What’s the hardest puzzle on the internet? It’s not a giant sudoku board or Will Shortz’ hardest crosswords. If you’re wondering about the hardest puzzles games online, they’re the mysterious and wildly difficult Cicada 3301 puzzles. Not a quick game for your family game night, only three Cicada 3301 puzzles exist and, to date, only two have been solved. The third puzzle, released in January of 2014, is nearly seven years old and still codebreakers around the world have yet to figure it out.
What are the Cicada 3301 puzzles?
The first Cicada 3301 puzzle appeared on 4chan on January 4, 2012. But, puzzles and clues have appeared in all kinds of forms. There were even paper signs posted in 14 cities across the world. It’s also rumored that the organization behind Cicada 3301 communicate through a variety of channels. It started with a simple image: white on a black background, with a note that said, “Hello. We are looking for highly intelligent individuals. To find them, we have devised a test. There is a message hidden in this image. Find it, and it will lead you on the road to finding us. We look forward to meeting the few that will make it all the way through. Good luck.”
Within that message there was not only a clue to the next step but also decoys, using older well-known ciphering methods. It was designed to stump and spiral anyone who took a crack… and plenty of people did. In order to solve the first puzzle, it required knowledge of everything from Victorian Occults to classical music. There was even a clue only accessible by traveling to Hawaii. It was, in essence, a very nerdy scavenger hunt across the globe and deep into the darknet. For every few eager participants was another naysayer convinced that whomever was behind Cicada 3301 was clearly only up to no good. Nearly nine years since its first puzzle was released, we’re still unsure what Cicada 3301 is, who they are, what they stand for, and what is the real purpose behind their clues.
Why do the Cicada 3301 puzzles exist?
That, Dear Watson, might be the most alluring part of the Cicada 3301 puzzles. No one truly knows who released them or why. Some say they were used as a recruitment test for the CIA, NSA or MI6. Others believe they were created by a dark and secretive society. Of course, the Illuminati is rumored to be involved. Even the great minds who managed to solve the first two puzzles don’t seem willing to share the details of the puzzles’ origins.
Is it really the hardest puzzle ever?
While plenty of people believe that the Cicada 3301 puzzles might be the hardest puzzles in the world… ever, that might not be true. Another famous coded “puzzle,” called “Kryptos,” has actually existed much longer. Kryptos is a sculpture that stands out front of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. The artist, Jim Sanborn, created and placed the sculpture in 1992 and claims that the markings on the Kryptos are actually a cypher and that there is a hidden message behind it. That’s right. Every single day, some of America’s most brilliant puzzle solvers walk by a giant puzzle on their way to work and, so far, no one has solved it. So, Kryptos has lasted much longer and taunted people truly skilled at breaking codes and deciphering ciphers.
Of course, that’s not even the oldest unsolved cypher. Royalty in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries especially were notorious for sending coded messages back and forth. While the original recipient may have understood the code, historians are often left clueless. One tricky 1498 message from King Ferdinand started with one ciphered pattern but ended in ten lines of a different code. The last ten lines remain unsolved. Even the Vatican has released cyphers they needed to have decoded.
While the Cicada 3301 puzzles might be the newest and, strangely, trendiest puzzles to have decoders buzzing, they may not actually be the hardest. After all… the first two have been solved.