December 2016 — This Squeamish Ossifrage Society site is moving to SqueamishOssifrageSociety.com. The move will be completed by December 31, 2016, at 10 p.m. MT. The site you are currently visiting is being dismantled and will no longer be supported.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Beale ciphers: Proceed at your own risk

An ongoing discussion about the Beale ciphers was begun in an older post. Those comments have been split off and moved to this new post.

Proceed at your own risk! Before you decide to take a shot at decrypting the Beale ciphers -- or even to post in the comments section below -- it might behoove you to read the following advisory, which the unknown author of the first published copy of the ciphers included in his pamphlet, after his own failed attempts at decipherment:

“... [D]evote only such time as can be spared from your legitimate business to the task, and if you can spare no time, let the matter alone. Should you disregard my advice, do not hold me responsible that the poverty you have courted is more easily found than the accomplishment of your wishes, and I would avoid the sight of another reduced to my condition. Nor is it necessary to devote the time that I did to this matter, as accident alone, without the promised key, will ever develop the mystery. If revealed by accident, a few hours devoted to the subject may accomplish results which were denied to years of patient toil. Again, never, as I have done, sacrifice your own and your family’s interests to what may prove an illusion; but, as I have already said, when your day’s work is done, and you are comfortably seated by your good fire, a short time devoted to the subject can injure no one, and may bring its reward.”

Cryptanalyst finds familiar text in old cipher

July 2, 2009 — A couple of days ahead of the 233rd birthday of the United States of America, here's an interesting item from today's Wall Street Journal.

As far as scholars can tell, an enciphered letter received by President Thomas Jefferson in 1801 from his friend, Robert Patterson, had gone unsolved for over two centuries — until code-breaker Lawren Smithline took a shot at it in 2007.

Smithline, 36, a mathematician and now a professional cryptanalyst, recently published his solution. It's not quite the "perfect cipher" that the nineteenth-century puzzle's author thought it was: although quite possibly unbreakable in its time, it would have been impractical for everyday use as a quill-and-parchment system. Even though Patterson had a systematic method for sprinkling the ciphertext with numerous nulls, his cryptogram is readily identifiable as a transposition cipher.

Readers will find the content of the letter to be a paraphrased excerpt from a well-known document — one that was written largely by Jefferson himself.

Bag o' Zyps (continued)

If you successfully solved the first three Zyptograms in this package (next post, below), you're ready to move on to the elimination round. Zyp 4 is rated "difficult," and Zyp 5 is what Cryptopop calls a "stumper."

4. COXM CODJVOZJNG EOVCM EZLJGNV CODJG COXLCJ.

5. TRJQ OXRPJT OSXRPB QRPOS TQRPORB.

Bag o' Zyps

Here are three of Cryptopop's ever-popular, challenging Zyptograms. The first one is relatively easy, as far as Zyps go. The second and third are medium.

See if you can get all three. And then watch for two more Zyps -- even more difficult than these -- to be posted within a few days.

1. UJAGUPK UJAGU PK GAUJU.

2. NOTBOD NQZCMBO NOZBOC NTQD NDCMBOC.

3. IOQFI IOQFZAGR OCRA VIOCFZ, IQFFAO IQFI VGF.

Forget 90210 — We've got a new "Zyp code"

Cryptopop designs challenging (yet "simple") substitution ciphers, called Zyptograms or "Zyps." He was kind enough to tailor one of these word puzzles just for us.

ZYP-WY-WBJGHLDWN YWWDITHOG ITHOLGZPW ITGWN WBJHQ QYZGW.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Overheard in a "sue"-shi bar

GCHT KVMFOFKH RVGPHMQ ZMXHM QAQCF WRVOOHMQ, OCHP FTQFQO VTP QADQOFOAOFZTQ DH KVXH "QSAFX WMZ SAZ."

Wake him up for the commercials

MIJDF UBTJWG BI JFMPCZTV NMSZTV/NMTZTV GKEDF ABNH SHZZZ JZPCDJ GMHDG, ABBCCDDEDF GHDDEG JWFBKVW VMUD.

Bee sting smarts

EWHENPECK ZXETYEX ELLGXK TRJKK UGHPCK "ENOUGH" JLYGX LCBPHU WEO BPKKZGRRK "HENPECK."

Beat man snaps on the job

BYUYWNDP "ZGPIX SDHPWODLP" ARSDBRC "VGPYX BRXWODLP": RZRPW "LYC QHCW KRWWGPK DP BI PRUZRC," CYIC WGURO OGCS QDSMRI LND AUDMR VDUWI-VGZR URSDUOC. LNGUXRO URSDUOC.

"Please, Mr. Postman, look and see. Is there a letter in your bag for me?" Hover your cursor here to reveal a hint.

It's hard to find sense in all this change

"RMISO" DZZMDKO NI NICU NIM EMINTLIDSLNI NW DTMKLRDI RNLI RYKKMISCU WNYIE LI RLKRYCDSLNI!

Early bird becomes jailbird

"OKHV IHNBA DRV YGRZFR-DTNB?!"
VKIEP FEWRKYTDRW AXKDZEOYEPQ PEQXYNVTGZRVA NKCDZTEPRW TIKHY KHYVTQRKHA NKAY KO CRTY.

Now, stand by for news

February 28, 2009 — This wordsmith is said to have coined or popularized terms for "hijack a plane" (skyjack), "spying on your kids" (snoopervision), "a history of inclination" (trendancy), "rough guess" (guesstimate or guestimate), and "expecting a baby" (infanticipation). And a tongue-in-cheek phrase, always followed by silence: "He would want us to mention his name."
 
RNKQCZJ. JS AQXB RNKQCZJ, BNK WSSA TSW CAQLCXQKCSX. YCJ TWCNXRZB, JKQHHQKS DSCHNIWCXK. DNWFZNJJ, NPINWKZB JEJINXJNTEZ GNFJ ST QXNHRSKQZ JHQTTSZRCXL, EIGQWR KS RNZCLYKTEZ HWNJHNXRS! KYNX, JSANKYCXL ISCLXQXK. XNGJGSWKYB. EXNPINHKNR. ... QK XCXNKB, KSS JSSX. IQLN KGS.

Irrational exuberance

March 14 (3.14) — Thanks to Cryptopop for sharing the following poem to observe Pi Day.
JZIQ DAGTVCCGAC PH XGKKVSV AZXV
XGJDRIVW DP IG IAPKKPGHIQ DKZXV.
DAPHIVA YKVM ZHW IG SAVZI WPCSAZXV
IQVE VHWVW RD MPIQ DP(V) PH TZXV.

Used knife to finish Caesar

HW WZR? PDBEH KDFNHU IRXQG EUXWH-IRUFH VROXWLRQ WR DZNZDUG IRUNIXOV DQG RUGHUHG BHW DQRWKHU VDODG ZLWK XQWRUQ URPDLQH.

Draft dodgers pick golden locks

ZFWR BYHK WFQI BJWR WYFV ZFHO KOIR WFJQ OYFV