ACA and YOU: Chapter 2

How to read The Cryptogram

The Cryptogram, like any technical journal, uses a variety of terms and expressions (and jargon) that may make it a little difficult to follow at first. Apart from editorial text and articles, you will want to know how the actual cipher problems are organized, ready for you to try your hand at a solution.

If the front cover has a decorative pattern (an "Ornamental"), there will be a message of between 75 - 100 characters hidden in it. Try to find repeated shapes that might represent letters of the alphabet - then solve the cipher!

The rear cover carries the solutions ("Sols") for the problems given in the issue four months previous. Inside the magazine, the various classes of ciphers have a section or "department" each. Within each department, the ciphers are printed I order of increasing difficulty. Each problem is identified by a letter and number, e.g. E6, the cipher type (e.g. "Ragaby"), and a title which may give an idea of the subject matter. A clue or crib word is often given next (in UPPER CASE), usually camouflaged by a simple Caesar substitution (each letter is moved N places in the alphabet). The name or "Nom" of the encipherer is given last on the top line. There may be additional information such as the number of characters, or some statistics on the cipher, to help you transcribe it correctly and/or do the mechanical analysis.

"Aristocrats" are simple substitution ciphers. Each plaintext letter is replaced by a different ciphertext letter not equal to itself. "Patristocrats" are the same except that the word spacings are deleted to make them more difficult to decipher.

"Cipher Exchange" ciphers are in a variety of formats; the type is usually given, because there is generally not enough text to fine the type by statistical methods. Details of the ciphers in current use in the "Cipher Exchange" are given later in this booklet.

"Xenocrypts" are foreign language ciphers - but it not usually necessary to be fluent in that language to solve the problem.

"Cryptarithms" are arithmetical problems in which numbers are replaced by letters. The "number of words" given with each puzzle refers to the keyword or words used to develop the original number/letter equivalence and is not essential to the solution. A statement such as "0-9" indicates the range of numbers in use, e.g. in this case, the regular decimal set 0,1,2...9.

The "Analyst's Corner" contains more difficult ciphers. Sometimes the type is not given, or there is no crib, the ciphertext is in an unusual format, or some other rule is broken. Because statistical analysis is often required to solve these ciphers, their length is longer than those in the rest of the magazine.

For many members, the hunt is more fun than the kill, but for those who would like to compare their ability with others, a "Solvers List" is published in each issue. This tabulates under two letter codes the scores obtained by the participating members for the issue in question. The two-letter codes are as follows:

    AA - Aristocrats.

    PP - Patristocrats.

    CC - Cryptarithms.

    XX - Xenocrypts.

    EE - Cipher Exchange.

    SS - Analysts Corner plus any Specials.

If you contribute a problem ("con") it counts as a "sol" in the table. The table also carries a Year-to-Date (YTD) total for each entrant. An asterisk in any column implies a perfect score in that category. An asterisk after a name means that all problems in that particular issue have been solved (not counting the SS group).

You are perfectly free to submit solutions or not as you prefer. This is only a hobby!