A Video Game Puzzle Hunt Reaps Real-World Rewards!

We’ve written about some pretty amazing and elaborate puzzle hunts here in the past. There was the Gravity Falls cipher hunt that led to an actual statue of the show’s villain Bill Cipher in the woods of Reedsport, Oregon. (And a mayoral position for the first person to find him and shake his hand!) There was the puzzle-turned-global-scavenger hunt from Trials Evolution that won’t be completed until 2113 at the base of the Eiffel Tower.

And now, a massive crowdsourcing effort has cracked another masterpiece, a puzzle hidden in an expansion pack for the video game Destiny 2. Destiny 2 is an online first-person-shooter loaded with sci-fi trappings and in-depth storytelling where players explore a shared environment while engaging in their own personal plot and adventures.

The most recent expansion to the game, Warmind, was released last week, and players noticed an elaborate symbol on a wall in the bunker of Rasputin, a sentient robot. The symbol appeared to be a lock surrounded by keys and curious symbols.

This Kotaku post went live on Friday, three days after the Warmind release, revealing the incredible online effort already in motion to unravel the secrets of the Rasputin puzzle. The subreddit r/raidsecrets was ground zero for the puzzle-solving efforts, and players compiled their theories and discoveries there.

Players quickly determined that each of the keys had a symbol that linked back to other imagery from the game, and by following those breadcrumbs, they had a chance to crack the cipher.

The first symbol was found in several places, each time with a set of digits and a bar in a particular position. Solvers theorized that these symbols represented the word “reverse.”

The second symbol appeared beside a Braille grid, leading hunters to crates with Braille lettering on them: OEAARRTFWTH. This anagrams to The Art of War, Sun Tzu’s famous tome. In this case, The Art of War was used as the source material for an Ottendorf Cipher. (That particular cipher was made famous by Nicolas Cage’s National Treasure movies.)

This type of cipher uses numbers in groups of three, and these numbers correspond to positions of letters in a book. Most often the numbers refer to Line, Word, and Letter. Decoding the number-combinations in the image above led to the answer “Destroy all second A and B. Then destroy all third C and R.”

These two clues were assumed to be instructions for what to do with the encoded ciphertext others had discovered in the game:

This encrypted message was the heart of the puzzle. But there was more to uncover first.

As it turns out, the last three keys in the image represented different words to apply to the ciphertext in order to properly decode it.

The fourth symbol was found near a Morse Code sequence that spelled out “NTEHNMLNEEGIT,” an anagram for “Enlightenment.”

The fifth symbol pointed toward a monitor with some peculiar code on it. It turns out the code was actually Jianpu, an ancient form of Chinese notation for writing music. When translated into actual music, a player identified the piece as an excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake.

One intrepid codebreaker then tried to decrypt the ciphertext given the clues everyone had assembled thus far.

He reversed the ciphertext, according to the instruction of the first key. He then removed every other A and every other B from the text, then every third C and every third R, according to the instructions of the second key.

Then, employing a Vigenere cipher, he used the two key words he had — “enlightenment” and “swan lake” — to begin decrypting the text. He managed to decrypt the entire text, but more incredibly, he also reverse engineered the missing third key word — “mechanized” — while doing so.

And what was the final message, after all this?

thank you for taking the time to piece together this message, friend. the time of our final conflict is drawing closer and you and ana have an important role to play in the events to come. so watch over her, guardian. i would have no life without ana or the exoprogram. i regret that we have become strangers, but we each have a path that we must walk. and, ironically, there never seems to be enough time. tell her, rasputin’s first attempt was in the right location, but the wrong moment. look here: 43.549573, -73.544868 – e

As you might suspect, those numbers at the end are GPS coordinates, which correspond to Sleeping Beauty Mountain in upstate New York. (The company that developed Warmind, Vicarious Visions, is based in upstate New York.)

A small treasure trove of prizes awaited the brave soul who trekked out to Sleeping Beauty Mountain on Saturday morning. The centerpiece was a giant spear, a replica of a weapon from the game known as the Valkyrie.

From the Kotaku article following up on the puzzle’s resolution:

There was also a box of gold coins (along with instructions asking the finder to only take one), a set of notes, and a journal for recording visitors. The note, from Warmind design lead Rob Gallerani, encouraged the finder(s) to share photos of this discovery and told them that there are only three spears like that in existence — one at Vicarious Visions, one at Bungie, and this.

The spear, shown above (alongside the visiting team from Vicarious Visions) now resides at a comic shop called The Freakopolis Geekery.

As for the gold coins and the geocache Vicarious Visions had set up for others who make the trip, unfortunately, park rangers removed it because the designers didn’t get a permit. The coins have been returned to Vicarious Visions, who are currently reaching out to all the folks at r/raidsecrets who contributed to the solution of the puzzle, hoping to get them the coins they so richly deserve.

And, as if all that wasn’t amazing enough, it turns out… this might not be the end of the adventure.

Because a sharp-eyed observer noticed some text embossed on the upper portion of the replica Valkyrie spear:

At the moment, no one knows what the letters mean. But if I had to wager, I’d say the master puzzle solvers at r/raidsecrets should keep digging. Who knows what they’ll find next?


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Crosswordese: Now with Rhythm!

[Image courtesy of Crosswordese Selfies.]

Crosswordese is the bane of solvers and constructors alike.

For the uninitiated, crosswordese consists of words that appear frequently in puzzles, but not nearly as often in conversation or common use. (My favorite variation on that definition: “words that crop up a lot but are otherwise pretty useless.”)

Not only does crosswordese prevent new solvers from enjoying crosswords to the fullest — by forcing them to learn a weird, esoteric jargon that feels exclusionary — but it hounds constructors who are trying to build solid, engaging grids, tempting them with easy letter combinations and tricky corner resolutions.

Crosswordese is so prevalent in the field that some crossword enthusiasts try to craft stories that include as many examples of crosswordese as possible.

The father of Reddit user Cheedrifin went another way, though, penning a delightful poem full of crosswordese!

We’ve posted it in full below. Enjoy!


THE CRUCIVERBALIST’S BALL

I was stunned, I’ll admit, when I got the call
To go to this year’s cruciverbalist’s ball.
For eons I’d wanted to earn such a bid
To see all the bigwigs who live in the grid.

I should say that I don’t have a poet’s portfolio
Up to describing this fabulous olio,
But I’ve always said “Carpe diem’s my motto.”
I’ll give it a shot with some help from Erato.

The lot of us boarded a sleek SST
And flew over what looked like the dry Aral Sea.
But just where it was held, I can’t properly say.
They swore me to silence at point of epée.

But it might have been Riga, or maybe Oman.
The Rhine? The Rhone? Iraq or Iran?
It could have been Agra—I know it was far—
Or maybe an aerie perched over the Aare.

Wherever it was, they served us some naan,
Aioli and Nehi and roasted eland.
And down at our heels, keeping watch for dropped pasta
Were dogs from the A-list: Ren, Odie, and Asta.

We all settled down at the sound of a raga
Announcing arrivals of sri, shah, and aga.
Still more eastern royals stepped out of the car:
An Arab emir and a ranee and tsar.

The big names could not keep away from this forum.
Mel Ott! Ernie Els! William Inge and Ned Rorem.
And brimming with pride both paternal and filial,
The architects Saarinen: Eero and Eliel.

Sajak was stoked to meet old Ayn Rand.
And Ezio Pinza hailed Elia Kazan.
Malia and Oprah remembered Chicago,
And Amis and Imus examined Iago.

James Agee went on about where he had been
With Ani DiFranco and Anaïs Nin.
We saw Uta Hagen, who didn’t speak German
To Yma and Uma (yeah, Sumac and Thurman).

E. Utne shared new-age convictions with Moby
While Cheri Oteri was tying her obi.
We sampled the ahi (it’s really just tuna)
With dear Mrs. Chaplin, who said “Call me Oona.”

We sang and we danced till they all had to go,
Catching planes to the Urals, or trains to St. Lo.
Now I’m stuck for an ending. Have one I can borrow?
I guess I’ll just wait for the answer tomorrow.


So many of the chronic crosswordese offenders are included! Did the poem miss any of your favorites/least favorites? Let us know in the comments section!

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Puzzle My World

[Image courtesy of Reddit.]

For me, one of the best things about puzzle-solving is the a-ha moment.

You’ve been staring at a clue, or a brain teaser, for what feels like forever. You’ve tackled it from seemingly every angle. And you’ve got nothing. You’re stymied. Flummoxed. You know the answer is within your reach, but you just can’t find it.

And then, the a-ha moment strikes. Wheels turn, pieces fall into place. And when the dust settles, you have your solution, and you can’t help but wonder how you didn’t see it sooner.

When puzzly thinking is taken outside the realm of puzzles and games and applied to the real world, it can make those a-ha moments even more enjoyable.

Now look at that image at the top of the page. Did you immediately realize what it was, or did you stare for a bit before having that a-ha moment?

Yes, it’s a map of the world done in the style of artist Piet Mondrian. How cool is that?

Today I’d like to look at a few maps that visualize our world in a different way and let you experience an a-ha moment or two.

[Image courtesy of Mental Floss. Click here for a larger version.]

This first map of the world has all of the familiar landmasses and borders that you know, but it has swapped around the actual countries so that the country’s population is now equivalent to its size.

It’s truly paradigm-altering to see countries like China, India, and Pakistan in those large landmasses, and on the flip side, the Netherlands taking the islands of the former Japan, while Japan moves to a much larger space in Africa.

Plus, there are a few countries that wouldn’t move in this situation, like the U.S., Brazil, Yemen, and Ireland, which is all the more striking when you see so many countries moving around them.

Just imagining the political landscape in this world is mind-boggling!

[Image courtesy of The Edge.ca.]

This next map says more about our culture than our numbers, but it’s still interesting. Here’s part of a map labeled only with song titles that mention these places.

It’s a very clever concept that not only name-checks many terrific songs, but mixes genres and eras of music in surprising ways. If you were to attempt this, how much of the world could you fill in with song titles?

[Image courtesy of Texas.gov. Click here for a larger version.]

And speaking of puzzly map challenges, I’ve got one for you, fellow puzzlers. Here’s a map of the United States.

I challenge you to print out this map and color it in using only four colors. The trick? No neighboring states can be the same color.

Hopefully, accepting this challenge will provide you with a puzzly a-ha moment of your own. Enjoy!


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A Monopoly Game Unlike Any Other

I’m always on the lookout for great puzzly stories, and a friend of mine passed along this link to a puzzly holiday proposal from last year that totally fits the bill.

This story comes from a reddit user named Justinlebon26, who was looking for a meaningful and unique way to propose to his girlfriend Michal.

Check out what he came up with:

That’s right, he designed a Monopoly board all about their relationship. After all, the two of them enjoyed playing Monopoly so much that their handmade board fell apart. And with that, a plan slowly came together.

He designed new property cards to go along with the new spaces on the board. Some were places they’d gone on vacation, others were the streets where they’d grown up. How they met, their first date — all were immortalized on the board.

New Chance and Community Chest cards would follow, with one special addition to the deck.

With a friend’s help constructing the board, our young romantic’s gift was done. (Complete with the secret lurking beneath the Luxury Tax space)

He waited until Christmas day to unveil his gift, and they celebrated with an inaugural game.

So… how did it all turn out?

This is easily the happiest ending to a Monopoly game in history. Kudos to Michal and Justinlebon26, and here’s hoping they have many happy years of gaming ahead of them.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Domino Wonder edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to return to the subject of our recent 5 Questions interviewee, Lily Hevesh, aka Hevesh5.

You might have seen the above video from Hevesh5, the amazing triple spiral, which we shared on our Facebook and Twitter accounts.

It’s honestly one of the coolest, most staggering domino creations I’ve ever seen, a 15,000-domino work of kinetic art that took Lily 25 hours to assemble, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with my fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers.

Apparently, I wasn’t alone in that. The spiral got FOUR MILLION views in two days. It got major attention on Reddit, the YouTube front page, CNN, CBS News, and more!

It has amassed over TEN MILLION views in less than a fortnight.

And, as you might expect, Lily was not only humble, but grateful for the support of puzzlers and domino fans like.

Check out this video discussing the video’s success, as well as Lily’s plans for the future:

So great to see such positive attention for her and her work. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer person.


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: Carpet Conundrum edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And in today’s post, I’d like to return to the subject of visual puzzles.

We’re keeping it simple today. In this photo that’s been making the rounds on Facebook and Reddit, can you find the iPhone?

Let us know if you spotted it! It’s tougher than you might think!

Happy Friday!


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