are a number of variations but the AnagraMelodies all have the same basic feature: each note on the stave acts as a placeholder for a link between a character in the original plain text and that same character in the masked or steganographed text. That masked text – or a link to a representation of it – will be present in some form in either the title or subtitle above the score.

The exact details vary from Variation to Variation, and those will be described in future posts.