They say a picture is worth a thousand words; that may be a slight exaggeration in this case, but the words in this case are timeless. I present to you a puzzle which is quite simple (albeit large) and quite superficial (although its message is not). While its creation has cost me many an hour wasted that might have been better spent, it will doubtless yield its meaning almost at a glance to those familiar with its content.

Without further ado then, take some light relief from the toil of untangling difficult enigmas, and interpret if you will the following picture (full size here):



As I have stated below, this puzzle is simply a large rebus or collection of rebuses (not a complex enigmatic puzzle). I made it purely for the fun of creating a rebus that would contain within it an entire (small) work of art. With one or two exceptions, the individual images within the rebus may be approached independently. Partial solutions are welcomed as some of the rebuses are obvious (indeed some are no more than visual depictions of the target word/phrase), and some are more obscure (and may be more amenable to solution in the context of the other components). For the most part, the constructions are simple and silly, and I apologize in advance for some poor puns. It is difficult to say more without giving it away, but I would suggest piecing together the simpler components first (especially sequential ones).

Hint 2:

The method by which the intended plaintext is encoded in the given image is in the majority of cases by means of relatively straightforward phonetic wordplay. In a few cases however, this is weakened to include thought-for-thought rather than word-for-word correspondence. A particularly straightforward example, which may be the easiest place to start if you're having trouble finding the encoded text, is in the set of images in the black border at the bottom. Note that in addition to identifying the meaning of each image in the whole picture, you will also need to find the intended order in which the images should be read.

Hint 3:

A more concrete hint (as I think I have given about as many hints regarding the general method of solution as I can): The desired solution is an English plaintext, consisting of the entirety of a short (and famous) composition of English literature (which may or may not be part of a larger body of work). This text is represented (mostly through punny phonetic approximations) in the form of a string of rebuses, which may be read off the image in a particular (reasonably predictable) order. Partial solutions are welcomed!

This puzzle is not particularly clever, complex, or multilayered. It is what it claims to be – a giant rebus that encodes its content in a simple albeit quirky manner. Think heavy dependence on lighthearted, tangential (and far too punny) wordplay. Once you have interpreted the rebus, the solution will be complete. The puzzle is, I guess, somewhat a passion project – having consumed hours of time over the past few months, for a result that is neither pretty nor skillful, but really just a bit of fun.

Disclaimer: The entire image has been hand-drawn from scratch with a mouse in MS Paint (with heavy dependence on the curve tool) by someone with no artistic ability. Over the course of the months involved, some inconsistencies of tone and method have also crept in, for which I offer my apologies. While some components of the image are obscure, the quantity of components present should enable the more difficult ones to be deduced, and elucidate the order in which they should be examined. Also note that some artistic license has been taken for the sake of presentation, and some visual aspects of the image may be tangential to the solution.

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    $\begingroup$ My apologies - I worked late tonight where I am to finally finish this image, and at the last moment included a little extra component to the puzzle when I first posted it, which was never part of my initial plan. After some further thought, I have seen belatedly that this idea (born of a near-asleep brain) was incorrect and not a good addition to the puzzle and have edited the question back down to what it was originally intended to be. Apologies if anyone had happened to start working on it already. $\endgroup$
    – Anon
    Oct 11, 2020 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ (yay you're back :00 ) $\endgroup$
    – oAlt
    Oct 11, 2020 at 15:44
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    $\begingroup$ Many thanks again (?!) to the kind stranger responsible for the bounty. I'll post a hint when I get back from work tonight. $\endgroup$
    – Anon
    Nov 2, 2020 at 1:52
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    $\begingroup$ Since this is only one component out of many I'm just going to put it here as a comment (though one might want to make a chatroom instead for this puzzle in the future): I'm assuming the Mark guy is saying rot13("Arire Svpx'f (svk)")? $\endgroup$
    – oAlt
    Nov 5, 2020 at 7:33
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    $\begingroup$ @oAlt Essentially correct. Keep 'em coming. The phonetic wordplay involved will become more clear once the surrounding components are read (and the order of reading them is deduced). $\endgroup$
    – Anon
    Nov 5, 2020 at 7:43

1 Answer 1


This is

Shakespeare's sonnet 116 ("Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments")

and it needs to be read

more or less boustrophedonically.

Here's an annotated image. Explanations follow.

enter image description here

Let me knot [full-sized image shows the figure in the bubble is tying a shoelace]
two-THE marriage [note wedding dress]
oft roo minds
admit [I think the door-opening indicates this, but maybe I'm missing something here still?]
imp Eddy / mints.
Love is not love
witch alters when it alteration finds,
OR bends with THE
remove a 2 remove O NO
It is Ann
ever-Ficks'ed Mark, [that's Fick's law of diffusion]
that looks on
Sandys never shake a nit
is the star two-every?
ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown <-- I may be missing something here
all though
his height beat a Ken.
Time's full
throw minus ARRRRR [pirate's mouth is crossed out, or gagged, or something]
rosy lips sand
cheeks within HIS bending
sickles come
Pa's come
Love-altars knot with HIS
flower <-- we need "f hour" here, but this is the best I can do
sand weeks,
IT-tower T <-- not terribly sure about this
toothy edge of "do miff"
this be error [semantic; whole thing crossed out]
AND upon me, proved,
I never writ [semantic]
nor no man ever loved. [semantic]

One recurring thing I don't quite understand:

the "no X" symbol is used a few times to indicate "love". I don't quite understand why, though presumably it relates to the use of "love" to mean a zero score in tennis.

I should maybe add that the title

is presumably a reference to the last couplet of the sonnet -- the penultimate line is "If this be error and upon me proved".

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    $\begingroup$ +1 You have found the underlying text! But a lot of the components are still unclear. I will point out that in the image (except for some parts of the black border), every syllable in the text is represented phonetically, at least approximately. Guhf va Yrg zr [abg gb] gur zneevntr bs gehr zvaqf [nqzvg vzcrqv]zragf, gur oenpxrgrq cnegf ner fgvyy bognvanoyr ol cnefvat gur erohfrf va n cnegvphyne jnl. V jvyy cbvag bhg gung gur vzntr vf irel qrgnvyrq, fb lbh jvyy arrq gb hfr gur shyy fvmr irefvba. Gung jnl lbh zvtug svaq gur vzc lbh'er ybbxvat sbe... $\endgroup$
    – Anon
    Nov 14, 2020 at 15:03
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    $\begingroup$ You are spot on with many of the rebuses, but some way off with others. There are so many that is not straightforward to hint all of them, but if there is no further progress in the meantime, I will start hinting some of the more difficult ones. Jr pbhyq fgneg jvgu gur Fnaqlf. Creuncf gur uvture erfbyhgvba irefvba jvyy fubj lbh jung gurl ner funxvat. Guvf jvyy nyfb uryc yvax vagb gur arkg vzntr, juvpu pna nyfb or vagrecergrq cubargvpnyyl va n zhpu zber rknpg jnl guna vg vf gur fgne gb rirel. $\endgroup$
    – Anon
    Nov 14, 2020 at 15:08
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    $\begingroup$ Lbh ner rffragvnyyl ba gur zbarl jvgu lbhe vagrecergngvba bs gur cvengr vzntr, naq n pybfre ybbx ng gur uvture erfbyhgvba vzntr fubhyq gryy lbh jul... N fvzvyne gubhtug cebprff zvtug uryc jvgu gur Puevfgznf pneq... $\endgroup$
    – Anon
    Nov 14, 2020 at 15:10
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    $\begingroup$ I was using the image in the puzzle itself rather than the extra-large version. Having looked at the latter, I can see that I was indeed right about the imp :-). I'll make some edits for that and some other things. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Nov 14, 2020 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ OK, I've clarified some things, and been more explicit about the puns I've found, and added some things that are easier to understand with the full-resolution image. I now see that there's another place where a phoneme is used twice, so I'm not longer surprised to see it in the vicinity of Ann. I'm still not very convinced by the card, but I've added the best explanation I can think of. Still a bit puzzled about "admit" and about the unkown worth. $\endgroup$
    – Gareth McCaughan
    Nov 14, 2020 at 15:45

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