pan up and to the left

Agent: OK, let's test this out... pan over to that art on the wall... zoom in... Enhance!
Agent: [under breath] I've always wanted to say that...
Agent: Excellent, it's crystal clea-- Wait... What's that reflection?
Me: It looks like a face.
Agent: Ok, pan up and zoom in... Now, enhance!
Agent: Wow! Incredible! There's a slight fringing, but the detail is unbelievable! How does it work?
Me: Well it's based off a recent discovery I made about the fundamental recursive nature of the quantum membrane--
Agent: Shut up. I don't care. Zoom in on that reflection in the eye... ENHANCE!

[...8 enhancements later...]

Agent: Ok, pivot by ninety degrees... There! What's that hanging on the wall? Zoom in...
Me: *sigh* It's still just the same cross-stitch art as before, only from yet another slightly different angle. Nothing interesting.
Agent: What would you know about detective work? It's probably some sort of clue... Enhance!
Agent: OK, crop that and print it out... Let me have a look.

corrupted cross-stitch

Agent: What the-- That makes no sense. Clearly your software is rubbish. Get out! You're fired!
Me: Hmmm... Looks like the enhancement algorithm just has an off by one error in the fractal decompression subroutine--
Agent: What? Are you still here? Security!!

What does the cross-stitch say?


Although you need to focus almost entirely on the cross-stitch, there's still a couple of clues to be found in the other parts:

  1. Take another look at the first picture (though, as I mentioned in the comments, you can ignore the text at the bottom right)

  2. "the enhancement algorithm just has an off by one error"

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    $\begingroup$ I like how the enhancement algorithm got the border perfect and only screwed up the letters $\endgroup$ – question_asker Mar 17 '16 at 10:32
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    $\begingroup$ @question_asker - Yeah, the bug must... uh... only affect certain colours... Or maybe because the border is so regular it was easier to recalculate... Or something... ;) $\endgroup$ – Alconja Mar 17 '16 at 11:12
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    $\begingroup$ @question_asker - you don't strictly need tools to solve it (though tools would allow short cuts). Print it out and grab a pen. :) $\endgroup$ – Alconja Mar 17 '16 at 11:20
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    $\begingroup$ @question_asker - come on, this is a puzzle site, think outside the box! Copy the grid into excel? Online image editor? Sharpie on your monitor? $\endgroup$ – Alconja Mar 17 '16 at 11:37
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    $\begingroup$ If I scroll the browser window up and down, quickly, I can almost read something. But I can also tell you that some of the marks don't belong to the letters (or they've been tossed away from the letters, as fragments)... Oh, and if you try this, don't be surprised when the letters jump around. Your brain will keep switching between noticing the blue as primary, and the red as primary. It's annoying. $\endgroup$ – Khale_Kitha Mar 17 '16 at 14:20


The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Looking at the first picture,

the red lines are duplicated and offset vertically, while blue lines are duplicated and offset horizontally.

"the enhancement algorithm just has an off by one error"

The image is enhanced 12 times in total, and assuming the off-by-one error is an off-by-one-pixel error, you would expect any offset to be 12 pixels.

"There's a slight fringing"

This suggests that the offsets are in both directions (up and down for the red pixels, left and right for the blue pixels).

So the trick is

to duplicate the red pixels, shift them vertically 12 pixels both up and down, and then do the same for the blue pixels, but left and right, and wrapping around pixels that go off the edge.

Here's the result (made in GIMP):

pixel-based solution

And here's the "original" cross-stitch (from OP):

"original" cross-stitch

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Whoa, nice find! $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Mar 27 '16 at 23:39
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    $\begingroup$ This is fantastic, well done. I was caught up on the fact that the image sugguests the blue and red offsets are down and right (or up and left, depending on how the algorithm works) by the orthogonal red/blue fringing lines. I wouldn't thought of duplicating anything! I'm not sure how "There's a slight fringing" suggests the offset is in both directions, either, but clearly you have the right answer. Great puzzle. $\endgroup$ – DaveBensonPhillips Mar 28 '16 at 0:24
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    $\begingroup$ @HumphreyTriscuit thanks. Re: the fringing, I didn't pick up on the hint initially and only recognised it after I figured out the solution, but in photography, fringing occurs on both sides of an image. $\endgroup$ – Volatility Mar 28 '16 at 0:49
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    $\begingroup$ I had the red about done and the blue half done. (Notice my off by 2 comment referring to 2 chunks of the grid) You beat me to it. Nice solve! $\endgroup$ – Z. Dailey Mar 28 '16 at 0:50
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    $\begingroup$ Just edited an "original" version of the cross-stitch into your answer, and while I was in there, I scaled up your pixel art a little to make it easier to see. Hope that's ok. $\endgroup$ – Alconja Mar 29 '16 at 5:37

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