Hints for The Dead-Letters Affair

"Amazing, Holmes!" I cried, after Lord Fortescue had rushed off. "I cannot see how you did it! I don't see anything in the letters that points out the three locations you mentioned!"

"Indeed, Watson? This I find difficult to believe. Why, the Sultan's communications give us ample points from which to determine the sites. I am sure that you see these. Think about the points mentioned in the letters again, Watson -- and consider each more carefully this time, perhaps. If you are yet unable to fetch out the Sultan's many clues, then perhaps when Lord Fortescue next visits us I can assist you both in solving the conundrum." With this, Holmes chuckled a bit in obvious appreciation of the Sultan's talents, and thereupon sat, beginning to read the book he had selected before our guest's arrival.

So I did as Holmes suggested, and I made for myself a list of what I saw were the clues that the Sultan had mentioned in his dispatches. After a solid half-hour's work, I was prepared to show this list to Holmes to see if I was on the right track.

I presented him with the following list:

  1. Knowing the Sultan as we do, I surmise that he means for us to locate him and his ministers using the Diplomacy board. Each of the three is doubtless at one of the named locations on the board. He also says that "no mobilization of forces" has occurred. Does this mean that the board should be considered to be in its initial (pre-1901) position?

  2. All travel must be done using military escort, and the Sultan says that both his ministers could be accommodated. I take this to mean that the ministers are both in a currently occupied location.

  3. The Sultan says further that the military escorts to be used by his ministers are both of the same type. This certainly means that either both are armies or both are fleets.

  4. The Sultan, himself, is also situated with military escort. I take this to mean he is also in an occupied location.

  5. The two ministers will arrive at the Sultan's location simultaneously. Evidently, both are the same number of moves away from his location (both taking the quickest possible route, as instructed)?

  6. It takes longer for one of the ministers to reach the other minister than it would take him to reach the Sultan. I'm still not quite sure what significance can be attached to this.

  7. However, the two could meet at one of the ministers' offices quicker than they can meet at the Sultan's location. This is an obvious clue, I suppose, but I know not what to make of it.

I must say that when Holmes saw my list, he was quite pleased. I positively beamed when he exclaimed, "Excellent, Watson! You have summarised nearly all of the clues that the Sultan provided! And your analysis of each one is quite correct! Well done!"

After I had thanked Holmes for his kind words, my smile of pride disappeared, replaced again by a most puzzled look. "I am happy to know I am following the correct road, Holmes, but to be honest, I do not see that I am much further along. I still wonder at how the next deduction is made."

How about you? Can you take it from here? Consider each clue carefully, and consider what they mean taken together (especially the final three that Watson listed). If you are hot on the trail, then when you're done, be sure to mail your answers to The Pouch! If you're still stuck, read on. Watson continues his investigations, with Holmes's assistance.

Back to the puzzle....