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## The Three Keys

Happy Day After Christmas on a wet, cold day in the Bayou State of Louisiana!

I've made a lot of progress on this puzzle in the last week, and I wanted to stop by and share some thoughts with the community. This discussion is assuming the reader has already solved the 240 questions and has a good working knowledge of the book and the game.

This isn't what I'd classify as 'easy' by any stretch of the imagination. I've had to work back-and-forth between the clues in the first three chapters of the book and the Invisible Ink clue as well as clues peppered around in the various chapter stories to see how all of this comes together.

It turns out it's a beautiful, logical puzzle, and this makes me a very happy camper.

It's my understanding that there were several hidden messages from 'Joy' in the book that might have made this easier for me, but I never discovered any extras.

After the 240 questions are solved, the author gives us a single, specific clue about solving a map puzzle. It's the original Invisible Ink clue. It's the foundation of the solution--we were meant to derive the instructions for a map solution from it. We just didn't derive the correct information from it. The author expected us to derive a lot from very little.

'To find your way on the map keep in mind that the first

is equal to the last.'

1. The first thing we were meant to do was realize that the blank in the middle is an integral part of the clue. This was hinted by the three keys of chapter 9 where one of the three keys had been scratched off--a 'blank' as it were.

2. We were supposed to realize the clue has three parts--a first, second, and third part--that has the second part missing: 1 - 2 - 3 becomes '1 _ 3'.

We were meant to figure out two things at this point that represent different interpretations of the clue:

a. 'The first is equal to the last': The 'last' is referring to the 'last' of a treasure map, namely the 'X' (as in X marks the spot).
b. 'is equal to the last': The third part is equal to a '3', namely III.

The author lets us know we might be on the right track by making the two different clues equivalent:

1 _ 3 = X _ III.

Both are equivalent to '13'.

3. I've proposed all this before--where I went wrong and completely overlooked was the next step.

I was supposed to fill in the blanks.

For the invisible ink clue, the blank should have been filled in by what is implied: The Second. For the graphical clue, the blank should have been filled by a '2'.

This may not make much sense and seem somewhat innocuous, but it's the foundation to the whole shooting match. Once one understands the implications of this, the puzzle's clues open up like a giant rose blossom.

The first
(The second)
is equal to the last.

X (2) III

4. The clue is divided into three parts:

The first
The second
'is equal to the last' which is the 'third'.

These represent the three keys that we're to find in each chapter. The graphical clue 'X (2) III' contains the hints we need to discover the keys.

1. The first key is related to something that is an iteration of 'first' and an iteration of 'X'.
2. The second key is related to something in the middle, a '2', or something that is missing.
3. The third key is related to an iteration of THIRD.

There are two major goals of the three keys:

1. The first, second, and third keys we discover are also the first, second, and third keys of the map sequence.
2. The three keys combine into a simple riddle which has a THREE-LETTER WORD as its solution.

Let me demonstrate this concept with the clues from Chapter 1.

1. The first key: I've been asked not to specifically discuss the location of this clue, but contained within the text of chapter 1 is a clue that is definitively linked to an iteration of 'first' and an 'X'. The author had already kindly told us on his facebook clue that for chapter 1, Omega = A. If you manage to locate this clue in the chapter, you were supposed to figure out that X = A by virtue of the tenth letter of the clue (X = Roman numeral 10) being an 'A'

The first key is 'A'.

2. The second key: One of the names of DB Cooper in the chapter is George Bravo. We were suppoed to figure out that the radio code for Bravo is 'B' and that George Bravo becomes George B. The 'B' = 2 flags this as the second key. (As it turns out, there are two more indicators that this was the second key, but I'll get into that later.) Google is our friend in this game, and 'George B.' was the name of a little-known movie starring David MORSE as the title character.

The second key is MORSE.

3. The third key: The other name of DB Cooper is Charles Proctor III. The 'III' flags this as being the clue for the THIRD key. Again, google can be our friend. The answer is found in comics. A very famous 'proctor' or teacher named Charles was Charles Xavier, or Professor X of the X-men.

The third key is 'X'.

Our three keys are A MORSE X.

The first job is to figure out the first three numbers of the map sequence based on these clues.

A = 1
MORSE: There is one Morse code clue in the questions. It's question 20.
X = Roman numeral 10.

The first three keys of the map sequence represented by A MORSE X are 1, 20, 10.

The second job is to figure out the three letter word based on the clues.

A MORSE X is '- . . -'
Translating that back into letters: - . . - = TEA.

The three letter word we get from the three keys is TEA.

This may sound like gobbledegook, but it isn't. You're very, very close to solving a map at this point. We have to combine the parts of the invisible ink clue to understand what to do next. This post has gotten long, and I want to give you some time to digest this.

Doc

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If Ron Shore ever shows up on a talk show and says, 'The solution is as easy as 1 - 2 - 3!', would somebody please get a nerf bat and beat him about the face and neck?

Good morning on a cold, clear morning in Louisiana.

I've reached the final movement, and the keys are aligning. The whole thing IS based on 1 - 2 - 3, but 'easy' isn't on the radar.

The stuff I posted above is true, but I've identified a mistake I wanted to correct before going forward.

The A MORSE X is correct, it means 1, 20, 10, and it leads to the word TEA, but that's not how we obtain the first three keys of the map sequence. The '1, 20, 10' is meant to be interpreted as 'first, last, middle', and rearranging the letters in TEA accordingly, we get ATE.

The A - T - E are the first three keys of the map sequence: 1, 20, 5.

You have to be in possession of both TEA and ATE and one more three-letter sequence to solve the map.

To continue the discussion from above, the invisible ink clue breaks down into three parts:

1. The first
2. The second (blank)
3. Is equal to the last (the third)

There's a fearful symmetry to the entire solution based on 1 - 2 - 3. These first three clues represent the 1's. Next, you combine the fragments into groups of 2 to obtain the next set of clues and instructions.

1. The first is equal to the last
2. The first. The second.
3. The second is equal to the last.

The first is equal to the last: As already stated, one of the meanings is that the 'X' is first. Just as important, it also provides an equivalence between the first and third keys. There MUST be an equivalence or the clue isn't correct. For chapter 1, the first key is A and the third key is X. If you recall from above the method we obtained the 'A' in the first place is that it was the tenth letter. In other words, A = Roman numeral X.

The second is equal to the last: This tell us that there MUST be an equivalence between the second key and the third key to be valid. In chapter 1, 'George Bravo' and 'Charles Proctor III' represent our 2nd and 3rd keys. They're equivalent because they're both NAMES OF DB COOPER.

The first/the second: This is the tricky one, and it provides a vital clue about the solution. There's an anomaly about chapter 1 that sticks out like a sore thumb that we haven't used yet. Let me point out some of the author's clues about other things that were meant to help us figure this out:

1. The final chapter is listed as 'Chapter 13 1/2'. The 1/2 is NOT meant to be pronounced as 'one-half'. It's 'one of two' or 'first of two'. Isn't it nice we've discovered that there are two versions of chapter 2? 'Two of 2'. Get it?

2. There are two different messages in the Invisible Ink. Two different clues for Invisible Ink: 2 of II. (Invisible Ink = II)

3. Use the graphical version of the Invisible Ink clue we deduced from the post above: X 2 III.

a. The first is equal to the last: X = III
b. The second is equal to the last: 2 = III.

The first. The second. 'X 2'.

Do you understand the implication?

THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT CLUES FOR THE SECOND KEY.

One of the clues will have the equivalence 2 = III. The second clue will be associated with an iteration of 'X 2'. So far, I've seen a second ex-wife, XX, and X square in other chapters.

So, for chapter 1, if 'George Bravo' is the first clue for the second key, and we already know that George Bravo = Charles Proctor III because they're both names of the same person, what's the second clue that's associated with 'X 2'?

Washington/Washington. Washington x 2.

If you manage to slug through it this far, and you can figure out the clues at this point, You'll move to the 3's portion of the invisible ink clue where we put it all together.

The first. The second. Is equal to the last.

This is the final movement and presents you with a last, beautiful puzzle to solve the map. I haven't finished it, but it's at the end.

This is the step that brings in the instructions from the story about the chapter 9 keys: using the three keys in order will unlock a box that contains a letter that tells you where to go next.

This is also the part from the third email clue about the 'code to win by is found simply by reading'. It's not what you expect, and it leads to part of that fearful symmetry I was referring to earlier.

One of the interpretations of 'The first. The second. The third' used together--and there are several you will have to figure out--refers to the chapter questions:

There's a poem, author, and password involved with the solution. For chapter 1, it turned out to be 'Ten Little Indians'. Just like chapter 1, the password appears to be the author's name, and it's a doozie. Kinda of a nice confirmer you're doing something right....

'One little, two little, three little Indians....'

One to ten. Then ten to one. 'The solution is divided into equal parts'.

HAH! This stuff is crazy good.

I'll let you know if I finish this.

Keep on truckin',

Doc

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So far, so good. I think I have the first 11 keys solved for chapter 1, and I've arrived at the final puzzle for keys 12 - 18 that I'm gonna have to work on. The key series is the letters A - R whose numeric equivalents are entered into the map solution.

The skill set that is necessary to solve the map puzzles is different from the deciphering skills used on the 240 questions.

Here are some examples of the actual puzzles you will encounter on your way to the chapter 1 map solution:

1. LOST = ? = 2.
2. X I G E C A Y. If you know that the 'x' is first and that the 'Y' represents 'third', what is the solution to 'I G E C A' that goes together with the 'X' and the 'Y'? The solution is the clue for the next step of that particular puzzle series. What is it suggesting as the next step?

These are the types of puzzles you will run up against, and I LOVE this sort of stuff.

Doc

4. Doc -- I have been unable to follow any of the steps you have posted above.

"The first thing we were meant to do was realize that the blank in the middle is an integral part of the clue."

It's been a while, but I don't recall any "blank" in the middle of that clue. I do recall that it was formatted a little strangely, but I had assumed that was due to the word-wrapping used in the flash application. Text was just pushed onto the next line.

There are other reasons to believe that this is not a clue. Ron has stated in the past that "clues are easy to find" and that the solution can be solved by "almost anyone".

At one point I found numerous "clues" in the FAQ posted on the website. There were all sorts of errors, old information, and other stuff in there that was incredibly suspicious. I wrote to Ron to make sure that they were clues and not errors. Ron then tells me that all of those "clues" I found were indeed errors, and that there were no clues in the FAQ.

So it seems to me that you are basing your entire solution on the text formatting in a flash application. I have spoken to no one else who believes that there is a "meaningful space" in that clue.

Lobster

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Lobster,

There are two Big Clues that correspond with that blank in the middle and the concept of three keys.

1. The three keys of chapter 9 are an Omega key, a Dove key, and a scratched off key.

According to my theory, the three keys can be graphically depicted as 'X _ III', and they have an easy-to-make correspondence with the keys of chapter 9.

The omega key represents something that is 'last', namely the 'X' of a treasure map.
The scratched out key represents something that is 'blank'.
The dove key represents a peace symbol, which is roughly a symbol divided into THIRDS.

2. The messages from JOY.

The letters of J - O - Y also have an easy-to-make correspondence with X _ III.

The letter J is the tenth letter of the alphabet. (X = Roman 10)
The letter O represents a blank.
The letter Y, when inscribed upon a circle, divides that circle into THIRDS.

I suppose my point is that the 'blank-in-the-middle' isn't meant to be a formatting error--it's an integral part of the clue. The exact positioning of the blank, between the words 'first' and 'is equal to the last', making the blank the 'second' part of the clue doesn't appear coincidental either.

If the blank had occurred between two random letters or between different words of the statement, such as 'To find your...............way on the map the first is equal to the last', I would have probably concluded it was an error.

And, if nobody else has concluded that there is a 'meaningful space' in that clue, and it turns out that is actually meaningful, that would go a long ways towards explaning why there's been no solution.

6. "they have an easy-to-make correspondence with the keys of chapter 9."

One of the fundamental questions about this hunt is, "does information from other chapters help solve C1's silver eagle, or only information from Chapter 1?"

Without working this out and being confident in your answer to this question, no one has the slightest chance of solving a chapter eagle.

Lady Lobster and I are very torn on this question. We have lots of information, but this very critical concept is not answered by any of the clues. Lady Lobster believes that Chapter 1's solution is contained within Chapter 1, and has been working on that assumption. Personally, I'm not sure. I go back and forth between "the whole book is involved", and just chapter 1. But, I'm open to the idea that perhaps Chapter 9 (and thereby extension, other chapters) is important.

The most interesting piece of evidence FOR a "book wide solution" is that we have the clue "the ghost of cooper past holds your omega key". That is striking because the word omega is used, and the only other place it is used is in Chapter 9. It is probably referring to one of two things: either the last ("omega") key in the sequence (key #20), or a reference to Chapter 9's "key with an omega scrawled on it".

The problem with this hunt is that Ron specifically states in the rules that there will be red herrings. A hunt with trustable information and ambiguous clues is difficult enough, but throw in the possibility of red herrings, and it becomes almost impossible. With red herrings, this hunt is such that no information can be trusted. No string of logical reasoning is guaranteed. No verification information is even guaranteed. Hints that you're on the right direction could be red herrings. Things may decode into more than one solution, one of which is real, and the other which is a red herring. That means that even if you find an answer in something difficult, you can't even trust it. Very frustrating. And, a reason why Lady Lobster and I have gotten nowhere. Whenever we actually get "an answer", we have no confidence whatsoever that it is intended, a publishing error, or a red herring.

So, the use of the words "omega key" COULD tell us "aha! chapter 9 is important!". On the other hand, it could simply be "Ron wanted to find an interesting way to talk about key #20. Omega is a more interesting way of saying the last of the 20 keys". Or, it could be "Ron just wanted to throw in a red herring, and make the hunt last 50 years longer than designed."

That's why I *almost* agree with you. My current interpretation of "the omega key" as it pertains to Chapter 1 is that it's talking about key #20, simply because by Occam's razor that is the simplest "family friendly" possibility. Giving people an easy way to get the 20th key DOES make sense, too. In mathematical proofs, if you have the first, second, and last of a sequence, you can by induction work out the rest of the sequence.

Thus, it actually makes a lot of sense for "omega key" to simply refer to the last key. The straightforward interpretation is that they give keys 1,20, and some clues to help you get from 1 to 20. Then, they give you the last (20th, omega) key. You're supposed to work out the sequence from "the clues", and knowing the 20th key for sure helps validate to you that your progression is correct. This is mathematically neat, and is therefore the method that I think is most likely. But who knows.

I have not found any solid meta-information or major clues to support the Chapter 9 theory. The ONLY potential clue is the use of the number 3 (III - three keys) in the chapter. But it's a bit of a stretch to say "aha! there's the number 3! therefore we need three keys!". You might as well say "aha! the number three! we have to take the third letter from each sentence!" Without significant, corroborating evidence, going down a complicated rabbit hole that may or may not be a red herring seems a little dubious to me. There are no suspicious references to boxes, no references to doves, no references to copper keys.

The other problem with believing that Chapter 9 is important is that you have got to then assume that chapters 2,3,4,5,6... are also important, and I have been unable so far to draw anything that would relate chapter 1 to any of those in any rational and verifiable fashion.

So in summary, I can see how and why Chapter 9 could be important, but the links that I see between Chapter 1 and 9 (and between Chapter 1 and any other chapter) seem to be very tenuous at best.

Will respond to other parts of your post later, where we assume that chapter 9 IS important...

7. So let's assume that Chapter 9 (and Chapter 10, since the keys are used there too) are important for solving chapter 1's silver eagle. I'm not fully on board with this assumption yet, but let's go with it...

I'm going to critique your post above, but I want to make it clear that it's with total respect for you... The total lack of progress in this hunt is dispiriting, and I think it's helpful to discuss this stuff as openly as possible. I think your enthusiasm is exactly what we need more of around here, but I think you're making wrong assumptions at step #1 and then creating an entire universe of thought that is separate from the reality of the hunt.

While the clues that we have been given are IMO inadequate to reach a solution in a practical manner because the given clues allow for thousands upon thousands of choices, I think we need to at least start with the most probable of those choices when working on the solution.

You said:

>> The omega key represents something that is 'last', namely the 'X' of a treasure map.

Well, that's one interpretation. The more obvious and probable interpretation is that the omega key is represented by the clue: "the ghost of cooper past holds your omega key". Because, well, that's the clue they gave us. This interpretation is infinitely more probable than "X of a treasure map".

>> The scratched out key represents something that is 'blank'.

Actually, the key in chapter 9 is not blank. It is a real symbol that has been partly obscured with scratches. A more probable interpretation is that the scratched out key is something you need to determine from clues. Or, you're supposed to look at that picture in chapter 9 and try to work out what the symbol is. Or, there are clues in chapter 9 that tell us what the symbol is.

>> The dove key represents a peace symbol, which is roughly a symbol divided into THIRDS.

A more probable interpretation is that we need to find something that represents "dove", or peace, or something related to peace, or birds, or some analogy (perhaps each chapter has a different animal as its dove key or something). I don't at all see how you get "a symbol divided into thirds" as a probable interpretation for this symbol. There are so many more simpler interpretations. "Thirds", even if something obscure like that was intended, doesn't even make sense, since a peace symbol actually divides a circle into 4 parts, and has 4 lines coming out of the center.

>> The letter J is the tenth letter of the alphabet. (X = Roman 10)
>> The letter O represents a blank.
>> The letter Y, when inscribed upon a circle, divides that circle into THIRDS.

First, I don't see any evidence that the word "Joy" is anything other than an identifier that what you're looking at is a clue. Evidence points to Joy being the fictional name of a person helping out with some clues throughout the book.

Even if "Joy" is a code, you're not being consistent here. It makes no sense to assume that J, O, and Y represent different classes of objects/codes. In all other puzzles in the book, J, O, Y would decode to objects of the same class (usually either letters or numbers). If you're going to say that J=10, then you need to keep going and say that O=15, and Y=25. You cannot logically go from J=10 to "Y's in circles" based on anything else in the hunt. If there's one thing we've learned from the hunt, it's that everything builds on something seen prior.

Otherwise, you can make the letters "JOY" mean anything you want. Using your logic, I could say the following:

J looks like a leg and a foot. Homer Simpson had a leg and a foot.
O represents a donut. Homer simpson liked donuts.
Y is the 25th letter of the alphabet.

So Joy represents the 25th anniversary of The Simpsons! So the pilot episode must be a clue!

I could alternatively make up trillions of other interpretations, where we get Joy representing penguins, wheat threshers, and explosive compounds. That is why consistency in codes is crucial.

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You make a good point that I don't think I've ever made clear:

"One of the fundamental questions about this hunt is, "does information from other chapters help solve C1's silver eagle, or only information from Chapter 1?" "

There is only one mechanism, and it's applied to all the map puzzles.

That's why there's only the single Invisible Ink clue about solving a map. It's not specific for chapter 1--it's the underlying mechanism for all 12 silver eagles. The clues for solving this general mechanism are peppered throughout the book--the three keys of chapter 9 are an example of this. Those three keys in chapter 9 aren't specific for chapter 9's map (at least part of the map puzzle's information is hiding in Q1 of that chapter), but the concept and story of those three keys in chapter 9 are hints at the overall mechanism.

In other words, there's a first, second, and third key hiding in all 12 chapters. The omega, blank, and dove keys are just descriptive of those three keys. There will be an 'omega key, blank key, and dove key' in all 12 chapters representing the first, second, and third keys.

As confusing as it may sound, I think you and Lady Lobster are both correct. The specific clues for solving chapter 1's map are contained within chapter 1, but there are clues about the single overall mechanism spread around the whole book.

In order for this to be correct and logical, the method has to be applied equally over all the chapters. That's actually the way I've been working through the clues. I'm looking at chapters 1, 2, and 3 at the same time.

Using the theory, one has to be able to find four things in a chapter to begin solving a map:

1. The first key: A clue connected to an iteration of 'first' and an 'X' that has an equivalence to the third key.
2. The first part of the second key: A clue connected to a '2', middle, or something missing that has an equivalence to the third key.
3. The second part of the second key: A clue connected to an iteration of 'X2'
4. The third key: A clue connected to an iteration of THIRD.

The clues for the keys appear to be 'gimmes' for the first few chapters.

The text for chapter 2 flat-out tells us that each of the three ex-wives received keys, and the 'American River' was underlined in the questions. It just doesn't get more obvious than that 'IF' you knew that you were looking for these keys.

Can you figure out the clues?

In chapter 3, the THIRD question involves row '3' and is about 'something missing'. I'll bet you can find two different keys hiding there if you know what to look for....

Lobster,

I have no doubts at this point that what I'm doing is correct. When you solve the first puzzle for the actual map sequence of chapter one, a string of approximately 25 letters is generated, and they're all different letters of the alphabet.

Embedded within that string is a plaintext phrase--no anagrams necessary. 'The code to win by is located simply by reading.'

Even though it's low probability, I considered it might be coincidence....

Until you realize it has an exact correspondence to the original puzzle phrase A MORSE X. It's not a duplicate, but they're very much equivalent. First is equal to the last. The first phrase is equal to the last phrase.

Even then, it just MIGHT be a coincidence....

Until you start working on the puzzles for the map sequence. One of the first puzzles you encounter involves creating a cipher key and using it.

What popped out is a carbon copy of the original hidden phrase with one small change that confers the clue for the next step of that particular puzzle.

It's not possible for that to be a coincidence anymore.

I very, very much appreciate any thoughts, ideas, criticisms, counterpoints, etc.

Keep on truckin',

Doc

9. >> "As confusing as it may sound, I think you and Lady Lobster are both correct. The specific clues for solving chapter 1's map are contained within chapter 1, but there are clues about the single overall mechanism spread around the whole book."

I tend to think that this could be likely too. I have always thought that solving just the 20 questions for chapter 1 shouldn't be enough to win a silver eagle. It would make much more sense to only reward people who have read the entire book and discovered secrets throughout it.

The related question is "is reading all 12 chapters sufficient, or do you actually need all 240 ANSWERS to win chapter 1's silver eagle?" That is, do we need to use Chapter 8 and Chapter 11 answers to help solve C1 silver eagle, or is each chapter's answers self contained?

So, I like the idea of a single mechanism, with specifics hidden per chapter. While there is no obvious evidence to suggest that it is this way that I can see, if I were designing such a book, I'd probably craft it in a manner like that. As you point out, the number 3 and keys do pop up periodically through the book. These could be coincidences, or they could be meaningful.

As for chapter 2, we must keep in mind that there are 2 different versions of Chapter 2 out there. They are very different stories (and American River is NOT underlined in the other, I seem to recall). While it has been over a year since I have read and compared both stories, I seem to recall that the stories are completely different, and in the second one any concept of ladies and keys is non-existent. There's more to chapter 2 than meets the eye.

>> "It's not possible for that to be a coincidence anymore. Until you start working on the puzzles for the map sequence. One of the first puzzles you encounter involves creating a cipher key and using it. What popped out is a carbon copy of the original hidden phrase with one small change that confers the clue for the next step of that particular puzzle. It's not possible for that to be a coincidence anymore."

In any case, I completely lose you with the "A MORSE X" thing. There's no way in a million years that I would have ever come up with that, and even after reading what you've written I can't come up with it. Even assuming I could come up with it, I see nothing to do with the phrase.

If what you are suggesting is indeed the answer for chapter 1, then this quest is far too complex and internally inconsistent for my little brain, and I will have to be content reading the book and watching others win eagles!

Good luck, and let us know how you go.

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Lobster,

I think the best thing to do is just show you what I'm working on right now for the chapter 1 map. Don't give up on this--it's really an amazing puzzle, and there's absolutely no way I'd be at this point if you and others like you hadn't helped me solve the 240 questions. I'm just trying to do my part in return.

The puzzle I'm currently working on has these clues:

a. A 'Q segment'
b. Square 2, square 4, and square 5--in that order--from the first soduku grid.

The sequence begins 8 9 6 3 5 8 9 3 7, etc.

The numbers corresponded to the letters of a telephone keypad.

And, of course they matched one of the chapter questions in such a fashion that you KNOW you've done it correctly, and we're given the clues for the next step.

I couldn't make stuff up like that even if I wanted to.

Doc