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Code-breaking Challenge!

When I was in college, I took a math elective called History of Codes and Ciphers. Math has never been my strong suit, but hey, codes and ciphers are indisputably cool, right? That class remains one of my favorites, and it’s provided some key inspiration over the years for my stories.

My main work-in-progress right now is THE LONGING AND THE LACK, about a girl followed by death omens and no deaths. In the story, the main characters come across an encoded message they have to solve. Yesterday I crafted that message.

Today I’d like to test it. I propose a challenge! To test my code-making and double-check the message, I’m going to offer it up to you all to decipher.

As a disclaimer: code-making and breaking, when you’re new to it (or maybe always? I haven’t gotten past “new”), can be difficult and tedious, so I won’t be surprised if no one enters–but I’ll be thrilled if someone wins!

THE CHALLENGE

The goal is to decipher the message at the bottom of this post.

THE PRIZE

The winner will receive two copies (paperback if available, ebook if not) of any of my currently available Curiosity Quills projects (two different, two of the same, your choice), as well as a free ebook of I SEE THE WEB.

THE RULES

  1. The message must be deciphered by hand. I unfortunately have no way of enforcing this, so I’m just going to trust you all.
  2. Participants may work together or alone, and you may use resources to guide you. I’ll share a few links below to get you started.
  3. Only one prize will be awarded; in the event of a group of participants, participants must divvy up the prize materials among themselves.
  4. All submissions must be sent by email to me directly: cspivey1954 [at] gmail [dot] com. DO NOT POST THEM HERE. The message below is one that will appear in the book and may constitute spoilers.
  5. In your email, use the subject line CODE-BREAKING CHALLENGE and include the following: Names of all participants, methodology, and deciphered message.
  6. The winner will be the first participant(s) to accurately decipher the message. 
  7. The contest will end on Friday, September 12th, or when someone wins.
  8. The winner will be announced here and across social media after being contacted by me.

THE MESSAGE

I can’t share the same information the protagonists will have without spoiling the manuscript, so instead I’ve done some other things to make it easier for you.

I can tell you that this is a CAESAR SHIFT CIPHER, or a VIGENÈRE CIPHER, or a TRANSPOSITION CIPHER.

I have left the spaces between the words of the enciphered message, and included punctuation.

There may be clues in this post to help you determine what kind of cipher you’re dealing with and other pertinent information.

Here are some links to help you:

Decipher a Secret Code
Practical Cryptography
10 Codes and Ciphers
Introduction to Codes, Ciphers, and Code-breaking

And now, the message:

TAA ZRB, MJGYO IRWO GT PLR VYJ, PKLVRVSYR SA MA PM ASXLSFH. ZPR TK GBPDLQOKR OUWRFZAR ZB VPYXP. WVVHPP’Y XPBG IAMT PLR JFZSTZ GELSD MAP JBU FPRXEFHWWZL. MEZR LH XC, TAA ZRB, RGBA MG VVP. STSMYLBR ZUQRQ VVP UGO, XUHFPDUNI FR GSYR DI OH. IYSU AZRUM RCTEVNWWL UB QL GOFENPIEV OYB NEW GRBD, JKP LRU AFPJAV OHQZKK DMF. L PTLJ KYE EZZBY ER N POCGGCI BI TLRK WRQ GSLRN, XPRVSO ZE PLBVS AMCAVF, MCTLKZ RBZ PPLKWXU D VPYXPPRV AZL.

Good luck, code-breakers!