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Puzzlehunt 2012

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Joe Seaton (js845)


When setting up this puzzle hunt, it sometimes felt that the unofficial theme of the hunt was QR codes, so we thought we'd make this one a bit special.

The clue is, of course, that it isn't really a QR code. I wonder how much time people wasted trying to scan it?

Anyone that has spent a reasonable amount of time trying to decipher binary data is probably aware of how much ASCII text tends to stand out when represented as a sequence of bits. Since the topmost bits in each character will generally remain the same, for a reasonable amount of data a repeating pattern will almost jump out of the screen!

Given this rather unsubtle hint, there is an obvious trick to try. And indeed, by taking raw binary data in the QR code (and ignoring the misleading QR code-like blocks) we get the repeating string "I never saw a purple cow", the solution.

The creation of this puzzle was fairly straightforward, involving a simple script that outputted images in the PGM format - a particularly convenient format for creating images on a per-pixel basis like this.


I never saw a purple cow

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