SOLUTION to Challenge 8: The Cardboard Box

Congratulations to Puzzling.Stackexchange user Neremanth for solving Challenge 8 on September 30 at 0:45 UTC. They solved the challenge 21 minutes after I reposted it on Puzzling.Stackexchange! For this, Neremanth is awarded one point.

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

The goal was to decode this ciphertext:

SOMRF XCIAJ QELYQ DWFHU GQVMJ SOMTP NZKQB

…using this poem:

A clerk gave me a cardboard box
that now I give 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

The solution is after the jump.

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“Dead ends, some lead to misdirect,
save line and half a line”

There is a hint in these final two lines. The majority of the poem is filler. Except for the final two lines hint, only a line and a half are useful.

The useful lines are:

“Pack my box with liquor jugs,
five dozen — all in all”

Now remove the half line “all in all” and you get:

“Pack my box with liquor jugs, five dozen”

Notice anything remarkable about this?

It is a pangram.

A pangram is a sentence that contains every letter in the alphabet. The one I used is a variation of the famous pangram “Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.” I moved the words around to make it (almost) fit my meter.

Since a pangram contains all 26 letters in the alphabet, it makes a perfect cipher key. Removing the repeat occurrences of letters gets:

“PACKMYBOXWITHLQURJGSFVEDZN”

Line that up with the standard alphabet:

“PACKMYBOXWITHLQURJGSFVEDZN”
“ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ”

Now we can see that ciphertext P decodes to plaintext A, etc, etc.

So the code:

SOMRF XCIAJ QELYQ DWFHU GQVMJ SOMTP NZKQB

…becomes:

THEQU ICKBR OWNFO XJUMP SOVER THELA ZYDOG

When grouped into words, that becomes:

“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.”

…which is the most famous pangram in the English language.

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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