# Neither my co-workers or I can solve this cryptogram meant for childrenNovember 17, 2016 1:42 PM   Subscribe

My publication pulled a cryptogram puzzle from the generic content producer we are subscribed to for our holiday guide, however when editing the pages we realized no one knows how to solve this.

The answers are on the side (a: mistletoe, b: reindeer, c: holly, d: cheer), but even working backwards I have not been able to figure out how the cryptogram works.

The only clue is "e=2." The puzzle asks you to "determine the code" so I'm assuming there's some code to it.

It's probably something right in front of me and I'm about to feel stupid, but curiosity is getting the better of me and I would also like to be reassured there actually is a way to solve this before we print it and it's not a mistake on their part.
posted by john-a-dreams to Grab Bag (12 answers total)

Looks like a straightforward letter substitution, so 2 => the letter E, etc. The symbols and letters above are giving you some of the letter-number pairs to start with.
posted by firechicago at 1:47 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is it just a big production error on their part? Like they recycled an old number puzzles and forgot to replace them with the symbols?
posted by Sweetie Darling at 1:47 PM on November 17, 2016

For me it was basically knowing that two holiday words that end in EE__ were CHEER and REINDEER and then backsolving.
posted by jessamyn at 1:48 PM on November 17, 2016 [5 favorites]

But yeah agree that they probably messed it up re: numbers/symbols.
posted by jessamyn at 1:48 PM on November 17, 2016

What do you mean you don't know how it works? Each number corresponds to a letter. There's no like... e=2 so f=3, it's just every letter gets randomly assigned a number and you sort of have to figure it out from there.

It's the same idea as a cryptoquip in my daily paper (only in that case each letter is randomly assigned to another letter).
posted by brainmouse at 1:49 PM on November 17, 2016

What do you mean you don't know how it works? Each number corresponds to a letter. There's no like... e=2 so f=3, it's just every letter gets randomly assigned a number and you sort of have to figure it out from there.

Well since the puzzle mentions a "code" we all figured there would be some solvable code in there where the letters aren't randomly assigned and you wouldn't have to guess if you could figure out the pattern. That's how I generally assumed cryptograms work but maybe I'm off about that?
posted by john-a-dreams at 1:54 PM on November 17, 2016

Cryptograms are usually solved by "guess and check". You're given the hint "E = 2". So, let's look... Hey, B has a bunch of 2's in it, so we have

_ E _ _ _ E E _

I can think of a Christmas-related word that fits with this: REINDEER. So if that's true, we have 21 = R, 18 = I, 22 = N, and 5 = D. That means that Word D becomes

_ _ E E R

and you rack your brain and come up with CHEER, which also means that 19 = C and 17 = H. Word A is then

_ I _ _ _ E _ _ E

and you think about this for a while and come up with MISTLETOE. So now you know 26 = M, 16 = S, 4 = T, 12 = L, and 23 = O. Finally, Word C is then

H O L L _

and you can see that this is HOLLY.

Throughout this process, you just try to figure out words that fit in the blanks, making guesses that fit into the given context. The fact that they're all Christmas-related is a huge hint, as is the 2 = E clue at the beginning.
posted by Johnny Assay at 1:55 PM on November 17, 2016 [21 favorites]

I tried to solve the puzzle before clicking to "more inside," and got it; my process was similar to Johnny Assay's. "Mistletoe" was the tricky part for me, and I wouldn't have figured it out without knowing the Christmas theme.

The newspaper I read growing up always had a cryptoquote on the comics page, and they worked similarly to this, except without giving you one of the letters in the code. I did a lot of those cryptoquotes.

It's not broken, but it does seem a little advanced for a kids' puzzle.
posted by Metroid Baby at 2:16 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think it's just really poor layout design, where everything in the title box (CRYPTO FUN) is irrelevant to what is below. Possibly it's a generic CRYPTO FUN title bar that demonstrates the general concept, but otherwise just gets reused regardless of the actual cryptogram below.

Anyway, I found that the easiest way was to examine the letters in the left-hand column first, and then figure out the corresponding word in the right-most column.
posted by Kabanos at 2:17 PM on November 17, 2016

That's how I generally assumed cryptograms work but maybe I'm off about that?

Ah ok - yes you're wrong about that. The standard cryptogram puzzle is made by random assignment and then solved through guess-and-check, as described above.
posted by brainmouse at 2:36 PM on November 17, 2016

The simplest way is to accidentally read the answers on the right hand side of the page because speed reading works sideways.
posted by Megafly at 4:02 PM on November 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

It's not broken, but it does seem a little advanced for a kids' puzzle.

Yes, but also kids are a bit obsessive and don't necessarily get confused by thinking there must be a clever way of doing it. For a certain type of kid "think of words and try them out" is a natural approach, more so than for an adult, and also more likely to hold their attention.
posted by mark k at 8:00 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

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