USPS Mystery Message Stamp [Review]

🎢 Puzzle in disguise 🎢

Date Played: July 2021

Art Director: Antonio AlcalΓ‘

Duration: A few seconds

Price: $0.55 per stamp, $11 per sheet

REA Reaction

This month, the United States Postal Service issued a puzzle stamp entitled Mystery Message… and in typical USPS fashion, it kind of delivered.

The stamp had a playful look about it, and delivered a straightforward puzzle, which you can solve here:

Closeup of the US Mystery Message puzzle stamp. Careful inspection reveals the phrase, "More than meets the eye!"
Puzzle hunters, don’t look for deeper layers or extractions here. Just look at it, read the message, and you’re done.

As a puzzler, I couldn’t help looking at this and wishing that the colors or dots indicated some kind of additional layer and that “more than meets the eye!” was an invitation to dig deeper rather than the conclusion itself.

Beyond that, the USPS website goes out of its way to spoil its own puzzle, which seems like it must be a metaphor of some sort.

On the other hand, I’m just happy that the USPS is offering stamps that speak to puzzlers… so I’ll cut the snark and be thankful.

I was so thankful that I went onto USPS.com and purchased about $200 worth of these things because we send a lot of thank you cards to volunteers and speakers post-RECON (get your tickets). The punchline to this endeavor was that when I attempted to complete my purchase, the US Postal Service informed me that my home address was invalid and wouldn’t complete the transaction… which is definitely a metaphor.

Who is this for?

  • American puzzle lovers who use the US Postal Service

Why play?

  • It’s a fun stamp that makes puzzlers feel seen
  • You’re a RECON volunteer or speaker from the US and you received this in the mail on your thank you card

Setup

I’ll let the USPS website’s description explain the premise of this puzzle with the faintest hint of hyperbole:

Featuring bright colors and interesting shapes, the stamp design is a perplexing puzzle that will tie your brain in knots…”

Did you catch the exaggeration there? Well, USPS didn’t want you to feel inadequate, confused, or even have to engage with their devious mind-shattering puzzle because that one paragraph product description continued to explain how to crack this impenetrable code:

“… This visual riddle spells out a difficult-to-discern message. Each colorful square contains a letter in an interesting pattern. The patterns, though seemingly random, were carefully placed so that when put together, the message reads, ‘More Than Meets the Eye!'”

Book of 20 Mystery Message stamps.

Gameplay

Mystery Message was a puzzle employing a light form of steganography. It was overtly easy, which seemed like it was the design intent, even if no one explained that to their marketing people.

Analysis

βž• It was a stamp with a puzzle.

❓ The puzzle wasn’t especially hard. Whether that’s good or bad is a value judgement.

βž– The puzzle wasn’t all that interesting, which felt worse because so many of the building blocks for an interesting puzzle seemed present in the design.

βž– I cannot fathom why an institution would go out of their way to design a puzzle and then spoil it in the puzzle’s description.

βž• While there wasn’t a hint system – I mean it’s tough to hint something this straightforward – there was a provided solution on the back of the stamp sheet, and it was elegantly laid-out:

Back of the stamp book displays how to interpret the solution.

βž• It was a puzzle that we can use to send mail!

❓ If you send mail via the USPS it might just arrive at its intended destination. Seriously, Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has utterly gutted the USPS, and it’s sad.

βž• If you receive one in the mail, it’s a free puzzle!

Tips For Players

  • Space Requirements: a small space on an envelope
  • Required Gear: None

Buy your copy of USPS’ Mystery Message Stamp, and tell them that the Room Escape Artist sent you.

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