This puzzle is part of the Monthly Topic Challenge #5: On-and-onograms

The story is not needed to solve the puzzle.

Recently, I've been cleaning out my room, more notably my box of old documents.
Test scores, torn out notebook pages, so many good memories.
And that's when I stumbled upon it. The valentine.
The puzzling club at my high school didn't do those candy-gram things, they sold nonoGrams every year on Valentine's Day. You could ask for any message, a picture, or just a normal puzzle. They custom-made every single one. I had received this one during my sophomore year from one of my friends.
"The message might read like gibberish, but that's okay!" they said, putting the nonoGram into my hand.
I never ended up solving the nonoGram.
However, I'm married to said friend now. I brought the valentine downstairs to show them, and they giggled a bit. I then asked what the answer was.
"Did you never solve it? Well, why don't you give it another try?"
I ended up spending the rest of the afternoon solving it.
I immediately facepalmed when I got the answer.

What word was hidden in the nonoGram?

An unsolved nonogram grid.

Here is a copy-paste version of the grid!

                    1   1       2   2       2   
                    3   2       4   2       2   9
                6   3   1   6   3   1   9   6   5
                5   2   2   7   2   1   5   2   1
                4   1   4   1   1   1   2   1   1
                5   1   3   4   2   3   5   3   2
    1   2   3                                   
    2   1   3                                   
    1   5   1                                   
    1   4   1                                   
1   1   1   1                                   
        1   5                                   
3   1   1   1                                   
    1   3   3                                   
    1   1   1                                   
    1   2   2                                   
        5   2                                   
    1   2   3                                   
        4   4                                   
1   3   1   1                                   
    2   1   2                                   
        4   4                                   
        1   1                                   
    1   1   1                                   
1   1   1   2                                   
1   1   1   1                                   
        4   3                                   
        1   7                                   

Hint 1:

The first hint.

Hint 2:

The second hint.

Hint 3

I let this puzzle be for a little while, and I have realized how significantly underclued this puzzle may be. My apologies.
With number one, continue in order.
For number two, take a look at the border.
Three could take you quite a long time,
And for four, looping is prime.
Five requires strange operations.
Number six - see the changes and their application.
Yet seven - what a strange way to encode!
Finally, eight has directions bestowed.


3 Answers 3


Adding this answer as a Wiki since it's just a re-versioning of Ed Murphy's solution to the nonogram that others may find helpful in their own work. (by @Engineer Toast)

Solution with borders:

enter image description here

Solution without borders:

enter image description here

Solution as CSV text: (1=red, 0=blue, -=empty cell)


Solution as CSV text: (1=red, blue & empty cells as empty text)


Possible partial solutions, or more probably several dead ends (by @zovitz)

Considering the empty 3x3 frames in the last column, which are seemingly unrelated to the nonogram, I tried to derive some values to be used in them by applying various logical functions to the respective cells in the three frames in the same row, but neither one of AND, OR and XOR netted any useful-looking results:

enter image description here

CSV format:


The OR results in four identical (all-1) frames (strong indicator of a dead end), while XOR gives a result where the first two frames are identical (not many 8-letter messages would start with two identical characters). Various attempts to translate the frames into letters also led to nowhere recognizable, even with the available two hints (which don't seem to be applicable in any way). Tried schemes: indexing the cells of a frame 1-9 (independenly as 9-1) and summing the indexes of cells that have 1 as a value, the same with 0 as value, indexing the cells with powers of two and summing the 0 or 1-containing ones. Always with mod-26 and A1Z26 encoding.

Addressing the hints given in Edit3:


"With number one, continue in order."

  • Straightforward, just go on: K,L,M -> N (by @zovits)
  • "For number two, take a look at the border."

  • Suggests pigpen cipher, which would result in C,F,B -> ?

  • C,F,B,... O (segment from random OEIS sequence related to the Sieve of Eratosthenes (https://oeis.org/search?q=6%2C9%2C5%2C8&language=english&go=Search) written out as chemical elements (atomic numbers 6, 9, 5, 8) and then encoded using the pigpen cipher. Possibly forced.) (right letter;wrong method) (by @Amoz)

  • Just overlaying the three cells gives O (by @ACB)
  • "Three could take you quite a long time,"

  • Possibly ASO -> N: August > September > October > November (by @Lukas Rotter)
  • "And for four, looping is prime."

  • Overlay the three blocks on top of each other (looping?) results in the letter E (by @Amoz)

  • Considering this to be the snake of well-known snake game, the only valid letter can be formed seems to be S. (though doesn't align with the first cage) (by @ACB)
  • "Five requires strange operations."

  • Mathematical operations: Add, Divide, Multiply -> Subtract (by @fljx) (wrong order according to OP)
  • "Number six - see the changes and their application."

  • The change between the 1. and 2. squares is a \, and between 2. and 3. is a / -> X (by @zovitz)

  • U: Number the nine squares in each of the three blocks 1-9. For each of the three instances of a numbered square, count how many times it is blue and how many times it is red.

  • If it is more blue then red, color the final square blue, else red: prints out "U".
    Note: looks like q^p, possibly hinting at using AND-type logic (except we have three values here, and are finding majorities) (by @Amoz)
  • Continuing the first method, taking also the middle character (•°•) into consideration, could be M or N(from XOR) (by @ACB)
  • "Yet seven - what a strange way to encode!"

  • C: Convert 1 and 3 to binary (leave 2 as the / sign), then to decimal, then to element, then to rot-13, then to simplified equation, then AZ to number, then simplify, then number to AZ (I assume this is forced, this is ridiculous):
    001101100 - 108 - Hs
    001010100 - / (divided by sign)
    001110101 - 117 - Ts
    So: Hs / Ts, -rot 13: Uf/Gf, equation: U times f/G times f, simplify: U/G, convert A-Z to 1-26: 21/7 = 3, convert 1-26 to A-Z: 3 = C (by @Amoz)

  • Use morse code (@OP)

    "Finally, eight has directions bestowed"

  • E (The unshaded cell is moving in the clockwise direction) (by @ACB)

  • H: Morse code from top to bottom reads: - - M / . - A / - T... add H to spell "MATH". 'Use math' could be a direction for solving this puzzle. (by @Amoz)
  • Seems highly likely the answer is 'NONESUCH': "a person or thing that is regarded as perfect or excellent.". I added all my explanations but some of them seem unlikely. - Amoz

    Current correct letters gives

    NONS-M-E or NONS-N-E

    Current ideas about the final word:

    this is nonsense! :P

    Hints within the original puzzle: (by @ACB)

    • In every occurrence of the word "nonogram", letter "G" is capitalized. (i.e. nonoGram)

    • The text in the nonogram has the word "smart" italicized.

    Apart from that, the solution to the mini-nonogram given in hint 2 seems to read


    All these hints suggest that

    we are being tested about general intelligence.

    Intended Solutions (OP's notes)
    This puzzle was pretty poorly constructed in most areas and definitely did not give enough context to properly solve for most of the letters.


    The edges are meant to represent a binary counting system, with the first digit being the top edge and continuing clockwise. 1100, 1101, 1110, 1111 (O)


    Snake is quite close, it moves in an up-down pattern towards the left, though it is not the only valid move it could make. S.


    Super close! Subtract, Add, Divide, Multiply, Exponents, Parenthesis (E)


    The left diagonal inverts its colors, and then the right diagonal. This results in an M.


    I do not remember how Morse code relates to these ones. The correct letter is S.


    This one is a sliding tile puzzle, with the move going down, left, and then up to result in the letter E.

    • 1
      $\begingroup$ @Neil I had the same thought until rows 6 & 7. My best guess for those being letters is Q^P and then blue Z, /, backwards h. $\endgroup$ Nov 3, 2022 at 15:01
    • $\begingroup$ The 8 letters solution to some "valentine" puzzle is obviously "I love you" ! ;) + This matches the introduction text... Note I first thought that hint 1 was giving the position of vowels (A) and consonants (not A), but finally not (or the puzzle's author did the same mistake that I did 5 mins ago when I though "you" was made of 3 consonants!) $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2022 at 12:51
    • 1
      $\begingroup$ @franckvivien The question states "What word was hidden in the nonoGram" $\endgroup$ Dec 15, 2022 at 11:32
    • 1
      $\begingroup$ While not entirely complete, with the nature of how this puzzle's current state I shall grant the Holy Green Check Mark for the correct answer of rot13(ABAFRAFR)! $\endgroup$
      – WoomyRogue
      Dec 20, 2022 at 15:34
    • 1
      $\begingroup$ @WoomyRogue Regarding the explanations post-script, what were the intended ones? $\endgroup$ Apr 11 at 13:55


    enter image description here

    First attempt at the final answer, based on hint #1:

    Row 1 KLM -> N (alphabetical order)

    Row 2 LCU -> ?

    Row 3 ASD -> F (QWERTY keyboard)

    Row 4 Lbd -> ?

    Row 5 ADM -> ?

    Row 6 q^p -> ?

    Row 7 ?/? -> ?

    Row 8 OWB -> ?

    Searching a word list suggests NIFTIEST

    • 2
      $\begingroup$ Do you have any ideas about the next step? I'm pretty sure solving nonogram was the easiest step. $\endgroup$
      – ACB
      Nov 3, 2022 at 13:14
    • $\begingroup$ Only vaguely. A lot of the 3x3 blocks look like letters or other characters, but a few don't look like anything coherent. Lots of moves / codes possible, none of them obviously relevant. $\endgroup$
      – Ed Murphy
      Nov 4, 2022 at 2:13

    Here's the solution to the Hint 2 monogram:

    hint 2 nonogram

    Solution as CSV text: (1=red, 0=blue, -=empty cell)


    Solution as CSV text: (1=red, blue & empty cells as empty text)

    • 8
      $\begingroup$ Hello and welcome to Puzzling SE! Thank you for soling that nonogram for us. (But frankly, it wasn't that hard, was it?) Engineer Toast's answer above is a "Community wiki", which means it is an answer to collect data which might be useful. Wikis serve as "evidence locker" for complex puzzles. Your legwork is appreciated, but you might consider editing your answer into that wiki. (Since it's a wiki, you won't get any rep for that. But Engineer toast won't, either.) By the way, do you have an idea what your nonogram means? Happy solving! $\endgroup$
      – M Oehm
      Nov 8, 2022 at 5:31

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