"Lost" Puzzle in Wired Magazine

For the April 09 issue of Wired Magazine, I was asked to create a cryptographic puzzle based on the television show Lost. Specifically, I was given a "clue" to encrypt.

Here are details of the puzzle and solving attempts. Near as I can tell, no one has published a solution.

Creating something like this is very hard. The puzzle needs to be hard enough so that people don't figure it out immediately, and easy enough so that people eventually figure it out. To make matters even more complicated, people will share their ideas on the Internet. So if the solution requires -- and I'm making this up -- expertise in Mayan history, carburetor design, algebraic topology, and Russian folk dancing, those people are likely to come together on the Internet. The puzzle has to be challenging for the group mind; not just for individual minds.

Do I need to give people a hint?

EDITED TO ADD (5/20): No hints required; there's a solution posted.

Posted on May 19, 2009 at 1:06 PM • 19 Comments

Comments

wiredogMay 19, 2009 1:29 PM

expertise in Mayan history, carburetor design, algebraic topology, and Russian folk dancing,

Finally! A use for that degree!

florianMay 19, 2009 2:03 PM

I'm having a hard time imagining why art history would teach something about carburetor design.

Bruce, you need to make such a puzzle. Even if there's nobody who can solve it.

BF SkinnerMay 19, 2009 2:17 PM

@florian

I dunno...I rebuilt my first carbourator in industrial arts class.

recovering cartalk listenerMay 19, 2009 2:28 PM

@florian

I dunno, but one of the CarTalk guys has a daughter who majored in Art History so their thanksgiving dinner would be perfect for that puzzle

BernieMay 19, 2009 2:35 PM

Since I've never seen the TV show, will a hint other than "watch the show" help me?

Tangerine BlueMay 19, 2009 2:57 PM

Is that lottery ticket supposed to be there, or was that added by the blogger?

Let them the academic melting potMay 19, 2009 3:42 PM

"expertise in Mayan history, carburetor design, algebraic topology, and Russian folk dancing, those people are likely to come together on the Internet"
oh yeah, those ppl gather together like they were made of magnets!

btw, what's a carburetor? I'm guessing it's something those old Mayan folks used for something. ;-)

Did you have to watch the show to create the puzzle?

Rich WilsonMay 19, 2009 8:17 PM

Did you have to watch the show to "create the puzzle?"

Ya, I was going to ask, have you ever even seen 'Lost'? Being the confirmed non-TV watcher that you are.

PackagedBlueMay 19, 2009 9:30 PM

Too much work for me, never seen lost, nor do I get Wired.

Looks like my only puzzle method, is to watch Raiders of the lost Ark, take some Melatonin, bang my head up against a wall a few times, and sleep on it.

Works for me everytime, all and all is all the same.

TSMay 19, 2009 9:55 PM

"Near as I can tell, no one has published a solution."

Hmm... time to put cloudmakers on the case?

AviatrixMay 19, 2009 10:59 PM

No, definitely don't give a hint. I like working on puzzles (although I'm not working on this one) and no matter how stuck I am, hints are always disappointing because they are never subtle enough. Make 'em sweat!

AnonymousMay 20, 2009 9:17 PM

Let us all smoke some dope and read the Bible code I, II and perhaps III if we really get wasted enough...

Kudos to the puzzles, they always are a trip, without having to go anywhere...

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc..