David Langford

This puzzle was omitted from The Unseen University Challenge (Gollancz, 1996). Space was tight, the format didn't match the other quizzes, and Terry doesn't like 'logic problems' because he can never do them. A behind-the-scenes quizbook secret is that I wanted the answers printed upside down. Someone at Gollancz decided this was technically impossible. Oh dearie me.

This tale is told by the Riddling Monks:

In a flat, untravelled waste at the heart of the Great Nef, there dwelt five small gods. Each kept a different pet, including a giraffe, a stag-beetle and a Thousand-Limbed Abomination from the Dungeon Dimensions. Once each year on Hogswatchnight they satisfied their godlike need for meaningless ritual by an all-round exchange of pets...

"About time," said the God of Erotica. "I'm sick of this pet's huge smelly droppings falling on me from a great height."

"Same here," intoned the god named Yngvi.

"I insist, as always, on changing to a pet with more legs than my current one," remarked Unprn'ncbl apologetically.

"You gods of Dressmaking are all the same," snapped Wentletrap, forgetting that Unprn'ncbl wasn't a God of Dressmaking. "At least my pet is bigger than Yngvi's..."

"Size isn't important," said the Circumcision deity. "What will Unprn'ncbl do when his more-legs requirement can no longer be fulfilled?"

Unprn'ncbl muttered: "The problem doesn't arise yet."

Vermiculite significantly said nothing. "We've changed round three times now, yet none of us has had the same pet twice," said the God of Astrology with typical eidetic memory and tedious pedantry.

"Perhaps I'll get the Thousand-Limbed Abomination at last," Yngvi responded. "Such a cleanly beast -- unlike these Circumcision and Dressmaking gods."

Amid general uproar, the ceremonial pet-swapping took place and the Dressmaking god's pet was transferred to the Astrology god.

The God of Bee-Keeping noted that in the alphabetical roster of these gods' names, the stag-beetle's new owner appeared next to the former owner of the herring.

All pets possessed their full complement of limbs. Now, o aspiring novice, resolve these enigmas: who had the Pointless Albatross before the swap, and what was Xanthopsia a god of?

Read the answer

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December 1997