Spelunker Today and Easy Sally

One of the many ways I misspent my youth was by playing the original Colossal Cave text adventure. A bunch of y'all probably played Zork back in the day, but I always liked Colossal Cave better. Possibly because I played it so much and knew it so well.

Anyway, I was looking for something in old archived files today and I came across a reference to the game, and it occurred to me that I could use the power of the Web to find more information about something I've long wondered about.

In the original (350-point) version of the game, there's a certain place where you find some issues of Spelunker Today magazine. If you try to read the magazines, you're told: "I'm afraid the magazine is written in dwarvish."

But in one of the first two versions I played (either the Logical Business Machines version or the version on the Stanford computers, in the late 1970s or early 1980s), you could find a Dwarvish/English dictionary elsewhere in the caves. And if you read the magazine with the dictionary on hand, there was a poem that provided hints for the game.

The only bits that I remember went something like this (Note: Spoilers for the game here):

[something something], take my advice

Say Giant words and go there twice;

You may believe my words are droll,

But that's the way to fool the troll.

If maze-confusion is in your head,

Remember: Easy Sally says she never even entertains newly-weds.

I thought at the time that this was a standard part of the game, but no subsequent version that I've encountered includes the poem. (Though there is another version that includes the dictionary, and gives you a couple paragraphs of non-hint prose when you read the magazines with the dictionary's help.)

So, on the off chance that there's someone out there who knows something more about this: drop me a note! I'm curious as to (a) what the whole poem said, (b) who wrote it, and (c) which version of the game it was in.

5 Responses to “Spelunker Today and Easy Sally”

  1. SarahP

    Well, I don’t know the answer to the question, never having played that game (I played one that involved wandering around in black-and-white caves without finding anything and then falling into a pit and dying, along with all my quest buddies).

    But I’d love to hear about the dwarven spelunker poetry!!

  2. Anonymous

    Either Woods or Crowther (I think Woods) was teaching at Swarthmore relatively recently and came to a gaming session or two at Greylock. I bet someone’s got contact info for him and could ask.

  3. Jay Hartman

    Jed did not totally misspend his youth playing Colossal Caves. He also miraculously created a game in BASIC on our PET computer, sometime around 1984, that I think we called “Wormy.” Using the cursor keys, you directed your constantly moving worm to gobble up dots, which made your worm longer and harder to maneuver…if the head of your worm crashed into any other part or the “wall,” you were “dead.” I can’t remember if it was an original game or if I asked Jed to create a version of something I had seen somewhere else (or maybe there was some other reason behind it).

    Anyway, his mastery of BASIC seemed almost magical because my BASIC skills (which have not improved since that time) were evidenced by sophisticated programs like the following:

    10 Goto 20
    20 “My brother smells funny.”

  4. Malcolm

    The poem… I know the last part ( If maze-confusion is in your head, Remember: Easy Sally says she never even entertains newly-weds.) is the explaination on how to get out of the maze with “junctions which all look alike”… you use the initial letters S S S N E E N W)… ha ha…

    Now the first time I played this was in about 1975 on a PDP 11 running PTS (paper tape software) and I think the tape came from a US DECuS convension and I recall it was called “Adventure” (not sure about that – it might have been “Dungeon”)

  5. Steve

    I played this a lot on the PDP11 in the 1970’s. In the version from DECUS there was an extra elusive point available. I can’t remember whether it said you have scored 350 out of a possible 351, or whether it was 349 out of 350, but I eventually discovered that the extra point could be gained by leaving Spelunker Today at Witt’s End.


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