Paywalls are seemingly ubiquitous these days, and it’s almost a challenge to find a website where you can still read articles for free. However, one website has started offering a new way for readers to access content that doesn’t require them to pony up for yet another subscription: The Washington Post is letting readers get past their paywall as long as they solve a sick, twisted puzzle.
Starting this week, non-subscriber visitors to the Washington Post who have used up their allotment of free articles for the month will no longer be turned away from the website and will instead be greeted by a prompt that reads, “To continue reading, complete a puzzle.” Those who accept the challenge will then be redirected to a pitch black screen with an audio message from a mysterious figure known only as the Puzzle Master, who says, “I can show you the content you crave. But first, do you have what it takes to survive my puzzle?” Upon responding “YES,” a steel seatbelt will then immediately fasten the website visitor to their computer chair, giving them no means of escaping as they’re suddenly plunged into a gauntlet of horrors that they must make it through alive in three minutes or less, otherwise they won’t be able to access the article, even in a private tab.
“In order to continue delivering you high quality, groundbreaking journalism, we’re asking you to support the Washington Post by becoming a subscriber or, if you’re unable to contribute financially, proving your strength and will to live by digging through a pit of rattlesnakes to find a key that you can use to unlock a vest of explosives strapped to your chest before it detonates,” reads a new pop-up message on the Post website. “By carefully heeding the instructions of the Puzzle Master (whose identity is unknown to us as well) and successfully solving his sadistic puzzle without dying, readers will gain access to the same award-winning journalism that’s available to paid subscribers.”
In a statement announcing the new content access guidelines, the Post revealed that the Puzzle Master’s traps will change with every article so that readers aren’t able to cheat, requiring them each and every visit to navigate an entirely new series of nightmarish obstacles in order to access the content, whether it’s a spiked helmet that becomes tighter and tighter on your head until you figure out the password to unlock it, a system of shackles and pulleys that slowly draw-and-quarter you a little more with each incorrect response, a modified cremation oven that gets hotter and hotter every passing second until you solve a riddle, and a challenging CAPTCHA-like image-matching interface that must be perfectly maneuvered to avoid being submerged in a vertical cylinder of flesh-melting acid.
Damn! This is a seriously bold move from the Washington Post, but one that will undoubtedly be welcomed by anyone who’s tired of paying for subscriptions in order to read the news. Your move, New York Times!