Monday, 25 April 2011

The Key to the Kingdom

Nearly 20 years ago -- it must have been Christmas 1992 -- my father gave my mother a deck of transformation cards. The Key to the Kingdom is a beautiful deck, featuring illustrations by acclaimed artist Tony Meeuwissen based on popular (and obscure) nursery rhymes. It's quite lovely in its own right, the deck accompanied by a little book containing illustrations of every card and each corresponding rhyme, but by virtue of a separate poem and short narrative there is also a mystery to solve.

Now, my family has rather a habit of solving puzzles at Christmas, although usually they are of the jigsaw kind. (And my personal favourites are the ones that have associated mysteries.) I recall we applied much energy to searching for the solution to The Key to the Kingdom, for which there was a cash prize to be awarded. After much brow-furrowing and nailbiting we failed on that occasion, alas, and never did discover the solution. The cards were laid aside and rarely thought of again . . .

. . . until they were recently discovered on the 'clearance' pile resulting from the latest decluttering purge, and my father decided we should make another attempt. The cards were thus rescued and transported to Phillip Island to await the next family house party. Which brings me to this Easter. On Saturday night, imbued with new resolve, armed with google, and bolstered by an accomplished puzzle-solving husband/son-in-law/brother-in-law, five of us tackled the mystery held within the cards.

The only clues are held in an 18-line poem which suggests there are 14 cards that need to be identified (by solving puzzles within the poem) and used to find the solution. We found most of the 14 fairly straightforward to isolate, but a few challenged us. Then it was a matter of figuring out how to use the 14 cards. I will say no more on that here, in case you want to solve the mystery yourself, but a full solution can be found here.

We got a lot closer to finding the solution this time, but ultimately we did make use of google, a resource not available to us back in 1992/1993. Mainly we used google to find out the meaning of specific words and phrases in the riddle-poem -- which I don't consider cheating -- but then we found the above-mentioned worked solution online that allowed us first to confirm our 14 cards, and ultimately helped us crack the code.

We were close though, really close. And perhaps with more patience (or without google on-hand to lead us astray) we might have solved it without resorting to underhand tactics. Nevertheless, we had a great night applying our brains, with each of our different perspectives contributing to the whole. After all these years of not knowing and wondering, I feel a satisfying sense of closure.

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