scytale

SOLUTION to Challenge 9: The Collection

Congratulations to Puzzling.Stackexchange user Eedrah for solving Challenge 9 on 2017-10-21. It took him 13 days, which means he is awarded 13 points on the Leaderboard.

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

So what’s the deal with this strange message from my Coca Cola obsessed uncle?

In the original puzzle, I mentioned my uncle’s desk had an empty Coke can on it. That was the biggest clue. This message is actually a modern-day scytale, a ribbon of ciphertext that you wrap around a cylinder to see the plaintext.

Your first step is printing the message at full size. Make sure the “1 inch” scale actually measures 1 inch. The vertical black lines indicate that you need to cut the message into five strips. The black tabs at the bottom indicate that you need to tape all the strips together.

But what size cylinder?

A 12-ounce soda can, of course!

But that would be too easy. So I reordered the 5 strips and place white boxes in the black tabs, which I hoped would be a clue that you need to write a code word there.

But what word? The cipher’s only numbers provide a clue. 18658. Or: May 8, 1886. This was the day Coca Cola first went on sale, and the first place to sell it was Jacob’s Pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia.

And thus, the codeword is JACOB. You write JACOB in the five tabs …

 

then cut the strips …

… and then reorder the tabs alphabetically: ABCJO.

Now when you tape them together and wrap the ribbon around the can, you get a message!

“The new and popular soda fountain drink containing the properties of the wonderful coca plant and the famous cola nuts .”

This is a line from an early Coca Cola ad, back when the drink contained cocaine.

In the original description, I mentioned that the desk also contained pencils, a spiral notebook, a cloth tape measure, Scotch tape, and a pair of scissors. These items are clues. You need a pencil to write the codeword, scissors to cut the note into strips, and Scotch tape to tape them together. “Spiral notebook” hinted that you had to make a spiral, and “cloth tape measure” hinted that you needed to wrap something around something else.

Full disclosure: I’m not a Coke fan. My soda of choice is Diet Dr. Pepper!

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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.