An entry in Fortnightly Topic Challenge #35: Restricted Title 1. Title based on this xkcd.

This puzzle contains hints for 220 black squares (but that's not the point) but is a standalone puzzle.

The counter-red-spider offensive begins...

We need your help to mount the counter-offensive against the red spiders. The following blueprints just came from mission control.

I hope we can stop them

It looks like they're encrypted somehow, but it doesn't appear that difficult; everything appears to be ready to begin construction. Those rules seem a bit fishy to me, but I'm sure it's nothing you can't handle.

(I just hope those spiders didn't muck with the plans. If they did, things could get a bit... complicated).



If you're feeling disoriented ask for help from your team.


Every man has a job.


This is not like my previous puzzle.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ (Some additional hinting may be in order at this point.) $\endgroup$
    – Rubio
    Commented Jul 8, 2018 at 21:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Rubio Done; hopefully it's not too subtle. $\endgroup$
    – H Walters
    Commented Jul 8, 2018 at 22:08
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ (BTW, this is a bigger hint than it may appear) $\endgroup$
    – H Walters
    Commented Jul 8, 2018 at 22:23

1 Answer 1


Partial Observations

Interpreting each gray-and-orange grille as a...

Polybius square,

... They spell out:

#grilles surrounding blue squares are decoded
#starting with the one above the top-left cell and winding around clockwise
AUSJCRRTUKGJ #Blue Square at row 1, column 1
VHKGGMJSYZPD #Blue Square at row 1, column 2
ECYMVOVZJEKM #Blue Square at row 1, column 3
YZEVGNGJYGLO #Blue Square at row 1, column 4
THFRLLHHFGMJ #Blue Square at row 2, column 1
QQSZAQEQSZEB #Blue Square at row 2, column 2
ESDZWJJLWATZ #Blue Square at row 2, column 3
TCSVYKYCQROV #Blue Square at row 2, column 4
JRUGATVHSAYK #Blue Square at row 3, column 1
WYABLJEDTWDM #Blue Square at row 3, column 2
GGGCEFCDUPXB #Blue Square at row 3, column 3
WDSPXRXQRRUG #Blue Square at row 3, column 4
#Lower left grilles:
#Lower right grilles:


The lower left grilles seem to be a hint that the grilles should be interpreted as letters. The lower right grilles apparently indicate that ROT13 and ROT11 encoding must be applied to some part of the puzzle.


Some cells in the blue squares have a slightly different shade of blue than the rest. Replacing this shade with red reveals: enter image description here ... Which may indicate that the spiders have altered the message in these locations.

Assorted guesses

  • The orientation of the stick men may indicate which grilles should be considered part of the message. Perhaps they only read the side closest to them, or the side across the center from them.
  • Before interpreting the grilles, they may need to be rotated so they are oriented to the point of view of the stick man reading them.
  • The blue cells may need to be moved and/or rotated so the edges match up in some way.
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Some general feedback... some things you point out are "obviously" applicable; ignoring that, speculation on spiders is a bit wild. Your best points aren't spoiled. And to avoid distraction, rot13: vtaber fgrtnabtencul sbe guvf chmmyr; vg'f sbe uvag bs bgure chmmyr naq erdhverf fbyivat guvf svefg gb znxr frafr. $\endgroup$
    – H Walters
    Commented Jul 8, 2018 at 22:18

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