December 2016 — This Squeamish Ossifrage Society site is moving to 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.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Puzzle Palace — er, Apartment

You know you've "arrived" when your family moves to a nicer apartment — and film director Ron Howard rents your old place. Meet Steve Klinsky and Maureen Sherry — and their four kids, Cavan (12), Kiera (9), Owen (7), and Ella (5) — and their Home, Cryptic Home. (Take a slide-show tour.)

The mysterious artifacts embedded in their 7-bedroom Fifth Avenue apartment have been the subject of several feature articles, most recently one in the Oct. 10–11 weekend edition of Financial Times. It all started when the tenants hired a creative designer to help renovate their new $8.5 million unit. They didn't realize, until later, just how much tinkering the guy had done with the place.

Secret compartments, personalized ciphers for each of the children, magnetic keys, and ubiquitous salamanders were just a few of the clues discovered in what turned out to be an 18-step scavenger hunt.

The polyalphabetic substitution cipher pictured above (and transcribed below) was written for the youngest Klinsky kid, who might appreciate your help in breaking it. The puzzle contains several errors, which I've highlighted in the interest of fair sport: The red letters are typos, and the green commas mark where the keyword is interrupted and starts over. It might also be helpful to know that all of the line breaks coincide with the ends of words.