Question: Who is in first place?

Rainbow Road Level 1

It's difficult to add hints in the puzzle itself given its nature so I'll try to add some notes here as text instead.

Red: [Solved]

Orange: [Solved]




3 Answers 3


This puzzle is rainbow (road)-themed, and consists of a series of colored images. Each image contains the URL of the next image, encoded or obfuscated in some fashion.

Steve Eckert started us off by solving the "red" and "orange" images.

The "red" image (the image in the OP) used a traditional steganographic technique:

the URL was hidden in plain text, in a color one bit different from the background.

The "orange" image uses a classic encoding method:

The URL is encoded as Morse code.

f'' was next to step in, solving the "yellow" image:

The URL was enciphered using the same Vigenere cipher as the famous Kryptos sculpture whose coordinates were in the image.

This revealed the "green" image:


enter image description here

This image contains a number of barcodes. Each of the barcodes on the first row encodes a single character from the URL:

The first is an Aztec code. Using Mathematica to decode it produced m. (I verified its contents by hand, since I've been working a lot with 2d barcode formats in preparation for my next puzzle.)

The second is a Code 128 barcode, containing the letter L. I used Mathematica to decode this one as well.

The third and fifth are Code 39 barcodes, containing +C and W. The former is actually using the full ASCII extension to code a lowercase c. I decoded these by hand using the picture on the Wikipedia page.

The last large barcode is a MaxiCode, used mainly by UPS. This was by far the most difficult part of the puzzle, since it's hard to find information on the format, and there aren't any online MaxiCode readers (since nobody except UPS needs to read the barcodes, only generate them). I eventually installed a trial version of some computer vision software to reveal that the barcode contained only .png. (It was obvious in retrospect that the repeated pattern in the upper half of the barcode is just padding in the outer data area, since the barcode is a fixed size.)

This gives us all but one of the characters in the URL. Brute-forcing the remaining character by programmatically trying all 62 possible characters leads us to the "blue" image:


enter image description here

We can see the letters p, n, and g on the right, so it's apparent that we must rearrange the letters using the values on the left in order to retrieve the next URL.

I'm too impatient to figure out what $B'_L$ and $\beta$ are, so I programmatically searched all 120 permutations of the right-hand side that ended in .png, leading to the "magneta" image:


enter image description here

The solution seems to indicate that we were supposed to order the left-hand side by value, so we know that $\beta < B'_L < \sqrt{2}$. It could be that $B'_L$ is supposed to be Legendre's constant, $1$, in which case $\beta < 1$ (but I still don't know what $\beta$ is; oh well).

The next URL is encoded with a simple

Caesar cipher, which I figured out by noticing the difference between c and a was the same as the difference between p and n (what I would expect to be in the plaintext there). (As Zandar points out, this particular Caesar cipher is rot13, with to "rot5" for the numbers.)

Using a known-plaintext attack on the extension (.png), we get:


I wasn't sure how the cipher was supposed to affect the digits, so I once again brute-force searched all 100 possible digit assignments, which turns up (along with two false positives) the "purple" image:


enter image description here

You can tell that we're dealing with a transposition cipher, since all the characters from the expected URL format (http://i.stack.imgur.com/*.png) are here. Playing around some reveals that it's a simple

transposition cipher with 12 columns.

Note that in order to decode it correctly, some of the spaces in the text have to be doubled or trebled. With the correct spacing, I get:

Y       s i a t . i o 9
o a t H   n g t s m m .
u l h e t a e p t g / j
  m e r h l : : a u 5 p
a o r e e     / c r Y g
r s e     i   / k . 8
e t . i f m h i . c u 


You are almost there. Here is the final image: http://i.stack.imgur.com/5Y8u9.jpg

Yielding the final part of the puzzle:


enter image description here

In the spirit of the challenge, I'll present the answer as an image of my own:


  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The Caesar cipher is actually ROT13, as denoted by the 13 rotation symbols. I'd guess the 5 rotation symbols at the bottom suggest that you use the equivalent half-rotation ROT5 on the numbers. $\endgroup$
    – Zandar
    Dec 24, 2015 at 7:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Zandar Of course, how could I have missed that! As soon as I spotted that the letter difference between c and a was the same as p and n, I decoded it without even looking at the arrows. I wonder if this means that I should stop looking at the letters for the last one, and start thinking about what that train symbolizes... $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2015 at 7:29
  • $\begingroup$ The brute force method is crude but certainly effective. FYI, the rotation cipher was indeed ROT13+5 and the train one is a rail cipher with 7 rails. That's why you needed "extra" spaces when you wrote it out in rows. Tick for the final answer, +1 for the method in which you gave it. $\endgroup$ Dec 25, 2015 at 2:04

Downloading the image and using MS Paint's fill tool revealed this:


Going to that URL revealed this:

Rotating and mirroring that image, then using the fat muppets as dashes and the thin ones as dots, revealed the following morse code string: 6HW9W PNG. Going to http://i.stack.imgur.com/6HW9w.png revealed this link:


The coordinates are for the CIA Museum in Virginia. I feel like that's probably a hint for decoding that string, but that's as far as I can get for the moment.


The coordinates in the third image are the location of the Kryptos sculpture. Decoding 'e8efe.ctn' using

the method for the first part of Kryptos (keyed Vigenere with keys "kryptos" and "palimpsest")

provides the location of the next image: https://i.stack.imgur.com/b8qwn.png

This appears to be several barcodes. The one in the top left looks like an Aztec Code, while The large one on the bottom looks like a MaxiCode.

The third barcode is Code 39 with the information T+CT.

  • $\begingroup$ Mathematica tells me that the Aztec code encodes m. $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2015 at 5:17
  • $\begingroup$ @2012rcampion Just m? I thought it would be longer than that. $\endgroup$
    – f''
    Dec 24, 2015 at 5:42
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, it's a small code and it's only one layer. I verified it by hand, and it does only contain one character! I've also attempted to decode the MaxiCode, which apparently just contains .png. $\endgroup$ Dec 24, 2015 at 5:48
  • $\begingroup$ @2012rcampion sure, do that. $\endgroup$
    – f''
    Dec 24, 2015 at 20:18

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.