M for Mendetta

Written by

Jester prankster Alex Weinberg, who may or may not be making this all up, documents what happens when you win at puzzling. UPDATE, 12:07 PM: Additional photographical evidence has been located! 

hjThe cryptic ThemEarthMeteors puzzles began to pop up again this spring, stapled in dramatic “M’s” along bulletin boards in Mudd and on the semi-permanent construction barrier in front of Butler. These flyers directed passersby to, an equally mysterious website (now defunct) where you or I could submit our answers. I solved them as best I could, partially because I like puzzles, but mostly because I relish any excuse to visit a non-porn website. I solved three over the course of the semester and then forgot all about them.

Then, a few nights ago, a person named M e-mailed me to tell me that I had solved enough puzzles to join his secret society. Sweet. He provided the date, time, and location where would I could meet him. Since it’s always been my policy to accept the rendezvous invitations of anonymous Internet strangers, I followed his instructions exactly.

On Tuesday night at 10:00 PM, I arrived, knocked twice, and whispered the password. I guess some other secret society had booked Columbia’s Triga III nuclear reactor, the abandoned Pupin cyclotron, and our vast network of abandoned steam tunnels, because the most mysterious and creepy place they could hold their meeting was Mudd 327. A guy ushered me into the darkened classroom, which was illuminated only by a projector displaying a five foot tall “M” on the pull-down screen. Comically epic choir music boomed from Dell laptop speakers. After enough people had trickled in (twelve, by my count) the five leaders turned on the lights and quieted their grandiose tunes so that they could welcome us to their group, The Master Theorem, an anagram of ThemEarthMeteors. (Perhaps was already taken.) The leaders then explained that their leader, M, had deemed us worthy. We were now invited to attend their weekly meetings during which the group creates and solves more puzzles.

Yes, I had solved a series of puzzles in order to earn the privilege of solving more puzzles. That’s it. This secret society had no black cloaks, no blood rituals, no rings, no alien technology. Just more goddamn puzzles. Maybe my reference frame is too mainstream, but there’s a reason why the grand prize on Jeopardy isn’t a take-home version of Jeopardy. Girls don’t strip their way through college so they can become


As I stewed in my disappointment, the lights went off again so that they could show us a PowerPoint presentation about common ciphers used to code messages. A small Asian girl took notes. Once this presentation was over, they turned the lights back on and revealed a blue box with  combination lock over its clasp. We were then instructed to use our new knowledge to decode three clues (contained in an envelope stamped with an “M”) which corresponded to a three digit combination that would open the box, which at that point I assumed to be filled with smaller boxes.

I snatched the first clue, which was based on the first group of ciphers that we had been taught. I joined a group of three other people, and within about ten minutes we had solved our puzzle. The first number of the three digit combination lock was 7. The other people in my group went to join the other two groups who had been given more complicated clues and were having a harder time solving them. In the meantime, I realized that this three digit lock would only have 100 potential combinations left, since we knew the first number was 7. I figured that trying all of these wouldn’t really take very long, and within three minutes, I reached 7-5-4 and the lock popped open.

Although the contents of the box were actually many bags of M&Ms, it felt like I had just exploded a pipe bomb of shame. I thought I was being crafty for circumventing the puzzle that they had lovingly and meticulously prepared for us, but the popular consensus seemed to be that I was a twat. One of the leaders gave me a look of disappointment and restrained anger that I’ve seen on little league coaches and prom dates so many times before. I closed the box again and let them continue their puzzle until they told me I could go.

sdfAll things considered, The Master Theorem club may consist of puzzle-loving nerds, but at least they’re well-intentioned. I don’t think that M exists in the corporeal sense, and if he does, I hope he wears a suit covered in question marks like the Riddler or that insane Matthew Lesko guy who tries to give you money. The Master Theorem is a clever group of people who could just as easily be using their skills to make sarin gas bombs, so I think it’s just best if we just let them enjoy their weekly puzzles. Having said that, I hope they aren’t horribly mad that I wrote this piece, because they could probably have me crushed under an enormous Rubik’s Cube if they so desired. If my dead body is found with a giant M burned into my chest with hydrobromic acid, then I posthumously redact this article.



  1. hahaha  

    I would see signs to solve those puzzles everywhere and I always thought it was so much more than a puzzle. Like that online interactive Lost game they had last year, another creepy puzzle which left you nowhere.

  2. brilliant  

    "Maybe my reference frame is too mainstream, but there's a reason why the grand prize on Jeopardy isn't a take-home version of Jeopardy. Girls don't strip their way through college so they can become strippers. "

    Why did Matt Sanchez strip his way...

  3. ubber  


    • Yeah  

      I wish you had just lied and said that you were able to join a vast network of powerful and mysterious and sexy people. We need to believe in those things.

  4. nah  

    this was an extremely tight post. everybody should see Zodiac. that movie rules

  5. haha

    "A small Asian girl took notes."


  6. amazing  

    this was awesome.

  7. funcy  

    defunct? quite the contrary, it's very much funct:

  8. Wow  

    Man, this really confirms so much about Alex Weinberg for me. First there was the unfunny Jester magazine, then the totally inane CUSJ 'prank' (cue 15 Bwog comments attempting to mock me and failing to be funny at that too) and now this. Man, what a jerk. Seriously, Alex, you wonder why people might look at you as a twat?

    I speak from experience. I solved the puzzles and went to the meeting last semester, only to think that it was pretty damn nerdy and not my idea of fun. But all the same, I think to expose it publicly like this is really mean-spirited. They had a secret club with only one particularly unique element: that it was secret. That was the fun, for those who enjoyed it. Come on, you couldn't just leave them alone to their puzzles, but instead had to go and spoil it for them.

    It reminds me of a 'cool kid' in middle school making fun of the kid in glasses who does math problems in his spare time. Moreover, we all were that nerdy kid once, but Alex Weinberg clearly never got over it. Fuck you, Alex.

    • Also  

      Not to mention that it was pretty shitty of Bwog to post this.

    • lame  

      you guys don't realize that weinberg is also a seas kid and a huge nerd. it took a lot of nerding it up just to get to the secret puzzlefest, so give him a break. i'd be pissed, too.

      and you guys are also racists because nerds are just as capable of having a tight time as any other race-- these puzzlenerds probably just didn't try hard enough. buy some cloaks next time

      good work weinberg.

    • wow  

      we're actually supposed to listen to Gabe Morris regarding character judgements?

    • listen number 9  

      could you take a more patronizing, condescending attitude towards these puzzle kids? they're college students like everybody else here, so presumably they're not gonna burst into tears and throw a hissy fit because somebody blew their little secret. are we supposed to believe that all these kids have in the world is their secret puzzle club? please. they posted their flyers in public places; they invited weinberg and the rest of them without swearing them to secrecy. if they really wanted to keep their group a secret, they could have: but they're not six-year-olds with a treehouse club and a secret password. get over yourself already.

    • Hillary  

      How does this spoil anything? The Master Theorem put up flyers all around campus; obviously people knew that some group was behind the M puzzles, even if they didn't now the name of the group. Alex also didn't write any names in the piece, so if anonymity is an issue, exactly who's in The Master Theorem hasn't been revealed. If you have personal reasons not to like Alex, that's one thing, but you can't really accuse his article of ruining the mystery of The Master Theorem when there isn't a mystery to ruin.

  9. Weinberg is  

    a god who walks among men. That's all I have to say about that.

  10. ethics?  

    hey Bwog--first the Hunter Northrop post and now this? seriously, the former was hilarious and the latter is a great read, but is there something more important than good reading? (not being pricks, perhaps.)

  11. B for

    B for Boring (and I spit in the M&Ms)

  12. sad dead puppies  

    I don't really get the point of this besdies showing you're a dick. I agree with #9. You say that the people are fine but nerdy. Why ruin it then? What are you trying to prove, that you defeated a group of well-intentioned seas kids by pretending you were a good person? Bravo. I tip my hat to you.

    • mnb  

      Weinberg is pretty fucking nerdy, and a SEAS kid, so I think your point is lost. He's the only person I know who listens to THey Might be Giants un-ironically.

      I liked the article Alex.

  13. also  

    weinberg is only one man, and deserves neither all the credit nor all the blame for whatever you think of Jester

  14. i think  

    it goes both way. The article is funny and a good read but Weinberg is being kind of a dick by posting it.

  15. Also  

    Alex, I like your Agent Smith earpiece.

  16. ALA

    you know what's douchier than exposing a secret nerd club?
    Insulting the kid who exposed them from behind a curtain of internet anonymity.
    If you're going to be a prick, at least say who you are, so he can pop you in the face when and if ya'll cross paths.
    Come on. If we're going to go with 6th grade behaviors, I think it's prety fucking 6th grade to insult someone on a website.

  17. actually  

    ethics aside, it was a great article
    ethics included, covering stories that you wouldn't know about otherwise is a large part of what journalism is about, even if it sometimes sucks for the people who get written about.

  18. mike  

    i thought this article was funny (and as an aside, that the Jester-CUSJ hoax was really clever). There's really nothing unethical about reporting on campus happenings that you experienced, especially, as previous commenters have pointed out, they invited him to the meeting without swearing him to secrecy or anything.

  19. Hillary  

    "Now" = "Know." My brain is fried from Lit Hum, sorry.

  20. hahaha  

    The Press hat. The Jeopardy line. The journalistic commitment. I love it all.

    People are bitches. Alex Weinberg is a grown ass man. Well done, sir.

  21. i heard  

    alex invented the internet

  22. Well

    It seems like most of the negative feedback is coming from one guy (Gabe Morris) so I'll go ahead and add my opinion.

    This was a funny article and I'm glad Alex wrote it.

    Also, the Jester-CUSJ thing was funny to everyone except those who got pranked, namely Gabe Morris himself, who can't take a joke.

  23. onetwothree  

    those guys deserve to have their cover blown. they didn't even notice the giant "press" sign on alex's hat. gosh.

  24. ...  


  25. fuck that  

    This is a funny article and I dont give a shit about anything else.

  26. secret? lame

    why does a club need to be secret anyway? the only reason i can think of is to be more selective with its membership, which is totally dick. at least the frats on campus are honest with the fact that they're selective, and they open Rush up to the whole campus

  27. Regardless.  

    This is quite the amusing article, and if anything very well written. You have talents as a writer, but seemingly little shame and respect. I don't mean this in an insulting manner, but do understand that the one thing they asked of you was secrecy and nothing else. You even got free candy.

    To everyone who seems to be mistaken, secrecy was asked of everyone, so there is no innocence to the article. Mr. Weinberg has written this knowing full well the act that he was committing, although with what intention I cannnot be sure.

    The mystery was only to spark curiosity, something that simply seems to lack in the people of this world. Without curiosity, one lives without living...

    • Anonymous  

      It would be kind of idiotic for such a group to not demand secrecy.

      Lit hum Review: What ring of the Inferno would Alex be found, given that he was sworn to secrecy and he opted to violate it?

  28. sad state  

    It's disappointing that Bwog has decided to violate journalism ethics with posting this entry. While the article is definitely humorous, breaching these codes is serious. Fortunately for Bwog, nothing will result from it. It is a shame to see their editors stoop that low.

    #41 is correct on all points.

  29. alex's friend  

    i think alex is funny. i especially like the bit about jeopardy and the other bits.

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