This game is awesome, so I'm not even going to hide this one. But there will of course be some hurdles, the first being this:

http://itstoohard.com/puzzle/tvIiCSUo


No spoilers, no sharing and no hinting please. I may start posting hints if there are no solvers in a couple of days.


Hint #1: Did not really want to give hints for the checkpoint, but replied some comments below. Guess they should count as hints.

Hint #2: That encoding? It's not originally meant for obfuscation of plain text messages, ya know.

Hint #3: Checkpoint Two

Hint #4: If the hammer is giving you unsatisfactory results with it, it might not be a nail, so try another tool.

Hint #5: Being the very last hint that can reasonably be provided for the second step.

Hint #6: For the third step.

Hint #7: For the fourth and final step.


Solution

The quiz: All three questions are related to a certain book I love. I designed the first two questions to be obvious to those who read the books, but somewhat google-resistant (of course, this didn't stop some of you). I wanted to throw the third question in there, but could not think of a fair and memorable hook for it, so I went the "easily google-able" route.

Q1: George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four contains an appendix named "The Principles of Newspeak" which details the usage of the language that is one of the major themes of the book. In this essay, Orwell explains that any older text dealing with concepts like human equality or political freedom cannot be rendered in Newspeak, which is specifically engineered to limit the range of human thought. He says that one way to translate such texts into Newspeak is by replacing the whole thing with the word "crimethink".

Q2: In Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five, there is an alien race, Tralfamadorians, who experience "time" just as we experience "space". For them, history is unchanging, and every moment from The Beginning to The End always exists in the same point in the timeline, waiting for them, should they choose to "visit" it. They see death as simply one immovable point in an individual's timeline where the person "is not feeling very well". In the book, whenever a death is mentioned, it is followed by Tralfamadorians' standard refrain about death: "so it goes".

Q3: The sentence in quotes is not uttered exactly by the character in the book (I guess it's from the movie, which kinda sucked) but as a phrase, it is easily google-able. Of course, the answer is the name of the kind gentleman who designed our fjords, as revealed in Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: "Slartibartfast".

  • Upon passing the quiz checkpoint, you are awarded with a pastebin link, which contains Base64-encoded data.

  • This Base64 string, when decoded and saved as a binary file, produces a password-protected ZIP file, which contains a single file named "alice wants to send a message".

  • In cryptography, Alice always wants to send a message to bob, so that is the password. Even if guesswork or google-fu failed, this weak password could easily be brute-forced.

  • Inside the ZIP is a plain text file, which contains loads of ones and zeroes. This binary data actually represents a 55x6 black and white bitmap. Easiest way to see the "image", would be opening the file in a text editor (with a monospace font) and splitting it into 55-character lines. Replacing all the zeroes with spaces also helps.

  • For the last step, if any of the books I mentioned are still unread by you, go ahead and try to make time for them. It might very well be a better use of your time than any of the games we may or may not win here.

Thanks for playing.

4 years ago*

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ALICE IS MINE

4 years ago
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Hmm. The checkpoint too secure?

4 years ago
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Yes. I only got Q3.

4 years ago
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Same here.

4 years ago
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+1

4 years ago
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+2

4 years ago
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ditto

4 years ago
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+3

4 years ago
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Madness..

4 years ago
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returns!

4 years ago
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Not that I'm complaining, but 'Billy Pilgrim was assassinated.' isn't a question. What can we respond to a simple statement ? The other 2 kinda make sense.

4 years ago
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yeah, I've tried different entries but actually I've no idea what is needed there and before I start q1, I wanna solve q2 first :(

4 years ago
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same here :(

4 years ago
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Why would you say that a plain statement cannot have a response? One can even respond to a sneeze -- "bless you".

4 years ago
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Solved #2 & #3. Seems like Q1 is about thorough translation and deep knowledge of Newspeak though...

4 years ago
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Elementary knowledge is sufficient. You don't even need a dictionary.

4 years ago
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Just so everyone knows: That one checkpoint solver? It's not me.

4 years ago
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O_O Are you sure, it was there at the start

4 years ago
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Yup. Also, that other solver? It's not me either.

4 years ago
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No, that's me. But the second checkpoint seems more secure.

4 years ago
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Then there is no hope :)

4 years ago
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Ok, darn it. I am stuck.

4 years ago
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This confuses me greatly.

4 years ago
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Q2 / Q3 - solved. Now let's have a look at Q1.

4 years ago
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I solved the checkpoint quite easily actually, but now I'm stuck...

4 years ago
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I just made it past the checkpoint, and I'm stuck there as well.

4 years ago
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A quick note for those who tried and gave up: The giveaway now has 1 entry by the first full solver.

Rekindle those flames of hope within you, fellow souls!

4 years ago
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I'd love another hint for part 2. I'll keep thinking anyway though :)

Edit: Oh, I'm really close now. It would seem that am only half right though. I'm getting part of it, but there a lot of weird parts left.

4 years ago
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Focus especially on hint #2, as it applies to where you are now.

4 years ago
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Using hint #3, I can solve the second checkpoint. But the text that the second checkpoint gives me makes no sense.

4 years ago
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I agree - still don't know what to do after all that.

4 years ago
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The text I got from decrypting the encrypted text is full of weird parts that I can't understand. I can solve the second checkpoint (the second puzzle link in the top post), but as I said, the text that the second checkpoint gives me makes no sense.

4 years ago
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The second checkpoint is not a puzzle. The second checkpoint IS the hint #3.

4 years ago
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Ah, yes I understand that. But the text it's giving me by solving it makes no sense to me.

4 years ago
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Me either - I don't see what you're telling us is there.

4 years ago
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This is not a puzzle.

4 years ago
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Agreed, a puzzle requires a specific answer. Which Q1 doesn't

4 years ago
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Actually it does, if you know a little about Newspeak.

4 years ago
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The thing is, I think that I've read too much about Newspeak rules because I've rewritten the text thoroughly and it doesn't fit the answer.

4 years ago
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You're probably thinking too hard about it.

4 years ago
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Was about to write being stuck at certain point but wild idea got me unstuck.

So all in all it is a very nice puzzle! Thank you, Ishmaeel.

4 years ago
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Solved the itstoohard... can't figure out what to do next tho :3

4 years ago
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Solved checkpoint two. I guess this is where i stop :
figured the hint 4 before you've posted it, because the hint 2 helps a lot. Still, getting lots of gibberish when i try it.

4 years ago
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We now have two full solvers, one of which was kind enough to participate even though xe had the game.

We now have five hints, four of which are related to the same step. *sigh*

We now have eighteen hours left on the clock.

4 years ago
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Thanks for all the hints. I don't see what hint 4 offers that you wouldn't already know if you'd understood hint #3. I must be looking at this the wrong way.

4 years ago
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Agreed. I'm having the same problem as I believe you, and Konata, have.

4 years ago
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After 5-6 hours, it's getting a bit frustrating. :) I don't see how hint 3 is helpful, i had just googled it and found the answer even before "decrypting" the text in which the answer is. And when i "decrypt it" besides the obvious sentence i see lots of gibberish which isn't helpful in any way. I would've given up if it weren't Alice: Madness Returns :)

4 years ago
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Y'all keep talkin' 'bout sum' text.

Please kindly refer to hint number two.

4 years ago
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Yup, i've been overthinking it, i'm laughing my ass now for all the stupid shit i tried to do :) Oh well, need a password now, let's see what i can do about it :3

4 years ago
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Ok, made it, can't translate what's inside to save my life -_-

yeah, i guess it's not the obvious solution, but anything else escapes my mind.

Good puzzle tho, the only one i've invested so much time into. :)

4 years ago
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Pity. Especially when you are at the very last step. Oh well.>
4 years ago
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Well, if it isn't binary, i haven't got a clue what it could be :P Never played a puzzle like this one, lack of experience is what's dragging me down :3 Bloody hell, i even wrote a code in python to change 1 to 0 and vice versa in hope that it would help >_< btw: tell me if i should delete my comment if it gives away too much

4 years ago
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Well, it IS binary, but in a different sense.

4 years ago
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Tried morse, tried painting it different colors, none of it helped. Haven't got any more ideas of what to do, but you DID help me out here, made me think outside the usual line of thinking.

4 years ago
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I don't think I even have a toolbox.

4 years ago
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Look closer.

4 years ago
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I see your tool :) I don't know how to view the result

4 years ago
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And I think I understand your last hint, I just checked and haven't got a program for it at this time. Wonder how I've gone a year without it on my new PC.

4 years ago
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Huh. Well I solved checkpoint 2... but not checkpoint 1. I guess I still need to solve that to go further? =\

4 years ago
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The second checkpoint is not a puzzle. The second checkpoint is a hint.

4 years ago
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Eh I only started and solved q1 and q3, but for q2 I ran out of options for the time being, but sadly don't really have time for serendipity/background processing. Pity, as your stuff seems fun judging by the hints I think I can predict pretty well what's going on later on.

4 years ago
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If you promise to read the whole book afterwards, I can safely hint that you'll know it by the end of chapter two, if not earlier.

Oops. Replied to wrong post. Wish there was a way to edit or delete replies.

4 years ago
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One quick question: how much should I know about the book for Q2 at the first checkpoint?

4 years ago
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If you promise to read the whole book afterwards, I can safely hint that you'll know it by the end of chapter two, if not earlier.

In private, of course. Not here in front of everybody.

4 years ago
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It's already in my pile of books to read, just below Cat's Cradle. :)

4 years ago
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Very nice puzzle and quite frankly with all the hints it's solvable pretty fast. C'mon people you can do it!

4 years ago
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Yup, the hints make it definitely easier. If only I could solve the last part...

4 years ago
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AAAAAAND... it's done!

Awesome puzzle, thanks Ishmaeel!

4 years ago
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The hints do help when you're at that certain part, but the end is driving me insane -_-

4 years ago
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Yes, i was overthinking it, thanks mate for this awesome puzzle, best one i've seen in ages.

4 years ago
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Thank you, fellow soul. Enjoy the game!

4 years ago
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I don't think I'll get the final step in the next few minutes. Thanks for all your effort in putting this together and for walking us through the more complicated parts. If you have the time, I'd like to see an explanation once this is over.

4 years ago
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Yeah, I'm stuck and I don't think I'll make it either. Would love an explanation as well later though :)

4 years ago
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Thank you too. I posted the solution.

4 years ago
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Wish I was able to get checkpoint one. Seemed like a good, hard puzzle and I wanted Alice! Interested to see the solution so I can check out the puzzle.

4 years ago
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Which one did you have problem with (since it's over, I'd guess that I can tell what I answered)?

4 years ago
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I too wish you could make it. Perhaps next time. I posted the solution.

4 years ago
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Nice quiz. Couldn't solve Q1 as I didn't read Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four" and didn't know this principle. Read the other two books though thus could solve those questions easily.

4 years ago
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yep I really don't have winzip. and I've read 2 of those books.

4 years ago
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That works with any archive programs (7-Zip, WinRar, etc...).

4 years ago
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Closed 4 years ago by Ishmaeel.