MW Codes, Ciphers, and Puzzle Series: Segment 3: Cryptograms
In many puzzle sections of newspapers are found a fun type of puzzle called a Cryptogram. Most often these Cryptogram challenges use a simple form of substitution cipher. A substitution cipher is where each letter is replaced by a different symbol (letter, number, or other character).
Cryptograms in newspapers are not made to be complex. They are made to solvable by hand, with trial and error methods. They include a reasonable amount of text in order to give the puzzler enough ‘information’ to go on to discover the solution.
Unlike the Caesar Shift, mentioned in segment 1 of this series, where the replacement of letters involves a specific method, a Cryptogram is an entirely random replacement. They scramble the alphabet, instead of keeping the order and just shifting it by a precise number.
The Key might look like the following.
Using the key above, TREASURE would be encoded as such: MYFHDIYF
The strategy to solving a Cryptogram usually involves a bit of analysis. This includes looking at letter frequency and word structure of the Cryptogram.
Understanding a bit about the English language is helpful. A and I are the only 1 letter words in the English language. For this reason, any time a puzzle provides a single letter, it can be assumed to be either an A or I.
For instance, in the Cryptogram below you might begin by trying to replace the letter I or A for the single letter ‘word’ shown:
MBF FLJFYM UV HVWMBUVZ XHD RVGF H KFZUVVFY
Another great approach is to do a letter analysis. In the phrase above the most common letters are ‘F’ and ‘V’, each seen 6 times. The next common letters are ‘M’, ‘U’, and ‘H’, each seen 3 times.
It is known, for the English language, the letters, ETAOIN SHRDLU, are the 12 most frequently used letters. Plus, the words, THE and AND, are the most commonly used.
Also, some of the most common pairs of letters are TH, ER, ON, IN, ST, ND, and AN. Common repeats are SS, EE, NN, TT, FF, LL, RR, and OO.
With these ‘clues’ to go on, can you solve the Cryptogram?
Best of luck! And remember, The Expert in anything was once a beginner!
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