Two months later, Holmes was storming in circles around his favorite table at the Calhamer Club.
"You mean nobody has solved the puzzle, Watson?" Holmes inquired.
Somewhat fearfully, I admitted that nobody had even submitted a solution, correct or otherwise.
"It seems that my challenges are too difficult for this readership," said Holmes.
"But you provided a hint, Holmes... three in fact!" I replied.
"Then the logical explanation is that my puzzles are found uninteresting by the readers. This is even more disheartening. Watson, get me that address for The Strand. I have a letter to draft."
I swallowed hard. Holmes was referring to a standing offer given by The Strand to have him write for them, and it seemed that he intended to take up their offer. This would surely not leave him with any spare time in which to continue his consulting work as a diplomat, and so I began to argue with him.
"Then why were there no solutions given?" Holmes interrupted at one point. "The Sultan sent a letter and a story. The letter gave instructions for delivery of a payment, though the details of the instructions were subtly scattered throughout the letter. The story contained information that would allow the reader to determine the destinations for the delivery. Given the two, one can deduce both the Sultan's location and the path by which the delivery should be made."
"The challenge you introduced may simply have seemed too great at first glance," I replied.
"But if they were not able to unravel the secret of the Sultan's story, I gave them a clue as to hidden meaning of the story. If that were not enough and they weren't able to find the hidden meaning, I allowed you to show them my copy of the story which I had marked up. From that, the Sultan's location could be deduced."
"Holmes," I said calmly, "You should not assume that everyone works as quickly as you do. First of all, people may not have taken the time to do that, even after your hints were provid..."
"But if they could not deduce the Sultan's location," Holmes interrupted, "it was given to them so that they could still deduce the path for the delivery from the letter -- a much easier conundrum!"
"I realize that, but as I was saying, not everyone works as quickly as you do and people may still be working on the puzzle."
Holmes paused, and thought silently.
I continued: "Give people a little more time. It's June now, let them a while longer, and you can make your decision about The Strand later on. Their offer will not vanish, you know."
He thought a little more and then agreed. "Very well. We shall give them another try and see what happens. Perhaps you should publish a few more hints, Watson, although frankly I confess that I do not truly comprehend the need."
I agreed that more help would be a good idea, since I myself had foundered quickly when trying to reproduce Holmes's work, and had never taken it up again after my utter failure. So I then asked Holmes exactly what I should provide to my readership, and in response, he began as follows: "Let me see, Watson. Ah, yes. I recall the puzzle completely now. Quite a clever chap, that Sultan of Suwat! But I digress. Take this down, if you will."
"The Sultan stated that he had a list of European locations from which he chose his holiday destination, and that we should pay closer attention to what he didn't write than to what he did. From these pieces of information, and the obvious fact that he was embedding anagrams in his story, I identified all of the standard Diplomacy locations which he had gone to the trouble of listing in his clever anagramatical way in the story. The remaining locations -- that is, those which were not provided in the story as anagrams -- formed his list of potential vacation spots. I imagine that your readers should not have any difficulty arriving at this same list, especially if they use my marked-up copy of the story, which gives away the location of all the anagrams."
"Indeed, Holmes," I responded, knowing that this was just the type of thing needed to stoke the fire beneath my readership. "Do go on."
"Ah, one other thing, Watson -- I recall that the Sultan was very particular about the fact that his location (and indeed, all of his potential vacation locations!) was on the European continent. I recollect that from this piece of information that I was able to further reduce the list of sites by removing from it two of the locations which were not anagrammed, since neither of these two is located on the European continent."
I realized that this was an important piece of information, and I had to stop him. "Pause a second, Holmes, while I get this down." To Holmes, all is so elementary that he often does not think to relate the true essentials of a matter, and he rushes forward before my weaker mind can properly attend him. After scribbling furiously, I signaled to my friend, and he continued.
"There were ample clues in the preamble to the story which enabled me to identify Greece as the location of the Sultan. It was the only location in the list which satisfied all of the stated requirements in that preamble. With the list of locations, your readers could surely scour the Sultan's letter to the Queen as I did, and cull out the requirements which I speak of as pinpointing him in Greece."
"I imagine so, Holmes," was my response. "And I am sure, armed with this additional bit of assistance, that many will now do so."
"Let us hope so, Watson. I had rather continue exploring cases such as this than I would turn my hand to the writing of historical novellae, but if my experiences are not well-read or thought-provoking, I may yet put you out of business by accepting the offer from The Strand."
"Perish the thought, Holmes! Pray continue with your elucidation."
"There is not that much more to tell, Watson. All that remained for me was to deduce the proper route by which the emissary was to travel from here in England to faroff Greece. I remember that the letter made reference to the impending arrival of the turn of the century. From this, I deduced that he meant that the English units should be set up on a Diplomacy board in their standard pre-1901 positions. (No other nation is mentioned, of course, and so only the English units should be placed on the board.) The Sultan also mentioned that the emissary should travel with an army, and so I quickly identified the Liverpool unit as the emissary. (You'll remember that my initial instruction was to send the real-life emissary to Liverpool and to put him in the travelling charge of Her Majesty's most capable general then stationed at that place.)"
Throughout Holmes's talk, I was writing furiously, but he seemed not to notice.
"The Sultan stated that his emissary preferred to travel by sea whenever possible, so I deduced that when a convoy was possible, it must be taken. However, the army cannot sit around waiting for fleets to show up to effect a convoy, because the Sultan said that the absolute fastest route possible must be taken. However -- and this is important -- he further detailed that en route, the emissary must visit each and every one of the on-continent locations from the list of his potential vacation sites."
"It became, then, a matter of simply determining the quickest route which the army in Liverpool could take to reach Greece while traveling through the other locations in the list, and taking convoys whenever possible without delaying his arrival in Greece. Surely your readers would relish trying their hand at this simply stated puzzle, and that is why I was aghast when you told me that there have been no such attempts!"
"Well, Holmes, I must admit that when you hear it stated thus, it does seem a more accomplishable feat. I must ask, though, before submitting this to the magazine, if this is the full extent of the details which my readers will need?" With this, I laid my pen down, rubbed my aching wrist, and began to consider how best to rewrite the notes that I had just scribed into a format acceptable for publication in The Diplomatic Pouch.
"Yes, Watson, I believe that this is indeed the complete puzzle, laid bare as it were." However, after a pause, and speaking in a low voice almost as if to himself, he added: "Of course, there is the single additional stipulation that only one new center may be taken in each year by the English units, and that all builds must be taken in the same center...but these restrictions are so plainly evident from the Sultan's letter that I doubt your readers need to be reminded of them."
I silently disagreed, and opened my now-folded notepaper to add this important detail.
With that, Holmes sat down at the table and began an entirely different conversation on the topic of a recent murder he was called in to investigate by Scotland Yard.
I nodded absentmindedly as I pulled from a sheaf of paper and began to rewrite my notes into an invitation for interested readers to make another attempt at unraveling The Hunt For The Venison Camper.
-- Dr. John H. Watson
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