06 Painting numbers

After all, in mysteries we are always looking for one thing: the digits or numbers that tell us the GPS coordinates. Thanks to this circumstance, an almost unbelievable number of variants have developed over the course of time to represent numbers. This blog post is about what I consider to be a very pretty variation of this. The one in which you have to “paint” them.

To rewrite this can be done in many ways. For example, you could specify the vertices of a digit, plus the order in which they must be connected. For example, by mentioning places (stations, stops, etc.) or coordinates in the listing, which can be entered in Google Earth and connected by “ruler” (from the Google Earth icon bar). Roads can be used just as nicely in some places, as long as the settlements have an appropriately rectilinear street pattern.

Somewhere in this blog I mentioned “RLOU encryption” before. Right-Left-Up-Down are the instructions after which the puzzle solver is supposed to move his pen on a piece of paper. Right, Down, Left, Down, Right would result in a “2” encoded in this way. Of course, it does not have to be RLOU, RLUD (right, left, up, down) could be the English form. But any other form is possible, usually consisting of four variables.

For example, in the old computer games there was AWSD for keyboard control. Just look at the keyboard and see if directions can be associated with the letters.

If you add the diagonals, there could also be six or eight (diagonally up left, down right, etc.)

Similarly, numbers can be “painted” using the 7-segment display often used in geocaching. Often, the typical 7-segment letters are really used, where A-B-C-D-G, for example, would make a 3. But again, the seven variables could of course be named differently or represented in binary in a 7-bit system. The 3 from just now would be an 1111001 in 7-bit binary (used segments get a 1, unused ones get 0).

7 is the minimum number needed to paint legible segment characters. There are also other segment displays that can paint prettier letters and numbers with more segments and thus also diagonal strokes.

Also mentioned here in the blog was painting with the help of a spreadsheet or a letter/number matrix. Such a spreadsheet is normally structured in numbers on the left side (row) and letters on top (column). If the puzzler comes across a series of combinations of a letter and a digit, it might help to colour in these cells in such a matrix and watch how the desired information crystallises out of nothing.


The strange cryptogram
turns out to be simply the letter “N”

when painted.

Numbers/letters can also be “painted” using the numeric keypad of the keyboard or a telephone keypad.

So 1,5,7,8,9 just like 1,2,3,5,7 and “PEKA” (vanity, which are the letters that can be used synonymously for the digits on the telephone keypad) is nothing but the digit “7” painted in this way.

A large, jumbled-looking block of characters (usually only two different ones) can also be given “painted” numbers or letters. For this, you only have to put it into an editor (e.g.: Notepad++) and “push it together” (reduce the width of the programme window until the line width used by the creator of the puzzle is reached). For example, this results in a friendly morning greeting. In my Firefox, by the way, I can’t push the window small enough to read anything.

My absolute favourite mystery from my early days of solving mysteries is the “plotter language”. Pen plotters literally draw letters, numbers or even pictures. To be able to do this, they have to be controlled, i.e. they have to know exactly where on the paper the pen has to be lowered
and in which direction the pen has to be pushed, i.e. it has to paint. This results in a kind of “language” that is not unlike the RLOU from above. The only difference is that there is usually a “pen up” and “pen down” and, depending on the variation, an absolute or relative indication of the painting coordinate. If you look at a sheet of paper, you can designate any point on it using an imaginary X and Y coordinate. You just have to realise beforehand how big the grid is. In the case of the plotter, how many pixels it can paint. Then, for example, a 120/60 can be understood as 120 pixels from the top left point of the sheet to the right and 60 pixels from just there to the bottom. If the pencil is lowered here and now paints 20 to the right, 20 down, 20 to the left, 20 down and 20 again to the right, we again have a painted “2”. Alternatively, this can also be achieved with 120/60, 140/60, 140/80, 120/80, 120/100, 140/100. So in each case the paper coordinate to which the pencil should move.

Something like this can be hidden in the listing by the mystery owner in natural language or even in a real or made-up computer dialect. If you come across something like this, you are welcome to read HP-GL, the quasi-standard of plotter languages. There is also software that allows you to “plot” from a programme listing in HP-GL on the screen. The ancient programming language “Logo” is also very nice. Here, “pu” stands for pen up, “pd” for pen down, “fd” moves the pen forwards, “bk” backwards, “rt” and “lt” turn the pen and thus the “viewing angle” by an angle
to the right or left. Thus the painting direction here is relative, i.e. not starting from a certain point right-left-up-down, but one “turns” the paper (or better the painting angle of view) around its axis, i.e. the specified angle, and continues painting from there.

Of course there are other languages. One of the most famous is Logo with its turtle graphic, where a turtle is moved across the screen with a stylus.

Have fun “drawing” 😉