by Steve Cook
Answer: COTTONY
Problem:

Each of the tees, links, and holes is a cryptogram clueing a single word or proper noun. The answers to each clue can themselves be encrypted, allowing the player to fill in a single “missing letter” from each cryptogram, providing an additional mapping which can be used for the instructions at the top of the puzzle. There are natural matches between the encrypted tee, link, and hole answers, with the link providing a transformation from tee to hole.

To give a complete example (using dots for unknown letters, to avoid confusion with the links cryptograms):

 decrypt this tee fcdm vitdxdkrm qvkfciv fvdil fk hdb fci fdji xkl sviwfil fci ykvtl qrf jdxcf xif jdbil rg ydfc fci gwgwt mrssimmkv fk xkmgit wrfckv jwva (8) by reversing this cipher abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz → wqslihxcd·atj·kg·vmfr·yb·· to get this plaintext question this religious brother tried to fix the time god created the world but might get mixed up with the papal successor to gospel author mark with the plaintext answer annianus which re-encrypts into ciphertext answer w··dw·rm and completes to woodworm, meaning n → o

 decrypt this hole stllwubtnwq qmubc ytqw lmdy xtnwm ldmswq nemdife fmdibq sdllww hwtbo netn xewb ytqw xwjj eto t lmdne stjjwq smwyt (8) by reversing this cipher abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz → thsqwlfeu·cjybd··moni·x··· to get this plaintext question caffeinated drink made from water forced through ground coffee beans that when made well has a froth called crema with the plaintext answer espresso which re-encrypts into ciphertext answer wo·mwood and completes to wormwood, meaning p → r

 decrypt this link `gleuPN tuevpgg P3 xPkZpJ xlvkg 3tNp Pv e4p Zpp? yPlupZ glJxpv e4te 4pk?pZ rtve tJZ klgt ut?eBvp 4BJZvpZg P3 gJt/pg` (5) by reversing this cipher `abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz` → `truZp3x4l·/kNJP?·vgeBy····` to get this plaintext question sitcom actress of golden girls fame or the deep voiced singer that helped bart and lisa capture hundreds of snakes with plaintext answer white which re-encrypts into ciphertext answer `·4lep` and completes to . . . what?

Each plaintext answer uses exactly one letter which cannot be resolved by examining the clue. For the tees and holes, these can be determined by looking at what words can be made with the available letters from the cipher, but that won’t work for the links. To determine the final piece of each link, the player needs to realize that the links encrypt not into English words but into commands for the Vim text editor. (Vim is a descendant of vi, one of the two major terminal text editors created for Unix, and is still commonly used by programmers today. Its relevance is clued by the Vim-like styling of the Links section, use of “visual” and “vigorous” in the flavortext, and the reference to its famously unintuitive quit command.)

For the example link, some experimentation will confirm that `d4lep`, when entered in Vim’s “normal” or “command” mode, will turn the string “woodworm” into the string “wormwood”. Finding the shortest set of keystrokes to turn source text into a target text is the activity known as Vim golf.

This set of answers now gives the player three mappings: n → o for tees; `w``d` for links; and p → r for holes.

The player can apply this knowledge to the encrypted expression, “nlokumhpcdia → `ybnfbowltowllowlsnfosokitc` → huryimbcnqap”, at the beginning of the puzzle. Apply n → o from the tee to the “n” in the first part, “nlokumhpcdia”. Apply `w``d` to each “w” in “`ybnfbowltowllowlsnfosokitc`”. Apply p → r from the hole to to the p in the final part, “huryimbcnqap”.

Solving and then determining the pairing between each of the twelve holes and tees means each missing mapping from the links can be solved. Applying the mappings to the beginning expression yields decrypted instructions: ontoalphabet → `exb2xldtoldttldtyb2lylpaon` → yieldsanswer.

In Vim, starting with the alphabetic string `abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz`, entering `exb2xldtoldttldtyb2lylpaon` results in `cottony`, the final answer.

Section Decrypted Clue Answer
Teesthis religious brother tried to fix the time god created the world but might get mixed up with the papal successor to gospel author markannianus
Teesecclesiastical term for the sphere of a influence of a bishop or the name for a region run by a roman vicardiocese
Teessetting invented by science fiction novelist le guin for her series of books which includes the other windearthsea
Teesaward winning young adult novel set in florida about a boy named mullet fingers and a flock of burrowing owlshoot
Teesbook by the author of the doors of perception about the inhabitants of a utopian kingdom and their use of entheogensisland
Teeszinedine zidane john charles and cristiano ronaldo have all played soccer for this piedmontese team nicknamed the old ladyjuventus
Teessweetest day the double ninth festival and national vodka day happen during this month of the yearoctober
Teesstewart according to wayne before he shoots liberty valance or a puritan in colonial new england with buckled shoespilgrim
Teesthis term identifies a race ruled by a king betrayed by his servant grima and means equine masters in a language invented by an inklingrohirrim
Teesin a blockbuster disney film series the lord of the brethren court whose vessel was stolen by the villainous hector barbossasparrow
Teespeter firth was the only actor to appear in every episode of this british series about a group of spies based at thames housespooks
Teesone of several corporate groups controlled by magnate branson such as a record label and a spacecraft companyvirgin
Linkstalking pig who wins a sheepdog trial through the power of friendliness and courtesy in a george miller filmbabe
Linksauthor of the football comedy end zone the baseball story pafko at the wall and reportedly the hockey novel amazonsdelillo
Linksbiblical heroine who delivered her people from haman in an act celebrated annually on the fourteenth day of adaresther
Linksair dropped weapon of world war one which has a name derived from a french word for small arrowflechette
Linksa skateboarder who does not ride in regular stance or the cartoon character originally called dippy dawggoofy
Linksboot shaped european nation reigned over by the house of savoy from its founding through the fortiesitaly
Linksthis harold of silent film fame had recognizable round glasses and a penchant for chase scenes and daring stuntslloyd
Linkselbow pasta you might mix with cheddar cheese powder if you like the classic blue box product sold by kraftmacaroni
Linksbritish prime minister during the falklands crisis and the war in which the united states gained independencenorth
Linksluke skywalker had a gold plated helper that was this kind of droid designed for translation and etiquetteprotocol
Linkspseudonym used by the main female character in the spanish television crime drama money heisttokyo
Linkssitcom actress of golden girls fame or the deep voiced singer that helped bart and lisa capture hundreds of snakeswhite
Holessuffragette arrested for voting in rochester or salsa musician whose name sounds like that of a roman triumviranthony
Holesalthough it was landlocked due to territorial losses after the war of the pacific this south american country still has a navybolivia
Holesexamples of this staff of life staple food might include bagels baguettes pita and whole wheat toastbread
Holescaffeinated drink made from water forced through ground coffee beans that when made well has a froth called cremaespresso
Holesice hockey forward for ottawa called the shawville express who also played for the short lived missouri team the eaglesfinnigan
Holescolorfully garbed musical title role played by jason donovan in a london revival and by donny osmond in a film adaptationjoseph
Holesendotherm distinguished from bird or fish by fur plus neocortex plus the production of milk to feed its youngmammal
Holesminneapolis native known for his pop hooks mad guitar skills use of a symbol instead of his name and love of purpleprince
Holesone of the three words in a legal phrase denoting an exchange for value or slang for a pound sterlingquid
Holescomposer of numerous operas such as otello and the one that the lone ranger theme song was taken fromrossini
Holeswhat a set of partners wins by taking two games in the traditional form of contract bridge which is itself named after this entityrubber
Holesthis radioactive substance found in pitchblende is denser than lead and was once used in yellow glazes and glasswareuranium

SectionAnswerEncryptedCompletedMissing LetterMapped Letter
Teesannianusw··dw·rmwoodwormno
Teesdiocese·lindedblindeddb
Teesearthseas·ables·stablestat
Teeshoot·eerpeerhp
Teesislandda·gerdangerln
Teesjuventuss·turd·ysaturdayua
Teesoctoberw·xwingwaxwingca
Teespilgrimmarita·maritalml
Teesrohirrims·ressedstressedot
Teessparroww·ippetwhippetph
Teesspookswill·wwillowko
Teesvirginw·as·lweaselia
Linksbabe·e·PxexPbx
Linksdelillo:s/·//g:s/a//gia
Linksestherr·exrtryexrtsy
Linksflechette:s/in/··/:s/in/oo/to
Linksgoofyyll·pyll2pf2
Linksitaly2ld·e2ldtelt
Linkslloyd!!r·v!!revye
Linksmacaroni2xlxhi·o2xlxhibonb
Linksnorth4·xhP4lxhPol
Linksprotocol:s/l/·/g:s/l/n/gcn
Linkstokyoxe·iexepiekp
Linkswhite·4lepd4lepwd
Holesanthonymartia·martialyl
Holesbolivia·ngeredangeredba
Holesbready·astyeastre
Holesespressowo·mwoodwormwoodpr
Holesfinnigande··ert·dessertsns
Holesjosephsturd·sturdyhy
Holesmammalp·pp·rpepperae
Holesprinceboxi·gboxingcn
Holesquid·hetwhetqw
Holesrossinibloo·e·bloodedid
Holesrubberw·nnowwinnowui
Holesuraniumtablet·tabletsms
TeeLinkHoleRough Translation
stressed!!revdessertsShell out to the “rev” command, reversing the string
woodwormd4lepwormwoodDelete four characters to the right; move to the end; paste after the cursor
saturday:s/a//gsturdyGlobally delete the character “a”
stablestxexPtabletsDelete a character; move to the end; delete a character; paste before the cursor
whippet2ldtewhetMove two characters right, then delete to the “e” character
waxwing2xlxhiboboxingDelete two characters; move right; delete a character; move left; insert “bo”
peeryll2ppepperCopy one character to the right of the cursor; move right; paste twice after the cursor
dangerxepieangeredDelete a character; move to the end; paste after the cursor; insert an “e”
blinded:s/in/oo/bloodedSubstitute “oo” for the first occurance of “in”
weaselryexrtyeastReplace the character under the cursor with “y”; move to the end; delete a character; replace the character under the cursor with “t”
willow:s/l/n/gwinnowGlobally replace “l” with “n”
marital4lxhPmartialMove four characters right; delete a character; move left; paste before the cursor

Each Vim command assumes that the player’s cursor is at the start of the line on which the source word appears and that Vim is in normal mode. (`!!rev` is operating-system-dependent and may not work on Windows computers, but should work for users running Vim in Linux or macOS.) In some cases, there are multiple ways to do the transformation, but alternate answers are excluded by the rules of the cryptogram.