Security Corner

Jul 7 2011   2:20AM GMT

Cryptogram Contest Solution

Ken Harthun Ken Harthun Profile: Ken Harthun

Better late than never, I guess. I promised this would be published on June 30. Well, I got a new job and I got really, incredibly, insanely busy. But, here we go. Recall this:

The ciphertext is below. Hint: The key to solving this cipher is to figure out the shift and the variation. The very first letter of the cryptogram is the actual first letter of the first word and all punctuation is preserved. Please note that this is NOT a simple substitution cipher. There is no guarantee the letters will be the same throughout, though you may notice repeating patterns.


Two readers solved the puzzle, one by conventional means and one by rather unconventional, but ingenious means. Here are there results:

Brian: “Confession time – I cheated. I eventually tracked the quotation down >> > on the basis of the word count. I quite understand if this disqualifies me. If it doesn’t, then I would choose the download.”

When I told him he won based on his approach, he wrote back with this:

I had verified my solution using the shifting Caesar Cipher, but I’m hoping your blog will have something about the approach taken by the other solver. I only came to the “words” approach when I had to admit to defeat using more orthodox methods!

Fact is, Brian made the effort to solve the cryptogram and his unconventional method was successful. This shows very analytical thinking worthy of any cryptanalyst. Well done, Brian!

John provides the conventional solution to the cryptogram:

I think I figured the puzzle out. It is referencing a very old science fiction quote from a short story “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” by Lewis Padgett published in February 1943. I also think there were a couple spelling errors in the pattern.

‘Twas Brillig and the slithy toves did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the Borogoves, and the mome raths outgrabe.

The pattern, outside of the first “T”, was -1 then +1 then -1 then +1, and so on…

Two winners, two different approaches.

And, by the way, the poem is called “Jabberwocky” and was written by Lewis Carol of “Alice in Wonderland” fame.

Congratulations, winners!

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