Month: September 2017

Challenge 8: The Cardboard Box — SOLVED

Update: September 29, 2017. This challenge was solved by Neremanth on the Puzzling.StackExchange forum. I’ll be posting the solution soon.

Here’s Challenge #8 for September 28, 2017.

THE CARDBOARD BOX

Today’s cipher is a one-step monoalphabetic substitution. The key to solving it lies within the following poem:

A clerk gave me a cardboard box
that now I give it to you
It once held t-shirts, jeans, and socks
It now holds one left shoe
Take out the shoe and put it on
then head to liquor store
Now drink the whiskey till it’s gone
and then drink thirteen more
Pack my box with liquor jugs,
five dozen — all in all
Checkout with clerks and give them hugs
and then go have a ball
Don’t wreck your car, though you are wrecked
and don’t heed every sign
Dead ends, some lead to misdirect,
save line and half a line

And here is the ciphertext:

SOMRF XCIAJ QELYQ DWFHU GQVMJ SOMTP NZKQB

Since the cipher is mono-alphabetic, some people might be able to crack it without relying on the poem. But to win this, you must decode the message AND explain how the poem unlocks it.

With CodeAWeek.com, I hope to release one cipher, puzzle, or mystery every week. Anyone can attempt to solve. The winner is the first person to send a correct solution and a description of the solve method to codemaster@codeaweek.com. Once a correct solution is e-mailed, I will publish a follow-up post, congratulating the winner and revealing the secrets of the code.

You may post questions or theories in the comments, but DO NOT POST SOLUTIONS. E-mail them to codemaster@codeaweek.com.

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SOLUTION to Challenge 7: A Simple Substitution

Congratulations to Bill Briere and Euchre Mutt for solving Challenge 7 on September 22. It took them less than a day! Bill Briere was the first to send me the correct solution. Euchre Mutt sent me his a few hours later. I would normally only assign points to the first solver, but because the answers were sent so close to each other, I will assign points to each. Since this puzzle took less than a day to solve, each guesser gets one point.

I’ll reveal the secrets below, but if you haven’t tried your hand at solving it, read this first.

The solution is after the jump.

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Ciphertext:

X K W L Y N L A N X
T Z R T X W L J X M
V J A U H T I V K I
X O N V I O C A J V
X S Y L A Y V N X Z
R C B N O D J V O Q
A K Y K A I B R V J
P B V P P M D V F T
L W B X P B C O Y R
V P D D R U V C

Plaintext:

W I T H T H E S E N
I N E F I G U R E S
A N D W I T H T H E
S I G N Z E R O W H
I C H T H E A R A B
S C A L L Z E P H I
R A N Y N U M B E R
W H A T S O E V E R
I S W R I T T E N F
I B O N A C C I

Formatted:

“With these nine figures and with the sign zero, which the Arabs call ‘zephir,’ any number whatsoever is written. — Fibonacci”

The quote is from Fibonacci’s seminal math book Liber Abaci, the book that introduced Hindu-Arabic numbers to the West.  What are Hindu-Arabic numbers? “0-9,” the very same numbers we use today! Fibonacci’s real name was Leonardo of Pisa, which explains why I used the close-up of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in the challenge image.

To decipher, all you need to do is convert the letters to numbers, where A=1, B=2, etc. Then, subtract the position of the number from that number. For example, since X is in the first position, you would subtract 1 to get W. Since K is in the second position, you would subtract 2 to get I. Subtract 3 from third position, 4 from fourth, etc. If the resulting number is negative, add 26. Since there are 26 letters in the alphabet, after position 26, start at 1 again.

I made a typo in my original version, which caused both solvers to write “figures” as “fygures.” I have since corrected my error.

SOLUTION to Challenge 5: A Vigenere Cipher

Congratulations to Euchre Mutt for solving Challenge 5 on September 22 at 8:06 UTC. This challenge remained unsolved for 25 days, which means Euchre gets 25 points! That jumps him to the top of the leaderboard!

I’ll reveal the secrets below, but if you haven’t tried your hand at solving it, read this first.

The solution is after the jump.

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Ciphertext:

EHAQWDPEZRRWAHTNELTNOHMJEIAWAJOYNOYHSYPKTGAWWDOJSNSICZYAJRTSETYHOKRIWOAAPDBFTRASTRHLZFHEHTWLBOQQOYESECFTZNOLETDSXFMPETMA

Plaintext (formatted):

“The cryptogram contains the explanation why two balls, one in iron and one in wood, dropped from a high place will fall on the ground at the same time.”

Keyword: LAWOFFALL

The plaintext is a itself a clue to a cryptogram made by Giovan Battista Bellaso, an Itallian cryptologist born in 1505. In the clue, he was describing the Law of Falling Bodies, beating Galileo to the punch by forty years! Bellaso’s cryptogram remains unsolved to this day.

Bellaso was the first to describe what we now call the Vigenère Cipher in his 1553 book La cifra del. Can you guess the identity of the person in the challenge image?

SOLUTION to Challenge 4: A Google Earth Treasure Hunt

 

Solving GOOGLE EARTH TREASURE HUNT turned out to be a group effort, and thus, I’ll split the points between several people. Euchre Mutt was the first to answer #2 correctly, in an e-mail he sent to me on September 7. On September 18, I posted this riddle on Puzzling.Stackexchange. There, three people made short work of it, answering all four clues within a day and a half. Humn correctly answered #1 and #2.  Gareth McCaughan got #3 and Irishpanda got #4. I’m awarding Humn 2 points and the rest 1 point each. Congratulations to all the winners!

I’ll reveal the secrets below, but if you haven’t tried your hand at solving it, read this first.

The solution is after the jump.

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  1. Here, a babirusa lies in wait, as it has done for the last 40,000 years. It is the oldest of its kind in the world (that we know of as of this writing).

    Leang Timpuseng Cave in South Sulawesi, Indonesia. World’s oldest cave paintings.
    -5.00° (S), 119.69° (E)

  2. In this wondrous museum that isn’t in England, Germany, or the United States, you can hear violins, drums, flutes, pipes, whistles, bells, chimes, pianos, xylophones, and even full orchestras. You can see the instruments being played, but you won’t find people doing the playing.

    Museum Speelklok in Utrecht, Netherlands, a museum of automatically playing instruments. Check out Wintergaten’s wonderful YouTube series on Speelklok instruments.
    52.09° (N), 5.12° (E)

  3. General Sherman may be the largest of his kind, but who has the farthest reach? (Outward, not upward.)

    Thimmamma Marrimanu, a banyan tree in Andhra Pradesh, India with the largest canopy of any single tree in the world.
    14.03° (N), 78.32° (E)

  4. This (sort of) cave trail is home to the fairies, located within a tourist attraction in the United States that is advertised for hundreds of miles as the place you simply must SEE.

    Fairyland Caverns, Rock City. While technically in Rock City, GA, people associate the granddaddy of all roadside attractions, Rock City, with Chattanooga, Tennessee. The iconic “SEE ROCK CITY” billboards painted on barns across the south might be the most famous series of billboards ever.  (And genius marketing.) In the clue, I say that the trail is “sort of” in a cave, because Fairlyland Caverns is actually between two large rocks, pressed so close together that they appear to make an underground trail.
    34.97° (N), -85.35° (W)

 

Challenge 7: A Simple Substitution — SOLVED

UPDATE 2017/09/23: This post has been solved! View the solution here.

Here’s Challenge #7 for September 20, 2017. (Published a bit late. My apologies.)

A SIMPLE SUBSTITUTION

Today’s cipher is a one-step polyalphabetic substitution that’s not a Vigenère. If you know how to count, you shouldn’t have a problem figuring out this method.

The answer is a quote from a famous book on arithmetic.

The ciphertext is:

X K W L Y N L A N X
T Z R T X W L J X M
V J A U H T I V K I
X O N V I O C A J V
X S Y L A Y V N X Z
R C B N O D J V O Q
A K Y K A I B R V J
P B V P P M D V F T
L W B X P B C O Y R
V P D D R U V C

Good luck!

With CodeAWeek.com, I hope to release one cipher, puzzle, or mystery every Wednesday evening. Anyone can attempt to solve. The winner is the first person to send a correct solution and a description of the solve method to codemaster@codeaweek.com. Once a correct solution is e-mailed, I will publish a follow-up post, congratulating the winner and revealing the secrets of the code.

You may post questions or theories in the comments, but DO NOT POST SOLUTIONS. E-mail them to codemaster@codeaweek.com.

SOLUTION to Challenge 6: Google Earth Treasure Hunt 2

Congratulations to Puzzling.Stackexchange user Sleafar for solving Challenge 6 on September 14 at 14:23 UTC. I’ll be introducing a “leader board” feature this week, where a solver gets 1 point for every day the puzzle has remained unsolved. Since this puzzle took less than 24 hours to solve, Sleafar gets 1 point.

I’ll reveal the secrets below, but if you haven’t tried your hand at solving it, read this first.

The solution is after the jump.

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  1. This white plastic jungle feeds nations and can be seen from Earth’s orbit. Find it using Google Earth.
    Answer: Almeria, Spain greenhouses.
  2. Zoom in on that place and find the largest body of water within it. Find the bridge crossing the middle. Take the coordinates of the center of the bridge. (Cut off the numbers after two decimal digits.)
    Answer: 36.76°, -2.73°
  3. Subtract 0.64 from latitude (the first coordinate.) Subtract 2.61 from longitude (the second coordinate.) Enter these new coordinates into the Google Earth search bar and press enter.
    Answer: Rock of Gibraltar. 36.12°, -5.34°
  4. See the big rock? Find the pillars and note their namesake.
    Answer: Pillars of Hercules. 36.12°, -5.34°
  5. Convert this name into numbers where A=1, B=2, C=3, etc. Don’t put a 0 in front of single digits. (Ex. F = 6, not 06.)
    Answer: H E R C U L E S = 8 5 18 3 21 12 5 19
  6. Make new coordinates with these numbers. The third letter of the name is the latitude coordinate before the decimal. The fourth letter is the latitude coordinate after the decimal. The fifth letter is the longitude coordinate before the decimal. The sixth letter is the longitude coordinate after the decimal.
    Answer: 18.3°, 21.12°
  7. Now, subtract 36.22 from the latitude. Add 4.73 to the longitude.
    Answer: -17.92°, 25.85°
  8. Enter these new coordinates into the Google Earth search bar. What do you see here?
    Answer: Victoria Falls
  9.  Now, find its South American rival.
    Answer: Iguazu Falls
  10. Once located, find the nearest river and follow it downstream until it converges with another river.
    Answer: Triple Frontier
  11. Surrounding this point are three similar-looking monuments  Take the coordinates of the one painted green and yellow. Write them down. We’ll need them in a moment.
    Answer: Obelisk Brazil. -25.59°, -54.59°
  12. Continue following the converged river northward until you pass a bridge and an island. If you see a dam, you’ve gone too far.
  13. Just after the island, search the river’s eastern coast for a large bronze deity turning his back on standing brethren. Take the coordinates of the bronze deity and write them down.
    Bronze Buddha Statue. -25.47°, -54.59°
  14. Now, take the latitude of the yellow/green monument. This will be our new latitude. Take the latitude of the bronze deity. This will be our new longitude.
    Answer: -25.59°, -25.47°
  15. Switch the +/- in the new latitude and longitude coordinates. If it’s a positive number, make it negative. If it’s negative, make it positive.
    Answer: 25.59°, 25.47°
  16. Subtract 3.26 from the latitude. Add 6.15 to the longitude.
    Answer: 22.33°, 31.62°
  17. Find the historical site within these coordinates. Where are we? If you are the first to send me the name of this place and an explanation of how you got there, you win.
    Answer: Abu Simbel, 22.33° 31.62°

 

 

Challenge 6: Google Earth Treasure Hunt 2 — SOLVED

 

UPDATE 2017/09/14: I cross-posted this puzzle on Puzzling.Stackexchange the day after I posted it here. There, in a matter of hours, Sleafar solved it. The challenge is now closed, but feel free to discuss in the comments. View the solution here.

Here’s Challenge #6 for September 13, 2017.

GOOGLE EARTH TREASURE HUNT 2

I’ve spent many a night browsing through Google Earth in hope of solving Forrest Fenn‘s treasure hunt. I would spend hours zooming in on mountains and scrolling down rivers in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. While I never cracked the riddle, I had a blast learning about the Rocky Mountains. Google Earth’s power lies in its ability to make geography an adventure. There’s so much to learn by simply picking a land mass at random and zooming in.

That’s the impetus of my Google Earth Treasure Hunts (GETH). My first prompted you to find 4 places by solving 4 separate riddles. But it didn’t recreate the thrill of hunting for objects on a map.

For my second GETH, I hope to partially recreate the fun of zooming in on mountains and scrolling down rivers while learning about geography.

First things first. This challenge uses decimal latitude and longitude coordinates (ex.  29.978763°, 31.134297°) as opposed to degrees minutes seconds (ex. 29°58’44.64″N, 31° 8’3.05″E). To get Google Earth to show decimal values, click Tools, then Options. Under the tab called “3D View,” under the heading “Show Lat/Long,” check “Decimal Degrees.”

This challenge cuts off decimal degrees after two decimal digits. Don’t round. Just cut off. So 29.978763° would be represented as to 29.97. I debated whether or not I should use rounding, but cutting off makes searching a coordinate square much simpler.

At times, I’ll ask you to add or subtract numbers to a coordinate. Let’s say the coordinates are 29.97, -6.64 and I say, “Subtract 4.45 from the longitude coordinate.” The longitude is the second of the two coordinates, -6.64. Notice that this example is a negative number. -6.64 minus 4.45 equals -11.09.

Without further ado, here’s the challenge.


  1. This white plastic jungle feeds nations and can be seen from Earth’s orbit. Find it using Google Earth.
  2. Zoom in on that place and find the largest body of water within it. Find the bridge crossing the middle. Take the coordinates of the center of the bridge. (Cut off the numbers after two decimal digits.)
  3. Subtract 0.64 from latitude (the first coordinate.) Subtract 2.61 from longitude (the second coordinate.) Enter these new coordinates into the Google Earth search bar and press enter.
  4. See the big rock? Find the pillars and note their namesake.
  5. Convert this name into numbers where A=1, B=2, C=3, etc. Don’t put a 0 in front of single digits. (Ex. F = 6, not 06.)
  6. Make new coordinates with these numbers. The third letter of the name is the latitude coordinate before the decimal. The fourth letter is the latitude coordinate after the decimal. The fifth letter is the longitude coordinate before the decimal. The sixth letter is the longitude coordinate after the decimal.
  7. Now, subtract 36.22 from the latitude. Add 4.73 to the longitude.
  8. Enter these new coordinates into the Google Earth search bar.
  9. What do you see here? Now, find its South American rival.
  10. Once located, find the nearest river and follow it downstream until it converges with another river.
  11. Surrounding this point are three similar-looking monuments  Take the coordinates of the one painted green and yellow. Write them down. We’ll need them in a moment.
  12. Continue following the converged river northward until you pass a bridge and an island. If you see a dam, you’ve gone too far.
  13. Just after the island, search the river’s eastern coast for a large bronze deity turning his back on standing brethren. Take the coordinates of the bronze deity and write them down.
  14. Now, take the latitude of the yellow/green monument. This will be our new latitude. Take the latitude of the bronze deity. This will be our new longitude.
  15. Switch the +/- in the new latitude and longitude coordinates. If it’s a positive number, make it negative. If it’s negative, make it positive.
  16. Subtract 3.26 from the latitude. Add 6.15 to the longitude.
  17. Find the historical site within these coordinates. Where are we? If you are the first to send me the name of this place and an explanation of how you got there, you win.

In my next GETH, I hope to tie all of the locations into an overarching theme. Look for that in an upcoming weekly challenge.

With CodeAWeek.com, I hope to release one cipher, puzzle, or mystery every Wednesday evening. Anyone can attempt to solve. The winner is the first person to send a correct solution and a description of the solve method to codemaster@codeaweek.com.  If you guess incorrectly, you must wait three days to send another guess. (You can send sooner, but I will hold off replying to subsequent guesses until the 3-day window is over.)

Once a correct solution is e-mailed, I will publish a follow-up post, congratulating the winner and revealing the secrets of the code.

You may post questions or theories in the comments, but DO NOT POST SOLUTIONS. E-mail them to codemaster@codeaweek.com.

If this challenge is too hard or too easy, check out Challenges 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

— Tony Youngblood