# This is important. I need you to listen…

Look, you don't know me. We've never met. But, like I said, I need you to listen...

I had the most disturbing dream the other night... Woke up in a cold sweat and couldn't get back to sleep. It wasn't a nightmare as such, just ... eerie, I guess? I don't even remember the details, but it left me with a real sense of foreboding. Weird thing about dreams, so clear when you have them, but the details fade so quickly... Vivid, yet fuzzy... And the strange logic that applies... Inconsistent flow of time... Disjointed cause and effect...

I'm rambling... The thing is, when I woke up, I found an odd magazine clipping on my bedside table. It feels so familiar, like I've had it for quite a while, but for some reason, I can't remember how or when I acquired it. Wherever it came from, all I know is that it I gives me the same creepy feeling my dream did.

Anyway, the strangest part about all this is... And perhaps you won't believe me... But, this piece of paper, I think...

...I think it's meant for you.

Here's a photo I took showing the whole page (click to enlarge):

I also took a scan of the main picture, but my intuition says it's the least important part. I thought the text of the main "article" might be more useful to you, so I've transcribed it here:

RXZMHTHXCUTANEMZNVNQDTH
MWDEJULDYHPHVERHBPGPOMT

pltdlgvqncltrr
umtmrqgba
mcdmwuygplpsdw
vaitzgifamqciw
wcogsplseplhbz
kgfibhsjyiebvt
jsurvclhzegko

nipzsbwaetoivh
onbvrvhtslls
lusihvlncaawlttfv
bngamiivvc
dyktpklecfjbijm
lpuhhvqtneqtrw
wfsgtfvqkyshgk
ngtdwiivvlitga
nrhqmkcmrleflmgl
uwlmfwgvv
unayficwvhoickso
wfxjbklwfmsnf

uwilt
RGMRI R VQKQ
LKH EOP A AGU A
kmuwzs
KNPW AGMR IIQ LBQP
KHAOP WFLZA WAK EZ

qikbfvmaovsncb
qaoelayjrklvum
owgarzmmndm
brghwcovoyiflark
apsblpqiflmhjbty
fifmayvzpij

Hopefully this all means more to you than it does to me...

Edit: As per this meta post, I've created a chat room if people wish to collaborate and discuss theories or post their partial solutions/notes somewhere.

• Incredible detail, all the little hints. Great puzzle! Mar 7 '16 at 14:29
• Hmm, for all those who haven't done so yet: YOU DO WANT TO CLICK TO ENLARGE THE IMAGE. ;c) [Very mean, Alconja!] Mar 7 '16 at 15:34
• wow, that scan is super high quality! it's like I'm looking at the original image! Mar 7 '16 at 15:41
• @question_asker - I've... I've got a very high quality scanner... Mar 7 '16 at 23:30
• This puzzle is what led me to join Puzzling SE. Very nicely done!
– TNT
Mar 10 '16 at 18:21

(Thanks to f'' for the help in chat! He solved the majority of this puzzle - I just came in at the end.)

Step 1: Crossword

The crossword was solved by feelinferrety, Z. Dailey, and Sleafar:

Step 2: NOTHEX

In the caption, if you look at A and D only (as it says in the NOTHEX ad), and interpret them as crossword clues (only taking the letters not torn off) you get the message "THE TITLE IS THE KEY".

Step 3: Using The Key

When you use the newspaper title as a Vignere key for the first paragraph, you get the message
"you're not listening read it again and realise the truth"

If you use the question title instead,

you get a message for all four paragraphs:

well done you are
beginning
to see but we have
not finished yet
you need all your
synapses firing
for this to work

a pirate's search
but in reverse
a map disguised here
in the verse
perfectly square
this text aligns
the mark is found
and now it dawns it's
not enough
dual maps required
one fore one aft

first
ENEEE N SSWW
SWW WWW W NNN S
second
WWWW NNEE EEN NNWW
WWSWW SSSSS ESS WN

but if it's broken
what difference
would it make
that the truth will
become clear

Step 4: Following Directions

"In the verse / perfectly square" hints at the poems being more than just instructions. In fact, all of the text in the "article" is exactly 400 letters, which can be arranged into a 20×20 grid. "A pirate's search but in reverse" hints that we're starting at an X instead of ending at one. So, if you take the text and arrange it into a square grid, you get this:
pltdlgvqncltrrumtmrq
gbamcdmwuygplpsdwvai
tzgifamqciwwcogsplse
plhbzkgfibhsjyiebvtj
survclhzegkonipzsbwa
etoivhonbvrvhtsllslu
sihvlncaawlttfvbngam
iivvcdyktpklecfjbijm
lpuhhvqtneqtrwwfsgtf
vqkyshgkngtdwiivvlit
ganrhqmkcmrleflmgluw
lmfwgvvunayficwvhoic
ksowfXjbklwfmsnfuwil
trgmrirvqkqlkheopaag
uakmuwzsknpwagmriiql
bqpkhaopwflzawakezqi
kbfvmaovsncbqaoelayj
rklvumowgarzmmndmbrg
hwcovoyiflarkapsblpq
iflmhjbtyfifmayvzpij
and for the plaintext:
welldoneyouarebeginn
ingtoseebutwehavenot
finishedyetyouneedal
lyoursynapsesfiringf
orthistoworkapirates
searchbutinreverseam
apdisguisedhereinthe
verseperfectlysquare
thisteXtalignsthemar
kisfoundfollowthesig
nsandnowitdawnsitsno
tenoughdualmapsrequi
redoneforeoneaftfirs
teneeensswwswwwwwwnn
nssecondwwwwnneeeenn
nwwwwswwsssssesswnbu
tifitsbrokenwhatdiff
erencewoulditmakeonc
eyoucananswerthatthe
truthwillbecomeclear
Follow the directions in the third paragraph on the first grid (taking letters after every space), and you get the message "AMBIGRAM". If you repeat the process with the second grid and the second set of directions ("dual maps required, one fore one aft") you get "ISBROKEN".

Step 5: The Image

An ambigram is the same thing upside-down and right-side-up. The image is almost an ambigram, but some pixels are changed. If you XOR the image with itself rotated 180°, you get the following:

Step 6: Interpreting Everything

Well, we appear to be in a coma. The messages on the borders of the "please wake up!" image are:
- We've been trying to get a message to you...
- You're in a coma...
- There was an accident...
- We miss you...

Even the crossword clues hint that you're in a coma: specifically, the unused clues for 7, 16, 21, and 26 across. (The solutions to those are "accident", "pity", "coma", and "dream".)
So we have two options: waking up and having to talk to people or staying in weird coma-land where everything is puzzles. I know which one I'd choose.

• what an amazing and chilling puzzle! Mar 8 '16 at 5:52
• Chilling. Brilliant. Well done! Mar 8 '16 at 7:48
• Amazing answer, and honestly this is an even more amazing puzzle. Congratulations man !
– Nico
Mar 8 '16 at 13:30
• What if I am actually in a coma and this riddle I see in my dreams is a hint from the real world... oO Mar 9 '16 at 8:05
• @dounyy OPEN YOUR EYES :p Mar 9 '16 at 8:19

Here's what I found so far:

# Title

The word listen in the title looked pretty important from the beginning. It is also repeated in the first line of the question and there is a hint in the crossword (see below).

# Crossword

The visible hints for horizontal entries give the words ISOLATED, THEOLOGY, PITY, THEORY and KEY. The vertical word EYES was given in the linked image from the question. Filling the remaining letters reveals 2 additional vertical words: TITLE and EIGHTH. The eighth word in the title is listen.

# Continuation

I'm stuck for now. The word listen suggests that the rest of the puzzle might have to do something with music. The letters A-F could stand for notes (they are obviously not hex numbers as stated in the advertisement). Replacing the numbers below the image with letters from the crossword didn't work for me either (even when using A & D vitamins only).

• As per this meta post, I've created a chat room to discuss theories/work in progress... Feel free to move your notes across there. Mar 8 '16 at 0:01
• @Alconja Need some sleep now. I'm afraid I won't be able to contribute more until tomorrow. Mar 8 '16 at 0:05

I'm going to follow another user's example and post an answer to make notes.

Solving the crossword:

Thanks to Z. Dailey for the missing words. (1D, 4A, 11D)

• As per this meta post, I've created a chat room to discuss theories/work in progress... Feel free to move your notes across there. Mar 7 '16 at 23:57

Putting this in an answer so I can properly spoiler it out without doing rot13 in a comment.

Use this for what it is... ideas I've looked into on this... doesn't mean I'm going in the right direction.

I believe there's a word hidden in the picture and with what ive looked at on it, steganography comes up, so there may be something hidden in the file itself.... also solved the crossword and cant quite gather anything meaningful from the hex like digits below the pic even using letters from those respective words... words 2, 3, and 20 are missing from the page, but the rest of them likely go with the words in the crossword. Vitamins A & D only stands out with the letters used in the hexlike chars tho...

more observations:

confirmed pic isnt useful in the beginning of the puzzle... i bet the article decodes to instructions for manipulating the picture. 2F, 19A, 4E, 11D, 4A, 25C, 11A, 24A, 1B, 3F, 20C --> CF, TA, IE. TD, IA, YC, TA, KA, EB, _F, _C ???? focus on A and D. an anagram basically spits out "at a data kit".

unless someone wants to start a chat on this one and I'll delete this.

• Some good observations... Just to save you some potential wasted time, I'll reiterate that my intuition says that the static image is the last thing you should be looking at. Maybe it will mean more later down the track... Mar 7 '16 at 23:07
• Yah. I'm not looking at it yet. I read. ;). But some people also say things to be misleading. Either way. Ignoring the pic for now. But it looks like a word goes from bottom left to top right. Mar 7 '16 at 23:08
• Oh, and there's nothing digitally "hidden" in any of the files themselves, they're just images straight from my camera/scanner. What you see is what you get. Mar 7 '16 at 23:10
• As per this meta post, I've created a chat room to discuss theories/work in progress... Feel free to move your notes across there. Mar 7 '16 at 23:57