The spooky app no one has solved!

Do Not Believe His Lies.

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it?

It’s the name of an app that has baffled solvers for more than a year with increasingly complex riddles, puzzles, and challenges.

It starts out simply, with the messages “We were expecting you,” “Your journey begins now,” “We await you on the other side,” and “Good luck” in simple white text on an otherwise pitch black screen.

From the very start, it’s an evocative presentation. It sets the mood immediately.

Then the first puzzle starts. You have to find a code word or phrase hidden on the screen (which is easy if your phone or computer’s brightness is turned all the way up.) When you input the code “The first time,” you get the second puzzle, which is in Morse Code and reads “I saw him there.”

The next puzzle was a scrambled grid, similar to the tile-shifting games many puzzlers know. One player inverted the colors, printed out the puzzle, cut it into squares and solved it that way, leading to this solution:

“The first time I saw him there, I was just a child.”

Here’s where the Halloween-appropriate element emerges. Each solution to these puzzles provides part of an ongoing narrative. Later messages include “I have to go now” and “Be careful friend.”

Anagramming, braille, music theory, cryptography, chemistry… as the puzzles increase in difficulty and complexity, they require an ever-growing skill set, challenging users in impressive fashion.

A dedicated community of solvers has come together to tackle the challenge of Do Not Believe His Lies, and they have fought, clawed, collaborated, and ingeniously solved their way to Puzzle #48, which they believe they’ve cracked, but they’re unsure of where to proceed from here.

[Another DNBHL puzzle, apparently a constellation…]

In an update on October 1, one of these diehard solvers posted this:

Welp, as most of you who have stayed logged in to our IRC channel can attest…we are pretty much out of ideas. But I’ll give a quick update for those of you who don’t regularly sign in…

The newest activity we have noticed has been the “Puzzle Solved” counter on the official DNBHL website. It’s not automatically updated, so we know that the Dev has been lurking around still. But whether it’s just a sign of life, or an unintentional “push” to let us know we have everything we need to progress further…none can say.

He goes on to discuss some of the lingering clues they’ve uncovered, as well as the theory that they’ll have to leave “the app and the old puzzles behind,” meaning the game will venture into the real world and involve physical locations!

The general theory going forward seems to be that the next puzzle is somehow time-sensitive, and cannot be solved before December 31. This does support what the app’s designer said in an interview with IO9:

Matablewski says that he does expect people to beat the game…but not anytime soon. “Not this year though, it’s not how it has been designed,” he told me. “If they work together, and only then … they will find the answer and complete the whole riddle someday next year.”

[These wavy words, upon closer inspection, are mathematical formulas. But to what end?]

Although solvers of this diabolical horror-fueled puzzle app are frustrated, they aren’t disheartened. The same diehard solver quoted above concluded his post with this:

So…until we get something a little better to work with, I think we’re all just taking a break…waiting for a Eureka moment to strike. Don’t get too disheartened though…I’m sure all the friends you’ve made on here will jump right back in to the fray as soon as things get busy again.

You can try Do Not Believe His Lies for yourself here. (For other stories on immersive online puzzle experiences, check out my previous posts on Cicada 3301 and the Portal ARG.)

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It’s Follow-Up Friday!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

For those new to PuzzleNation Blog, Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and update the PuzzleNation audience on how these projects are doing and what these people have been up to in the meantime.

Today, I’ve got two short updates for you.

First, there’s a new page on the blog for information about our apps and iBooks. For pictures, links, and details on our crossword, sudoku, and word seek puzzles, click here!

And be sure to bookmark it, since new apps will be added to the page as they’re released!

Second, a PuzzleNationer requested an update on this year’s Cicada 3301 puzzle.

Back in January, I wrote about the mysterious Cicada 3301, an elaborate multilayered scavenger hunt across the Internet that involves cryptography, research, and some serious cleverness to unravel.

It first appeared in January of 2012, until a few diligent and dedicated solvers unraveled its secrets, and the puzzle was shut down. Then in January of 2013, a new Cicada 3301 puzzle emerged, similarly challenging and just as short-lived.

January 2014 was no different, as the latest Cicada 3301 puzzle appeared. Unfortunately, as far as we know, no one has yet cracked it.

But one of the code wizards who solved Cicada 3301’s 2012 puzzle has come forward to offer advice to aspiring Cicada solvers:

Make sure that you have a good understanding of every part of the previous Cicada 3301 puzzles. If there is a subject you are not already well acquainted with, take your time to read and learn more about it.

Try to solve as much as possible of the earlier puzzles by yourself rather than just reading through a write-up.

For parts you do read, make sure you understand each step completely and try to think about how you would have arrived at the same conclusions by yourself.

Last but not least, enjoy the ride.

Are there any stories or features from the PuzzleNation Blog you’d like an update on? Let us know and your suggestion could be the focus of our next Follow-Up Friday!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

A puzzle mystery three years running…

It’s January, and for some cryptography enthusiasts and high-level puzzle solvers, their Christmas gift has finally arrived in the form of another Cicada 3301 mystery.

Two years ago, a curious message appeared on the message board 4chan:

“Hello. We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test.

There is a message hidden in this image.

Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through.

Good luck.


Intrigued Internet users quickly discovered that this message concealed numerous other images, clues, and puzzles. It was the start of an elaborate chain that led to hidden websites, as well as GPS coordinates across the globe. (Many of these puzzles and clues were accompanied by an image of a cicada, giving the mystery both a name and a symbol.)

Obscure knowledge (poetry, mathematics, literature, and history have all contributed to various clues), advanced cryptography skills, and some serious tenacity were required to navigate the labyrinthine maze laid out by whoever masterminded Cicada 3301.

Eventually, the savviest and sharpest code-breakers found their way to a secret website, one that vanished after a certain number of crafty solvers discovered it. It then shut down, never revealing to the outside world who was behind the puzzles or why they’d created them.

A year later, on January 5, 2013, another series of puzzles appeared, utilizing different solving techniques, different GPS coordinates, and admitting another select group of puzzle solvers to a secret website before it too shut down.

As of this posting, new puzzles have appeared all over the Internet, though Cicada 3301 enthusiasts believe the vast majority of them to be the work of hoaxers and admirers. (Only one clue so far, a message on Twitter from an account previously used by Cicada 3301, is considered legitimate.)

As you might expect, theorizing abounds regarding the reasons behind the Cicada 3301 puzzles. With the advent of viral marketing and ever-savvier customers, there’s always the possibility that this is an incredibly elaborate video game tie-in or corporate advertising project. (It definitely reminds me of the down-the-rabbit-hole ARG style of that puzzle hidden within the game Portal I wrote about last year.)

But the sheer complexity — and the intrinsic level of secrecy regarding how the puzzles and websites have been managed — has led conspiracy theorists to suspect the CIA, the NSA, or some other government entity. Another leading theory is that a bank or private security company is behind Cicada 3301, recruiting topnotch cryptographers to improve security features and thwart cybercrimes.

It may sound silly or a bit too Last Starfighter-ish, but recruitment-through-puzzle-solving is nothing new to the intelligence community. Crossword puzzles were used to identify potential recruits for Britain’s Bletchley Park, one of the key cryptography centers during World War II.

Whatever the purpose of Cicada 3301’s puzzles, there’s no doubt that puzzle solvers and codebreakers the world over can’t wait for another shot at a challenge like this.

[For further information, check out this NPR story, sent to me by friend of the blog Cathy Quinn!]

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