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The Larva Labs Treasure Hunt
Nov. 29, 2023

This thread was posted to Twitter on March 14, 2022. It was seen by ~everyone in crypto that same day. I've archived it here, lightly reformatted, for posterity; Twitter is now X. Many people were inspired by this story to create new puzzles, which makes me happy. See also: the Proof podcast episode.

This is the story of how @larvalabs, the creators of Cryptopunks, hid a secret NFT prize almost a year ago—and how a couple friends and I recently solved the puzzle to claim it.

If you watch the NFT space, you surely saw the incredible Grails drop by @proof_xyz last month. There were 20 artworks by 20 anonymous artists. Members of Proof could each pick a piece to mint. Only after everyone minted were the artists' names revealed.

Here's "Grails #11" (as it was known before the reveal). A mathematical equation, maybe, with starry interference patterns and a road leading to a zone of cosmic pareidolia in the middle. Strange and beautiful.

Soon after minting closed, the Proof team held the much-anticipated call where the story and artist behind each piece were revealed. When #11 turned out to be by @larvalabs, and in fact a prototype of their seminal Autoglyphs project, everyone went wild.

Despite being a relatively popular mint (#4 out of 20, with 77 minted total), this piece now commands the highest price. The lowest listed is 45 ETH. End of story, right? Except, it turns out that despite weeks of speculation and excited analysis, everyone missed something.

The night of the reveal (March 5th), "iceman" in the Proof Collective chat room posted this:

His message caught my eye right away, because that part of the image really did look separate from the main part of the artwork. Also, the Ls weren't in any kind of regular pattern, so they seemed more than ornamental.

If you look closely at that top row, there are two shapes: regular and upside-down Ls. I wrote a script to parse the image and turn those shapes into 0s and 1s. As it turned out, there were exactly 256 bits—divisible by 8—so the first thing I tried was interpreting them as ASCII.

That worked, and the resulting message is "SECRET IS IN THE PIG NUMBERS, LL". First of all, just as a signature from Larva Labs, it's incredible that no one found this message during the whole open minting process! That would have dramatically changed the Grails experiment.

All that happened 9 long days ago, on March 5th. Since then, I was trying to figure out what the rest of that message meant. I recruited a couple friends to help, and we all contributed to the yesterday's final solve.

(Side note: no one else really responded to iceman's post, AFAICT. And I shared the secret message as soon as I found it. So this entire time we assumed others were trying to figure this out as well...)

So, while "LL" is the signature, "SECRET IS IN THE PIG NUMBERS" seemed like a clue pointing to a hidden treasure—which is exactly what it turned out to be. Coming from Larva Labs, the "pig" reference seemed like it had to mean the pig Meebits.

We focused in on that right away. But what were the "numbers"? We spent a long time—way too long—trying to make something work with the pig meebit ID #s. We looked at mod 2, intervals between the IDs, ascii, base 32, caesar ciphers... all kinds of crazy things.

It was only a few days ago that we noticed that there's another set of numbers within the pigs: some of them have jersey numbers.

(If you go look at the IDs of these jersey Meebits, I *think* there's something unusual pointing to a clue here! Check out the distribution of IDs—they stop at ~13k. If the pigs with jerseys were uniformly distributed, you'd expect there to be one with an ID over 19k.)

Looking at only these 64 Meebs with the Snoutz Jerseys, we once again spent way too long chasing dead ends. (Convert the jersey numbers to binary, combine jersey numbers with the id numbers, use the jersey colors somehow, interpret them as hex, etc etc).

Finally, what worked is concatenating a hex string out of the 64 jersey numbers, and interpreting that as an Ethereum private key! There was 0.025 ETH in the corresponding account, and looking closer revealed a pig Meebit prize in there as well.

With the private key in hand, we were able to claim Meebit #2858!

(If you're curious, it doesn't seem like LL chose this exact sequence of jersey numbers. Rather, they took the jersey #s that *were* created and used them to make this puzzle, about a week after the Meebits drop last May. It had been waiting for someone to claim it since then!)

Overall this was a really fun experience. I'm grateful to @larvalabs for making the puzzle and leaving a clue in the Protoglyph (Grails #11). And grateful to @proof_xyz and all twenty of the Grails artists for bringing more art into the world.

Finally, full credit goes to my good friend and collaborator on this @ApelyShilling, and our third anonymous team member.

Props also to @emailyedelman, @DrawingMoving, and @colt_xyz—all creative NFT folks—for an inspiring late-night brainstorming session.