The Sunday Times Clue
This illustration, which first appeared in the Sunday Times on December 21, 1980, was reproduced in the paperback edition of Masquerade, but its solution was not included. It has been mentioned, however, that Mike Barker and John Rousseau–the men who solved the riddle just a few days after Ken Thomas found the jewel via the book’s other clues and a fair amount of luck–also solved this clue and it was a confirmer for them. It stumped me until two friendly folk (Mark Parry and Steven Berry) sent me the method for finding the clue’s message and the message itself.
Keeping in mind that this clue originally appeared on newsprint helps greatly. It’s easily folded and light passes through it. That being the case, the pieces of letters do come together to form fully readable English (well, mostly) if the lower half of the paper is folded in the center (below the third line of symbols) and the entire message is read in a mirror. You can try this yourself if you print out the above drawing, but through the magic of Adobe Photoshop, we can flip ‘n fold the image digitally and reveal the following phrase:
“To do my work, I appointed four men from twenty, the tallest and the fattest, and the righteous follow the sinister.”
Most of this makes sense once you know the solution, but boy, what a tough clue. Both Mark and Steven pointed out that “I A.ED” translates as “I appointed,” which stumped me for a while. I still feel that this hints in a small way toward the “eyes that point toward the prize” concept, as Kit reveals at the end of the paperback, but the phrase largely offers insight as to how the master phrase was created (and how it can be determined by the reader). “Four men from twenty” means four fingers/toes out of the twenty digits on the human body. “The tallest and the fattest” refers to the size of the digits on the hands and feet–use the two longest fingers and the two largest toes. “The righteous follow the sinister” helps you determine the order the letter order/decoding, using the left (sinister) eyes through left fingers & toes first, then the right(eous) ones. The idea of merry men as fingers comes from an old nursery rhyme; for the sake of completion, does anyone know it in full?
Steven Berry and Hyungrok Kim offer a scientific analysis of the fish: The symbol next to the “6000” written on the fish is an ångström, the measurement of light wavelength. 6000 ångströms = 600 nanometres, which corresponds to a reddish orange. “Why am I not surprised to find a red herring on the drawing?” says Steven, while Hyungrok adds “Reddish orange is a more realistic colour for the flesh of certain smoked fish from which the phrase ‘red herring’ derives.”
Chris Cole mentioned that this clue and its solution are described in Bamber Gascoigne’s book Quest for the Golden Hare. It contains a detailed breakdown of this clue, and it provided me with the final unknown element: the importance of the animals surrounding Kit. In sequence, they are a Mouse, Elephant, Rabbit, Reindeer, Yak, Cat, Hedgehog, Rat, Iguana, Snake, Toad, Monkey, Ant, and Snail. The beginning letters of each animal spell out a simple and appropriate message, as it was orignally published on December 21, 1980: MERRY CHRISTMAS. The hare in Kit’s hair is no doubt there just as a visual pun and to keep the “find the hare in every picture” pretense going.