or the past few weeks, an unknown entity has snuck into the Ask the Lions column to leave strange, cryptic clues for the eagle-eyed readers to solve. The hunt has now ended, and in this article we will be looking at the solutions to the puzzles, and we will step behind the scenes to reveal the secrets behind them...

Puzzle 1: Ask the Lions - week 25

11110 / 0110 Duh brx uhdgb?
Thus ran the first message that started it all, and it’s by far the simplest one to solve! These ciphers are some of the more well-known ones; the former is written in binary numbers, and the latter is using the Caesar, or shift, cipher. Binary numbers use two numbers (1 and 0) instead of 10 (0-9) to label numbers: 0=0, 1=1, 2=10, 3=11 et cetera. When using the Caesar cipher, you simply shift (thus the other name) the letters up or down to the next letter in the alphabet, according to the key. If the key is 1, A=B, B=C, C=D et cetera. In the cipher above, the key is C3 (Caesar 3), which means A=D, B=E, C=F et cetera. Here’s the solved cipher:
30 / 6 Are you ready?
That’s the warmup done, now you can prepare for the real puzzles! These ones are slightly more complicated.

Puzzle 2: Ask the Lions - week 26

9 23-1-14-20 20-15 16-12-1-25 1 7-1-13-5 23-9-20-8 25-15-21 1 16-18-9-26-5 1-23-1-9-20-19 20-8-5 6-9-18-19-20 23-8-15 6-9-14-4-19 13-5 23-8-5-14 1-13 9 23-8-5-18-5 1-13 9 6-15-12-12-15-23 20-8-5 20-18-1-9-12 12-5-6-20 9-14 20-8-5 12-9-15-14 19 4-5-14 9-14 20-8-5 3-15-13-9-14-7 23-5-5-11-19 1-14-4 19-5-5-11 20-8-5 16-1-19-19-23-15-18-4 8-9-4-4-5-14 23-9-20-8-9-14 15-14-12-25 20-8-5-14 3-1-14 9 2-5 19-5-5-14
The first real cipher is also not particularly difficult to solve, if you know what you are working with. This cipher is a simple numbers cipher, where numbers replace ordinary letters, and are strung together to create a message. 1=A, 2=B, 3=C et cetera. You might have been able to figure it out by noticing none of the numbers exceed 26, the number of letters in the alphabet! Here’s the solution:

Puzzle 3: Ask the Lions - week 27

Ahmed Edwin heir, Vigenere asks: In hills yonder the crystalline heart of fire, Near where hewers fled through icy slopes, Bleats of younglings mingle with the battle cries of warriors, Under the mighty name of those who raised them. Bk tir jxaed ttf Jrdemy tn fii Nwlb fydqs xyw Mwhpruok Cazpe lbawi.
The difficulty is rising steadily, now you have already learned about a few ciphers, and now there’s a riddle baked into the mix. But before we even start tackling the riddle, let’s talk about the sender’s name; Ahmed Edwin heir, Vigenere. Though strictly not useful to solving the puzzle, the name Ahmed Edwin heir is an anagram. Anagrams are words that have been scrambled, the letters have been shifted elsewhere to create new words. Vigenere, on the other hand, is not part of this anagram, but is instead a clue that solves the puzzle below it. A Vigenere cipher is a kind of cipher that requires a password to enable you to crack it, and is by itself a variation of the already familiar Caesar cipher. Instead of moving every letter to the same key, however, the value of the key is different for each letter, and the only way to find the correct one is to input the password. To use the above cipher as an example, let’s try to find the password to the cipher at the bottom of this entry. The poem in the center is key to finding the password. It is, by itself, not actually encrypted, but is instead a riddle. We want to find the correct set of letters in one word that can then be applied to the Vigenere cipher. Let’s start with the first line, “In hills yonder the crystalline heart of fire”. This is a reference to the mountains of Ironforge. The heart of Ironforge is a colossal diamond, a crystalline structure, suspended in molten lava within the mountain. “Near where the hewers fled through icy slopes” refers to Gol’bolar quarry; to hew is to cut, usually wood, or in this case, stone. The quarry was evacuated following a trogg invasion from the depths, forcing the hewers to flee, through icy Dun Morogh. “Bleats of younglings mingle with the battle cries of warriors,” refers to a tradition upheld in Dwarvish lands since time immemorial; the breeding of bleating rams that will eventually grow into battle-hardened warmounts used by heroes among the dwarves. “Under the mighty name of those who raised them.” gives us the final clue we need: the name of those who breed rams, near Gol’bolar Quarry, in the mountains of Ironforge. The answer here is Amberstill, of the Amberstill Ranch. Now that we have the password, we can start solving the cipher by using this table: With the password AMBERSTILL, the first letter in the cipher is corresponding to the letter A, the second to the letter M, the third to B, et cetera. Once each letter has been used, the password repeats itself; AMBERSTILLAMBERSTILLAMBERSTILL. Solving for the cipher, we end up with this answer:
Where am I hidden, Vigenere asks: In hills yonder the crystalline heart of fire, Near where hewers fled through icy slopes, Bleats of younglings mingle with the battle cries of warriors, Under the mighty name of those who raised them. = Amberstill By sea rests the Fallen in the West under the Towering Light above.
And here we get another riddle! This one proved to be quite cryptic, and perhaps not so easily solved. Let’s pick it apart. “By sea” clearly references the sea, so we are looking at a location by the sea. “rests the Fallen” indicates that this is a place of rest for the dead, “in the West” clearly references this to be located somewhere in the west. “under the Towering Light above” can be interpreted in many ways - but it was meant to be taken very literally, underneath a Towering Light - or a Light Tower, also known as a lighthouse. Some confusion can also be cleared up here, the riddle never clarified exactly where in the world we were supposed to look. There are many lighthouses by the sea in the west, but most of them aren’t famously known to also house the dead. The Stormwind Harbour Lighthouse, however, is famous for having an unmarked grave on its isle, and this was the intended location. Admittedly, we let this one slip a bit; we should have clarified that it was to be located in Stormwind. Even the puzzle builders are still learning!

Puzzle 4: Ask the Lions - week 28

If the last 3 ciphers were too hard for you, you might as well give this a skip.
Yfooaruci eoadul srm eaeanid,gy h itknhn etwwhi elW lHl EiaRgsEhc,te naodnf d a ttnh oetw h meyo otpuhe eakrkn oaownf d W tHhhEeeNr . t cwThehilelv deG.-1
Here we have yet another new type of cipher, but not accompanied by a riddle this time! The introductory text is instead hinting at what kind of cipher we are looking for, and the two words we want to keep an eye out for this time are “skip” and “3”. A “skip” cipher is a kind of anagram where you have to skip (thus the name) a few letters ahead, according to the numbered key, to find the next letter in the word. The key in this case is 3, which means that you need to skip every three letters. You may also notice the number -1 at the end: this indicates where you should start, in this case, with the letter #1 in our cipher. It is also worth mentioning that you need to count empty spaces and symbols to solve this cipher. With all this knowledge, we can start solving!
You already knew WHERE, and now you know WHEN. The G1orious eighth will ascend at the peak of the twelve-faced man, in the light of the mother and her child.
Ah, another riddle! This one can also be difficult to solve by itself, and involves some cryptic clues. Cryptic clues are puzzles in of themselves that require you to be creative to make connections between words that you would otherwise not use the same way in that context. We can skip the first sentence in this cipher, as it references former puzzle pieces. “The Glorious eighth” is in reference to the eight month of the year, August, a word which may also be translated into Glorious. “the twelve-faced man” references the clock, whose face is of course divided into twelve segments, “in the light of the mother and her child” then draws your attention to it being night; the mother and her child referencing our moons, the White Lady and the Blue Child. Now, armed with the knowledge that something is happening at the peak of the twelve-faced man, at night, we now know that the time is midnight. We also know what date we are waiting for; the Glorious eighth’s ascension is of course when July turns to August: thus July 31st / August 1st, at midnight!

Puzzle 5: Ask the Lions - week 29-30

Initially, they came together to speak their secret message. WHY WHERE WHEN Use what you have learned so far…
12-13-22-15-5-5-14 12-5-20-5-19-18-18-15-1 I see him everywhere I go. Always in the corner of my eye... never in focus. Is he following me, or am I walking in his footsteps? Both, mayhaps. It is he who has given me this charge, this... curse. The question thunders in the crevices of my skull, and I cannot release it for more than just a moment. I have to know, but... there is no one to ask, because no one knows the answer. Is a question without an answer worth anything at all?... Remember everything you have learned on the way, that is the only way you can truly solve this puzzle. The answer is the question.
And we’re finally in the endgame. We’re bundling these final two weeks together, because the former acts as a hint to show you how to solve the latter. Before we go into the hints, let’s look at the ciphers themselves. Readers would have noticed a strange new picture going into week 30 of the column, with icons of the heads of many different peoples and creatures of Azeroth and beyond. In addition to that, a curious reader has sent in a cryptic message, ending with “the answer is the question”. This is where the hints come in handy, and has of course also been repeated helpfully in the end, “remember everything you have learned on the way”. What have we learned? WHY, WHERE, WHEN references earlier puzzles, with the exception of the warmup round: the numbers cipher, the Vigenere cipher, and the skip cipher. In order to crack this nut, we’re going to use these same three techniques! Now it’s all about figuring out where to apply them, but we still haven’t figured out what’s up with the picture. Thankfully, there is another hint that will help us solve it: “initially, they came together to speak their secret message”. We are again encouraged to read this literally. “They” reference the many faces we can see on the image, who “came together” in the form of words, “to speak their secret message” - and we can identify this message by using the initials of each of these faces. This is handily also hinted at in the image itself: where one would usually read “ASK THE LIONS'', one instead reads A(rakkoa)S(uccubus)K(obold) T(roll)H(uman)E(thereal) L(ich)I(nfernal)O(rc)N(aaru)S(uccubus). Using this, we can solve the image cipher:
hvb mk qawff imsytvy
Oh, that didn’t get us very far. This must be one of the other ciphers, but which one is it? There are no numbers, so we can’t run it through the numbers cipher. We can attempt to use the skip cipher, but we’re not making a lot of progress here. The process of elimination leaves us with one option; this has to be a Vigenere cipher, but we have no password yet! Let’s leave this one for now, and come back to it later. The message below the image was sent by a mysterious person, whose name has been rendered in numbers! This is a pretty clear indicator that we’re applying the numbers cipher here, and then we get:
More scrambled letters, but we are one step closer to solving the cipher, for this particular line has been encoded twice. We have now converted the numbers back into letters, and we can try to apply another cipher onto it. We already identified the Vigenere cipher in the image, so let’s try to use the skip cipher again. The number three has been prevalent so far, so why don’t we try to apply that? Here’s the result.
Aha! That looks like a password, if I ever saw one. We can try to solve the Vigenere cipher with this, and if we put it in correctly, the message we get is…
Who is Cosmo Ironpen
And now, we have solved all of the puzzles! The answer, after all, is the question, and this undoubtedly a question. Let’s take a few steps back, to look at everything in its totality. The message we received in the second puzzle tells us that we need to find someone at a specific time, at a specific date, and give them the answer they were looking for. WHERE: Stormwind Lighthouse WHEN: Midnight to August 1st PASSWORD: Who is Cosmo Ironpen? But you may have some more questions. We conveniently ignored a big bulk of text in the final puzzle, and while you could consider it to be a red herring, it may just be part of a bigger mystery. Is this the question this person has been wracking their brain over, and if so, what does it all mean? Halite Rocksalt, secretary of the Lion’s Roar and administrator of the Ask the Lions column went to the Stormwind Lighthouse at the prescribed time, and met the elusive man behind the puzzles, a man that may be more mysterious than the puzzles he has been adding to the paper. At the time, no one else had appeared to claim his prize… and so, before he reveals his identity and the secrets he is hiding, there will be one more puzzle to solve.