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Backwards into a Method

There's often a disconnect between the method intended by the puzzle maker and the method used by the person who solves the puzzle. Let's take the rebus puzzle in the February Panting as a case study:

As we all know, there are three items that make up the solution to the rebus puzzle:

  1. Mill stone

  2. Walking Stick

  3. Key

Together they produce: MILL - WALK - KEY or Milwaukee.

We implicitly discard all of the other items: two balls (for the second month), Primrose flower, and a Gem. The common theme is that all of these items correspond to the month associated with the painting, i.e. February. By discarding the items related to the month theme, we reveal the items required for the rebus.

The next thing that we do -- implicitly -- is re-order the items. Generally we read left-to-right and clockwise. For this rebus, we have to start on the right and move to the left, counter clockwise.

We see that the gaze of the juggler is directed at the mill stone. We can take this as an instruction for which item to start with. There doesn't seem to be anything directing us read the remaining items counter clockwise.With only two items left to choose from, we can pretty much work the rest of the rebus by process of elimination, which may have been the intention.

The key takeaways:

  1. The month theme isn't just for the gem/immigration connection, it's important to the puzzle at large

  2. There may be methods intended by the puzzle maker, that we gloss over, even though we still arrive at the right answer.

  3. There are instructions in the paintings that will give us the information need to solve the puzzles in the painting

Can we apply this thinking to other paintings?

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Unknown member
Jan 13, 2022

I have been wondering if the rebus items are related to the verse, and how it should be interpreted. As for the other juggled items, I like the idea of the balls resembling the cut outs on the ravine bridge, and I think the gems placement may hint at the casques location.

The rebus items from the perspective of the order the items left the jugglers hand, are in the correct order. From the static perspective of the painting, they are backwards. As you suggested, perhaps signaling that there is more than just city name. Taken with the idea that the verse could be broken into sections with the use of the juggling term pass, may suggest the way …


Jan 10, 2022

Although the painting is static, it implies motion. I think the items are being tossed clockwise (to the viewer). So, although we are to read MILL + WALK + KEY from right to left, the juggler would see them pass before her (his?) eyes in the correct order if they move clockwise to the viewer. Your idea is intriguing. If removing the month-related items helps reveal a clue in this puzzle, perhaps removing them in other puzzles will do something similar. It's possible the month items are not meant to be simply represented; we are intended to DO something with them. Like Fenix did with the Roanoke image.

Jan 10, 2022
Replying to

that's a great point following the "line of sight". the motion of the items does imply that the juggler would see the mill stone, then the walking stick, then the key. that's awesome!

all of the discussion around the importance of the month elements sort of spurred from our discussions about the "nudge". I wish I had come up with that Roanoke idea! it makes so much sense, I think Fenix nailed it.

the idea of doing something with the month items, or thinking about what they're "telling" us, is worth investigating and trying to apply against some of the other paintings. Who knows what we may have missed by jumping straight to the end?

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