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EDIT 5/2/23 (originally 9/20/22):
I have found a mistake in the puzzle, and have provided a note to help get through it. This mistake does not strongly hinder your ability to solve the puzzle, as there are still many steps that can be completed without this affected portion. However, this piece of information IS needed to fully solve the puzzle.

EDIT 7/19/22:
If you are solving this and are stuck , please let me know where you are stuck so that I can help! I would like to add more hints, but am unsure as to what I should be hinting towards.


A safe was dropped off at a local police station, supposedly belonging to a highly wanted criminal. Police have suspicions that whatever is inside the safe will lead to this person’s whereabouts. Only if they’re able to understand those contents, that is.

The front of the safe is just like any other, except instead of your typical dial, this safe has a keypad of colors.

There was a note securely taped to the front. It seemed as if this criminal was prepared for somebody to find it.

“Everything has a reason”

In addition to this note, it seemed as if somebody had drawn all over the front of the safe. A seemingly random pattern of red and purple dots lined the safe above and below its door.

After some time, one person at the police station had noticed something interesting about the colorful keypad, and not long after (and with a fair bit of confidence) was able to open the safe. Once the safe had been opened, though, everything made even less sense.

Inside the safe was nothing more than two pieces of paper, as well as some random numbers, letters, and drawings scratched into the walls and door of the safe.

The contents of the safe are shown below (colorblind friendly versions are available below).

The Safe outside of the safe inside of safe

The Letter letter

The Photo the photo


Colorblind Friendly Info

Text version of the colors on the top and bottom of the front of the safe. r is red and p is purple.
Top: rpppprrprrprpppprrprrprrprprrrpprrpprprpp
Bottom: rrpprpprrppprpprppprpprrpprrrprrrrrpprprrprrprrp

Color-free version of the keypad.
colorfree keypad


Hints

Hints will be added when I feel they may be needed. Them being added is not dependent on time or progress made

Hint 1 (Added 6/24/22):

One serving contains about 450mg

Hint 2 (Added 6/27/22):

Unless obviously a letter, it's probably a number

Hint 3 (Added 6/27/22):

Not all o os mean the same

Hint 4 (Added 7/11/22):

Photo is to upper equation as dots are to lower.

Hint 5 (Added 7/11/22):

A key will be needed

Hint 7 (Added 7/11/22):
Please note that this hint contains confirmation of something mentioned within @FrodCube's answer or its comments

".00"+"8917"=_____

Hint 8 (Added 9/30/22): Please note that this hint will contain more information than normal, and will be less (if at all) cryptic, given the time that this puzzle has sat

There are four main pieces to this puzzle, as hinted at in Hint 4. Steps 1 involves using The Photo and then step 2 uses the top equation. Step 3 involves using the grid in the wall, the letter, and the dots on the outside of the safe, and then step 4 uses the lower equation.


Note: (Edited 5/2/23): Please note that this will reveal one small part towards the solution, though this is due to my error. This part of the puzzle only affects one part (out of four). This piece WILL be needed to solve the puzzle.

The dots on the outside of the case have these meanings: TOP: tacsgggkzzki (this is where the error is, and this would not be found with the given photo of the safe). BOTTOM: grpflltxttwofggg


Anything below this point is not part of the puzzle, and should not be referenced to find clues.

So now it is time for me to ask you:

How did the cop open the safe? and
Where is the criminal hiding?

This is my first time writing a puzzle of this length and complexity. It is very possible that there are some flaws, and even mistakes (though I have gone over it several times). Please let me know if you find any!

Note: The letters on the flag in The Photo only relate to the colors they're on top of.

I will answer any question in the comments, given that it does not ask about the puzzle itself or how to solve it (i.e. I would answer "Is there a significance in the way the post is worded?", but I would not answer "Should I be focusing on the photo or letter first?").

Please be thorough in your answer. I am looking for the steps you took to get to each piece of information, and how you used it. I am happy with and encourage partial answers as well, I love to see the different levels of progress!

Good luck!

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @JLee No, rot13(gung jnf fvzcyl qhr gb gur snpg gung V pbhyqa'g svaq gjb zber fvzvyne vzntrf gb hfr) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 17:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Can we maybe have a Hint 4? $\endgroup$
    – FrodCube
    Commented Jul 8, 2022 at 12:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Thanks for the additional hints, especially #9. rot13(Vg nccrnef gung gur checyr naq erq qbgf ner gur qbgf naq qnfurf bs Zbefr pbqr. Vg vf irel qvssvphyg gb qrpbqr Zbefr jvgu gur fvtanyf eha gbtrgure rira vs gurl fcryy fbzrguvat vagryyvtvoyr; jvgu guvf tvoorevfu vg jbhyq unir orra vzcbffvoyr). $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 16:03
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @MOehm rot13(lrnu, v ernyvmrq zl zvfgnxr juvyr v jnf tbvat guebhtu naq gelvat gb cebivqr uvagf. V unq vagraqrq ba n jnl gb vzcyl fcnprf jura perngvat gur chmmyr, ohg arire qvq, naq qvqag ernyvmr gung znqr vg arne vzcbffvoyr. Bapr v hcqngr gur zvfgnxr, V qb cyna ba svkvat vg fb gung vg vf ab ybatre arne vzcbffvoyr) $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 16:09
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Don't worry. Such things happen. I think it's consensus here at PSE that judging the difficulty of puzzles is hard. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Commented Sep 30, 2022 at 16:14

2 Answers 2

5
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I'll start with a partial answer, since I'm stuck. Here's what I have so far

EDIT 1: added a bit more progress

The safe:

The police office probably noticed that only six out of nine buttons were dirty, i.e. used. Since those buttons correspond to the colors of the rainbow, he probably pressed them in the order R O Y G B P.

The letter:

The message decodes by using the substitution written in the back of the safe: for example "o5" means that the "o" in the message should be substituted with the 5th vowel counted as "aeiouy". By doing this we find

I'm sure you can read this,
though something is off.
This is the first step to the
long, long journey you are a
bout to partake. Read
everything carefully, as you
don't want to make a
mistake. Hidden in this safe
is where I am hidding, and
though I doubt you will find
me, I know you'll keep
trying. Make sure not to lose
this note; you will need
everything I have wrote

Also important to notice that five letters in the message are written in a different font. In order they read "I M G U R".

Finally there are two mistakes: "hidding" is spelled with an additional "d" and the final word "wrote" should probably be "written"

The picture

There are five images paired with arrows. The arrow probably symbolizes whether the letter encoded by the picture is upper or lower case. The way I have interpreted them, but I don't think it is fully right, is:

"x k X N L", since "x" marks the spot in the map, "k" is the symbol for potassium, abundantly found in bananas, "N" in the semaphore flag alphabet, and "L" because of the shape drawn.

Interpreting this as a imgur URL gives the following picture. There are two pictures, one the negative of the other, with written "F * I" and a red circle telling us to take the second option. This might mean to take the "negative" of some result, but I don't know which.

What's left:

The picture on the door should mean "Upper Case", since it points to the "upper" of the two "cases", but I don't know where it should be used

The shape in the top right inside the safe is the same shape as the lines in the picture message, but I don't know what it means that it is followed by "o o"

I don't know how to decode the upper and lower "equations" inside the safe and similarly the purple and red sequences outside the safe. The only bit of progress on the top equation comes from SQLnoob's comment where if you interpret the numbers as the hex codes for ASCII, you get that the numbers combine to 8917, but it is unclear how to combine this with the ".oo" at the beginning. All the ?8917 imgur pictures (with any character for ?) are either non-existent or unrelated to the puzzle.

I don't know the meaning of the two grids with the bottom right corner shaded inside the safe

That's what I have. It's not much but I hope it can start a discussion.

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  • $\begingroup$ Awesome progress! Since you've made it this far, I will confirm that rot13("k o K A Y" vf abg gur pbeerpg nafjre gurer, gubhtu dhvgr pybfr), and instead rot(hfr v.fgnpx.vzthe.pbz jura frnepuvat gur pbqr). $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ Got pretty much as far as this, I also tried your L for the imgur code as a C from a pigpen cipher, and the b as a y for yellow but couldn’t work it out - not sure which letter is wrong $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ Had all the same thoughts... will add a few more: rot13(Gur gjb tevqf jvgu funqrq obggbz evtug pbeare ybbx yvxr gur ynlbhg bs n Cbylovhf fdhner. (Nyfb gur a va "ernfba" ba gur sebag bs gur fnsr xvaqn ybbxf yvxr n ybjrepnfr Terrx yrggre rgn.) Gur checyr naq erq qbgf zvtug znxr frafr nf n Cbylovhf / cynlsnve pvcure, rkprcg gurer'f fb zhpu ercrgvgvba (vg fgnegf jvgu 14 21 21 14 21 21 21...) Gur rdhngvba vafvqr gur gbc bs gur fnsr pbhyq or ersreevat gb gur urk NFPVV pbqrf sbe gur qvtvgf, fb vg jbhyq or (44185+400)/5 = 8917. Abg fher jung gb qb jvgu gung vasb gubhtu.) $\endgroup$
    – SQLnoob
    Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 18:52
  • $\begingroup$ @SQLnoob rot13(lbh unir gur evtug vqrn nobhg gur zngu, ohg znxr fher gb cnl nggragvba gb gur jubyr rdhngvba) $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 23, 2022 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ I thought that rot13(gur urk-rapbqrq fhzznaqf jrer bssfrgf gb gur yrggref sebz gur cubgb, fvapr gur bb nccrnef va gur fhz naq arkg gb gur tevq funcr, ohg V pna'g znxr vg jbex. Vtabevat gung naq sbyybjvat OT'f fhttrfgvba gung gur onanan rapbqrf l, V pna svaq guvf, juvpu ybbxf yvxr n avpr uvqrbhg, ohg erdhverf gur Y funcr gb or na Z naq yrnirf obgu rdhngvbaf naq gur I×I tevqf hanppbhagrq sbe). $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Commented Jun 24, 2022 at 18:47
2
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Hi

When I first posted this puzzle two years ago, it had been the first elaborate puzzle I had ever created. And with that came some mistakes.

As I sat here today writing out this solution, I had to re-solve many parts of this puzzle myself. This was mainly due to my notes being the most disorganized thing I had ever seen, but also due to this being a very complex puzzle.

I ran into several moments along the way when I felt stuck. I tried to remember back to when I was creating this puzzle, and it proved to be of no help. While I did have some of the solution written, and could remember a good portion, there were also times where I was placed into the same shoes as you all, fighting my way through this puzzle with no idea as to where I was going.

Thankfully, I got through it. And I am here today to share with you all the solution.

Below is a story that will walk you through the solution. This story is structured in a way such that it hints at possible thought processes you may have been going through when trying to solve, or ways you could of thought of it. There are also some spots that may not make the most sense, and I will touch on that as well.

Below this massive story is a shortened version, containing only puzzle solutions, associated hints, how you could of solved it, and any notes regarding actual solvability and/or what I would do differently for a new puzzle, knowing what I know now.

This puzzle has taught me a lot, and even though there weren't a ton of posted attempts I appreciate anyone who decided to have a go at it. I will definitely be creating more puzzles like this one in the future.

Thank you all!


The Solution (Story)

Act 1 (Previously solved)

The cops noticed the dirty colors and concluded that they must contain the code. They put it in order by wavelength, or ROYGBIV, and the safe creaked open.
They also take note of the paper taped on the outside, "Everything has a reason". While this could be a trick, they decide to move forward assuming that there will be no red herrings in this puzzle.

Act 2 (Previously solved)

When they open the safe, two notes fall out. One of them is legible, but the spelling is awful. The second one is a photo with seemingly random objects and arrows associated with them. They place these to the side.
They also notice all the writing on the inside of the safe. While it all seems useless, they decide to focus on the numbered letters along the back wall.

They place all the letters in order by number:
y1 a2 i3 e4 o5 u6

Realizing these are all vowels, they decide to replace the standard string of vowels, aeiouy, with this new order, yaieou. Using this substitution on the note they found returns the following:

I'm sure you can read this,
though something is off.
This is the first step to the
long, long journey you are a
bout to partake. Read
everything carefully, as you
don't want to make a
mistake. Hidden in this safe
is where I am hidding, and
though I doubt you will find
me, I know you'll keep
trying. Make sure not to lose
this note; you will need
everything I have wrote.

There's a few odd things about this note, other than just how it is written. Most notable though is the change in font. There are five letters within the note that are different. After some time of comparing fonts, the cops conclude that the different letters are "I M G U R".

Act 3 (Previously partially solved)

Unsure what to do with this information, the cops decide to move on for now. They take a look into the safe again. Nothing makes any sense, until one cop points out a specific drawing on the back of the safe wall. The drawing is in the top right corner, and contains a tree-like drawing, with two circles after it.

They realize that the tree-like drawing is very similar to the way the page of images is set up. They look around the safe for what two circles could mean, and remember the colored circles lining the front of it. At first, it seems like this message is just stating the obvious. They wonder if it was just placed there to throw them off. Upon remembering that "everything has a reason", they decide that perhaps this is a hint as to the order they should work on the puzzles.

They agree, and begin work on the image.

They pick up the photo containing random objects. They try multiple different things, and finally settle on one solution that seems to work. In order of the images from left to right, top to bottom:
- Down arrow; X marks the spot; x
- Down arrow; K for potassium; k
- Up arrow; X marks the spot; X
- Up arrow; N semaphore flag; N
- Up arrow; L; L

This gives them the following: xkXNL

At first, they are unsure where how this is useful. Thankfully, someone remembers the letter they just worked through, and mentions the IMGUR hint. They decide to plug the code they just found into Imgur, and the following image shows up:

IMGUR

Act 4

The cops are once again perplexed. How could this mean anything?

They decide to break down the photo with a few obvious points:
- There are two versions of a photo, labeled 1 and 2.
- 1 contains blue letters, "F * I"
- 2 contains green letters, "F * I"
- Image 2 is the negative of image 1
- Image 2 is circled.

The cops make one quick conclusion: Photo 2 is the answer. But what IS that answer?
At first, they try matching the letters to where they are on a keypad. F = 3 and I = 4.
Next, they count the standard number of strokes it takes to write each letter. F = 3 and I = 3.
The last guy decides to try the position of each letter in the alphabet. F = 6 and I = 9.

Nobody knew what the correct answer was, but they left their options open and moved on.

At this point, the cops have pulled in the detectives. One of them suggests multiplying the numbers together, as is done in the photo. Using that method, they came up with the three numbers: 12, 9, and 54. The same detective reminds them about the negative image. The cops decide to negate all their answers, leaving them with -12, -9, and -54, still unsure of which is the right answer.

Act 5 (Note: This is the section where I revealed an answer due to a puzzle creation mistake)

Following the order they previously discovered, they look at the dots lining the top and bottom of the safe. There are only two colors repeating, red and purple.

The cops list out these colors in order:
- Top: rpppprrprrprpppprrprrprrprprrrpprrpprprpp
- Bottom: rrpprpprrppprpprppprpprrpprrrprrrrrpprprrprrprrp

One of the cops is getting tired, and decides to try and read the string of letters as a joke, "err pf pf pf pf err err.."
Once hearing this, the group quickly realizes sounding out the letters like that sounds a lot like morse code. But which one is dots and which are dashes? Both result in a random string of letters when deciphered, so how would they know which one is the right way?

One cop suggests to go based off the sound, with R being dash, and P being dot.
Another one thinks back to the first puzzle, and the order of the rainbow. They suggest that since red has the longest wavelength and purple has the shortest, red is dash and purple is dot.
Another questions why the second cop didn't just say "red comes first in ROYGBIV".
The three cops, realizing they said the same thing in different ways, agree that this must be the solution.

Using this method, they decipher the morse code and are left with two strings of letters:
- Top: tacsgggkzzki
- Bottom: grpflltxttwofggg

Exhausted, the cops take off the rest of the day.

Act 6

They come in with clear minds the next day, most of them having pondered over this safe throughout the night, new ideas brewing.
They start the day by setting the safe open on the table and looking over everything again. They try to find parts that they may have missed so far, deciding not to think about any new things just yet.

Someone points out the message on the inside door of the safe: Two briefcases stacked on top of one another, with an arrow pointing to the top one. They are excited for a moment at the easy win, obviously this means "upper-case".

They go back to the letter, this being the only place where "uppercase" may be relevant, as nothing else has text like this. They decide to pull out all of the uppercase letters from the note: ITRHIIIMI. Absolutely nothing is making sense.

With all these strings of nonsense letters, they figure that some sort of cipher must be at play, but which one? They decide to call their contracted cryptographer to help them out.

The cryptographer sits down and tries multiple different methods of cracking these strings. He starts with the strings from the morse code. Substitution doesn't work, rotation doesn't work. He tries the uppercase letters, with the same results. He decides to move on to some more complex ciphers. He tries a vigenere cipher, quickly realizing he doesn't have a key. He decides to try the string of uppercase letters as the key.

He attempts to decipher the string from the top of the safe, but instead is met with what appears to be nonsense (again): lhllyyyyrrrr. This isn't complete nonsense though, he decides. The repeated characters and structure of the result hint that they may be on the right track.

He decides to try the string from the bottom of the safe and ends up with a similar result: yyyyddlllldxyyyy.

These answers are similar, but something still feels off. He looks back over the progress made so far, and tries to see if there is anything he could use. And there is.

He uses the vowel replacement from earlier in the puzzle and rewrites the alphabet using it: YBCDAFGHIJKLMNEPQRSTOVWXUZ. Feeling like he may have figured it out, he quickly works at using this new alphabet with the vigenere cipher. Just as he thought, the results appear to be a lot better:
- Top: lllluuuurrrr
- Bottom: uuuuddlllldduuuu

It doesn't make sense yet, but it feels just structured enough to be a step in the right direction.

Act 7

Everyone is talking over one another, throwing ideas out and shutting others down. One of the detectives notices something familiar about these strings of letters, though. While everyone is occupied proving why their idea is the right idea, the detective calmly takes another look over the box, wondering if he'll find what he's looking for. Thankfully for him, he does.

The detective manages to quiet everyone down in order to share his own theory. This detective, having grown up in the 80s and passing down his love of puzzles to his kids, recognizes what appears similar to a Rubik's Cube algorithm. He begins to recite the first line, watching to see if anyone understands what he's getting at, "Left, Left, Left, Left, Up, Up...". Everyone in the room nods slightly and looks around. It seems they can make the connection, but nobody is sure how this is helpful yet. One of the cops chimes in, further relating his knowledge of retro gaming and D-pad movements in games, agreeing that these strings appear like directions. The detective continues.

He points to the back of the safe in the bottom left corner. There are two grids, each with the bottom right corners colored in. While this isn't a Rubik's cube, the detective goes on to explain how he believes this drawing is enough to at least partially confirm his theory. The cop who spoke up before agrees as well, relating it to a game board. It seems there are multiple connections that could be made to this puzzle, and the others appear to agree, so they decide to move forward with this idea.

Since the image in the corner is flat, they go with the idea that it should be treated as a game board, with the most obvious decision being to start on the shaded square. They start with the first grid, following the directions and moving their place each time. At the end, they are placed in the top right square of the grid. They move on to the next one, following directions again. This time they end up in the top left square of the grid. Confusion sets in once again, and they get back to brainstorming.

Someone suggests setting up the grids like Battleship, and using the vowels from earlier to create the coordinate system. This theory is quickly shut down when they realize the grids are five by five, not six by six.
Another suggests tracing the lines they followed through the grid. This seems to be the best option.

Once traced, the two grids appear to have letters: C and H. Without much thought, they decide to use the same concept from earlier when they were given letters, and decide these must mean 3 and 8. Some people suggest multiplying them again, some suggest making them negative, and some say they should just be combined since the grids are next to each other, not multiplied. After some debate, two final answers are agreed upon: 24 and -38. They also reconsider the first set of letters, and decide to stick with -54 as a final answer, as it seemed to align best with the rest of the puzzle.

Act 8 (Previously partially solved)

After looking over the safe again and realizing there are only two unknown messages left, everyone is on the edge of their chair and decide to stay the night to finish this case once and for all.

The two messages are on the front of the safe once the door is opened, placed on the top and bottom edge, similar to the colors. The message on the top reads .00 + ((34 34 31 38 35 + 34 30 30)/35). The message on the bottom is a similar style, but a bit different: .0 + (life + x)+(life - i)+v.

The group decides to go in order, starting with the top equation. The cryptographer recognizes the string of numbers to be HEX codes for ASCII based on the pattern it follows. By solving the equation using this, the group comes up with the line ".00 + 8917". They get stuck here for a moment, as if you were to add the two remaining parts, you would get 8917.00, which is essentially the same thing. Someone suggests adding the numbers as if they were a string, concatenating them together.

By doing this, the group is left with the number .008917.

Next, they work on the bottom equation. Having worked with letters multiples times before, they decide to follow the same system and convert all the letters to numbers. Initially, this results in the following: .0 + (12965 + 24)+(12965 - 9)+22. They stopped for a moment, as they weren't sure if this was the right equation. They couldn't find anywhere that told them how to handle "life"; do they multiply the letters next to each other? Do they add them? Should they concatenate them like before?

Before they are able to come up with an answer someone from the back chimes in, "the answer to life is 42". Some laugh, some look at him weird, but most agree that this was the best logic that they had reason for, anything else seemed random or uncertain.

They move forward, this time replacing "life" with 42. They come up with the following:
.0 + (42 + 24)+(42 - 9)+22

When solved using a similar method as before by combining the .0 like a string, this equation resulted in the following:
.0121

They compared this with their other number, and the room was split. Half of them agreed that this must be the answer, while the other half was convinced that something was off. The opposing side argued that the two numbers should share the same structure, having both numbers result in 6 decimal places.

Those who believed they got the right answer moved on and worked on figuring out how to put all the pieces together. The others worked on resolving the equation, looking to get an answer that matched.

They decided to stick with the "life" theory, agreeing that it was the argument they had the best logic for. They went back and looked at the letters again. They notice that these letters didn't appear very random. In fact, if looked at on their own the answer seemed to be much clearer. x i v, or "10 1 5" in roman numerals.

They decided to try the equation one more time with this new set of numbers, and after some tests, they finally came to a result that matched the structure of the first one: .052415.

The Final Act

The two groups come together and decide that the matching results made the most sense. While the two groups were split, the first group had tried testing some theories about how all of these things fit together. They made a list of all the information they now had:
- The safe leads to where the criminal is located
- Everything has a reason
- Number 1: -54
- Number 2: -38
- Number 3: .008917
- Number 4: .052415

Everyone sat there and stared at the paper, unsure of how this could all make sense.

They thought heavily about the fact that "everything has a reason". They had gotten through most of this puzzle now, and that sentence definitely seemed to hold true. There was just one last part they were missing, and were struggling to reach it. They looked over the safe once more, and retraced their steps.

Someone pointed out the fact that the drawings in the back of the safe appeared to have an order: The vowels, starting at the top left, went first. Next, the "tree" that told them to work on the photo next, with the colors following shortly after. Then, they used the "uppercase" hint to find the key, and work on the grid. While these locations didn't appear to follow an exact path, it did appear that the drawings provided a general guide for the order to do certain things, going from left to right, top to bottom.

They quickly began to consider the placement of these clues. The outside of the safe had colored dots lining the top and bottom, and the inside of the safe had equations lining the top and bottom. Everyone seemed to be thinking the same thing, the position of these clues matters.

The group hastily got to work, trying every possible combination they could think of. Do you put the first two numbers together and then the bottom two? Do you put the top numbers with top and bottom with bottom? How would they combine? Are they supposed to combine? Wait-

The group remembered they are looking for hits towards a location, and realized that if you were to combine the two whole numbers with the two decimals, you would get a set of what appeared to be coordinates. The only thing left now was to figure out which ones were the right combination. This wasn't too hard to decide, and they chose to combine the top whole number with the top decimal, and vise versa for the bottom.

Finally, after days of work, they came to a solution.

When combined, the coordinates given are -54.008917, -38.052415.

They put these coordinates into Google Maps, holding their breath, worried that they would be dropped into the ocean or have no idea if this was really the right answer.

Upon first glance, it seemed like they were dropped into the ocean. Exhausted sighs filled the room, some even started to pack up. One cop took a closer look, though. He zoomed in on the point that was dropped and found that they in fact where not in the middle of the ocean, but instead the tiny island of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Their confidence was boosted by the fact that they were on land, but how would they know if this was the right place? The pin dropped them on the far left of the island, on a smaller separate island called "Bird Island". This was odd, sure, but was it odd enough to be proof that this was where the criminal meant to lead us?

Out of curiosity, one of the cops dropped into street view, placing it directly on top of the coordinates. All he saw was a body of water, until he turned around.

The tense atmosphere of the room faded, some laughed, most smiled, and everyone felt the weight of this puzzle lift off their chest, knowing for sure now that they had solved it.


The Solution (TLDR)

Act 1

Opening the case

Open the case using the dirty colors.
Possible ways to approach this:
- ROYGBIV
- Wavelength

Act 2

The letter, Pt. 1

Use the vowels on the inside of the safe. Replace the standard order of aeiouy with the new order of yaieou.

Substituting this into the letter:
I'm sure you can read this,
though something is off.
This is the first step to the
long, long journey you are a
bout to partake. Read
everything carefully, as you
don't want to make a
mistake. Hidden in this safe
is where I am hidding, and
though I doubt you will find
me, I know you'll keep
trying. Make sure not to lose
this note; you will need
everything I have wrote.

Take note of the change in font in the letter. Taking out the letters with a different font reveals "IMGUR".

Act 3

The photo, Pt. 1 Critical Solution 1/3

In order, from top left to bottom right:
- Down arrow; X marks the spot; x
- Down arrow; K for potassium; k
- Up arrow; X marks the spot; X
- Up arrow; N semaphore flag; N
- Up arrow; L; L

Reveals the code "xkXNL". When used on Imgur, gives the following photo:

IMGUR

Act 4

The photo, Pt. 2

Use the position of F and I to substitute in (6 and 9). Multiply these two numbers (54). Take the negative of your answer (-54).

Creation Note: Coming back to this part made me realize that it is not clear that you should be using the position of the letters. While this is okay in some puzzles, and I think the lack of a hint is generally okay here, I do with I had included something a bit more in order to properly show that this was the intended method.

Act 5

The dots, Pt. 1

The colored dots on the outside of the safe are as follows:
- Top: rpppprrprrprpppprrprrprrprprrrpprrpprprpp
- Bottom: rrpprpprrppprpprppprpprrpprrrprrrrrpprprrprrprrp

These colors relate to morse code.
Possible ways to approach this:
- Make the sound manually: "err" lasts longer than "pf"
- Wavelength of red is longer than the wavelength of purple (*Intended method)

Morse code results:
- Top: tacsgggkzzki
- Bottom: grpflltxttwofggg

Act 6

The letter, Pt. 2 The dots, Pt. 2

You most likely get stuck here, and go look for something you're missing. Use the "uppercase" hint on the inside of the safe door. Removing all the uppercase letters leaves you with "ITRHIIIMI".

Take the vowel replacements used in the letter, and create a substituted alphabet.

Use the string and substituted alphabet in a vigenere cipher, with the string being the key.

Deciphered:
- Top: lllluuuurrrr
- Bottom: uuuuddlllldduuuu

Creation Note: This was the most complicated part for me to solve. This is where my notes ended, and I had to figure it out. This also proved to be the most convoluted part of the entire solve. I am not a fan of how I constructed this part, and the mistake in my puzzle image didn't help. The vigenere was intended to be found through basic logic, "let me see what I missed, oh a random string of letters, maybe this is a key". However, no hint towards needing to use the substituted alphabet proved to be my biggest mistake here. While solving this I was getting similar answers, but nothing that I knew made sense. While I did eventually figure out I should use the alphabet from before, I feel as though I could of included any sort of intuitive hint towards that. It also was not fully clear when you found a solution here, so I wish I had included some sort of confirmation (random string of letters is not the most helpful).

Act 7

The Grid Critical Solution 2/3

You must use the given string on the grid provided in the back of the safe.

Possible ways to approach this:
- Video games: A lot of games (arcade or home) contain some combination of buttons to push to perform a certain action. These letters Could associate with D-pad directional commands often found in older, more retro style games. Look for something in the safe that could take in directional commands, like a map, or grid perhaps.
- Rubik's Cubes: The notation for Rubik's cube moves is similar to the given string. Recognition of this pattern could hint at directional instructions. Look for a type of cube within the safe.

Executing the directions onto the grid, starting in the shaded square, the two grids write out "C" and "H".

Using the same logic from the first time of replacing the letters with their position, you get "3" and "8". Placing them next to each other as the grids are placed next to each other, gives you 38. Negate it the same way as the first number. -38.

Creation Note: I did not indicate anywhere that this number needed to be negated. It is not intuitive to just assume it should be, as the first one was. Major issue and definitely could of caused some issues if solutions made it to this point.

Act 8

The equations Critical Solution 3/3

Top Equation: .00 + ((34 34 31 38 35 + 34 30 30)/35)

Possible ways to approach this:
- Recognize the ASCII HEX
- Adding .00 to something doesn't make much sense. Approach it as if you are adding strings together within a computer program and concatenate the two sides.

When solved correctly, results in .008917

Bottom Equation: .0 + (life + x)+(life - i)+v

Possible ways to approach this:
- The answer to life is 42
- "x", "i", and "v" are all extremely commonly known roman numerals, and could be recognized as such.
- Same addition logic as above
- Naturally going to want the first and second numbers to match structurally, given the similar equation style and safe location. This helps rule out any wrong ways of adding, assuming the first number was solved correctly.

When solved correctly, results in .052415

Creation Note: The switch from replacing letters with their position to suddenly using roman numerals threw me off a good amount when solving. It did not make much sense for me to do that, as well as give no hint. When creating the puzzle, my thought was that it would make sense since they are equations, and equations use numbers, but upon re-solving I realize that this logic is severely flawed, and that is not a natural conclusion to come to given the rest of the puzzle.

The Final Act

Final Solution

Known information:
- The safe leads to where the criminal is located
- Everything has a reason
- Number 1: -54
- Number 2: -38
- Number 3: .008917
- Number 4: .052415

Combine the top numbers and the bottom numbers from the morse code and equations respectively (top with top and bottom with bottom). This results in two decimal numbers: -54.008917 -38.052415.

Knowing that we need to find a location, it could be assumed that these numbers are coordinates to some location.

You'll know you're right because you'll have a friend

*Creation Note: Ahh, you've made it to the end. Welcome. One thing about the end of this puzzle is the uncertainty of it being correct. I should have added something to the puzzle, whether that be a solvable puzzle, or something within the intro story that hinted at how you would know you are correct. My assumption that the solution would be obvious based on the location you end up at was unrealistic, and nobody could of known what I considered to be intentional. For example, I could of added a simple line to the story regarding "sealing" a deal, or perhaps include a drawing on the safe of a snowflake, or something cold. Ultimately, the final solution was not clear.


Woo! You made it.

Thank you again to anyone who has attempted to solve this puzzle. I have learned a lot, and hope to create an even better puzzle soon. I made a lot of mistakes along the way, something natural for a few creator, but I had fun while doing it. I hope you all enjoy the solution I have provided, and please feel free to leave any sort of feedback and let me know what you think!

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4
  • $\begingroup$ Wow! This is the Foucault's Pendulum of puzzles. It's a tour de force of everything: external data on imgur, geographical data, various codes. Like Foucault's Pendulum, it would have benefitted in being only one third as long, in my opinion. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Commented Jun 13 at 4:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ But thanks for taking your time to write this down. It makes for an interesting read. Some things, like the correspondence of colours to their wavelength as dits and dahs, seem overwrought. On the other hand, the unspaced Morse that yields a Vigenere-encoded message is probaly unsolvable. (It is already hard to decode an unspaced Morse code when it is in English.) $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Commented Jun 13 at 4:53
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ But I liked the puzzle's general set-up: A jumble of things to work on where solving some parts will open up ways to solve other stuff. Looking forward to your next puzzles. $\endgroup$
    – M Oehm
    Commented Jun 13 at 4:55
  • $\begingroup$ @MOehm Thanks for your feedback! I definitely agree with you in that this puzzle was a bit jumbled of everything, and definitely could have been shortened. Going back through solving it i definitely agree with you about the morse code as well, this being my first puzzle i definitely overlooked a lot of things. Next one will for sure be better. thank you! $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 13 at 12:39

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