Puzzle: A Spy in the White House

I’m officially stumped. I kept looking at possible qwerty keyboard/alphabetical solutions and have reached AN EPIC FAIL. If I’m the “You” in the story, I have no choice but to catch the next plane to Venezuela and hope for the best.

If this is linked to a computer language, which seems likely, I’m screwed since I don’t know any.

Best of luck to the rest of you out there.

I can’t help thinking that one or more of the names or places mentioned in the story would also be in the coded notes. Here is a list of them that I think may be there:

Agent Lynch
Henry Weeks
Freddy’s Bar - 18th Street NW
Sharon O’Day
Georgetown University
Ada Higgins
Andy Wilson

I don’t expect all of them to be in there but if they are some form of communication between the spies or from the spies to the CIA they probably refer to some of the above.

Ada Higgins and his daughter appear to have been kidnapped by the spies. When Betty Higgins returned home late this morning from her hospital job, she found her husband and nine-year old daughter Mary missing. The Higgins’ home showed signs of a violent struggle.

On the dining room table lay the following note:


To our CIA friends,

We regret having to “borrow” Professor Higgins and his daughter. However, it seems the clever Professor Higgins’ machine is a wee bit challenging to operate for the layperson. We spies couldn’t risk causing any unintended damage from running the machine without the proper expertise. Someone might get hurt and that wouldn’t be good for anyone.

Please assure Mrs. Higgins that her husband and daughter will receive the best and most luxurious care. It will almost be like a vacation for the lucky duo. We are also sure that when we properly explain to Professor Higgins why his assistance is needed in our quest for a peaceful world, the thoughtful man will be more than willing to help us in this historic endeavor.

Finally, we faithfully promise that both of our guests will return home just as soon as Klaus and Andy Wilson are freed. We are sure that Professor Higgins and his daughter will someday share a good laugh about their unique and purposeful experience.

The CIA should contact us by posting something on their website. Just use some roundabout language. We’ll figure it out. And that way the public won’t be alarmed. We’d certainly hate for there to be a needless panic.


The Spies**

Another coded message was discovered outside the front door of the Higgins’ house. It was probably “accidentally” dropped.

7PY=X 9!I$ V1 LG UZMR*Z8$

Z!VC 6119 Y! :8A3JO9UH YN1^R$ O9SA P I,^Z’~! &3= &Q$ 3UQ! 51U 2-8 3ZV748Z Q4 PQ&<7 9G 9HC CAR61T

C~ 6SQ= P1R9~ 1P 2-JEW 2VNL Y! 6OS+RE N?6~ O:8 ~MJTW 8YGSC1YX=93 :H>6O9N 2K= 2A&W;E1A3 C8-S^S8 ~Q X3FQQ R@2

1#U 38&Q 6-1>R$ 3-IR ?**M*JRSF G32’,Q 2-AW 3A’97HXA~ C8-R:S! *9G 4V=I R+U :1UZ@L=6

6AN=7 DU8 Z=?%TZ!L 3Q A=&V O<WW=~ZC1Z4 EXQ’Y $>XA*TM 2-F6 1H8A@~T19

6AB @L=S3 1QH O#9$Y=K EU 783 V1 :11B$R9*~O 3-A6 6L!LJ

1R:! 1=U R=&JKX PQ’>X LU Z=6~WZ!L ~1 HTB8W Y! ^D9 I1 FG1~2 X-E2 X=&RRE HVAXA392 L#;OV=67 Q5 :1X?%8BH9Q T’URO*9$

Knock! Knock! Knock!

Jones opens the door to the conference room at the Langley CIA headquarters building and You step inside. Greetings are exchanged as You look about the room. Seated at a large rectangular table are three CIA agents, all of whom you recognize. Agent Carl White and Agent Cindy Cooper sit next to each other on one side, while young Agent Brown sits alone on the other. You take a seat next to Agent Brown after pouring a cup of coffee from an aluminum pot situated on a small refreshment table in the corner. Jones closes the door and steps to the front of the room.

“I’m glad you all could come here today,” says Jones. “I wanted all of us to get together and see where we stand with these coded messages. I also want to tell you what I can about the upcoming plan to exchange Klaus and Andy Wilson for the Anti-Global Warming Machine, or as we call it, the AGWM.”

You take a sip of coffee. Ugh. It’s obviously instant.

Jones continues:

“One week from today, that is Saturday the 21st, we are supposed to exchange the two spy prisoners for the AGWM. The spies have let us know that we are to convene on the Washington DC Mall in broad daylight, and that Klaus and Andy Wilson should walk freely to the Washington Monument. Klaus must be in possession of legal papers that pardon both he and Wilson. They will also carry signed legal documents that absolve all spies of any kind of criminal guilt at all.

“At the Washington Monument they will meet another spy who will go over the papers to confirm that they are legal. Our best guess is that this will be Sharon O’Day. All spies must then be allowed to leave together. No one must follow or try to impede them. The spies claim they will return Professor Higgins at this time. Once the spies have gotten clean away, they will relay to us the location of the AGWM.

“We are each side supposed to be acting on trust as indicated by our new peaceful relationship.”

There is a general murmur of disbelief throughout the room. Jones raises his hand. “Don’t worry. We’re not going to really allow these spies to get away. The prisoner spies will be brought to Washington on Friday under heavy guard. While I can’t give all the details, be assured that the pardon papers we give them on Saturday will be phony and that both these spies will be unknowingly wearing tracking devices. We will have satellite cameras trained on the scene. If we are lucky, Klaus, Wilson, and any other spies will lead us directly to their hideout. We’ll free Higgins’ daughter, capture the AGWM, and arrest all the spies. That, in a nutshell, is the plan.”

You don’t like the sound of this at all. There are just too many chances for error in this situation. The spies are bound to have something up their sleeves. More grumbling from the others in the room tells You that they don’t like this either.

Jones lets the agitated chatter die down. “I don’t like this plan any more than you all do, but we have no choice. We have to get that machine from the spies before they start freezing our cities. However, I did not simply bring you all here to relay this plan.

“I want to raise your sense of urgency in solving this code. This is a most dire circumstance. I thought we each might share thoughts and ideas about what these coded messages are about. Each of you has been working to solve the code. I think we should brainstorm together now.

“You all know each other. Agents White and Cooper have been on our CIA cryptology team for years. Agent Brown has shown aptitude and interest in this area, and hopes to someday specialize in cryptology just like our more experienced agents. And we all know our amateur friend.” Jones points to You and You nod. Jones goes on to say that while You have had no formal training, many recognize You as the foremost code breaker in the land.

Jones himself takes a seat. “So let’s hear what you all think. Agent White, let’s begin with you.”

Agent White stands and looks around the room. “Let me first say,” intones White, “That I don’t see much reason to bring in amateur help. I am sure Agent Cooper and I can have this thing solved in a few days. I mean, last time we had amateur help, Cooper and I were almost killed and we nearly had a werewolf apocalypse.”

Brown starts to jump up and protest, but You put your hand his shoulder. “Just let him speak,” You whisper to Brown.

“Ahem, as I was saying,” continues White. “We should have this cracked soon. It is obviously some kind of computer code. As you all know, I am author of the highly regarded CIA pamphlet Obscure Computer Codes and their Creators. There is no one more qualified to figure out computer code. I could explain further, but this is much too complicated for the untrained ear. Just be assured I will have an answer any day now.”

Agent Whites smugly takes his seat. Next Agent Cooper arises.

“My learned colleague is an expert on computer codes. If that is what’s going on here, I feel confident he will bring us the solution. I’ve been concentrating on the embedded spy taunts. No one is more familiar with the psychology of the criminal espionage mind than I. These taunts are meant as a distraction, in my way of thinking. The taunts are designed to draw our attention, but they really can’t mean anything much else. Of course, it is possible that the taunts may trigger some sort of changing in the code, but I think these taunt code letters are best ignored. We recently had a code where the solver had to toss out almost half the coded words in order to solve the rest. I suspect we’ve got something similar here. In any case, with myself and Agent White on the case, I do believe it will be better for amateurs to stay out of the way.”

Agent Cooper takes her seat with a confident sneer. Now Agent Brown leaps to his feet.

“I think before we put down our amateur colleague it is best to remember we would have had a werewolf apocalypse were it not for this good friend. This amateur has saved our bacon time and time again!”

Brown smiles in your direction before continuing, but You can tell he is ticked off.

“I know I’m still green when it comes to solving codes, but I don’t think this has anything to do with computer coding at all! Look, spies have to be able to easily decode messages. We’ve arrested a number of them over the years, and they were not always the brightest of individuals. This code can’t be all that complicated. There’s got to be something simpler going on. It just can’t be that complex. It can’t!”

Brown is getting more and more agitated and stops speaking to get a drink of water. Agent Cooper snorts a laugh.

Agent White jumps in with a condescending voice. “If this code were ‘simpler’ as you put it, don’t you think we’d have an answer by now? Wouldn’t your learned amateur friend have come up with a solution? Really Agent Brown, I think you should quit----”

Jones interrupts. “Please. We are not here to bicker among each other. Our goal is to work together to stop the spies. So let’s give everyone our full attention…and our full respect.” Jones coldly eyes Agents White and Cooper as he speaks.

Brown takes a few more sips of water. “I don’t have much else to say. I notice there are no single letter words in the code, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot. If I was going to write a tough code, I would not use a lot of ‘A’ or ‘I’ or ‘THE’ or ‘THAT’ in the text because such words might give away the game. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that the complete avoidance of single letter words is quite telling. Perhaps such words in and of themselves might reveal a whole lot about the code. Perhaps using an ‘A’ or an ‘I’ carries real risk for the code writer. Even more risk than in a normal code. Too much risk.

“Also, I have a feeling that all the letters and symbols and the like in this code have meaning. Now that’s not to say there are not a lot of red herrings at work here, because I believe there are. These spies are infamous in their use of red herrings. But there is something else going on with the taunts I am sure. And why was that last bold taunt so short? ‘LOL’. That’s it? Not much of a taunt. Sigh. I don’t know.”

Brown slumps down in his seat.

Now You take the stand and give your thoughts about the code. As You go over the various features and interesting points You have discovered, You see that Agent Brown is paying rapt attention. Agent Cooper is doing a crossword puzzle. Agent White keeps yawning and closing his eyes. Still, You continue. This is not the time to let petty disagreement get in the way. This is a time to work together! There is the very real danger that winter will be coming early this year. Quite early indeed.

Yesterday Jones telephoned with the following tidbit:

A woman fitting the description of Sharon O’Day was reported at a shopping mall in Springfield Virginia. The female in question purchased several heavy winter coats from a well-known sports outfitter, as well as two dozen ice scrapers from K-Mart. In both cases the mystery woman paid cash from a large wad of bills. One clerk noted that this customer, who was wearing an especially low-cut halter top, had a rather large “C” tattooed above her right breast. Ms. O’Day was never known to have had such a tattoo. If this was Sharon O’Day, then the marking must have been made quite recently.

Calls to other retailers in the area indicate a sudden surge in sales of very heavy winter gear over the past week. In each case the sales were made in one large transaction to an individual paying cash. Seeing that the month is July and the temperatures have been especially high, the unusual shopping did raise some eyebrows. But, in this economy, most of the stores were just glad to get rid of the last of their winter stock.


And now late this evening, You receive a knock at the door. You answer and find a street waif standing on your stoop.

“A lady paid me ten bucks to give You this,” says the urchin nervously. The child hands You a note and races away into the night.

You open the folded paper and read:

**Dear Famous Amateur Cryptologist,

Our former leader will be released from jail this week and we can then finally put the sad history of our disagreements into the past. We know that You are responsible for cracking a number of our secret codes and sending a lot of good spies to prison. Be assured we will not let these past actions spoil our future relationship. Indeed, I think both Klaus and Andy Wilson will want to be in contact with You at their earliest opportunity to say “Thanks.”

You can take credit for much of the coming days of peaceful co-existence. Had it not been for You, both Klaus and Andy Wilson would not have had several years apart from family and friends. Without You, they would not have had the opportunity to think about reforming. One has much time to think locked away in a small cramped cell as the months and the years go by. Yep, lots of thinking. Lots of reforming. Yes indeed.

We spies are very grateful for all You have done. While our espionage team is not rich, I’m sure You can expect to receive a very just reward from us. We hope that it is everything You so richly deserve. We will do whatever we can to guarantee You will get exactly what is coming to You for your help.

See You soon,

The Spies**

You are outside, admiring the beautiful snowfall. Suddenly, You are pelted with a snowball, then another, and another. You see Klaus and Wilson standing next to a giant pyramid of snowballs, throwing them at You as fast as they can and laughing. You begin to laugh, too - then You look down and realize You have no clothes on. They’re going to freeze You to death! You scream…

…and awake drenched in a cold sweat, which makes You wonder for a moment whether the dream was real. Then, You wake up fully, and realize that although it was just a dream this time, if You don’t crack this code, all that and worse could soon become a reality.

Since there’s no getting back to sleep tonight, You put on a pot of coffee and begin to review all You know about the code. You think back to your presentation at the meeting with Brown and the CIA cryptographers a few nights ago. You were quite impressed with Brown; he shows great promise. You, however, are beginning to worry you’re all washed up. You cringe, remembering the bored expressions on every face but Brown’s as You offered your thoughts…

“As Brown astutely observed,” You began, “the lack of one-letter words could mean that they’re simply not using “I” and “a”, or it could be part of the code. For instance, the code might involve using pairs of letters to represent each letter, or adding a red herring letter to every word, or adding a letter only to the one-letter words. But I think none of these can be the case here. First, if there were pairs of letters involved, we would see even letter counts in every message, and we do not. Second, one-letter words are just not that commonly used in English. But two-letter words are the most common words in these messages by far. If there were a letter being added to every word, then we would have far too many one-letter words. Third, if only the one-letter words were being altered, then there would also have to be some way for the recipient to distinguish them from the true two-letter words. This is possible, but why go to the trouble of complicating the code in this way when they could easily just avoid one-letter words entirely? And indeed, why avoid one-letter words at all? They’ve used them in the past. I think Brown is correct that in this case, one-letter words would provide a clue to the code. Perhaps they would even appear unencoded! I’ve learned to trust Brown’s instincts, and I think we should do so again.”

You glanced at Brown then, and saw him turn red and look away. So humble, You thought. But now, You wonder whether he was embarrassed for himself, and for You.

“Then there are the taunts,” You continued. "I think they cannot just be red herrings. True, they would be easy enough for the spies to identify and disregard. But there are always four taunts, in four different fonts: color, italics, underlined, and bold. That’s a lot of work just to mock us. And they display some unusual grammar, punctuation, and word choices. If they had free rein to insert whatever taunts they saw fit, they why, for instance, would they vary between “HA HA HA HA”, “HA HA”, and “HO HO”? Why such a short taunt in the last message: “LOL”? And the nonsense underlined in that same message: “^$<?>@#>*+%<>#=>~#%”? Why include them at all? I suspect that they can’t write just anything. I think they are formulating the taunts from the letters of the message after it is encoded. That means each one of those letters, numbers, and symbols is part of the encoded message, somehow.

"As for the fonts, I don’t know. I’d like to think they’re a red herring, and can just be disregarded. But again, if that’s the case, why go to the trouble of using four different fonts in every message? It could be that’s exactly why: just to make us think there’s some significance there. But it’s also possible they serve as meta-data - they provide instruction on how to decode the message. If that is true, it could either be that all the special fonts mean the same thing, or each one means something different. I’m inclined to think that if they mean anything, they all mean the same thing; including four different rules in the code leaves a lot of room for confusion. But if so, then why use all four? And if it’s just that each font needs to be present, in order to create the appearance of a significant pattern, why go to the trouble of highlighting such a long nonsense phrase in the last message? Then there’s also the fact that only one font is used at a time. That is, a letter could be red and bold, or italicized and underlined. But that doesn’t happen. That would also imply that there are different rules for each font, which would conflict if they were applied together. As I said, I just don’t know…

"And then, there are the non-alphabetic characters. Those are a stumper. There are 56 characters used in all the messages, and 30 of them are non-alpha. And of the 11 most-used characters (1, 9, !, R, 8, =, A, 3, U, Q, *, and S), 7 are non-alpha. They’re far too common to just be disregarded, or even to be meta-data, in my opinion. I think the letters, numbers, and symbols are all part of the encoded message. Either each character stands for a single letter, or they work in combination.

"The big question for me is how the spies know how to use the non-alphanumeric symbols. If they’re part of the code, then they have to be used in some kind of order. And the order must be something the spies can either memorize or easily reference. I don’t think there’s a separate decryption key, or we would have found one on Weeks. It might have something to do with the symbols’ positions on the keyboard itself. But if it’s that, I find it odd that symbols like (, ), and _ aren’t being used, but *, 8, 9, 0, -, +, and = all are. Similarly, ’ has appeared, albeit infrequently, but " never has. Still, there could be a pattern I’m just not seeing yet. Another possibility is that there is a decryption key embedded in the code. Some other interesting points are that there are very few words repeated; the vast majority are unique, and only a handful are repeated two or three times, across all the messages. Only “Y!” appears seven times, and even then, it’s not in the first message at all. Also, all the letters, A to Z, are used in every message. And while there are 42 non-alphanumeric symbols available, only 30 are used at all, and 23 of those are used in every message. All of this indicates to me that there’s clearly not just a one-to-one (or two- or three-to-one) substitution happening here, where each character or group of characters always stands for the same letter. I think characters can stand for different things at different times, somehow.

“Anyway, if I could figure out the order or pattern for the characters, or even make a guess at one, then I could start trying to decode the message. But I’ll admit, I’ve really got nothing.”

With that, You shrugged and sat down. In retrospect, You wonder now if that last sentence was the only one anyone else really heard You say. And You wonder whether, at this point, it’s the only one that matters…

You head for bed enjoying the hum and cool breeze blowing steadily from the air conditioning on this hot July night. The outside thermometer still reads in the upper 80’s, but it is a comfortable 71 degrees here inside your apartment. You reflect You are probably being much too hard on yourself. You can do this.

The questions You are asking about this code are good ones. They are the right questions. You think that maybe You are not so far from a breakthrough as it may seem. Perhaps You’ve even been flirting with the solution…but You just can’t quite see it.

Your thoughts race as You feel the call of sleep.

There must be a way for those spies to know how to use those many non-alphanumeric symbols. But how? How? Perhaps an answer will come in a helpful dream. What about the numbers, the taunts, and even the seemingly normal letters? And the colors? What can it all mean…?
Tonight You sleep soundly and dreamlessly. Tuesday is gone. The spy/ AGWM swap is only a few days away, and getting closer. If your subconscious has answers, it is keeping them secret still.

And the critical moment could come even sooner than You think.

Knock! Knock! Knock!

You answer the door and it is Agent Jones again. The CIA man steps into your apartment and accepts the usual cup of coffee. Last night You had called Jones and told him about your threatening spy letter. You suppose he is here to see it.

However Agent Jones merely scans the paper briefly and sets it aside. “Probably no use looking for fingerprints,” he mutters as he checks his watch, “The spies are rarely that careless.” Jones makes a heavy sigh and slumps down in the nearest chair.

“Is everything OK, Jones?” You inquire with concern.

“Oh… what? Yes I’m fine. I just came to talk over the code with You. We’re getting uncomfortably close to the weekend.” The Agent checks his watch again. He seems nervous, edgy.

You pick up your notes. “Well, I don’t have a whole lot more to tell you. I’ve been re-examining the frequency of the appearance of certain symbols. Remember how we discussed that the number symbol, the brackets, the greater-than and lesser-than symbols, and certain other of the keyboard symbols had not been used in the coded messages?”

“Number symbol?” Jones is clearly distracted. “Oh yes, the pound sign also known as the hash mark. Strange little symbol. It looks like a tic-tac-toe sign. It’s located above the number 3 on the keyboard.”

“Uh…right,” You respond. “Anyway, those symbols and a few others never appeared in any of the early coded missives. But in the last one some of them DID appear, albeit underlined. I was wondering if perhaps that was a response directly to us. Maybe the spies know what we are discussing, and purposely added those symbols to the message to confuse us. Of course, another way of interpreting that particular taunt is that a line of various symbols like that is often used as a swearword–like in comics. So perhaps the spies are merely cursing us…?”

You look at Jones. He doesn’t appear to be paying attention. Maybe You were right after all. Maybe people are starting to lose respect for your abilities.


Your friend shakes his head for a moment. “I’m sorry. My mind is a few hundred miles away. Look, I guess I can tell You why I’m so jumpy. You know that tomorrow we are scheduled to move Klaus and Andy Wilson?”

“Yes,” You recall. “I believe something was said about Friday morning.”

Jones walks over and pours himself more coffee.

“Well, that was the information we wanted to leak out. The reality is that Klaus and Wilson are in transit right now.”


Jones owns up. Because of the risk in transporting the two mega-spies, it was decided that the pair should be secretly brought to Washington a day early. On Monday plans were finalized during a special security meeting at Camp David. The president and his family were on vacation there, and it was a simple matter to bring in a few top advisors and the most trusted members of the security team to make the final call. Even though the White House has been cleared of having any kind of listening devices, Jones felt that there had been too many leaks, and just perhaps the CIA and FBI were missing something. Could those many leaks be somehow coming from the White House? Better safe than sorry. Better to discuss the details of the transfer at a location far from where the spy Weeks had been operating. Camp David seemed perfect.

Anyway, the new plan called for an elite team of guards who would move the spies in a single truck on Thursday, not Friday. The fewer people that knew about the plan, the less likely any word somehow could reach the spies. No one outside the inner circle, not even You, were to be told. The whole expedition would be low key. No one could possibly be aware what was happening except the very few people who planned the transfer. All are trusted completely.

So this morning a surprised Klaus and Andy Wilson were hustled out of bed to a waiting police van. The clandestine mission began.

“May I assume the CIA believes that the spies might have had some scheme in place to free Klaus and Wilson on their Friday trek to Washington?” You ask.

“Right. Think about it. The spies can’t really believe we are going to pardon that nefarious duo. Our exchange is set to take place in broad daylight in what is probably one of the most secure and watched places in the entire world. Yet somehow this Saturday these spies are supposedly willing to just waltz down to the Washington Monument with Sharon O’Day and Professor Higgins. They’d have to know there would be no way out of such a situation. They could certainly not get away.

“We don’t hold stock in this new so-called period of trust and peace. And the spies are not so stupid as to think that we buy into that nonsense. So if the spies can’t hope to free Klaus and Wilson on the Washington Mall, then when and where? Probably on Friday at some point during their move to Washington. So instead of Friday, we move today!”

Wow. So at this very moment, somewhere on the East Coast, Klaus and Andy Wilson are heading to Washington with a truckload of armed guards. No wonder Jones is tense.

For a moment both of you are silent listening to the tick tick tick of the clock on your sideboard. You get up and pat the back of your friend. “I think your reasoning is sound. How soon will the two arrive at their destination?”

Jones again looks at his watch. “In about an hour and 53 minutes, give or take a few. I only hope that this goes off without a hitch. Both Klaus and Wilson acted surprised and angry at being moved today instead of tomorrow. I only hope it was not all just an act.”

You get up and answer your phone.

“Jones, it’s for you.”

The CIA Special Agent picks up the receiver. As he listens You see his face turn into shocked dismay. The call continues for a few minutes with Jones occasionally muttering and swearing. Finally he slams down the phone in its cradle.


“Jones, what has happened?” But You fear You already know.

Jones tells You that the truck carrying Klaus and Andy Wilson encountered a heavy blizzard in Eastern North Carolina this July morning. Temperatures were so cold that the truck’s engine stalled and the disabled vehicle slid off the snow-covered road into a ditch. The police transport team was then attacked by several armed assailants dressed in heavy winter gear. A violent shootout ensued. The CIA guards, who all wore light summer clothing, were rendered nearly helpless by the extreme cold. Klaus and Andy Wilson escaped along with all but one of the attackers. That man died from a bullet wound to the head.

While none of the CIA guards was shot, several are currently at local hospitals. They are suffering from hypothermia and extreme frostbite. Temperatures at the spot of the attack were recorded at about 30 degrees below zero. Meanwhile, at the nearest hospital only about fifteen miles away, the thermometer stood at ninety.

The dead spy has been identified as Charlie Foxx. According to Jones, the man had a history of unsavory activities and espionage. Two “X” marks were found tattooed on the deceased attacker’s upper chest.

Witnesses to the snowy escape claim that the group of spies appeared to be led by a woman. However, most details are sketchy and even the number of attackers is in dispute. Tire tracks from the escape vehicle were obliterated by blinding snow. Two hours later this unusual weather event turned to simple rain, and by late this afternoon the temperatures in the rural area of North Carolina were back to normal and all the snow had melted away.

Meanwhile, scientists suspect that a severe storm that suddenly broke out near Bermuda this afternoon may have been a side effect of the morning’s meteorological tampering.

There is one other clue. This coded note was found in the dead man’s pocket:

Y! QP6~ :193TVRM 3Q 1+8B*~! 1EW 14 WK8 F=2!OHXKWI ,<E9T,

3-8 1C’S6 DH PH 21 **O**O*H*9&gt; %-1SD **L**Q *E*P 41W K*R*V :-8^RA. U1 Y8 A*M*&lt;P **D**= E**E**&lt;I 31 NM^P@T&gt;! K*O*6 **N’**238O*M*87 &9 Y84E<R KT7 T=76’>8 ~ROJX

Y! LZI 3-! V=E< U1 NE*$$89 K9 2-= GI78U=V~

1EO ^9RT8 VSB AIP< O8W T6 O91A 8E@:A<F A-&3 ROU 1+.198937 U= %TI9VS9>

Y! PB LZ= 3Q 5R=808 78CLL&< ID~RK7 O9 1E$8A V1 >H3 3-! >1F=D9W!X3 21 +*B


<FY!E Y8 :&9 R78 W-8 *>AQ VQ 2&O8 1Z=R 2K8 B1KQ$

Y! L! &P61 L1P*S> 31 **?**EAC 2-3 V91GI9> &T’3=EU ^DK+~A<1>N6F ZS$8S VXD93’GW6 15 791A

3-!!8 :N=8!Y I1U P<*E6

Your visitor this Monday morning is Agent Brown. You offer the young man a cup of organic Costa Rican coffee which he accepts gratefully.

“I want to hear your ideas on the latest cryptic message,” explains Brown as he takes a seat. “Did You get anything from our new sample of the code?”

You tell Brown your thoughts. As You point out the areas that have inspired your interest, Brown nods his head and furiously takies notes. Your ideas go on for a while, and then finally You turn to Brown. “Now, what about you, Brown?” You ask. “Any thoughts?”

Brown considers for a moment.

“Well,” Brown stammers, “I keep looking at the symbols, just like You. How could the spies know how to translate them? And with this latest message all of a sudden we have a bunch of ‘greater than’ and ‘less than’ signs. This could be a trick, or it could be significant. I’m not sure. But I am again bothered by the absence of the pound/number/hash symbol…”

“Ah yes, the one above the three on the keyboard. Looks like a little tic-tac-toe sign. It is still missing in action,” You reflect for a moment. “Why do you suppose that is so?”

“It is a good question indeed.” Brown takes a big gulp of coffee. “If we knew the reason why certain keyboard signs are ignored, we might have a real key to cracking the code. But there’s something else that seems odd to me. Why did the spies use red letters again? They were using different colors and all of a sudden, there is a repeat. What gives with that?”

You shrug your shoulders. “Do you think it is important, Brown?”

Brown pauses. “Oh, I don’t know. I mean, perhaps there are several coded messages out there we have not seen, and perhaps they all have different colors and of course sooner or later the spies would have to repeat. There surely can’t be faint colors like yellow or pale turquoise. They’d be too hard to read. So there are in reality only so many hues the spies could taunt with effectively. Still…”

“Interesting thought, Brown,” You remark. “I admit I haven’t really thought about their choice of colors. Could the spies’ selection of color in the taunt be important? How could that be important? Hmm.” You pause to ponder. “It might just be a trick. Red colors/red herring. As you say, random colors would eventually repeat. Still, it is an interesting angle. Hmmm.”

Brown looks as perplexed as You. This seems another dead end. If only You could have a helpful dream!

“By the way, Brown, have you talked over any of this with Jones?”

Browns face darkens. “Well, he’s got a lot on his plate now. You know it was his idea to move Klaus and Andy Wilson a day early. I’m worried he’s going to be the fall guy for this disaster. There’s even supposed to be an internal hearing in a day or so to figure out what went wrong. I’m fear they are going to blame Jones. He might be demoted…or worse.”

Jones demoted! Your anger builds. “They can’t do that after all he’s done! Just look at all the cases he has been a part of that turned out well. No one could believe that moving the spies on Friday would have prevented this escape. Obviously the spies are somehow getting inside information. They could have frozen Friday as easily as Thursday. That is not Jones’ fault!“

You shake so much You actually spill coffee all over your new carpet.

“I only hope the press doesn’t get wind of our AGWM problem,” You fume. “People might panic. That would probably put even more pressure on the government to offer up a scapegoat! This just is not fair!”

Brown tells You that right now the official cover-up story is that the Thursday North Carolina snowstorm was caused by an unusual atmospheric reaction to the recent heavy solar flares.

“They’re calling it a ‘Hibacho’ and saying that it a rare event that likely won’t happen again for a thousand years. So far everyone is buying that explanation. Heck, they believed us about the derecho last month. But we’re going to have a much more difficult time explaining the meteorological phenomena if entire cities start to freeze in July and August.”

Both of you feel frustration. Nothing is being solved here, it seems.

“I guess I better go,” Brown finishes his cup. “If we could just crack this code and put everything right, I’m sure people would quit blaming Jones. But the longer this goes on… I am worried.”

As You let Brown out the door, You vow to do whatever is necessary to unravel this mystery. Your friend Jones is depending on You. Your country is depending on You.

You wave goodbye to Brown. As he starts to leave, Brown suddenly turns back and asks a question.

“Why don’t they use blue?”


“It’s such a common color and the letters would certainly stand out.” Brown wrinkles his brow. “It just puzzles me. Why no blue taunts? They’ve used green letters, orange letters, purple letters, and now red letters twice. Blue is so common. It’s everyone’s favorite color. I just don’t understand. “

Brown looks at You as if begging for an answer.

“Why haven’t they used blue?”

“That’s… a really good question,” You reply. “Now that you mention it, I *was *expecting to see blue come up eventually. I was even guessing what the taunt might be; perhaps ‘YOU BLUE IT THIS TIME!’ or ‘BLUE IS NO CLUE’ or something. But it never occurred to me they might be purposely avoiding it. I’ll give it some thought,” You promise Brown.

Blue. Blue? Sure, using color to highlight words makes sense, but how could the *specific *color matter? And if it did, how is blue any different from the other colors used? Your mind races. It’s a primary color, and green, orange, and purple aren’t - but red is. Rainbow order, ROY G BIV? Nothing obvious there. Actually, though, it’s BIP, in this case - Purple, not Violet. Hmm. That’s an interesting point - perhaps it’s the word itself that matters? Each of the first four messages explicitly states the name of the color, so there would be no confusion. Well, “Blue” has an even number of letters - but so do “orange” and “purple”. “Blue” is first alphabetically - but so what? They all have an “E” - but so does “blue”. Huh. “Blue” is the only one that has no “R”. Could that matter? How could that matter? Something to do with oysters?

You turn to your notes, and at the bottom add:

“No blue - significant? If so, HOW?”

You are off to another conference, and this time it won’t just be the best from the CIA at the table. According to Jones’ secretary, who called with the details this morning, You are going to meet some of the top cryptologists in the world. She also wanted You to know that one of Europe’s most celebrated code breakers, M. Louis Le Neige, was coming with a theory that just might explain some of the code’s cryptic symbolism. You feel proud. Some have doubted You, but this great Frenchman hopes to meet You and share ideas. While You have never been one to seek celebrity, You look forward to a meeting of the minds. Perhaps this could be the beginning of the end of our latest spy caper.

The decision has also been made to hold this meeting at a secret CIA bunker in the West Virginia mountains. Now as You drive the winding roads leading up into the hills You wish that Agent Brown had been able to ride along with You. But Brown hadn’t answered his phone, so You left a “See You there” message and took to the road.

But what will You say at this super-conference?

As You survey the sprawling gorgeous mountain vistas, You go back over your latest musings about the spy code. There is no way to be sure that the lack of blue lettering is important. And yet, it just seems right to You that it is. Primary colors? Rainbow colors? ROY G BIV? ROY G BIP?

The other spy taunt methods stay the same in each code. Letters are underlined, or italicized, or bolded. You spent time looking over samples of old codes from other cases, trying to see how easy it would be to select letters in a row and create a taunt. And You realize it is not easy at all. Sure, You can simply do a “LOL”, but entire spy messages are rarely long enough to easily create lengthy taunts by selecting ordered letters to emphasize. And yet the spies seem to be able to do it four times in every code. How?

As your car climbs the road deep into the mountains, fog sets in. You lower your speed.

The taunts could be simply additives to the code. That’s what Agent Cooper guessed at the last meeting. If the taunts are removed though, nothing becomes any clearer. What about the theory that the taunts cause the code to change somehow? This idea has some merit, You suppose. But what kind of change? Sigh. If You discard the taunts, You get nowhere. If You keep the taunts, You get nowhere. This is not likely to impress the great crytologists of the world. Oh well, this is not about showing off. This is about stopping the evil spies from their nefarious schemes.

Your car creeps even slower as rain begins to fall. You can barely see a few feet in front. At least on such a winding mountain road, folks are not likely to be driving fast. You concentrate on staying in between the white lines as your vehicle inches forward. That CIA bunker is around here someplace. You hope You got the directions right.

Now what of the symbols? Every digit is there, but not every symbol. Why? The number/pound/hash symbol above the 3 on the keyboard is never used. But that’s not exactly true is it? l That symbol was underlined several times in that one purple code, wasn’t it? However, the left and right slash symbols, among others, have not been there at all. How come? You suppose that all the symbols and numbers have got to all be code for letters. After all, how would the spies who were decoding the message be able to tell if a symbol was actually what it appeared to be and not one of the ones encoded? They could not tell. Usually in codes, words with apostrophes or hyphens are very helpful in cracking the riddle. But not here. You try to imagine the layout of the keyboard in your mind, but You cannot visualize so clearly right now what with the bad weather. Sigh.

What else are You missing? A long time ago You remember saying that a good cryptologists counts everything. Have You done so? Perhaps…

You are suddenly shocked away from your thoughts. That heavy rain coming down appears to be changing to snow. But this is July? How could…

Uh oh.

Not only is this snow, but it is heavy snow in a matter of seconds. At least fifteen minutes must have passed since You have seen any house of any kind. Dense thick woods stretch around You. You remember now noting a sign a while back about entering Something-Or-Another National Forest. You debate whether stopping the car would be a good idea. You finally are able to get your vehicle over into a small pull-off. The engine quiets and You can now hear the terrific storm raging around You. What is this small area? Oh, it is the parking spot for some trailhead. But the sign is becoming so coated with snow You cannot tell which one. You can barely see the path disappearing into a wall of snow and trees.

You push open your car door against the now howling wind and are shocked at the outdoor temperature. It isn’t just freezing outside, it’s dangerously cold. Sub-zero cold. If You stay here You will soon be buried under a pile of snow. If You stay here You probably will not leave alive. Your only hope is to get the car on the road and somehow pray your four wheel drive will get You out of this. You edge your car back on the pavement, which is now inches deep in snow. Your car crawls forward.

The going is extremely dangerous and your vehicle suddenly begins to sputter. “Come on girl, come on!” You whisper aloud. The car slowly rolls onward. The engine coughs again, but does not die. Is it getting lighter ahead? No that’s only an illusion. This is whiteout.

Suddenly a tree, overweighed by snow, falls straight in front of You. You swerve and then your car is dropping. You have driven over the side of a steep embankment. Your car plows down through the brush and You brace for the crash. It comes. Your windshield cracks and airbags deploy. You are sore, but probably not seriously injured. What to do now? The temperature in the car is not going to hold safe very long. Trying to hike out would be suicide. Quick, get your cell phone. Alas, there is no signal. A howling blizzard surrounds You. You didn’t even bring a jacket.

Now it is getting colder. Much colder. You take the last sips off coffee from your travel carafe. How good the warmth feels! Your head throbs. Maybe You hit it harder than You thought in the smash-up. How much time has passed since you crashed here? You look at your watch but the numbers blur. Through the split in the windshield You hallucinate a group of howling cackling dancing yetis. No, it is just the swaying of snow-buried trees. You hear the cracking of branches. The inside of the car darkens as snow on the windshield and windows builds, blocking the light. Your last thoughts as You slip out of consciousness are, “I should have seen this coming. I should have seen this coming. I should have …”

You open your eyes and see light. Well, they always told You there’d be a bright light at the end. A white female figure enters the scene. An angel? You sure hope so. You have always tried to do the right thing, to live the right way.

You hear a voice.

“Our friend is waking up.” The woman lays her palm on your forehead.

As your eyes focus You see two other figures approach from the distance.

Agent Jones looks at You and smiles. “We were afraid for a moment we were going to lose You.”

“What happened? Where am I?” You ask weakly. Then your mind flashes, and the memory of your accident is horribly vivid. You hurt all over.

It is Brown speaking now. “You are in a private hospital and You are going to be fine. Do You remember the wreck?”

You affirm that You do. “I thought I was a goner for sure. I was in the middle of Nowhere, West Virginia. The snow was so heavy. The wind nearly gale force. And the cold…the bitter cold! How did I live through that?”

“You can thank Agent Brown,” replies Jones. “Brown got your message about your planned trip. But he didn’t know anything about any conference in West Virginia. Brown called me, and I said I didn’t know anything either.”

Brown jumps in to continue the story. “After I talked to Jones I was just puzzled. What was going on? Then it came to me that perhaps this was a trap set for You. And I had a pretty good idea of what kind of trap it might be. I called Jones back. He got us a special military helicopter that could fly in the roughest weather. We brought along heavy winter gear and went looking for You. As we crossed into West Virginia we received information regarding a very localized blizzard. It only covered about a ten square miles deep in the mountains. Still we were lucky to find You. One of our expert military spotters saw where your car had crashed. We found a safe landing area at some nearby trailhead parking lot. When we got to the car You were nearly frozen. You were pretty much out of it too, mumbling something about abominable snowmen. By the time we got You back to the helicopter we were just about frozen ourselves and You were completely unconscious. We brought You back here. It was touch-and-go for a while, but the doctor says You are going to be fine.”

“What a dimwit I was! M. Louis Le Neige? Good grief." You grimace in disgust. But at least You are still among the living.

“I owe you my life, Brown,” You say with great emotion.

The young man grins widely. “Glad to help.”

“Actually,” says Jones slowly. "Um… You are sort of dead.”

Jones shows You today’s newspaper. Midway on page three You read:

Local Amateur Cryptologist Dies in Freak Hibacho Snowstorm

“I don’t understand…I’m not dead.”

Jones smiles again. “No, but we want the spies to think that You are. If Klaus realizes that You survived he could easily send another blizzard at You. Those spies want their revenge. But… if the world thinks You are dead, you’ll be safe. Indeed, outside of Brown, a couple of trusted doctors and nurses, and myself, everyone believes You perished on your way to the hospital. We have kept the secret of your survival from even our own government because we know information is leaking out somehow. Unless everyone thinks You are deceased, we believe your life will be in grave danger. Those villains might succeed in killing You next time.”

“But what about my family and friends?” You protest. “Surely I must tell them.” You try to rise but the nurse pushed your weak body back down.

Jones shakes his head. “No, I’m sorry. Absolutely no one else can know. No one. We’re even having a closed casket funeral for You in a couple of days. The story goes that your body was gruesomely disfigured in the crash. Sadly, I’m afraid You are going to have to stay dead until the spies are apprehended. In the meantime I have brought You copies of all the codes. Perhaps rest in this safe environment will help stimulate your thinking.”

“Speaking of the code messages,” Brown says excitedly. “I’ve been thinking about the layout of the keyboard. And You know what, I don’t think that the keyboard layout is important at all. In fact, I —“

Jones interrupts. “Brown, there is time for this in a day or two. Right now I think our friend here needs to work on getting a little strength back.”

Brown nods and smiles.

“And now it is nap time,” says the pretty nurse as she fluffs up your pillow and gives You a pain shot.

As You fall back to sleep, You meditate on how close your autobiography came to having a premature end.

And you start to dream…

*You find yourself outside in a snowfall again. For a moment, this terrifies You, as You remember your earlier dream, and your all-too-real near-death experience. But You relax as You notice that the snowflakes are changing, turning into letters, numbers, symbols, swirling in front of your eyes. Finally! A helpful dream!

You watch as the characters drift to the ground, watching as they arrange themselves into words. But it seems every time You look directly at a character, it disappears. Before long, the dense carpet of characters is full of holes. “How can I solve this code when there’s so much missing?” You ask. Missing. Missing… What’s missing? Quite a few things: no back quote. No parenthesis, brackets, curly brackets, pipes, backslash, forward slash. No double quotes. No pound sign anywhere but underlined in the fourth message. That was the only context in which angle brackets appeared, too, until the fifth message. No zero in the fourth message, either. And no pattern to be found on the keyboard. What else? No blue taunts. No characters in more than one special font at a time. No one-character words. Some letter-only words, and some number-only, but no symbol-only. And… ?

Gradually, You notice that, as each character touches down, You can hear a soft voice say, “One,” then “Two,” then “Three,” and so on. Counting. Counting everything. “But haven’t I already counted everything? Several times, in fact?” You ask the voice. It doesn’t respond; it just keeps counting. You listen carefully to the counts - of letters, numbers, symbols, characters, words, lines, fonts, and on and on. And little by little, you start to hear… a pattern? Yes, it* does *seem that some counts are repeating or matching. But is it a pattern or just coincidence? And if it’s a pattern, what does it mean?

You try to cup the snow-characters in your hands to get a closer look, but they melt away…*
The nurse who came in to check your vitals reports that You were sleeping peacefully, when suddenly, You sat bolt upright in bed, looked her in the eye, and said flatly, “Well, that wasn’t a very helpful dream at all.” You then flopped down on the pillow and went immediately back to sleep. You remember none of this.

A letter delivered this afternoon to the White House via waif-mail:
**Dear U.S. Government,

You may think that you are in control, but that is not the case. We are in control. The spies.

Over the next few weeks, months, and years we will be issuing demands. You will follow them. Whenever you do not do exactly as we request, a city will be frozen. We are not talking about a simple chill. No, we are talking about seventy-five degrees below zero or more. We are talking ice age.

I’m sure you understand the devastating consequences of such freezes. There will be massive deaths and disruption of life.

If you try and stop us, cities will freeze. If you try and trick us, cities will freeze. We have ways of knowing what you are thinking, so do not even make the slightest attempt to mess with us. Anything other than complete servile compliance will lead to a terrible urban icing. Such freezings also always cause horrific by-product storms. It will be massive meteorological mayhem! Oh the glory!

Do not let what happened to your supposedly brilliant but now deceased code-breaker happen to anyone else. We have shown we are not bluffing.

Here is our first demand:

Before August 10th, every spy who is currently imprisoned must be released. These newly freed spies will need some starting-out money. That assistance should be exactly $500,000.00 apiece. If all our spies are not released and given the money by August 10th, we will freeze Chicago. While the hardy citizens of that city may be used to cold weather, you can imagine the results of such a dramatic deadly cold occurring in the middle of August. If you try and evacuate the Windy City before August 10th, we’ll just hit somewhere else on our list. So you see, there is nothing you can do but give in to us.

All people everywhere must now bow down to their new spy overlords. All must bow down to me.


You are now sufficiently recovered from your automobile accident. You need no longer stay in a CIA hospital. Therefore, this weekend they are moving You (in disguise) to a safe house. There You will live until this case is resolved.

You are sick and tired of lying in bed. There has been nothing at all to do but to try again and again to solve this irksome code.

And again and again, You fail to get anywhere. Sigh.

For the fiftieth or so time, You pick up the newspaper and read that terse blurb about your demise. There is your life and death, summed up in that brief page-three story. Just think, You were going to write a several hundred page autobiography. Sigh. Now You have been condensed to seven paragraphs.

Your funeral will be held Wednesday afternoon. Jones and Brown said they were going to attend. Other than a few family members and your two CIA friends, will anyone else be there at all? Who weeps for the lost code-breaker?

Your room seems especially empty tonight. Sigh.

But You did not solve all those cases for fame, did You? On the contrary, You did your duty for your country. What does it matter if people do not remember who You are and what You have accomplished?

You know your abilities, and that is all that matters. How can You feel sorry for yourself when one of America’s great cities will be frozen solid in a mere ten days? For shame!

And You can solve this current code. You can!

Sure, it may look complicated, but You bet all these symbols, colors and fonts are just a bunch of bells and whistles. All this craziness just might be covering up some pretty simple substitution methods. With firm resolve You look through your jumbled pile of notes to focus on ten specific points. You don’t think You necessarily need to find solutions for all these questions. No, just a few answers will clear up this mystery. Indeed, maybe many of these questions are only asking the same thing, but in a different way.


  1. ***How does the solver know what to do with the symbols and numbers? If, as the usually astute Brown suggests, we eliminate the layout of the keyboard as a helpful factor, how else might the symbols and numbers be decoded?

  2. What is the purpose of the taunts other than to tease the solver? There are four varieties of taunts in each code. These taunts never overlap (i.e not colored and underlined at the same time). Why not? Are the taunts red herrings? Is it possible that the taunts are both red herrings and not red herrings? If so, how is it possible?

  3. What about the letters in the code? How are they to be decoded?

  4. Why are some colors and symbols never used? Why are certain other numbers and symbols used, but only rarely. Why are some symbols/numbers used frequently? Does this pattern of use/non-use change over the codes, or is it fairly consistent? Could all of this be trickery that means nothing?

  5. What words might we expect to find in the codes? Can we find any of them at all?

  6. Which coded words seem to repeat often? Can we figure out anything from that? Why are there not more repeats? Does the coding change thus preventing repeats? However, if the coding does change all over each message, why are there repeated coded words at all? More red herrings?

  7. Are there any other similarities or patterns in the coding that are worth noting and trying to explain?

  8. Why was the bolded taunt “LOL” so short in that one coded message? What a poor excuse for a taunt! Why couldn’t the spies do better?

  9. There are no one-letter words. Why not? The spies have used them before. What secret might be revealed by the usage of a simple one-letter word?

  10. Is any purpose served by the spy tattoos? Are the tattoos a big fat red herring?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to show up at your own funeral with the answer to this thing??!!

Knock! Knock! Knock!

Agents Jones and Brown enter your room, dressed as if they have just come from a funeral. Wow. Could the event be over already? It must have been short and poorly attended. No matter.

You manage a smile. “So how was it?”

“Oh, it is still going on. We left early.” Jones replies. “There are so many people wishing to speak, the service will probably last for hours.”

“So many people…?”

“Yes. They had to turn away dozens of folks at the church because the place filled up. It was quite an emotional event. Speaker after speaker talked about how You have helped them and our country. All those folks from Okracola, the Governor of Tennessee, several other government officials, and a host of ordinary citizens lined up one after another to thank You for your life and work.”

You swallow hard. “Really…I didn’t expect anyone would make much of a fuss…”

Brown laughs. “You’re going to have a lot of explaining to do once this is all over. I’ve never seen such sobbing. There were even a couple of your old high school sweethearts who threw themselves upon the coffin wailing and gnashing their teeth. Seems You made quite an impression on them years ago, and they have secretly been following your career.”

“How did they even know about my supposed death? This newspaper article says barely anything.”

“Oh that was just the late edition announcement. It was headlines all over the country the next day. The Washington Post devoted much of their Style Section to You over the past couple of days. You are on the upcoming covers of both Time and Newsweek. CNN has been all over this. We hear People is interviewing friends and family for a special commemorative issue.”

You eyes swell with tears and You turn your head to hide the emotion.

“Don’t You see,” says Brown, “You’ve really had a wonderful life.”

You look at Jones and Brown. What good friends they are!

“So why did you both leave early? I guess it was all a bit much.”

“No, it is not that.” Jones’ face turns grim. “A negative incident occurred at your funeral as well. There is a little foyer outside the main sanctuary at the church. This room contained lots of flowers, a guest registry, and a photograph of You on a small table lit by a little burning candle. At one point early during the service, an usher stepped out into this little room and saw someone defacing your picture with a magic marker! The individual had drawn a mustache and glasses on your photograph, and scrawled ‘COULD NOT GET THE JOB DONE!’ across the bottom.

“Our usher yelled for security, but the unknown person slipped out the door and disappeared through the large throng of mourners outside. The dastard escaped, but not before dropping a coded message just inside the door as he fled.”

Jones hands You this latest coded missive. “Our best guess is that our troublemaker was Andy Wilson in disguise, but we cannot be sure. We did check the guest registry, not expecting to see anything. But look at this.”

The special agent hands You the book. “Check out the name of guest number 458,” Jones says, pointing to the entry.

You read the name:

&<O L**D*< 3-8 X=~TX9 15 P<@H6 D9$ &9$C CIR719

&V8S3 2C=9ZE *N*G 913 GH DP Z@OR

~LN; R193M Y! AGP< XZ1G&O<G L&Z= V1 5X=!08 ^-T,*E1

O< 6+H87 <EBC*TN 3-8WJ 6N1E<$ GH3 1S2 91Z

RV Y7 1PU T873 EI=X7 3L2 Y8 AP*<P 19<C L&Z= ~1 T,8 $1A9 198 &U=ZO^’V ^L3C C!51X8 1EU 8T’9K7 *U= AY*938

A-89 Y! N8~ 1SU R198D Y8 @U= C1O9E 21 HRB C9 1< D*Y6O*G*W *9 BZ&9648Z W-8 ‘IAQ 2Q 2-I6 68@S1S9O B=678<

61S9 1OU 7:T!9DI726 7-@<Q O91A =91CUN 21 1%=Y*~= X-&~ !B*S*^8 *9 Y! ,’9 6=9$ ODRSE97 @9$ KA7 W=N&lt;=61WO *K!P3=Z 2Q 2KH A1231S Q5 3-8 &3<*9~D: 1,!FS

If ever a funeral could be called a success, yours was. Though You are sorry to have upset so many people, You were certainly pleased to learn that You are so loved and admired. But after a while, the glow wore off, and You realized: the only way You can “live” again is to solve this code. These people who think so much of You would never forgive You if You hurt and deceived them for nothing. And even if they did, how could they ever admire You again, knowing how You failed, knowing You are the one responsible for letting the spies get away with their terrible plans? No, the only way You can return to the world is triumphantly. Otherwise, You may as well really be dead.

And so, You diligently return to your ten questions. You have been turning this code over and over in your mind, and there is too much to keep track of. You find yourself losing track of clues, and reexamining theories You already ruled out. Now, You will approach this as methodically as You can, trying to answer the questions one by one.


  1. ***How does the solver know what to do with the symbols and numbers? If, as the usually astute Brown suggests, we eliminate the layout of the keyboard as a helpful factor, how else might the symbols and numbers be decoded?

How, indeed?

First of all, You note that You have been assuming the symbols and numbers stand for letters. Why? Well, there are so many of them, sometimes several in a row. There is some consistency in which ones are used most frequently, or at all. And though there are no all-symbol words, there are a few that are all-number, or number-symbol. However, the vast majority of words do have at least one letter. So perhaps the numbers, symbols, or both, mean something else. But if so, you have no idea what. For now, You will have to proceed with your assumption that they stand for letters.

If they do stand for letters, then the spies must know which letter each one stands for. There must be a pattern or key of some kind. And after turning your keyboard inside out, You wholeheartedly agree with Brown that there doesn’t appear to be a pattern there.

What about a decryption key? It would be easy enough to map the alphabet to a random assortment of characters (where 9, !, R, 1, =… decodes to A, B, C, D, E…). And if that were the case, with all the characters used in these codes, letters would be mapped twice, or even three times (for instance, 9, %, and F might all decode to A). That would allow the spies to encode the same word in many different ways, which would explain the relatively few repeats that appear in the codes. You have to admit that, although the CIA hasn’t found a decryption key on any of the dead spies, it’s still a possibility.

Is there any other way? The decryption key could be embedded in the code. You can imagine many ways that could happen… but none of them pan out in this code. And yet, there are hints that this might be the case. For instance, though the number of letters in the colored messages varies, there are always 13 words with one or more colored letters – except for the red messages, in which there are always 23. And it happens that although there are many different symbols used in each message, there are 13 that are always used in every message. It occurred to You that these 13 words might correspond to those symbols (and when there are 23, perhaps the numbers 0-9 as well?), and indicate which letters they stand for. But if this is the case, You haven’t been able to find a pattern in these words that would show how this is done.


Frustrated, You sigh and turn to Question 2…

weren’t the tatoos of an L and O?

I wonder if that is any way related to the LOL taunt?


  1. What is the purpose of the taunts other than to tease the solver? There are four varieties of taunts in each code. These taunts never overlap (i.e not colored and underlined at the same time). Why not? Are the taunts red herrings? Is it possible that the taunts are both red herrings and not red herrings? If so, how is it possible?

Initially, You thought the taunts were part of the code; that is, that they were composed from letters selected from the coded messages. But You later realized that creating anything more than a very short taunt, let alone four in every message, was actually too difficult to be plausible.

So are they simply red herrings after all, then? Can You just discard those letters entirely? Perhaps not. The colored taunts, at least, seem designed to highlight 13 (or 23) words – though for what purpose, You can’t tell. Also, there are never more than 26 characters in the colored taunts. In fact, the red taunts always have exactly 26 characters, though the other colors vary. So although the letters of the taunts may be meaningless (as You suspect), their placement, and possibly their number, seems to be significant. If only You could figure out why.

And what about the other taunts? They don’t seem to follow any rhyme or reason. Although no letter appears in more than one font, there are many words with more than one font in them. A few counts repeat here and there, or seem to add up to something, but You can’t find a clear pattern. The bold taunts are usually the shortest, and usually one word, but not always. Usually, about half the words have no fonts, but it varies. But then again, the fonts don’t need to follow a pattern to be significant, do they? It could be that whenever each font appears, it has a certain effect on the code, but where and how often it appears, if at all, is up to the coder. And if that were the case, it might account for the lack of repeated words, as well as the fact that the vast majority of repeated words have no font at all, and when they do, it’s the same font on the same letter. As You noted before, the fact that multiple fonts don’t appear on a single letter might indicate that the fonts change the code in ways that conflict. Or, it could have something to do with the number of letters in each taunt - if a letter appeared in two fonts, it might cause confusion over how many times it should be counted. If the number of letters is important, that might explain the “LOL”.

In any case, You keep coming back to the idea that the letters of the taunts can’t be drawn from the coded message. In order to create such long taunts, it seems they must be inserted later. But what about the words in which they appear? Are those letters part of the message? Are they significant at all, or just filler?

And… if the letters of the taunts are not part of the message, then how can You account for the fact that when You remove those letters from the messages, You occasionally wind up with two one-letter words in succession? It makes no sense. That was one reason You initially thought that the taunt letters must be part of the message. But then again, if the symbols are being used for something else, then they can’t be used as punctuation. So perhaps those are initials?

But this then begs the question…

  1. What about the letters in the code? How are they to be decoded?