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Cryptogram

Cryptogram

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A cryptogram is a type of puzzle which consists of a short piece of encrypted
Encryption
In cryptography, encryption is the process of transforming information using an algorithm to make it unreadable to anyone except those possessing special knowledge, usually referred to as a key. The result of the process is encrypted information...

 text. Generally the cipher used to encrypt the text is simple enough that cryptogram can be solved by hand. Frequently used are substitution cipher
Substitution cipher
In cryptography, a substitution cipher is a method of encryption by which units of plaintext are replaced with ciphertext according to a regular system; the "units" may be single letters , pairs of letters, triplets of letters, mixtures of the above, and so forth...

s where each letter is replaced by a different letter or number. To solve the puzzle, one must recover the original lettering. Though once used in more serious applications, they are now mainly printed for entertainment in newspapers and magazines.

Other types of classical cipher
Classical cipher
A cipher is a means of concealing a message, where letters of the message are substituted or transposed for other letters, letter pairs, and sometimes for many letters. In cryptography, a classical cipher is a type of cipher that was used historically but now has fallen, for the most part, into...

s are sometimes used to create cryptograms. An example is the book cipher
Book cipher
A book cipher is a cipher in which the key is some aspect of a book or other piece of text; books being common and widely available in modern times, users of book ciphers take the position that the details of the key is sufficiently well hidden from attackers in practice. This is in some ways an...

 where a book or article is used to encrypt a message.

History of cryptograms


The ciphers used in cryptograms were not originally created for entertainment purposes, but for real encryption of military or personal secrets
Privacy
Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively...

.

The first use of the cryptogram for entertainment purposes occurred during the Middle Ages by monks who had spare time for intellectual games. A manuscript found at Bamberg
Bamberg
Bamberg is a city in Bavaria, Germany. It is located in Upper Franconia on the river Regnitz, close to its confluence with the river Main. Bamberg is one of the few cities in Germany that was not destroyed by World War II bombings because of a nearby Artillery Factory that prevented planes from...

 states that Irish visitors to the court of Merfyn Frych ap Gwriad
Merfyn Frych ap Gwriad
Merfyn Frych was King of Gwynedd , the first king not descended from the male line of Maelgwn Gwynedd. Little is known of his reign, and his primary notability is as the father of Rhodri the Great...

 (died 844), king of Gwynedd
Kingdom of Gwynedd
Gwynedd was one petty kingdom of several Welsh successor states which emerged in 5th-century post-Roman Britain in the Early Middle Ages, and later evolved into a principality during the High Middle Ages. It was based on the former Brythonic tribal lands of the Ordovices, Gangani, and the...

 in Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 kmĀ²...

 were given a cryptogram which could only be solved by transposing the letters from Latin into Greek. Around the thirteenth century, the English monk Roger Bacon
Roger Bacon
Roger Bacon, O.F.M. , also known as Doctor Mirabilis , was an English philosopher and Franciscan friar who placed considerable emphasis on the study of nature through empirical methods...

 wrote a book in which he listed seven cipher methods, and stated that "a man is crazy who writes a secret in any other way than one which will conceal it from the vulgar." In the 19th century Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

 helped to popularize cryptograms with many newspaper and magazine articles.

A well-known example of cryptograms in contemporary culture is the syndicated newspaper puzzle Crypto quip .

Solving a cryptogram


Cryptograms based on substitution ciphers can often be solved by frequency analysis
Frequency analysis
In cryptanalysis, frequency analysis is the study of the frequency of letters or groups of letters in a ciphertext. The method is used as an aid to breaking classical ciphers....

 and by recognizing letter patterns in words, such as one letter words, which, in English, can only be "i" or "a" (and sometimes "o"). Double letters, apostrophes, and the fact that no letter can substitute for itself in the cypher also offer clues to the solution. Occasionally cryptogram puzzle makers will start the solver off with a few letters. The Cryptogram is also the name of the periodic publication of the American Cryptogram Association
American Cryptogram Association
The American Cryptogram Association is an American non-profit organization devoted to the hobby of cryptography, with an emphasis on types of codes, ciphers, and cryptograms that can be solved either with pencil and paper, or with computers, but not computer-only systems.-History:The ACA was formed...

 (ACA), which contains a large number of cryptographic puzzles.

Other crypto puzzles


While the Cryptogram has remained popular, over time other puzzles similar to it have emerged. One of these is the Cryptoquote, which is a famous quote encrypted in the same way as a Cryptogram. A more recent version, with a biblical twist, is CodedWord. This puzzle makes the solution available only online where it provides a short exegesis on the biblical text. Yet a third is the Cryptoquiz. This puzzle starts off at the top with a category (unencrypted). For example, "Flowers" might be used. Below this is a list of encrypted words which are related to the stated category. The person must then solve for the entire list to finish the puzzle. Yet another type involves using numbers as they relate to texting to solve the puzzle.

See also

  • List of famous ciphertexts
  • American Cryptogram Association
    American Cryptogram Association
    The American Cryptogram Association is an American non-profit organization devoted to the hobby of cryptography, with an emphasis on types of codes, ciphers, and cryptograms that can be solved either with pencil and paper, or with computers, but not computer-only systems.-History:The ACA was formed...

  • Cryptogram Blog - free Cryptogram puzzle blog