FLYNN'S new cipher department appears to be hitting the spot. Readers are writing to congratulate us daily; readers are submitting solutions of the cipher we published; and readers are sending in their own secret messages which they challenge the world to solve.
We propose to entertain you more at length with these challenge cryptograms later.
Meanwhile FLYNN'S will continue "Solving Cipher Secrets" under the expert editorship of Mr. Ohaver as a regular department. Through practical application it will offer a synopsis of puzzle-making through the centuries. At the same time it will give our readers a problem on which to exercise their analytical powers at regular intervals.
Set your teeth for a try at this juicy specimen from England's history.
N FLYNN'S for December 13 was printed a transposition cipher, that is, one in which the characters retained their original meanings or values, but had their relative order changed. This week's cryptogram is a null-cipher.
In a system of this class the cipher characters are of three kinds: (1) significants, (2) non-significants, or voids, and (3) indicators.
The significant characters retain their original values and their original order.
The non-significant characters have no value, being used to confuse any attempt to read the cipher without the key. Nonsignificants are disregarded when deciphering a message.
Indicators are sometimes used in null-ciphers for the purpose of indicating the significant characters. To illustrate the null-cipher, take the following instance where every third letter is non-significant.
Yoku atre adipschovierned, sflay flor byopur glipfe. Yo u a re di sc ov er ed, fl y f or yo ur li je.
By omitting the void characters, the message stands out in plain language: "You are discovered, fly for your life." We will now outline a brief history of this week's cipher.
During the administration of William Pitt as Premier of England, Sir John Trevanion, a distinguished cavalier and "malignant," was locked up as a prisoner in Colchester Castle. Already Sir George Lisle and Sir Charles Lucas had paid the extreme penalty for their views, and Trevanion had every reason for expecting a similar bloody end.
But Sir John was a tough old bird, and as he awaited his doom he indulged in many a hearty curse at the canting, crop-eared scoundrels who held him in durance vile. Pacing his cell like a caged lion, and muttering the wish that he would rather have fallen, sword in hand, faced by the foe than to be done away with in this ignominious manner, he was startled one day by the jailer, who, entering his cell, left him a letter with the words, "May't do thee good, it has been well looked to before it was permitted to come to thee."
Trevanion took the letter, and by the aid of a lamp which the jailer had grumblingly left him, made out the following:
WORTHIE SIR JOHN:
Hope, that is ye beste comfort of ye afflicted, cannot much, I fear me, help you now. That I would saye to you, is this only: if ever I may be able to requite that I do owe you, stand not upon asking me. 'T is not much I can do: but what I can do, bee you verie sure I wille. I knowe that, if dethe comes, if ordinary men fear it, it frights not you, accounting it for a high honour, to have such a rewarde of your loyalty. Pray yet that you may be spared this soe bitter, cup, I fear not that you will grudge any sufferings; only if bie submission you can turn them away, 't is the part of a wise man. Tell me, an if you can, to do for you any thinge that you wolde have done. The general goes back on Wednesday. Restinge your servant to command.
Now this letter was nothing other than a preconcerted cipher, which Sir John was able to read in a minute's time. It told this crafty plotter that his friends had contrived a plan to effect his escape.
And Sir John, needless to say, lost no time in taking advantage of it. On the next evening he asked that he be allowed to pass an hour of prayer in the chapel. By means of a bribe, this was readily accomplished. But before the allotted hour had expired, the chapel was empty. The bird had flown.
The secret message contained in the missive consisted of but twenty-eight letters, forming seven words. All the other characters, besides these twenty-eight, are nonsignificants. To assist you in the solution we are willing to give a little suggestion. If you would rather try it without help, do not read the next paragraph.
The significant characters of the message are found by counting a certain number of letters forward from each punctuation mark, these latter being the "indicators" in the present cipher. These letters taken in their order as found will form the secret message. Look sharp, now, and see if you can learn how Sir John escaped from the chapel.
The scytale cipher in FLYNN'S for December 13 contained the following message: All is lost. Mindarus is killed. The soldiers want food. We can neither get hence, nor stay longer here.
The "interval" was four; that is, there were four lines in the original message as written on the scytale. The "interval" is readily found by trying the first group, " AL," successively with each of the following groups.
It is then only necessary to rewrite the message as below, in columns of four groups each,
when the translation can be read in the usual manner, from left to right.
AL L I S L OST .MI NDA RUS IS KIL LED .TH E S OLD IER S W ANT FOO D.W E C AN NEI THE R G ET HEN CE, NOR STA Y LO NGE R H ERE.
Our next article will tell you about a cipher system that baffled investigators for nearly fifteen centuries. It will also contain a lesson in cryptography that will enable you to solve such a cipher in a surprisingly few minutes.
The same issue of FLYNN'S that contains it will also contain the solution of the Trevanion cipher.
The following readers submitted correct solutions of the scytale cipher within one week of the magazine's appearance: