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(I created this puzzle myself)


I was shopping for groceries the other day, and I found an item that was in an unlabeled, uncolored package. In fact, the only thing that was on it was this barcode:

An image of the barcode, because the image looks better than the plain text

And here's the barcode's text, for those who want it (I wish SE had a better mono font for their code blocks!):

▉ ▎▍ ▐▋ ▋█ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▉ ▋▊ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▎ ▋█ ▐▎ ▎▍ ▐▎ ▎█ ▐▉ ▋█ ▐
▉ ▎▍ ▐▋ ▋█ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▉ ▋▊ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▎ ▋█ ▐▎ ▎▍ ▐▎ ▎█ ▐▉ ▋█ ▐
▉ ▎▍ ▐▋ ▋█ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▉ ▋▊ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▎ ▋█ ▐▎ ▎▍ ▐▎ ▎█ ▐▉ ▋█ ▐
▉ ▎▍ ▐▋ ▋█ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▉ ▋▊ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▎ ▋█ ▐▎ ▎▍ ▐▎ ▎█ ▐▉ ▋█ ▐
▉ ▎▍ ▐▋ ▋█ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▉ ▋▊ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▎ ▋█ ▐▎ ▎▍ ▐▎ ▎█ ▐▉ ▋█ ▐
▉ ▎▍ ▐▋ ▋█ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▉ ▋▊ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▎ ▋█ ▐▎ ▎▍ ▐▎ ▎█ ▐▉ ▋█ ▐
▉ ▎▍ ▐▋ ▋█ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▉ ▋▊ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▎ ▋█ ▐▎ ▎▍ ▐▎ ▎█ ▐▉ ▋█ ▐
▉ ▎▍ ▐▋ ▋█ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▉ ▋▊ ▐▉ ▎▊ ▐▎ ▋█ ▐▎ ▎▍ ▐▎ ▎█ ▐▉ ▋█ ▐
▉ 007 14    12   |  003   001   005 13      004 ▉ ▋█ ▐

Just so y'all know, the numbers under the barcode are relevant to the puzzle, and the title can be decoded too.

Now, this could be an item that I actually want need, there are very few brand selections at this store, and I'm too afraid to open it in the store to see what it is (they've got security cameras everywhere). Could you puzzle geniuses identify this single-word product, so that I know whether or not to buy it?

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    $\begingroup$ This is not a valid barcode according to this website. $\endgroup$
    – Varun W.
    May 14 at 13:39
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    $\begingroup$ @VarunW. Well, it would kind of defeat the puzzling part of this puzzle if you could just scan it to find out what the product was... $\endgroup$ May 14 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ I'm just curious. What color is an uncolored package? $\endgroup$
    – Brad Lanam
    May 15 at 18:59
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    $\begingroup$ @BradLanam It's whatever color the unprinted materials they used to make the package are. In other words, the paper is white (since it has no printing on it), the cardboard is brown (no printing there either), or the plastic is... well, never mind about the plastic ;-). $\endgroup$ May 15 at 19:02
  • $\begingroup$ We have 28 bars and 21 numbers. We have way too few bars to properly encode those numbers, especially if a checksum is part of this bar code as well. Even if the barcode is interleaved that would give us two-ish bits per number, to encode 7 different digits. $\endgroup$
    – Sumurai8
    May 16 at 8:54

3 Answers 3

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I think you have a package of:

guacamole

Reason:

You confirmed the separator character in Daniel's answer. This separates the barcode into 9 groups of 4 characters each. The second character is always a space, so each of the 9 groups is in the form a bc.

Looking at the numbers below the barcode, the 2 digit numbers are always positioned below the a position of a group, and the 3 digit numbers are always positioned below the bc position of a group. It's hard to see that alignment in the text but easier to see in the image.

Now the barcode characters above the numbers 12, 13, and 14 are all different. In fact, those three characters are the only three characters that ever appear in the a position of any group. So we can deduce the value of a for each of the 9 groups by substituting the barcode character with 12, 13, or 14.

We can do a similar thing with the three digit numbers. Each three digit number represents a pair of barcode characters, and we find that each of the 5 numbers has a different pair of characters above it. Also, those are the only five pairs used in the bc position of all 9 groups. So we can deduce the value of bc for all 9 groups.

After substituting, we have 9 pairs of numbers: 12,7 14,5 12,1 12,3 12,1 13,5 13,7 13,4 12,5

The fact that there are no digits greater than 7 implies there might be some kind of octal number system here. Let's convert the 2 digit numbers from decimal to octal: 14,7 16,5 14,1 14,3 14,1 15,5 15,7 15,4 14,5

Now remove the commas to get a series of 3 digit octal numbers: 147 165 141 143 141 155 157 154 145

These are the octal representations of the ASCII values for the letters guacamole

Using the same technique, the title decodes to:

a meal (space added)

though I don't think I would want a meal consisting of only guacamole, but to each their own.

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    $\begingroup$ Hail guacamole, yes, yes... my glorious avocado salsa... $\endgroup$ May 19 at 15:14
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, all correct! I was wondering if anyone would get the correct answer :-). That's interesting how you solved it, too. I can't remember exactly how I created it, but it was a little different. $\endgroup$ May 19 at 15:27
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Might it be

MINCEMEAT?

My working is as follows:

Replacing the characters with alphabetic characters in order of appearance gives
a b c d b e f b f g b e a b c g b e a b f g b e a b c g b e c b f g b e c b c d b e c b c g b e a b f g b e

The regular occurrence of b e= ▐ suggests that it is a letter separator and that we should regroup abcd fbfg abcg abfg abcg cbfg cbcd cbcg abfg. This suggests that we look for a nine-letter word with repeat pattern ABCDCEFGD

My cryptogram dictionary doesn't have any entries here, but I recall that many barcodes are intended to be read both right to left and left to right. Looking for pattern ABCDEAEFG yields interesing nouns such as "horsehead", "sharkskin" and "mincemeat" of which the last feels most like a grocery product.

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    $\begingroup$ You clearly need to spend more time in the sharkskin aisle ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Stiv
    May 14 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ Oh dear, I didn't realize how many alternative answers there were to this puzzle! None of these are the answer I had in mind, but of course you still get an upvote ;-)! rot13: Lbh qvq trg gur frcnengbe punenpgre evtug. Urer'f n uvag gbjneqf gur vagraqrq nafjre: gur ahzoref haqre gur onepbqr qb unir n checbfr. Also, the title needs to be decoded too. $\endgroup$ May 14 at 13:09
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    $\begingroup$ @DertereuuiFloireiurtrthr Please don't add coded hints in your comments without telling us before-hand that there is a hint in non-encoded text. $\endgroup$ May 14 at 18:14
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    $\begingroup$ I always buy a lot of horseheads when I go to grocery stores... Tasty and yummy! $\endgroup$ May 14 at 22:08
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    $\begingroup$ @Rumpelstiltskin I thought the whole point of using rot13 in comments is to encode a message that contains potential spoilers... $\endgroup$ May 16 at 14:51
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Here is my attempt.

I got CODEDNAME

Similar to Daniel's answer, I noticed that

the scheme of the characters is "X Y", e.g. taking the characters 3 at a time, the middle one is always a space, surrounded by two block characters.

Taking two of these blocks at a time we get "X YZ |" where | is the same for all of these 6 character blocks.

Now let's try to match a word to these 6 character blocks, trying to make sure that the same block uses the same letter. To get which letters we can use I transformed the numbers given to letter. Numbers starting with 00 are checked from the start of the alphabet (e.g. 001 = A), the other numbers are from the end of the alphabet.

This gives us the following allowed letters: A,C,D,E,G,M,N,O

Trying to find a word with these letters based on the pattern of the blocks we get CODEDNAME

However this doesn't answer the title text unfortunately.

Trying to match the letters to the title text gives me DNEDM which doesn't mean anything (at least to me)

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    $\begingroup$ Nice attempt! Unfortunately, this answer is not (at least as far as I know) a grocery product, as the question says the answer is. And yes, as far as I know, rot13: QARQZ qbrfa'g zrna nalguvat gb zr rvgure ;-). $\endgroup$ May 14 at 23:03

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