# The Sands of Time

There are people who claim that they can look upon the land, and the land will speak to them.

I recently got caught in a sandstorm, and particles of sand flew past my eyes.
What is the desert saying?
(The solution is six letters)

• Title sounds very much like this ... Commented Apr 12, 2015 at 23:26
• Is the answer DANGER? Just wanted to make a random guess. Commented Apr 13, 2015 at 11:37
• No, the answer is not DANGER. Commented Apr 14, 2015 at 1:23
• Perhaps it's time for a hint? Commented Apr 21, 2015 at 16:11
• Genius puzzle. I LOVE it. Ah, I've the feeling I missed far too many good puzzles in the last couple of weeks. If only I had more time... Commented May 3, 2015 at 19:01

It's hard to be sure with all this sand in my eyes, but I believe the desert is saying:

CACTUS

Reasoning:

Firstly, the title and the fact that the only numbers used in the grains of sand are 1 - 12, hint towards a clock face. From here, we can treat numbers as directions, such that from any given point, you just take the number given and travel according to the associated hour direction:

Then, starting at the odd grain out (the dark coloured 9), follow the path:

You have to squint a bit (because of all the sand), but it's pretty clear that the path scribes the word

CACTUS.

• @pacoverflow When I originally made the puzzle I thought it was too easy (!) so I put the colors there to throw people off. But obviously I greatly misjudged the difficulty of this particular puzzle when making it. A learning experience, I guess ^.^ Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 9:21
• @Tryth: I think you did the right thing with the colours. It certainly would have been much easier had there been only one dot that had any visual difference. The red herrings made for a more curious (but not impossible) puzzle. Puzzles need not be solvable by the community within a few days in order to be good puzzles. A 10-day solve is still within the realm of possibility, but indicates a more challenging puzzle than most other puzzles on this site. Well done! Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 12:19
• I disagree about the colors. I think it's never acceptable to make to make a puzzle harder by introducing intentional red herrings. It's fake difficulty. Nice puzzle otherwise though.
– xnor
Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 4:34
• @xnor - I agree with your general sentiment, though it didn't bother me in this puzzle as it was relatively minor/subtle. That being said there were probably other ways of making it more difficult without using pure red herrings... Eg. by using 24hr time, such that 18=6, etc (which could be made even more difficult by only going up to say 20, since they're effectively duplicates anyway), or by ditching the dark 9 and having all other paths be directed straight off the image so there's only one long path, but with no obvious start. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 4:45
• @xnor: A logic puzzle, perhaps, but seeing past red herrings is half the fun of steganograms like this one.
– user88
Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 1:28

I think that it is the Arctic desert, but I still trying to come up with my proof. There are few if any known sands that do not contain silica, and I am assuming that the image is a representation of the 'grains of sand' that we are looking at.

I first tried thinking of it as a word puzzle, but I actually think we are looking at atomic numbers and chemical composition.

Key points: Number 9 at row 1, col 3 is only dark coloured one (1 / 95)
8/95 dark coloured
6/95 light coloured 81/95 medium coloured

Num #   %   Atomic Symbol?
1   21  22% H
2   10  11% He
3   18  19% Li
4   5   5%  Be
5   5   5%  B
6   12  13% C
7   5   5%  N
8   8   8%  O
9   6   6%  F
1   0   0   0%  Ne
11  1   1%  Na
12  4   4%  Mg


That's a lot of Carbon, Hydrogen, Lithium and Oxygen. So I'm going with the Arctic, where the grains of sand would actually be snow. Can you please advise if this approach is remotely thinking in the right way? I can't quite sort out the font and background colour differences and they feel like either they are really important or just distracting.

• Unfortunately, you are far off. Commented Apr 19, 2015 at 11:27
• This is definitely thinking outside the box. Very creative, even if it's wrong. Commented Apr 20, 2015 at 20:15

I'm going to attempt to begin solving it

1)

First step is that I recognized there is one dark number, 6 light circles and 8 brighter circles all grouped in 6 distinct groups

2)

I tried adding them up - currently playing around with that idea, so far only the right hand most group seems to make sense - it is all bright circles and it gave me 19, the 19th letter of the alphabet is 'S' - I also realized that Sahara has 6 letters but havent been able to make the other 5 groups fit - yet. More to follow (maybe)

3)

There's also no number above 12. 12 hours on a clock (Sands of Time) or Morse Code gives drong/wksau :/ Brail doesnt really work either. Another thing I noticed (might be a clue) all bright or light circles only have 6 different digits in them. 6,8,1,9,2,3 (7 different numbers because 1 and 2 make up 12)