This puzzle is part of the ‘Twelve Labours’ series, but can be solved independently. Previous instalments can be found here: Prologue | 01 | 02 | 03 | 04 | 05 | 06 | 07 | 08 | 09 | 10

His business at the butchers’ shop completed, Hercules crossed over the road to the hypermarket to pick up some apples. He had known the proprietor, Hesper, all of his life, and he hailed him loudly as he entered. Hesper was sitting behind his counter, cleaning a pair of exceptionally thick spectacles, but on hearing Hercules’ voice he put them on slowly, reached for his walking stick and tottered forwards to greet him.

“Hercules, what a relief!” exclaimed Hesper. “I’ve just had a delivery for the store, but those fools of a courier firm have stacked up all of my boxes totally wrong... I mean, just look at them – it’s like they never learned to count!”

Hercules peered into the storeroom, where forty-eight same-sized crates stood in uneven stacks against one wall. Each of them bore a coloured label marked with a numeral, a letter or a combination of the two:

enter image description here

Hercules could understand why the couriers had stacked the crates in this way, grouped by their label colour – but he also knew from past experience that Hesper had his own particular way of doing things...

“How would you prefer them stacked?” asked Hercules, keen to be helpful.

“Why, in the right order, of course!” hooted Hesper. “Start with the first one and take it from there; a way to proceed will soon become apparent. Plus, there’s a way to know if it’s done correctly – you’ll be able to spot a message I’ve left among the crates to remind myself which items are on special offer in the shop this week. Solve it and I’ll let you take some home for your dear, sweet mother...”

Hercules paused. “Have you ever met my mother?!” he joked.

TASK: Solve this enigmatic puzzle to learn which product is on special offer at the hypermarket.

Hint 1:

Hercules stared at the mess of crates before him, unsure of the precise arrangement to stack them in. Hesper grinned.

"I suggest just laying them out in the right order first. The precise arrangement you require will then be communicated to you somehow..."

Hint 2:

"Okay," said Hercules, "I've laid them all out in a line in ascending order, but I'm not seeing anything."

"On the contrary," said Hesper. "You're seeing a coded instruction..."

  • $\begingroup$ Could we get a hint? I'm as stuck as a finger in a chinese finger trap $\endgroup$ – AHKieran Nov 29 '19 at 10:00
  • $\begingroup$ @AHKieran I gently suggest you correct the diagram in your answer and then stare hard at those coloured boxes... You have interpreted the labels correctly. $\endgroup$ – Stiv Nov 29 '19 at 10:16



Building off of Jens' answer, we get the instruction

SIX ROWS from reading each color as morse code.

Stacking the boxes in this manner, with 1 in the lower left corner, and filling columns first yields

enter image description here

Reading this as

Braille (since Hesper has thick glasses and presumably cannot see well), with the gray boxes as pips, yields the answer CUPCAKES.

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  • $\begingroup$ I think you got it! $\endgroup$ – Jens Dec 3 '19 at 2:51
  • $\begingroup$ That's the one :) Well done! +1 and the checkmark is yours. Perhaps it might make your answer clearer if you can add some thick border lines to your diagram around the blocks of six that can be translated into letters; otherwise a casual viewer might wonder how on earth that stack of boxes translates with Braille... Could you maybe add that given a moment? Thanks! $\endgroup$ – Stiv Dec 3 '19 at 9:27
  • $\begingroup$ No problem, added! $\endgroup$ – Skynet_0 Dec 3 '19 at 10:22
  • $\begingroup$ Nice - just makes it that bit clearer. Thanks :) $\endgroup$ – Stiv Dec 3 '19 at 10:23

Very partial answer

If you

lay out all the boxes from smallest to largest and then group them by color, from left to right, in rainbow order

you get

enter image description here

If this is interpreted as

Morse code, you get: SIX ROWS

There's (at least) two ways to stack the boxes in that way, but neither way immediately gave me an answer. I'm thinking

Braille could be involved here, especially given the clue about Hesper's thick spectacles.

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well done Jens - that was the important breakthrough that had so far been missed. +1 for your findings (and your hunch being correct - you were so close!). Now... here's a story. Imagine my reaction when I head for PSE one morning last week to post this puzzle (which had sat ready for two months!) and the first one I see at the top of the pile is this one - two key elements in common (rainbow colours and Braille), it was unreal! Now it might make more sense to you how I was able to solve yours so promptly! :) $\endgroup$ – Stiv Dec 3 '19 at 9:30
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I see how that would help you! What an odd coincidence. $\endgroup$ – Jens Dec 3 '19 at 23:21


First thing of note:

The letters used are only A-F, which immediately jumps out as Hexadecimal. Therefore I believe all the labels are in hexadecimal. And should be stacked in this order, to somehow reveal a secret pattern.

Which gives us the ordering of:

enter image description here


My eyes deceive me and I cannot spot anything hidden in this format.

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    $\begingroup$ You have some mistakes in it - 9,13,27,28 should be yellow $\endgroup$ – Jan Ivan Nov 28 '19 at 10:38
  • $\begingroup$ damn, you right, must have skipped over that... Now changed $\endgroup$ – AHKieran Nov 28 '19 at 10:49
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ You say 3 rows of 16 but unless I'm just very tired it looks like 3 rows of 15. In particular, 10, 20 and 30 are unaccounted for. $\endgroup$ – hdsdv Nov 28 '19 at 11:08
  • $\begingroup$ @hdsdv you're absolutely right... why is my brain like this? $\endgroup$ – AHKieran Nov 28 '19 at 11:24

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