Last week, an enigmatic and fiendishly tricky puzzle that had baffled bitcoiners for years was finally solved. In the process, it earned the individual who cracked it a 5 BTC jackpot and brought new acclaim to the team behind the project. After being launched in 2015, at the height of the bitcoin bear market, the puzzle attracted a flurry of interest. As the months passed and no one stepped forward to claim the prize, interest in the puzzle waned, until last week’s sudden news that its mysteries had been decoded.
Satoshi, Shakespeare and the $50,000 Puzzle
1FLAMEN6 was the name assigned to a notorious bitcoin address created in 2015. The notoriety came on account of the 5 BTC locked inside it. The coins were anyone’s to claim, but to unlock them they would have to solve a visual puzzle that had baffled some of crypto’s greatest minds and finest armchair detectives. The Legend of Satoshi Nakamoto is a visually rich painting by @coin_artist, who devised the board game-inspired artwork in conjunction with fellow crypto creative Rob Myers. It was evident that the painting contained clues that would reveal the key to the bitcoin wallet, but those clues were so obscure and esoteric as to thwart all attempts to crack them.
That’s until a 30-year-old programmer operating under the pseudonym of Isaac stepped forward and helped himself to the prize. Motherboard spoke to the code-cracking genius, who confessed that holding bitcoin wasn’t safe in his country, hence the desire to preserve his anonymity. Isaac only learned of the puzzle a month ago, but in three weeks made more progress than the crypto community had made in the past three years. Encoded in the painting, Isaac discovered, was the key to the bitcoin wallet prefaced by the phrase “B34u7y, truth, and rarity”, put there to signal that its finder had been successful.
17th Century Wisdom Meets 21st Century Tech
The phrase encoded in the painting is taken from a William Shakespeare poem called The Phoenix and the Turtle. The poem, like its author, is a subject of some mystery and much speculation. The same can be said of Satoshi Nakamoto of course, who the painting was named after. @coin_artist explained to Motherboard how the inclusion of Shakespeare was “important to me because events flipped my life upside down and I created this piece at rock bottom. The painting was also created during the toughest part of the bear market and those original bitcoins I loaded into that address were half of everything I had to my name. It was essentially a prayer that things would get better.”
@coin_artist created the painting while her fellow artist Rob Myers help encode the key which was hidden in it, using flames around its border and ribbons tied to the key to correspond to binary strings. The full story of how Isaac went on to decode the rest of the clues is a lengthy but fascinating one. Thanks to the number of bitcoin forks that have occured since the 1FLAMEN6 wallet was loaded with 5 BTC, the final prize is in fact greater than $50,000.
Conveniently for @coin_artist, the puzzle was solved at the same time as she was seeking to promote her latest project, Neon District, a blockchain RPG game set in a dystopian future. In keeping with its designer’s methodology, the game is loaded with easter eggs which, when solved, will help players uncover a grand prize of some description. Coincidences aside, cryptocurrency and cryptographic puzzles are a mind-boggling match made in heaven.