BEFORE launching into this week's ciphers and last week's answers, we should first like to thank our readers for the loyal support which they are according this department.
That cryptography is continuing to interest the fans as much as ever is attested by the many fine ciphers submitted, and by the excellent solutions to published ciphers and interesting letters of comment that are continually finding their way to this desk.
As to reader ciphers, we should like to publish every single contribution if only to show the fans how much we appreciate their efforts. And we do plan to use reader ciphers whenever it is at all possible to do so. But, unfortunately, there are a number of reasons why this cannot always be done.
Some ciphers, for example, are far too easy. To publish one of these real easy ones means that we must dodge brickbats for a couple of weeks, hurled by outraged fans who insist that their eggs be hard boiled or not at all.
On the other hand, a few of the ciphers we receive are too involved to be practicable, or too lengthy in their descriptions to permit adequate presentation in our limited space.
These ciphers may be safe and ingenious enough, and they usually are. But they are ordinarily too complex to be practical. In other words, some of our readers are building their bridges of heavier steel than the load demands. But if these fans are in error, we can at least congratulate them in being on the safe side.
On the whole, however, our reader ciphers just about touch the spot. And many that we have selected for forthcoming articles are especially good in the originality of their ideas, and in the opportunities they afford of developing interesting methods of solution.
Another thing before we get down to brass tacks. Fans are suggesting that we publish lists of solvers. We do not think it feasible to publish lists every week. But how about having a list, say, once a month, covering all the ciphers published in a previous month? Let us have your opinion.
Last week's Cipher No. 119 (James McGuire) conveyed the message: "The trunk will arrive Thursday by Adams Express. Buck." The cryptogram was continuously written, each message letter being expressed by the two digits indicating its row and column in the accompanying key, where 10=A, 19=B, and so on.
0 9 8 7 6 1 A B C D E 2 F G H I J 3 K L M N O 4 P Q R S T 5 U V WX Y Z
The even number of figures, and the use of the first five digits alternately with the last five, should have suggested a five by five key square with two-unit symbols. Grouping by twos, the assumption that the recurrent sequence 46-28 represented T-H would then have led to the arrangement of the whole alphabet at one fell stroke.
Arthur Bellamy's transposition Cipher No. 120 conveyed this message: "It seems to me that a transposition cipher with a scheme of zigzag message is hardest." If you had a hunch that all was not well with the reversed words and parts of words occurring in this cryptogram, you held a key to the solution.
For about half of the message was merely written backward, as will be evident upon comparison with the accompanying diagram where it is set up for encipherment. Observe that the words ITEM, MERIT, et cetera, mentioned last week, are only accidental. Such coincidences are likely to happen in almost any literal transposition system.
How did you make out with No. 121? Here are all three keys: (a) SLEUTH; (b) CRYPTOGRAPHY; (c) "The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones." The last of these is, of course, too long to be practicable for use with the United States military service double transposition cipher. But it was included to show how easy it is to decipher a long key of this type.
For example, by taking the numbers of this key in serial order, left to right, they may be grouped into fifteen series, 1 to 3, 4 to 6, 7 to 17, and so on, each of which will represent one or more consecutive letters of the alphabet.
Thus the series 7 to 17, from its length and relative place among the others, would at once suggest itself for E. In the same way the series 52 to 61 becomes T. Context and location to previously determined numbers also play important parts in deciphering.
This week's opener is a straight substitution cipher using an alphabet based on the standard typewriter keyboard. If you succeed in breaking the cipher, try to find Mr. Harper's method of constructing his alphabet. No. 123 is an example of the key phrase type of cipher which Edgar Allan Poe helped to make famous. In this kind of cipher a twenty-six letter phrase represents, letter for letter, the twenty-six letters of the ordinary alphabet. Any letter which is repeated in the key phrase thus becomes the symbol for more than one letter in the message alphabet. The present example, being so short, may prove quite difficult. Can you get it?
In No. 124 Mr. Walker offers you a transposition cipher in which he has very cleverly applied the alternate light and dark arrangement of squares on a checkerboard to determine the order of letters in a rectangle of prearranged dimensions. We'll wager that the result will keep you guessing until next' week! How about it ?
CIPHER No. 122 (L. A. Harper, San Francisco, California).
RZCBB MZBBCE SQC SJOLL'E MFV- ZBC ABVXCRKBLR. ZQVB FR UFJJ MQLRFLTB RQ NB QS XE KTMZ FLRBCBER XE XR VCBEBLR. (Signed) JXCCO.
CIPHER No. 123 (J. Lloyd Hood, Bastrop, Texas).
GSY GSLMSACG, GMSXI SAS GMSS, GASELS GPISME, GSMLASME.
CIPHER No. 124 (M. Walker, Akron, Ohio).
WSVET RRDWN NATEC FAEND NAETE NOIHF IRHEF VDHLO ODANS OTSAD INEIN WIEOH ITSSS NOIIM SERLC AWTGR CORML EIEFA EWJHQ R
The solutions to all of these ciphers will appear next week. In the meantime try your wits, and send us your answers.