I apologize for the sloppiness of this post. I am writing it to get my disappointment with not solving this puzzle out of my system, and I am pressed for time. I'd have liked to have included more of a narrative to it, and to explore the genius of the puzzle's design, but I don't have time. Thanks for understanding. I'll write future posts that dig a bit deeper. -R. Scott Kennan
I'm going to tell you how I *almost* (arguably) solved a puzzle [Update: I was so very wrong-but the images are there] that was worth nearly $100,000 when I started it, but worth about $40,000 at the time of this writing. I'm leaving a lot of it vague, because this puzzle is worth exploring even if there's no money behind it. It's astonishing how much data its creators embedded into a seemingly simple image.
Around three years ago, an artist called "Coin_Artist" created a cryptographic puzzle that hid the key to a wallet containing 4.87 bitcoin. Others deposited coins to increase this value to over 5 Bitcoin. It was the final step of a multi-part puzzle called The Legend of Satoshi Nakamoto. Coin_Artist had a small team of coders to help her, but each one of them must be a true genius.
I found out about it just before Christmas, and quickly made significant progress. I didn't solve it in time, though --someone else finished it before me. Though disappointed, to be honest, I'm proud of the progress I made with no experience in cryptography, armed only with some photomanipulation skills.
This is the original image, size adjusted:
In this image, it was said, was the key.
My first thought on seeing this was that it related to the Shakespearean poem "The Phoenix and the Turtle" which I wasn't directly familiar with, though I had heard of. Reading it didn't give much information (to me).I couldn't figure out the chess symbolism directly, but once I looked up more information on the puzzle, I found clues related to "Through the Looking Glass" and "Alice in Wonderland" that had been posted on forums and twitter. Of particular note was the phrase "Follow the White Rabbit".
I thought about how I could use this image to unlock more data. I eventually tried making a copy of the image, flipping it horizontally, and screening it over itself. I found this image, which I called "The Crest".:
New data had appeared. On the bottom, upside down is the White Rabbit. I was on the right track.
But wait, there was sort of a heraldric crest image in the center, that if you squinted, seemed to have a crown over it. The image looked familiar. I googled "Two headed bird" and a few other things. To be honest, I don't remember the exact terms, but I did find this:
This is a symbol of Freemasonry, and my next clue. In the same search results, I noticed this:
These words, "Subtract, Multiply, Divide, Add" immediately leaped out at me as layer effects in a photo-editing program. So flipping the image over itself again, I began applying these Effects, which I thought of as moves. After some work, more was revealed. I'm skipping steps. Note the White rabbit, in prismatic color, mirrored vertically.
The puzzle went on like this for a while. It became evident that the whole puzzle was about making moves that were contrary to each other- flipping the image, rotating it, inverting it, or applying these kinds of layer effects in increasingly complex patterns. Usually, an image would have clues within it, regarding how to progress. It felt like cracking a safe, on one hand, or moving from one room to another (in a video game like "The Legend of Zelda"), as more and more images were revealed.
Here are some of the other images I found. There are hundreds more than this.
In this one, you can clearly see division symbols, which were the clue to the next step- the "divide" Layer Effect.
Though you can't see it in these images, you often had to zoom way in, or way out to find the clues you needed. Tiny figures, similar to Sergio Aragonés cartoons, but in many different styles, filled these images ,and combined to make larger ones. often you'd see a face from one perspective, and it would be the body of a creature seen from another.
The whole thing was about changing perspective, as quickly and fluidly as possible. It was a rabbit hole, and in more than one way. There seemed to be two parallel stories; that of the mythical Satoshi Nakamoto (anonymous creator of Bitcoin), told as the story of a heroic warrior, at times, and the story of the White rabbit, leading the viewer through the multiverse- full of heavens and hells from every tradition. One image might consist of Hindu imagery, another might be a world of demons, lizards or insects.
These images gave clues. Demons obviously meant you were heading the wrong way, and to backtrack, while a moth appearing meant that you needed to be patient, and press on. Lizards, like Frogs, were always cool.
Sometimes you'd find yourself in a world of light or darkness, and have to determine if you should press on, or backtrack to an earlier image.
Together, these images seemed to describe a space, at least three dimensions, but maybe more. Each of the 22 layer Effects was like moving in a different direction in the space the puzzle described. As a side note, in Kabbalah, the 22 letters of the Hebrew Alphabet describe space in a similar way, with each letter representing a direction, in a model called "The Cube of Space".
At one point in Satoshi's story, I found myself at a treasury filled with mean guards and piles of gold, that was locked up- walled off, as streams of little figures tried to get in. I sliced the image into quadrants, and flipped each quadrant to open the treasury, allowed the people to stream in. Later, the image morphed, and A scroll was revealed, and upon manipulating the image to open it, This happened:
And with this, Satoshi Nakmoto's thread in the puzzle was done. His story was told, but there was no code. The white rabbit's story continued on, however.
Apologies for not posting more, but I had to resize them individually, as the originals are huge. It's also hard to dig through the literally hundreds of images and load them, with as slow as my computer is. I may update the post with more, later.
So now, my role was to follow the White Rabbit, in the hopes that he would lead me to the Bitcoin wallet.
There were a lot of red herrings. At one point, I found this:
If you squint (I didn't have to because I was so deep into the puzzle), you see a sort of stoned-looking White Rabbit, his head diagonally Northwest, and feet to the Southeast, clearly holding an invisible object- a square. I thought it might be a QR code like this:
Such a code, once scanned by a phone app, could lead to a bitcoin wallet. I thought it might be a simple matter of manipulating the image the right way to find it. I tried everything I could think of, and decided to go down another branch of the puzzle.
Eventually, after exploring a huge number of possible paths, I came to a point where the image began to separate into what looked like CMYK color. The image I was working with was RGB, but the hint was clear- separate the color channels. I did that, and suddenly I was working in pure black and white. I layered the color channels and applied separate layer effects and manipulations to them. I saw some cool stuff like this:
After weeks of hard work on such a mind-bending puzzle, I was getting punchy. The filename for this one was "Kandinsky Combo with Cheese", because it reminded me of a Kandinsky painting. Note the highy stylized white rabbit.
There were a ton of these black and white images. All told I spent more than half of my time working in black and white. It was a lot harder than color.
The last image I was working on was a few minor steps beyond this:
As you can see, it got very intense. It was increasingly hard to see what was going on. This may very well have been the wrong track, but it seemed promising. When the final image is revealed by the puzzle's winner, I'll know for sure.
So that's it for now. It was an amazing experience, that seemed to describe a path to enlightenment. It was full of wonder and dread, and even jokes, low brow and high brow. Despite not solving it, it was a worthy endeavor. I recommend that others explore this puzzle on their own. This post might be a sort of guide, but don't rely too heavily on it. Some images may be out of order, and I kept things vague to allow others to find what I've found on their own. I've glossed, and possibly misremembered, a lot.
One last hint for now:
In the initial image it was immediately clear that the squared spirals, Clockwise, Counterclockwise, Counterclockwise, and Clockwise would play a role in the solution. I don't know if it was involved in the solution, but it was important. That order, specifically. It didn't always involve strict rotation- sometimes it was inverting the colors of the image, or flipping it vertically or horizontally. That kind of thing. Think about contrary qualities, and how to use them.
Follow coin_artist on Twitter for more puzzles like this. There's a new one currently worth around $9,000 in Ethereum, I believe.
Finally, if you explore the rest of this site, I apologize for its state. This is a personal blog, not a professional website, and there are a lot of half-begun creative projects of mine. Not all information on them is up to date.