Chapter 3. Prologue

$Id: pregame.xml,v 1.22 2004/04/01 00:22:50 enigma Exp $

Table of Contents

Project Syzygy Site
Directory Browsing
Marketing Week
Web Logs - Hoax?

Project Syzygy Site


Zoom in on the Post-It note: (ref)

ISBN and page-line-word references: "change the world" (ref)

"I can see you" (ref)

Anyone want to speculate what is in the lower-right corner?

Luggage tag with bar code...from Singapore to Heathrow (ref)

The bar code ends up being 61149, for what it's worth. (ref)


In the page metadata (ref):

In the source code:


ROT-11 gives:


A famous quote from Steve Jobs to John Sculley in 1984, when Jobs was trying to lure Sculley away from Pepsi and bring him to Apple. The remainder of the line is:


Directory Browsing offers something interesting: alison.rtf. (ref) This is a Rich Text file--basically a simplistic word processing format that is compatible across many editing programs and operating systems. While it may look like garbage, detailed analysis shows that the contents are intentional. (ref) The content is 2oc4o:ptxt. It was slightly different previously (2oc3o:ptxt), but it has been confirmed that the previous value was a mistake. (See Pregame IRC section) After the direction/redirection hints, several people (AnthraX101, SpaceBass, etc) guessed that this might be a parameter for It did end up redirecting to, but this seemed to be an obviously out-of-game page about Beale ciphers. We did not have any data that looked like it was encrypted, so figured it was an incorrect dead-end.

On 2004-03-15, the contents of alison.rtf changed yet again:

    'i7 re5t6urn8e11d, a2nd saw10 unde12r3 the sun, that the race is not to  
    the swift,
    nor the battle to the strong9, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet  
    to m1en of understanding, nor yet favour to men of sk413ill; but time  
    and chance
    happeneth to them all.
    page 60'.

It was explained in chat that we were supposed to be looking at the sample cipher on that page--specifically the plaintext used (PTXT! Get it?):


This appears to be Hebrew Ecclesiastes 9:11. (ref) Also, when you read the letters closest to the numbers in numerical order, you get 'marketing week', which is a weekly UK publication. (ref)



The UK paper The Guardian, on Monday 2004-03-15 had a job advertisement that states: (ref)






Then in mirror was:


This is a simple substitution cipher that translates to:

Ever imagined sitting behind the curtain helping craft a world changing, globe spanning immersive treasure hunt?

We're creating a completely new type of game you play everywhere clues-surround you in newspapers, magazines, films, books video games via txt and across a spanning maze of websites. Whom can you trust? Where does fantasy end and reality begin?

You've passed the first test stage now follow the white rabbit.

see marketing week page 60 11/03/04.

Here is a scan of the original: (ref)

Marketing Week

Both alison.rtf and The Guardian ad led us to Marketing Week, in which we find: (ref)

The text in the main body of the ad is identical to The Guardian except for a couple of extra words (it mentions that the game will be played by "txt" - which I presume is SMS text message) - probably dropped for space since The Guardian ad is smaller.

However, there are two notable differences. one is a short message printed on the side of the ad:


This is not in the same code as the main text, but translates to:


NTK refers to an (Need-To-Know) blurb calling Syzygy a time-waster. (See chat with AdrianHon and Raze) (ref) Below that, printed backwards, is a long string of letters and numbers. It has been flipped to make it easier to read here:


AnthraX101 discovered this to be a set of three MD5 hashes, specifically: (ref)

fdbe76347aa5b0251377256ad20e5a93 = [don't know yet]
7d0db380a5b95a8ba1da0bca241abda1 = at
d4805c5f8a2576cc4543250b30c324d0 =

...and grumpyboy discovered the first hash to be "dinah". A quick email later, received the following auto response, with the subject line "exchange": (ref)

On 5 Mar 2004, at 00:29, xxxx wrote:

I don't think I have anything more to add, except for the requisite shout-outs to the immersive fiction community all over the web and around the world (you know who you are). Anyone reading this should know that it's going to get a lot harder and a lot more fun. You ain't seen nothing yet.

One last thing - it all begins with AADAA...


On 5 Mar 2004, at 00:13, xxxx wrote:

What a cool idea. I love it. All we'd need to do is sanitise our email exchange by removing reference to things like xxxx and then put it online somewhere. This could be the last email of our exchange we publish.

Unless of course you follow this one with a witty reply that our hard-core cryptographer friends would enjoy ;)


On 4 Mar 2004, at 23:58, xxxx wrote:

Actually, yeah, I think you are probably right. As long as the puzzle isn't *ridiculously* easy, then people aren't going to think worse of it (especially if you put 'Easy wasn't it?' as a more difficult one!). Simple substitution is a nice way to go.

Now I'm wondering what sort of code to use for the 'easy wasn't it' thing...

It occurred to me this evening that a nice reward for ultra-hardcore cryptographers would be to see this exchange of emails - it wouldn't actually reveal anything at all about xxxx, and they'd probably appreciate the thought that's gone into the ad puzzle. Perhaps we could encrypt a key in the ad that would unlock these emails on the web somewhere. Or maybe not. Just another random idea


On 4 Mar 2004, at 23:48, xxxx wrote:

Fair point. I've been thinking about this a lot this evening. It's a tricky balance we're trying to strike.

The code at the moment is laughably easy to crack but that's the point. I think 99% of people reading the ad will feel pretty pleased with themselves for cracking a Caesar shift or simple substitution cipher. The image I have is of people stumbling across our ad while flicking through a stack of job ads in a coffee shop. They'll be intrigued by it but unless they have a hook to start solving it quickly I think they'll give up and probably won't give it another thought.

Alternatively if they immediately see a way in and manage to solve it on the back of a napkin within five or ten minutes then I think they'd be very likely to check out the site and more importantly mention it to other people.

In hindsight a simple substitution cipher probably makes more sense than a Caesar shift - particularly if we leave the web address format as it is. This provides the easy way in to give the average person a foothold of four letters.

It'll be a different matter when the game is live and people are xxxx but in this instance I think a Vigenere cipher would require too much effort for the average person. Obviously we wouldn't want to recruit anyone for the full-time team who'd struggle to decode a Vigenere cipher but this is a great opportunity to get a lot of people chatting about the concept and the site itself. If the puzzle is too complex then we lose all that and the fact we gain an average of higher quality submissions probably doesn't offset it.

You're right in that we don't want to look like lightweight puzzle designers so a way around this might be to hide a much more complex code in the background that acknowledges the very important but tiny minority of ultra smart folks. Perhaps something as simple as "Easy wasn't it?"

Any thoughts??



On 4 Mar 2004, at 18:38, xxxx wrote:

Hi all,

I think the text of the ad is perfect, but I have some comments on other aspects.

Firstly, I think a Caesar shift is too easy - I mean, even I could figure that one out! If people are interested in the ad, then they'll be willing to put at least a few minutes work into it - and if they're not interested in the ad, it won't be because the cryptosystem is too hard, it'll be because it just looks like gibberish. So I don't feel there's anything wrong with knocking it up a notch and using, say, a simple substitution cipher. These are easily broken using frequency analysis or brute force, but it's a step up from Caesar.

Another possibility is using a Vigenere Cipher, which is essentially a Caesar cipher done twice, using a keyword to determine the shift. It's much more difficult to brute force without the keyword and very very difficult for short texts, which obviously this one is, so we should make the keyword available. A possible scenario would be to encode the majority of the text in a Vigenere Cipher (which is immune to frequency analysis) and encode the keyword (written in Braille or morse code or baudot) with a simple substitution cipher or something similar.

Whichever system is used, it would be a mistake to write out the web address in the usual '' format, simply because it'd be very recognisable and thus provide an easy shortcut to crack the puzzle (and that would be no fun for anyone). To be totally safe, I would write it out as 'visit projectsyzygy dot com' so there isn't any strange punctuation to give the game away.

So - if you went for the Vigenere route, here is how I would do it (and obviously there are many other ways, many of which are undoubtedly better):

1. In a corner or on the border of the ad, the phrase 'You're always a day away' is written in morse or braille or baudot. Optionally, it is encoded via a simple substitution cipher, or maybe just a Caesar shift.

2. This phrase is obviously from the song 'Tomorrow' in the movie 'Annie'. Thus the keyword is 'Tomorrow' - it's not hard to figure out.

3. From there, if you recognise that the main text is encoded in Vigenere, it is trivial to decode it using the keyword.

You could always highlight some of the letters in the text and use them as a keyword for a future puzzle on the web - we wouldn't even need to decide on them beforehand, we could just design the future puzzle around them.

My reasoning for making the puzzle a bit harder and more circuituous is because it involves the 'player' a little more and thus will give them a bit more satisfaction on completion and also convince them that we are not lightweights when it comes to cryptography. Furthermore, if anyone did want to write a story about it, it's more interesting this way

Of course, it is entirely possible that making the puzzle harder will put people off, which is clearly not the goal. However, it will be cracked by *someone* in short order, and the answer and instructions will then be put on the web for all to see. Success!


On 4 Mar 2004, at 16:32, xxxx wrote:

Here's a first stab at text for the ad that will be going into the press over next week or so. I'm planning to put it into Marketing Week and then play it by ear after that.

If anyone has any suggestions or improvements then give me a shout asap since we're hoping to get this finished by midday on Monday. Might be nice to hide a deeper clue in there somewhere as well. Any suggestions? Perhaps we could very subtly highlight some of the letters (tiny dot above or below) to spell out a new message. Or we could partially hide the 'I can see you' Braille text somewhere within the design around the edge of the text? Not very imaginative though!

I currently think that the best plan would be for the first sentence to be unencrypted to hook people's interest and then encode the rest of the text via a caesar shift (including the web address obviously!)
With a bit of luck it should get picked up and commented on by the mainstream press.





Conversation in #syzygy on, wherein we learn about pareidolia...

 Click to expand/collapse conversation 

[16:09] <danhon> Man, does anybody ever talk in here?
[16:11] <AnthraX101> Shh!
[16:15] <danhon> Riiiiiiiiiight
[16:15] <AnthraX101> All the real action takes place in #unfiction
[16:16] <danhon> You know, I just thought Pareidolia was a cool word.
[16:16] *** ZM|Away is now known as ZMaiden
[16:16] <danhon> I'm just sayin'.
[16:16] <danhon> I'll lurk in there, then
[16:16] <AnthraX101> Heh
[16:19] <danhon> (and that is about a big a hint as you're going to get)
[16:20] <AnthraX101> Heh, I see
[??:??] <AdrianHon> Look for comments. Look for direction.


Conversation in #syzygy on 2004-03-12, wherin we are dropped hints and learn more the original content of alison.rtf was a mistake...

 Click to expand/collapse conversation 

[17:34] --> AdrianHon ( has joined #syzygy
[17:34] <yanka> he would know
[17:34] <geist> lol
[17:34] <yanka> :-)
[17:36] <colin> i'm interested in how global it will be
[17:38] <AdrianHon> Quite
[17:38] <colin> as in don't speak?
[17:38] <AdrianHon> No, as in quite global
[17:39] <yanka> the problem is, what they said can have so many interpretations. "Look for comments," for example, can mean "comments in the source code" "comments in the blogs" "comments on the popups" (and then it depends on what would be considered "comments")
[17:39] <AdrianHon> Look guys, there is something you have missed
[17:39] <AdrianHon> In fact, two things you have missed
[17:39] <AdrianHon> But no doubt you will find them eventually
[17:39] <AdrianHon> One of them you have already seen, but brushed over
[17:40] <yanka> I am going to cry... again
[17:40] <AdrianHon> The other one is really obvious when you find it though
[17:40] <colin> where does it lead?
[17:40] <yanka> haha
[17:41] <AdrianHon> To something very interesting
[17:41] <yanka> ok, things we brushed over: that "s" over the word "webs", the sound,
[17:41] <AdrianHon> To behind the curtain
[17:41] <AdrianHon> No :)
[17:41] <AdrianHon> brb
[17:41] <colin> you need people to solve it because the people that solve it are the people that will create the game?
[17:42] <AdrianHon> No
[17:42] <colin> atm, its just two people
[17:42] <AdrianHon> You know the game doesn't start until Q4. This is nothing new.
[17:42] <AdrianHon> We are going through the prologue
[17:42] <yanka> colin, are you going to post what he said (is saying)?
[17:42] <colin> well i could
[17:43] <colin> or i could solve it myself first
[17:43] <colin> ;)
[17:43] <yanka> hee. what other things have we brushed over?
[17:43] <AdrianHon> Sigh
[17:43] <colin> i didn't really look at it properly
[17:44] <AdrianHon> I am disappointed by you guys ;)
[17:44] <yanka> I have no doubt
[17:44] <AdrianHon> Direction. Alison. That's all I'm saying.
[17:44] <yanka> omg
[18:20] <yanka> 2oc3o:ptxt alison.rtf 02-Mar-2004 10:48
[18:21] <yanka> 2oc4o:ptxt alison.rtf 02-Mar-2004 15:08
[18:21] <catherwood> to oh see three oh
[18:21] <AdrianHon> OK
[18:21] <AdrianHon> Ignore the first one. That was a mistake.
[18:21] <catherwood> heehee
[18:21] <yanka> thanks again
[18:21] <yanka> I tried even tocto
[18:21] <AdrianHon> If you need any more clues, I will have to commit seppuku
[18:21] <catherwood> i tried to find a file called 2oc4o.ptxt
[18:22] <catherwood> iie, sensai
[18:22] <AdrianHon> It is not a file!
[18:22] <AdrianHon> The reason I am giving you these clues is because this is a minor puzzle. The bigger puzzle is still hidden.
[18:22] <catherwood> i didn't think so, just telling people what i tried (in error)
[18:22] <yanka> if it's not a file, it could be: directory, new site, login
[18:22] <AdrianHon> You need direction.
[18:23] <yanka> directory, then
[18:23] <catherwood> north south east west
[18:23] <AdrianHon> No
[18:23] <yanka> who - no?
[18:23] <AdrianHon> More abstract
[18:23] <catherwood> "stage left"
[18:24] <AdrianHon> Imaginary. Virtual direction, even.
[18:24] <AdrianHon> In any case, you'll love the next puzzle. It cost enough, in any case.
[18:24] <yanka> this reminds me of that last Dina's page solve
[18:26] <catherwood> 2o c 4o : pxt .... 2=p, o=t, c4=x, o=t
[18:26] <catherwood> some of us are just too leftbrained
[18:27] <catherwood> alison -> 2oc4o ... i would think there is some useful reason for the file name
[18:27] <yanka> to "oc" for "o"?
[18:28] <yanka> alison = 1 12 9 19 14
[18:28] <yanka> oops
[18:28] <AdrianHon> No :)
[18:28] <AdrianHon> Direction. Redirection.
[18:28] <AdrianHon> And now I am off to bed.

Another conversation, this time 2004-03-13, wherein we are dropped "direction" hints...

 Click to expand/collapse conversation 

[00:38] <danhon> Good morning, kids
[00:39] <yanka> Dan, hi!
[00:39] <danhon> Solved it yet?
[00:39] <yanka> um... no?
[00:39] <colin> morn
[00:39] <danhon> Has Adrian tried to redirect you?
[00:40] <yanka> yes, he said it's alison.rtf
[00:40] <yanka> he also said he'd give us more hints in the morning
[00:40] <yanka> *hint*hint*
[00:40] <danhon> Good. You all seemed to have lost direction.
[00:41] <danhon> Redirecting you is probably the best thing he could have done.
[00:41] <colin> i never had direction
[00:41] <yanka> and he said "direction" at least 87 times, I think
[00:41] <yanka> so we thought about this aibohphobia thing
[00:41] <yanka> and... well, we're still here :-)
[00:42] <danhon> :)
[00:43] <colin> a more specific direction would be helpful
[00:43] <yanka> could be chapter 2 [paragraph?] 4 of alice - which one, though?
[00:43] <yanka> could be some sort of redirect script
[00:44] <yanka> oh, Dan, he even went so far as to say "virtual direction"
[00:44] <colin> (which confused me more)
[00:44] <yanka> naturally
[00:45] <colin> can i ask why its .rtf not .txt
[00:45] <danhon> Yes
[00:45] <colin> why is alison.rtf an rtf and not a txt?
[00:46] <danhon> *shrug* :)
[00:46] <danhon> Now that's an example of heading in the wrong direction :)
[00:46] <yanka> but "alison" couldn't be any other word/name?
[00:47] <yanka> I guess I can't ask that?
[00:47] <danhon> You can. Same answer as before.
[00:48] <colin> where does this lead? an address, phone number?
[00:49] <danhon> Getting warmer.
[00:49] <danhon> I think that's me done for the while.
[00:49] <colin> noooo
[00:49] <colin> which country is it in
[00:49] <danhon> Okay, one last answer. All of them.
[00:50] <colin> that's a lot of effort you went to :/
[00:50] <colin> one more, is the puzzle self contained?
[00:50] <colin> or do i need some experience to solve it?
[00:54] <yanka> I wonder when Adrian wakes up
[00:55] <colin> i'll work it out
[00:55] <yanka> you have an idea?
[00:55] <colin> no
[00:56] <yanka> what do you mean then?
[00:56] <colin> adrian will be two more hours atleast
[00:56] <colin> i think
[00:56] <colin> if its available everywhere, i must be on the web
[00:57] <colin> *it must
[00:57] <yanka> but then how is "address, phone number" getting warmer?
[00:57] <colin> web address
[00:57] <yanka> same as url
[00:58] <colin> or its an object that could be gotten in every country
[00:58] <yanka> you know, it could be something like sunset times or lunar exlipses
[00:59] <yanka> satellite coordinates
[00:59] <yanka> eclipses, even
[00:59] <colin> but again what does that achieve
[00:59] <yanka> I don't know - a set of numbers?
[00:59] <colin> its supposed to lead to a larger puzzle
[01:00] <colin> i'm thinking it could be a subdomain thingy like
[01:01] <yanka> could be, and maybe that's why Adrian said "no" to directory
[01:04] <danhon> You're trying to make this far too hard. Too long. You should try and look for a simpler answer, make it shorter.
[01:05] <yanka> divide 2oc4o by ptxt?
[01:06] <colin> is it a code?
[01:07] <colin> is it creative?
[01:07] <yanka> does it even have a solution?
[01:07] <yanka> :-)
[01:07] <danhon> Yes, it does, and you're trying far too hard.
[01:07] <danhon> There are no sunset times.
[01:07] <danhon> There are no satellite coordinates.
[01:07] <colin> location?
[01:08] <danhon> There is a location in there.
[01:08] <yanka> a WEB location
[01:08] <danhon> And when you solve it, there'll be some nifty redirection.
[01:08] <yanka> ?
[01:08] <colin> its so short though
[01:08] <danhon> Beyond that you have to think, Mcfly, think :)
[01:09] <colin> i hate manure!
[01:10] <colin> is :p a smiley
[01:10] <-- danhon ( has left #syzygy (Leaving)
[01:10] <yanka> nooo
[01:10] --> danhon ( has joined #syzygy
[01:10] <yanka> yes
[01:11] <colin> wb
[01:11] <danhon> Sorry, can't give any more hints.
[01:11] <yanka> you CAN, you just WON'T
[01:11] <colin> sorry, its not getting solved :/
[01:12] <colin> i think we need a pregame haiku contest to get rid of the stress
[01:12] <yanka> colin, you know, they name images with these _c2_ things
[01:13] <colin> r = row c = column
[01:13] <colin> standard output of programs like fireworks
[01:14] <colin> should i look at it upside down?
[01:15] <yanka> no. turn your monitor upside down
[01:15] <colin> don't think it turns that far
[01:16] <yanka> mine doesn't either. try standing on your head?
[01:16] * colin stands on head
[01:17] * colin falls down
[01:17] <yanka> oh, be careful
[01:17] <colin> i just realised i can't use the mouse when i'm on my head
[01:17] <yanka> you still need to solve this, you know
[01:17] <yanka> haha
[01:17] <colin> i can't
[01:18] <yanka> plz don't give up. I won't be able to sleep, and I don't want to be here alone
[01:19] <colin> i'm not sleeping until its solved i want to be there
[01:19] <yanka> well, it's daytime for you anyway, right?
[01:19] <colin> evening
[01:19] <yanka> same thing
[01:20] <colin> i've got it!!! 2oc4o:ptxt is the meaning of life
[01:20] <yanka> ha! and here I thought it was "stol"
[01:20] <colin> oh, i forgot stol
[01:22] <colin> !nextclue
[01:23] <yanka> :-(
[01:24] <yanka> I probably shouldn't even bring that up, but what did pareidolia have to do with this?
[01:24] <danhon> It's a cool word
[01:25] <danhon> I'm allowed to like cool words :)
[01:25] <yanka> you're not allowed to express that, though :-)
[01:27] <danhon> Redirection is a cool word, too.
[01:27] <colin> do we need to change the text at all
[01:27] <danhon> It sounds as if you'd like me to just hand you the answer.
[01:28] <yanka> no, there is no fun in that
[01:28] <danhon> Then no more hints :)
[01:28] <yanka> but, you know, "direct" us? plz?
[01:28] <danhon> Maybe you should sleep on it.
[01:28] <danhon> It's not going to go away!
[01:28] <yanka> no!
[01:28] <colin> i don't have any ideas left
[01:29] <yanka> besides, it's already been there for 10 days - so we had plenty of sleeping on it
[01:30] <colin> 10 days?
[01:30] <yanka> yep
[01:30] <colin> maybe 10 has something to do with it
[01:30] <yanka> no, it can't
[01:30] <yanka> cause we found it as soon as they put it there
[01:31] <yanka> nor can the time of upload be of significance
[01:32] --- colin is now known as anything
[01:33] --- anything is now known as coliniloc
[01:34] * yanka yanka in complete tran
[01:34] --- coliniloc is now known as food_potato
[01:34] --- yanka is now known as yanka_in_complete_tranZ
[01:34] --- food_potato is now known as ironchef
[01:34] --- ironchef is now known as ironchef_away
[01:34] <yanka_in_complete_tranZ> omg, I'm loosing my mind
[01:35] --- yanka_in_complete_tranZ is now known as yanka
[01:51] <yanka> I wonder what qualifies a puzzle as "difficult" or "easy"
[02:02] <yanka> I think I have succeeded in crying myself to sleep. colin, good luck!
[02:03] <-- yanka has quit (Quit: Leaving)
[02:07] --> Addlepated ( has joined #syzygy
[02:07] <Addlepated> anyone awake?
[02:10] --- ironchef_away is now known as challenger_won
[02:11] --- challenger_won is now known as colin|dinner
[02:29] <colin|dinner> i'm awake
[02:29] --> AdrianHon ( has joined #syzygy
[02:29] <AdrianHon>
[02:30] <-- AdrianHon has quit (Client exited)

A chat on 2004-03-15, wherein we learn about Marketing Week...

 Click to expand/collapse conversation 

[07:46] --> AdrianHon ( has joined #syzygy
[07:47] <krystal> well hello :)
[07:48] <AdrianHon> Hi!
[07:48] <krystal> i hope you are well today
[07:48] <AdrianHon> I am
[07:48] <krystal> good
[07:48] <krystal> found the update to alison.rtf
[07:48] <AdrianHon> I noticed
[07:48] <AdrianHon> Almost there
[07:48] <krystal> :P
[07:49] <krystal> yeah!
[07:50] <krystal> so 2oc4o.ptxt have anything to do with the new update/
[07:50] <krystal> ?
[07:51] <AdrianHon> No, forget about that
[07:51] <krystal> good
[07:51] <krystal> was still trying to figure that one out
[07:51] <krystal> i've come to the conclusion if its too simple i wont get it.. it has to be complicated :P
[07:51] <AdrianHon> Yeah
[07:52] <AdrianHon> You guys are crazy
[07:52] <krystal> hehehe
[07:52] <krystal> so since this new update has nothing to do with 2oc4o.ptxt i'm assuming then we are still missing out on something else?
[07:52] <AdrianHon> No, I would rather you forget about everything before this new puzzle
[07:53] <krystal> ok
[07:53] <AdrianHon> I'm sure it will all be explained in due course, but for now don't bother with it
[07:54] <krystal> no problem here it gave me 2 headaches ;)
[07:54] <krystal> hehe
[07:54] <AdrianHon> :)
[08:00] --> enaxor ( has joined #syzygy
[08:00] <enaxor> morning all
[08:00] <krystal> hi enaxor
[08:00] <AdrianHon> hey
[08:00] <AdrianHon> bbl
[08:00] <krystal> k thanks for the info adrian
[08:00] <enaxor> cya have a good one
[08:01] <enaxor> what info did he give?
[08:01] <krystal> well the alison.rtf has been updated you can see that on the unforum
[08:01] <krystal> i asked him if it had to do with the 2oc4o.ptxt
[08:01] <krystal> he said no forget that
[08:01] <krystal> forget everything before
[08:01] <krystal> and just concentrate on this
[08:02] <enaxor> I wondered what 2oc4o could have gotten us to marketing week
[08:02] <enaxor> I found the magazine online thru my library system but it skips page 60 and goes from 42 to page 82
[08:04] <enaxor> for anyone interested its Date 9/11/03 Volume 26 Issue 37
[08:04] <krystal> i dont think 2oc4o would of gotten us to marketing week he said it didn't have to do with what we are seeing now
[08:06] <SpaceBass> wait didn't the 2oc4o:ptxt mean to look at the plaintext on that beale cipher page via tinyurl
[08:06] <SpaceBass> that's what's in the rtf now right, except with interspersed numbers
[08:06] <krystal> really
[08:06] <krystal> i must of left
[08:06] <SpaceBass> i just don't get where those numbers and the page 60 came from
[08:06] <krystal> before all that
[08:06] <SpaceBass> well it's only obvious in retrospect with the change
[08:06] <krystal> the numbers spell out marketing week
[08:06] <SpaceBass> ok
[08:08] <enaxor> SB what is this about tinyurl?
[08:08] <SpaceBass>
[08:08] <SpaceBass> we found that last night but i discounted it because i thought dan had said it didn't have to do with cryptography
[08:09] <SpaceBass> if you read down the page you'll find a plaintext phrase that matches what's in the rtf now
[08:09] <krystal> yep seeing that
[08:10] <enaxor> how did that get found?
[08:10] <krystal> which would of led us to Hebrew Ecclesiastes 9:11
[08:11] <krystal> but how would we of gotten marketing week out of it
[08:13] <SpaceBass> i just tried it on tinyurl at one point
[08:13] <SpaceBass> because it looked like a tinyurl link
[08:13] <SpaceBass> brian did the same thing i think
[08:14] <SpaceBass> i was thinking redirect and then the characters looked familiar, but i didn't click the ptxt part until this morning
[08:14] <enaxor> so that was the redirect?
[08:15] <enaxor> or redirection
[08:15] <SpaceBass> i think so but again i could be wrong
[08:16] --- ZMaiden is now known as ZM[a]iden
[08:16] <enaxor> I've never heard of tinyurl, so I'd have never got that
[08:17] <enaxor> I'll have to remeber that
[08:17] <SpaceBass> it's handy
[08:17] <SpaceBass> and very popular in #evanchan oddly enough ;)
[08:17] <krystal> i found alot of redirection sites by just searching on redirection so i'm sure you'd of figured it out
[08:18] <enaxor> so it seems there are alot of things that have to do with playing the beast, which I didn't
[08:19] <enaxor> I guess I'll have to go read up on it and by the time I'm finished this game should be over ;)
[08:20] <krystal> hehehe
[08:20] <SpaceBass> it wasn't really a beast thing, just a meta thing
[08:20] <AnthraX101> I'm begining to suspect we are looking for an advertisement in marketing week
[08:21] <-- AdrianHon has quit (Ping timeout: 181 seconds)
[08:22] <enaxor> ah thanks SB
[08:22] <enaxor> I'll still have to read up
[08:22] --> yanka ( has joined #syzygy
[08:22] <yanka> morning
[08:23] <enaxor> hey yanka
[08:23] <Giskard> lo all
[08:23] <AnthraX101> hey yanka
[08:24] <enaxor> AnthraX that would make sense, I just hope someone can find a hard copy
[08:28] <krystal> yeah you have to pay on the website
[08:28] <AnthraX101> And even then you might not get the advertisements
[08:35] --> Semioclast ( has joined #syzygy
[08:35] <Semioclast> See what happens when I go to sleep?
[08:36] * AnthraX101 sneeks up behind Semioclast with the chloroform
[08:43] --> AdrianHon ( has joined #syzygy
[08:47] <Semioclast> :)
[08:47] <Semioclast> 'Hi, Adrian
[08:48] <Semioclast> I feel kind of bad that you had to smack us accross the face, practically
[08:50] <AdrianHon> Ah
[08:50] <AdrianHon> Well, there were mistakes on both ends
[08:50] * Semioclast cannot help but notice Adrian seems to be logged in from Oxford
[08:50] <AdrianHon> I think you'll be pleased with where this mini puzzle eventually leads
[08:51] <AdrianHon> That may be because I live in Oxford :)
[08:51] <Semioclast> I went to Hertford
[08:51] <AdrianHon> Ah
[08:51] <AdrianHon> Nice
[08:51] <Semioclast> and I used to bartend at the PT
[08:51] <AdrianHon> Heh
[08:51] <Semioclast> small world!
[08:51] <AdrianHon> Certainly is
[08:51] <Semioclast> do you go to school there?
[08:51] <AdrianHon> I'm at Queen's
[08:52] <Semioclast> excellent
[08:52] <AdrianHon> Doing a PhD
[08:52] <Semioclast> It looks like I am going to be doing me PhD at Duke
[08:52] <AdrianHon> Cool
[08:53] <Semioclast> I was only there for a year, on an NEH fellowship
[08:53] <AdrianHon> One last clue about the puzzle, because I feel I partly messed you guys about on the 2oc4o: page 60 will only apply for two or three more days.

A chat on 2004-03-16, wherein we learn about "NTK" and that the Marketing Week hex puzzle is entirely self contained...

 Click to expand/collapse conversation 

[02:19] <colin> any advice adrian? ;)
[02:19] <geist> the cyptogram was not that hard so i would thought this would be round same level
[02:20] <AdrianHon> This is harder
[02:20] <AdrianHon> You can solve it though.
[02:20] <colin> clues as to where it leads always help me
[02:21] <AdrianHon> Good for you :)
[02:21] <colin> sure its not another 2oc4o
[02:22] <geist> i hope you got a lot more hits to the syzygy website after the ad in the paper
[02:22] <AdrianHon> There's nothing wrong with the puzzle, it is perfectly solvable as it is
[02:23] <colin> yeah, ARGs need more publicity
[02:23] <AdrianHon> I haven't looked at the stats
[02:23] <AdrianHon> But I know there has been a big response
[02:23] <colin> how?
[02:23] <AdrianHon> It *is* a job ad, remember ?:)
[02:24] <colin> i'm not experienced in job ads :/
[02:25] <geist> well from some of the jobs ive been going for i know they can easily get over 200 reply to an ad
[02:26] <AdrianHon> Yeah
[02:36] <colin> alias is on, bbl
[03:33] --> Raze ( has joined #syzygy
[03:33] <colin> hi
[03:33] <Raze> hello
[03:33] <Raze> What a small world it is.
[03:34] <Raze> Here I am reading the Guardian for jobs and stumble on the puzzle.
[03:34] <Raze> And being an ex-Cloudmaker, does that prejudice me from applying for a job? :)
[03:35] <colin> lol, no come join the fun
[03:35] <colin> you'll be so distracted, you wont end up getting a job
[03:36] <Raze> That's what I feared :S
[03:37] <Raze> That extra bit of code in the marketing week ad is a slight at, for calling syzygy a "time-waster"
[03:37] <Raze> if that hadn't already been solved
[03:37] <Raze>
[03:37] <colin> no it hadn't
[03:37] <colin> are you signed up to unfiction?
[03:38] <Raze> no, I sorta never had time to play The Beast, so was too scared to play much of any of the others
[03:38] <Raze> I just kept my eye in, but was very pleased to get the Guardian ad to lead me back down the rabbit hole :)
[03:39] <colin> well you should post that on the forum
[03:39] <Raze> Okay, will do.
[03:39] <Raze> I think I have an idea on "direction", as well, but I'll develop that in a minute.
[03:40] <colin> that ntk is a great find
[03:41] <Raze> :P
[03:43] <AdrianHon> I think it is worth repeating that you should ignore the entire 2oc4o thing, including stuff about direction :)
[03:43] <colin> ty adrian
[03:43] <AdrianHon> Let us say that the Marketing Week thing is self-contained
[03:44] <colin> your comments are so insight full, i'm beginning to think your on 'the inside' ;)
[03:45] <AdrianHon> Well
[03:45] <colin> my english is going down hill, insightful
[03:46] <AdrianHon> I'm glad to see that a lot of people have spotted the Guardian ad
[03:46] <colin> i'm more impressed that they made it all the way to the chat room, that's a puzzle in itself
[03:47] <AdrianHon> True
[03:47] <colin> incidently, in the last ~24hrs google recored 158 new pages for "project syzygy"

Web Logs

As posted to Semioclast's blog:

    "In the quest for truth 
    Disregard the distractions 
    Look for direction" 
    Commenter's name: Sweborg 
    Post IP Address:


Since the blog's comment mechanism does not validate usernames or email addresses, anyone could have posted that comment using that data. The IP address in question traces back to, a network block that someone (AnthraX101?) informed me it is used by the Anonymizer web service. Therefore, this should be taken with a grain of salt--anyone could have posted this comment. - Hoax?

Is it in game? Is it out of game? Nobody knows.

Previous to 2004-03-14, the site exhibited a particular behavior. The front page, contained the text "p a r e i d o l i a" with a tiled image of the "Mars Face." There was also commented-out text, with hard spaces such that two letters "e" and "o" appear below the "e" and "o" in the first line. Any request that started with "/index/" (that is /index/2oc4o, /index/yo/mamma, /index/monkey) would pull up the same content as the original index.html file. (Albeit, the browser interpreted the directory incorrectly and was unable to retrieve the background image, so the background appeared grey.)

On 2004-03-14, the site's characteristics changed. Now points to a file containing the text:


Additionally, all of the variants of /index/* (like /index/yo/mamma) work anymore, giving 404 errors. one /index/ninja/monkey/. Also, the "deep directory" pages (at least, the one that is still available) has a working background (specified in a relative URL, rather than an absolute one).

What does this all mean? It could very well be a clue. Alternately, it could be a tired, bored, amused, or evil website administrator. Certainly something changed on the site, but it is interesting to note...

  • All the original /index/* requests looked like they got mapped back to the original index file, This is pretty easy to do in Apache.
  • An administrator of a sleepy site that suddenly saw a zillion hits can check the referrer logs and see they all came from unfiction, then study up on what people have posted on that thread.
  • The mapping of /index/* no longer works. This is because the directory /index/ was explicitly created.
  • The only "new" files were ones explicitly linked to from the message boards. For instance, why does /index/ninja/monkey/ work, but /index/ninja/monkey1/ not? The web administrator felt the need to create the directory hierarchy leading to /index/ninja/monkey/index.php, which just seems like he/she wanted to "plug the holes" of all the URLs that link over to the site.
  • has existed since 2000-12-07 and was last updated on 2003-12-11.

This author thinks it is probably a hoax--us chasing the shadow of an innocent word used in chat, and a devious sysadmin having fun with it. On the other hand, it is entiely possible that this is in-game. For instance, if the PM's decided to purchase the domain from someone else, it would explain the date and content, at least (although leaves the "/index/ninja/monkey" question still up in the air).