This time we are investigating a well secured safe. Simply breaking it is not possible (I've tried). We need to find the right combination!

Can you help me open it?

Along with the safe I found an orange puzzle card with letters and symbols printed on it. I assume it can show us the passphrase for the safe eventually. The puzzle is not complete though... In order to find the missing pieces I looked around the place some more:

Next to the safe I found a weird machine connected to a monitor and a keyboard. It seems to work with 3 different modes but I couldn't make sense of any of them. Everything I typed in resulted in weird noises coming from the speaker on the rear. Alien language?

Of course, I've made a 3D model for you so you can have a look at the machine:
$ \color{darkblue}{\boxed{ \sf ~~{ \large Start~3D}~~~\huge\raise-0.2ex\strut }} $ $ \color{darkblue}{\boxed{ \sf ~~{ \large Manual}~~~\huge\raise-0.2ex\strut }} $


• The final solution are the letters used to open the safe.

• You can have a look at the parts individually. All models are exactly the same as in the assembly above:

$ \color{darkblue}{\boxed{ \sf ~~{ \large Monitor}~~~\huge\raise-0.2ex\strut }} $ $ \color{darkblue}{\boxed{ \sf ~~{ \large Keyboard}~~~\huge\raise-0.2ex\strut }} $ $ \color{darkblue}{\boxed{ \sf ~~{ \large Box}~~~\huge\raise-0.2ex\strut }} $

• While I'm not here you can use this super complex algorithm to check your final solution, i.e. the combination for the safe, with the link below (only for fun and not mandatory):
-05↓ -10↑ -14↑ +09↑ +03↑

$ \color{darkblue}{\boxed{ \sf ~~{ \large https://i.sstatic.net/~*~*~*~*~*~.png}~~~\huge\raise-0.2ex\strut }} $

A hint or two


  • $\begingroup$ That 3D model looks a bit like a fridge to me. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ Nice alien though. Did you make it yourself? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 19:26
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @Randal'Thor What do you mean "make"? From how it looks, I can tell there is a British influence. It must have followed me all the way from Stonehenge. $\endgroup$
    – Avigrail
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I got the "nice try" message. Again. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Commented Oct 5, 2017 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ 500 alien coins - Who can explain mode #3?: My explanation: Mode three is basically "manual" mode where the input from the keyboard is sent directly to the Secret Alien Operator output (what looks like a speaker). I suspect that the result of some sort of blended tone that may or may not have an effect on opening the safe or it may produce a sound that solves the riddle. I HAVE NOT GIVEN UP ON THIS ...YET $\endgroup$
    – Dr t
    Commented Oct 10, 2017 at 1:44

4 Answers 4


Partial answer in progress. The first step is to

gain alien x-ray vision by appending "&shading=wireframe" to the URL.

In the safe, I found:

Two empty compartments. The aliens' anti-wireframe protections can be countered by the dark powers of your browser console. The safe's door is sealed by 12 bolts. Unfortunately the compartments don't seem to contain anything. enter image description here

In the monitor, I found:

1. The sticky note says "tehem ehtre atnci agnel eertc". Not a permutation cipher that I know of.

2. The inside of the monitor contains a lovely poem:

In the keyboard, I found:

Nothing, at least not on the inside. Note that if the keys map to the alphabetical keys on a modern US/UK keyboard, the following keys appear to be pressed down: E, R, T, Y, I, C, N. (As @Nopalaa pointed out, this anagrams to "NICE TRY", so it may be a red herring.)

Inside the box, I found:

An opening into the box (is this the speaker?), which leads to a series of tangled tubes. It also branches into a tube with 5 ridges, like a flower or asterisk.

Along the tube with 5 ridges, there is a box segment with the words "SECRET ALIEN OPERATOR" on it. The SECRET ALIEN OPERATOR is also connected to a cylinder. Inside the cylinder is the number 3.

Along the inner wall of the box, there is an "ALIEN LOGIC UNIT" with two possible input channels. One channel goes right, toward the tangled tubes, and has "1" written above it and "2" written below it. The other channel goes left and down to a small square, which has a channel leading to the SECRET ALIEN OPERATOR.

I sketched a diagram of the box's inside workings: enter image description here

In the dial, I found:

The words "ALIEN TECH". The dial has the values 1, 2, 3. It is currently pointing to the left (counter-clockwise) of the 1.

We are also given 5 letters S, V, T, D, P in a separate image.


* The dial settings 1, 2, 3 probably correspond to the numbers in the box.
* Keyboard inputs are passed to the box. It seems the keyboard only contains alphabet keys, so the inputs must consist of letters.
* Modes 1 and 2 are similar. Both modes involve the ALIEN LOGIC UNIT, and then reorder the inputs from the keyboard into the audio output.
* Mode 3 bypasses the ALIEN LOGIC UNIT and the reordering. Instead it involves the SECRET ALIEN OPERATOR, then goes straight to the audio output.
* The poem in the monitor says "No more hints in the wireframe", suggesting that the poem contains a meaningful hint.
* feelinferrety's answer shows that the transformation -05↓, -10↑, -14↑, +09↑, +03↑ on FORCE yields aEDLH, which points to an imgur URL with the text "I lied." Ilied is also 5 letters.

Some trial and error

Define $f(x)$ as the transformation ABCDE into AEDBC.
Define $f^2(x)$ as $f(f(x))$, the transformation ABCDE into ACBED.
Define $f^3(x)$ as $f(f^2(x))$, the transformation ABCDE into ADECB.
Ignore $f^4(x)$ and beyond because $f^4(x) = x.$
Define $g(x)$ as the transformation -05↓, -10↑, -14↑, +09↑, +03↑.
$$\begin{array}{|c|c|} \hline x & f(x) & f^2(x) & f^3(x) \\ \hline \text{tehem} & \text{tmeeh} & \text{theme} & \text{temhe} \\ \hline \text{ehtre} & \text{eerht} & \text{ether} & \text{ereth} \\ \hline \text{atnci} & \text{aictn} & \text{antic} & \text{acint} \\ \hline \text{agnel} & \text{alegn} & \text{angle} & \text{aelng} \\ \hline \text{eertc} & \text{ecter} & \text{erect} & \text{etcre} \\ \hline \text{brute} & \text{betru} & \text{buret} & \text{bteur} \\ \hline \text{force} & \text{fecor} & \text{froec} & \text{fcero} \\ \hline \text{ilied} & \text{ideli} & \text{iilde} & \text{iedil} \\ \hline \text{alien} & \text{aneli} & \text{ailne} & \text{aenil} \\ \hline \end{array}$$ $$\begin{array}{|c|c|} \hline x & g(x) & f(g(x)) & f^2(g(x)) & f^3(g(x)) \\ \hline \text{tehem} & \text{oUTNP} & \text{oPNUT} & \text{oTUPN} & \text{oNPTU} \\ \hline \text{ehtre} & \text{zXFAH} & \text{zHAXF} & \text{zFXHA} & \text{zAHFX} \\ \hline \text{atnci} & \text{vJZLL} & \text{vLLJZ} & \text{vZJLL} & \text{vLLZJ} \\ \hline \text{agnel} & \text{vWZNO} & \text{vONWZ} & \text{vZWON} & \text{vNOZW} \\ \hline \text{eertc} & \text{zUDCF} & \text{zFCUD} & \text{zDUFC} & \text{zCFDU} \\ \hline \text{brute} & \text{wHGCH} & \text{wHCHG} & \text{wGHHC} & \text{wCHGH} \\ \hline \text{force} & \text{aEDLH} & \text{aHLED} & \text{aDEHL} & \text{aLHDE} \\ \hline \text{ilied} & \text{dBUNG} & \text{dGNBU} & \text{dUBGN} & \text{dNGUB} \\ \hline \text{alien} & \text{vBUNQ} & \text{vQNBU} & \text{vUBQN} & \text{vNQUB} \\ \hline \end{array}$$ $$\begin{array}{|c|c|} \hline x & g(x) & g(f(x)) & g(f^2(x)) & g(f^3(x)) \\ \hline \text{tehem} & \text{oUTNP} & \text{oCQNK} & \text{oXQVH} & \text{oUYQH} \\ \hline \text{ehtre} & \text{zXFAH} & \text{zUDQW} & \text{zJTNU} & \text{zHQCK} \\ \hline \text{atnci} & \text{vJZLL} & \text{vYOCQ} & \text{vDFRF} & \text{vSUWW} \\ \hline \text{agnel} & \text{vWZNO} & \text{vBQPQ} & \text{vDSUH} & \text{vUXWJ} \\ \hline \text{eertc} & \text{zUDCF} & \text{zSFNU} & \text{zHQLW} & \text{zJOAH} \\ \hline \text{brute} & \text{wHGCH} & \text{wUFAX} & \text{wKDNW} & \text{wJQDU} \\ \hline \text{force} & \text{aEDLH} & \text{aUOXU} & \text{aHANF} & \text{aSQAR} \\ \hline \text{ilied} & \text{dBUNG} & \text{dTQUL} & \text{dYXMH} & \text{dUPRO} \\ \hline \text{alien} & \text{vBUNQ} & \text{vDQUL} & \text{vYXWH} & \text{vUZRO} \\ \hline \end{array}$$
Of all of these strings, only aEDLH yields a valid imgur URL.
I have no idea what any of this means. The 5-letter transformation might mean something when repeated. But from the machine's layout, if you trace the path from the keyboard input to the audio output, it seems the 5-letter transformation happens at most once.
I suspect that I am missing a clue from the 3D models. It seems like I don't have enough information to determine what the modes are supposed to do, and I suspect that making a blind assumption is not the correct strategy.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Forget the keyboard, it only spells "nice try" (anagramm) $\endgroup$
    – Nopalaa
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 14:08
  • $\begingroup$ WOW, those round parts are some serious high-poly. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 23:42
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe I should give away another hint that tells you how often you have to use modes 1 and 2 before using mode 3. I'll think about it. $\endgroup$
    – Avigrail
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ @Avigrail That probably won't be necessary, unless someone figures out what modes 1 and 2 actually do. $\endgroup$
    – MikeQ
    Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 10:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Avigrail When it comes to randomly guessing strategies, all guesses are equally reasonable a priori. $\endgroup$
    – MikeQ
    Commented Oct 15, 2017 at 15:18



I went another route since using traditional puzzling techniques didn't get me very far or else proved to be too much work. I took the title at its face value and got the following:

Cheeky bastard.

The way I got this solution?

Sometimes force is the answer

Welp, maybe FORCE really is the answer! Let's check it against the ridiculously high-tech formula $-05↓ -10↑ -14↑ +09↑ +03↑$ and see what we can find...

'F'can be represented as (6), so we subtract 5, and get 1; the arrow indicates lower case, so the first character is 'a'...$$F \rightarrow a\\O \rightarrow E\\R \rightarrow D\\C \rightarrow L\\E \rightarrow H$$
So the above image lives at Stack imgur ID aEDLH. Unfortunately, you don't get anything from doing the same thing with the letters on the card. SVTDP $\rightarrow$ nLFMS = nada.

Okay, fine. Let's take this in another direction. Maybe...

Let's go ahead and BRUTE FORCE this sucker. We'll be working with the sticky note in this scenario. Let me tell you, it's quite difficult to find an anagramming system that will allow you an input with so many characters, and for good reason! There are uncountable possibilities with so many letters to work with. However! You can get a few rather relevant words out of it if you really look.

A set of words with full usage of all letters in TEHEMEHTREATNCIAGNELEERTC is: "GENERATE LETTER MACHINE TECH". You can also find potentially useful partial anagrams such as NTH, THREE, THIRTEEN[TH], EIGHTEEN[TH], ALIEN, ENTER, EACH, CHANGE, INCREMENT, INTERCHANGE... I'm going to post more findings at the bottom of the post.

Disregarding the bigger picture for now and getting down to the minutiae...

The individual letter sets can be made into real words by feeding them through the machine twice on what I believe is Mode 1. Taking TEHEM and rearranging its letters based on the pipe tracks ($12345 \rightarrow 15423$) gets you TMEEH. Feeding the result through again gets you THEME. $$TEHEM \rightarrow THEME\\EHTRE \rightarrow ETHER\\ATNCI \rightarrow ANTIC\\AGNEL \rightarrow ANGLE\\EERTC \rightarrow ERECT$$ Okay, that's all well and good. Let's try this on our keycard before doing the math. SVTDP $\rightarrow$ SPDVT $\rightarrow$ STVPD, apply the algorithm to get nJHYG, aaaand ... no such image. Dangit.

Fun with anagrams

  • Hilariously, ELECTRIC NETHER GATE METHANE is a full solution. We've got powerful farts, people.

  • This alien world also features a rather exclusive golf club or restaurant: GENTLEMAN ARCHITECT TEE HERE/ARCHITECT GENTLEMEN EAT HERE

  • I think they've also got Washington's mythical dentures on display: ARCHAIC GENTLEMEN TREE TEETH

  • They've got a strange take on the "three guys walk into a bar" joke... TIGER CHEETAH CAMEL ENTER NET

  • Apparently they don't have a word for "octopus"... THE ERR EIGHT TENTACLE MENACE

  • Maybe Sue Sylvester got a boob job? GLEE TEACHER TEAT ENRICHMENT

OMG there's been movement on this...

Thanks to a large bounty offered/awarded by OP (thanks, Avigrail!) this puzzle made its way into my notifications and back onto my radar, complete with some fresh updates (directions on how to use the dang thing) and subsequent analysis by blurry - thank you, internet.

So, coming off of all the work done by us as a whole, we've established that we should...

  • Set to Mode #2 (letter order) and run it twice.


  • Set to Mode #1 (word order) and run it twice.


  • Set to Mode #3 (character [?] shift) and run it.


Well, shoot. I still don't know what to do and my brain is fried. I'm sure it has something to do with feeding all the words through at once and having it come straight out as noise, ...so you have to reinterpret it as homophones? "The man took either a rectangle"? Anyway, "rectangle" looks like a pretty valid option, whatever you're supposed to do.

Yes, it is now over two years since the last update

This puzzle keeps teasing me from the sidelines. I found a Thing today. I don't know if it is the Right Thing. But gee golly, anything that isn't that blasted "does not exist" message is a welcome change.

Last time on "Avigrail is Too Smart for All of Us": ($12345 \rightarrow 15423$) and Mode #3 does *shrug emoji*

From our list of words coming off of Mode #2, we have THEME ANTIC ETHER ERECT ANGLE so I tried that same number sequence to pull out individual letters - 1 from the first, 5 from the second... TCERG. Now we complete the last two steps and run that sequence through Mode #2 twice again for TCERG $\rightarrow$ TEGRC. Run it through the algorithm to get... oUSAF.

Now... imgur does INDEED have a result for this string.


Assuming that this is REAL, the 5-character string is what we want (it has been so far, right?) let's do some more messing around...

MMIJB $\rightarrow$ hCUSE

... aaaand, nothing. Fudge. Nothing for running the 5 through Mode #2 first either.

MBJMI $\rightarrow$ hRVVL

MIMBJ $\rightarrow$ hYYKM


  • $\begingroup$ Good work there. I like how you got ALIEN, although that is completely irrelevant here. Try using modes 1 and 2 until you see an opening for mode 3 and you'll be fine. No fancy tricks, yet. $\endgroup$
    – Avigrail
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 20:44
  • $\begingroup$ I noticed that the last letters of the words after rearrangement are an anagram of the last word. $\endgroup$
    – boboquack
    Commented Jan 5, 2018 at 8:46
  • $\begingroup$ @feelinferrety You made a transcription error that is throwing you off. You have the letters SVTOP, but the card actually reads SVTDP. If you apply the transformation twice with the correct letters, you get STVPD. The algorithm transforms that into nJHYG, which yields no image, but the raw letters STVPD do yield an image!! $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Sam Hazleton - I'm not convinced the STVPD.png is part of this puzzle. I think you've just stumbled across another random image, which is bound to happen with enough random strings of letters. $\endgroup$
    – Alconja
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 23:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Alconja I hadn't considered that possibility. I had assumed it was some kind of signal to move on to mode 2 or something. You may be right though. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 13:37

Partial answer (in the process of building):

I'm working on the manual.

After all the title says "RTFM" which stands for Read The F$&*(# Manual

The manual, without any interpretation says:

Alien Safe Manual

1. Set the switch to mode #2
2. Run x Times
3. Set the switch to mode #1
4. Run 2 times
5. Set the switch to mode #3
6. Run ? time
7. Change to mode #?
8. Run ? time(?)

Mode #1:
This order word mode changes

Mode #2: 
This mode changes ? order

Mode #3:
This mode shifts ?

Mode #1 in the manual would logically become

"This mode changes word order" which (if you look at position reallocation) lines up with 15423; conveniently at much less work than the previous answers used to arrive at that.

Notice that in Step 6

it says Run ? Time. This is able to be noticed because the 's' is missing in a font that takes up even spacing for each letter. This means it has to be a single Run 1 time. You can also see a 1 somewhat faded out in the whitespace

Notice that Step 8

is worded differently. I think there may be a clue here

Mode #2 aligns with "running two times" due to the work in another answer; summarized below:

From user feelinferrety: The individual letter sets can be made into real words by feeding them through the machine twice on what I believe is Mode 1. Taking TEHEM and rearranging its letters based on the pipe tracks (12345→15423) gets you TMEEH. Feeding the result through again gets you THEME. TEHEM→THEME EHTRE→ETHER ATNCI→ANTIC AGNEL→ANGLE EERTC→ERECT

This implies that Mode #2 says:

This mode changes Letter Order

What I believe is implied by the above and

the wiring diagram is that both Mode 1 and Mode 2 use the 15423 conversion; but #2 operates on letters (we have evidence for that) and the other on Words (I've now shown evidence of that)

Changing the order of the words once gives us: Theme Erect Angle Ether Antic but it says to perform it twice so Theme Antic Ether Erect Angle

I believe that you're then supposed to Run Mode #3 once which is:

Take the Shifting he provided for the ILied image and use it on the words provided? -05↓ -10↑ -14↑ +09↑ +03↑ I didn't perform more than a few letters yet as it seemed like nonsense.

I believe that Step 7 says:

Change to mode #2, based on the imprint of what was in the picture when I viewed it enter image description here

Thus, Where I'm at so far with the Manual

Alien Safe Manual

  1. Set the switch to mode #2
  2. Run 2 Times (evidenced by another answer that applying 15423 twice gives you words)
  3. Set the switch to mode #1
  4. Run 2 times
  5. Set the switch to mode #3
  6. Run 1 time
  7. Change to mode #2 (fairly confident this is a 2 because there are vague impressions of a due in the space remaining)
  8. Run 2 times (less confident, but it seems the original impressions of his image before the burns left an imprint of a 2 and an 's')enter image description here

    Mode #1: This mode changes word order (via the 15423 algorithm)

    Mode #2: This mode changes letter order (via the 15423 algorithm)

    Mode #3: This mode shifts ?

Side note:

I believe SVTDP is a transform of Force somehow. The title suggests this. Additionally, if you take the transform -05↓ -10↑ -14↑ +09↑ +03↑ and you add it up you get -17; which if you then add the number-conversion of SVTDP to; you get 64 I believe. When you add up FORCE you get 63. This seems awefully close to be a coincidence and is likely a 1-off error on my part in there


I suspect but haven't been able to figure out, that each of the English words given are somehow able to be turned into SVTDP. As in, maybe Theme is able to be turned into S. Like the english words being a validation step for getting part of the algorithm right and like the monitor telling you about wireframe mode, the keyboard saying Nice Try and the image telling you "Ilied"; i believe that the word-transform into those letters is maybe a validation step in showing that you've landed on a piece of the correct algorithm.

  • $\begingroup$ Now the rest is easy ;) $\endgroup$
    – Avigrail
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 13:06

This is not a complete solution but it is where I ran out of ideas.

The post-it on the monitor has the "words":

tehem ehtre atnci agnel eertc

I tried everything I could think of to use them with the puzzle card to find a solution

And I got nowhere

So then I went and looked inside of the "machine box" and I noticed that:

The alien tubes seem to follow a reconfiguration along the lines of: tube 1 goes to position 1, tube 2 goes to position 4, tube 3 goes to position 5, tube 4 goes to position 3, and tube 5 goes to position 2

I tried that system to decode the words from the post-it and got nowhere...hopefully this will help others to make progress.

It looks like the 3 way switch is set to position 3 which coincides with one of the labels in the box near the Secret Alien Operator. This must be what you get with switch setting 3. Switch setting 1 and 2 must coincide with the numbers on the smaller box that the tubes feed through.
My guess is that position 3 is:

Essentially "manual mode" which will allow tones to play directly from the keyboard and the other two settings cause the keyboard inputs to be modified by the tubes...

  • $\begingroup$ Don't give up my friend! Are you sure about the labelling of the tubes? $\endgroup$
    – Avigrail
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 6:26
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ If ABCDE somehow becomes ACBED then the words in the card can be "theme", "ether", "antic", "angle", "erect" $\endgroup$
    – ffao
    Commented Oct 6, 2017 at 21:43

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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