Mind Trap – Subterra

Leaving the strange ruins behind him, Ryan descended slowly into the enfolding darkness. The afternoon sun was going to set soon, and without any light source, Ryan decided to go as far down the stairs as he could. Placing his right hand on the wall, he focused his attention on the steps, hand feeling along the uneven wall, careful not to blunder and fall down.

Nearing the steps where he could no longer see very much beyond them, his right hand encountered a protrusion. He looked up and made out what appeared to be a rusty metal ring set in the rough stone wall. Several things clicked in his mind from reading medieval stories and adventures.

“Torch bracket!” he thought.

He felt around the torch bracket and felt the reassuring smoothness of a cylindrical object held loosely in its embrace. Much too cylindrical. It was also plastic instead of wood.

“What the?”

“You idiot! You gave him an electric torch?”
“I’m sorry, I panicked ok?”

Turning the flashlight curiously in his hands, Ryan found the on-off switch. And flicked it on.

“Hey, it works!”

“Why don’t you throw him a laptop too?”
“I said I was sorry, didn’t I?”

Beaming at his unexpected good fortune, Ryan decided to ignore the question of what a modern torch was doing in a place like that. Waving the flashlight to his left, he found … nothing. There was nothing beyond the left side of the stairs. Ryan shuddered from the disastrous possibility he averted by using the right wall to guide his descent.

He looked at the sunlit entrance behind him. Chasing darkness away with his flashlight, he peered at the seemingly unending flight of steps descending in front of him. He gave a sigh.

“Here we go.”

The illumination from the flashlight was weak. Ryan could barely see a few steps in front of him. He didn’t have any spare batteries, and there weren’t any around the torch bracket. Despite the possibility that the flashlight might give out at any moment, Ryan still proceeded carefully. One step, two step, three step…

And then a click sounded in the silence. Ryan froze. His left foot landed on a step that submerged slightly. A whimper escaped his mouth. Heart pounding, yet too afraid to lift his foot, he squeezed his eyes shut and waited in the deathly quiet.

“I thought I told you to take that thing out.”
“It adds excitement, don’t you think?”

After several seconds, a soft crackle was heard from his left. Ryan instinctively hunched down a little. When the expected flying spears or spikes or whatever unpleasant surprise didn’t happen, he risked a peek. A crack appeared in the air, blue light streaming out of it. Then it was gone in a second.

Taking in air in ragged breaths, Ryan quickly pointed the flashlight at his left foot. Still there. He looked up ahead, and saw a faint orange glow. He pointed the flashlight at the steps before him, and made a decision. He took a deep breath and started bounding down the steps, two or three at a time, towards that questionable yet hope-giving orange light.

He reached the bottom of the stairs quickly. The right stair wall joined up with a wall in front of him. Ryan turned to his left and found the source of the orange light, a real fire burning torch in a torch bracket this time. It was at the end of a corridor, perhaps 12, 15 metres long.

He walked slowly towards the torch, not daring to run. Several nerve-wracking moments later, he stood at the end of the corridor. Another corridor branched to the right. As Ryan turned, he noticed some writings carved into the stone below the torch.

His army’s SIZE was PUNY,
And he’s said to be loony.
His troops fell, FORTY to EIGHT.
So tell me, was that his fate?

There’s another seemingly senseless set of carvings beneath that poem.


Shrugging with confusion, Ryan turned to move along the corridor on his right. Up ahead was what appeared to be a brightly lit large room. Realising that he’s still pointing the flashlight in front of him, Ryan switched it off and placed it in his pocket, since there’s enough light to see.

As he walked along that corridor, there was a noticeable drop in temperature. Ryan shivered. Near the end of the corridor, he saw two bronze statues, armoured with helms, chest plates and wielding in a raised position, the ugliest pain inflicting weapons he had ever seen. It looked like a sword, with two hooks at the end. Ryan wondered what a weapon like that would do to him, then realised it would do as much damage sliding into his body as it would do coming out.

Imagining the statues hammering down on him while he’s passing through, Ryan backed up a little. Then proceeded at a run and made a mad dash through to the room, rolling into a ball and laid on the floor in a foetal position. No sound and movement from the statues. Ryan got up and dusted himself off.

“I hate this place.”

He looked around the room. Three torches burned in the middle of the left, right and front walls of the room. At the corners furthest away from the corridor were two stone statues, a goat on the right corner and a lion on the left. Ryan turned around and saw a dragon statue on the right corner and a tall smooth plaque on the left. There appeared to be writings on the plaque, so he moved towards it to investigate.

There were two rows of numbers at the top:


Then there’s a drawing of a fire symbol in the middle, and this below it:


Confused again, Ryan looked around the room. Dead end.

“There’s got to be something here,” he consoled himself. “Some brick panel, or contraption or…”

Ryan looked up and grinned. “Or puzzle.”

What should Ryan do?

The answer will be published here in a comment a week after, or when a reader submits an answer. I think I cut off the fun too soon for the last puzzle, so I’m going to wait a few days first, even if a reader answers correctly.

When you submit an answer, please include your reasoning too. Part of the fun of giving the answer is explaining it. Anyone can come up with an answer. Not everyone can fully explain it though. Oh man, I hope I gave sufficient clues…

No torches were harmed in the writing of this puzzle. Flashlights and batteries each sold separately.

[UPDATE: There were no takers for this puzzle. So I answered my own puzzle. View answer.]

  1. Vincent Tan

    Was the puzzle too hard? Or too obscure? Hmm…

    Ok, so there are actually 2 puzzles here. The first is the poem. The poem doesn’t really mean anything, though it took me some time to get it to rhyme. 🙂 So the important parts were “SIZE was PUNY” and “FORTY to EIGHT”. What you need to do is literally read SIZE as PUNY and change FORTY to EIGHT. Look at it this way:


    If you see an “S”, change it to “P”. You see a “Z”, change it to “N”. The “FORTY to EIGHT” part has nothing to do with math. It’s a simple encryption method known as substitution cipher.

    Since I used SIZEFORTY to encrypt, then PUNYEIGHT is the decryption key. Going back up, “KYTUPEGINY” becomes “KEYISFROZE”. “Y” in “PUNY” is “E” in “SIZE”, “T” in “EIGHT” is “Y” in “FORTY” and so on. So the “KEY IS FROZE”. “K” has no equivalent in the encryption, so it’s taken to be the same (no encryption done on it), still “K”.

    Grammatically speaking, it should be “KEY IS FROZEN”. Since it’s assumed to be grammatically correct, therefore there should be implicit quotes around the word “FROZE” for it to make sense. Hence, the key (word) is the word “FROZE”.

    Next, we come to the second puzzle. I gave a small clue, the 2 sets of numbers.

    You will note that the second row has the rest of the digits appended to the first row, in numerical order. So it’s like the order is 1234567890, but you take out 935 and put them at the start. Maybe this clue really is a bit obscure…

    So, the key is “FROZE”. We do another leap in deduction, and use it in the alphabetical order. So we have:


    Since the first row is used to encrypt, the second row is used to decrypt. “R” in bottom row is “P” in upper row, “B” in bottom row is “R” in upper row, and so on.

    And in the end, you’ll get “PRESSLIONTONGUE”. So Ryan should press the lion’s tongue (the statue).

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