The Cryptogram depends on you for problems published for the pleasure of all. Make a note of interesting plaintext as you read. Polish you language skills and gain new insights by enciphering. Then send the results to the department Editors so others may pit their skills against your challenge!
No game is entertaining unless players are assured a square deal. Thus to insure justice and to maintain high standards guidelines have been worked out over the years. All are subject to editorial judgment in individual cases. A contribution which meets the standards will always be more welcome than one which does not.
The departments give varied fare for experts and beginners. Your contribution will be tested by the department Editor, and graded for difficulty. If you have not already done so, a suitable tip and title will be added.
Please use a separate sheet of paper for each encipherment, write on one side of the paper only, and use the format employed for that cipher in "The Cryptogram". You should show your working of the solution on a separate page.
We hope all members will contribute generously and regularly so the Editor's "bins" (files) will be kept full. Remember also a published "con" can be counted as a "sol"; see Chapter 4 for details.
Keys may be in English or the foreign language, but should be chosen to assist the decipherment. Study what other encipherers do.
So you have the perfect indecipherable system? Perhaps you have heard that the ACA is a proving ground for such things? Stop! No practicable cipher system has been invented which is unbreakable by experts provided they have sufficient material to work on, except those sophisticated machine and computer ciphers which are outside the range of hobby cryptography.....and even these have yielded.
For over 400 years, cryptographers have been writing on the subject seriously. Systems once thought to be unbreakable have succumbed to analysis. Without a thorough knowledge of what has been done, and of what makes a good system, the chances of inventing a new one are slim. Variations are endless and too often worthless.
Below is a list of guidelines for a successful military cipher. Variations for diplomatic and commercial use are minor, but in any case the ciphers are intended for heavy traffic use with difficulty of solution appropriate to the timeliness of the enciphered message. Few cryptographers are able to judge the weak spots of a system, even one that seems to meet the requirements. If you do invent a new one, let it sit for a while and "digest" in your mind whilst you try and find a similar system already in use, or in use in the past.
Note that we already use some 60 ciphers in "The Cryptogram". To be considered seriously, you would first have to describe your new cipher in an explanatory article. Based on this, and your own record of ability in cryptography, the system might be considered for acceptance for regular use if the reaction of the membership was favorable.
The criteria for a suitable military cipher are:
Finally, while we were once the proud reservoir of cryptographic talent for our country, "paper and pencil" work is now rarely important in professional work. In considering new systems for presentation to the ACA, we give more weight to the cryptographic interest, subjectively judged, than to adherence to any specific requirements. Experience must still back any invention, for only through solving can you come to judge the degree of interest your own invention might generate among fellow members.