MSIG 2011: Future Energy Institute MSIG 2011: Federal Espionage and Intelligence

Secrets Solution

How It Works

  • This puzzle is based around a symbol cipher.
  • Consonants each have their own symbol (not all letters actually exist in the alphabet though)
  • For any consonants that are directly next to each other, their symbols, laid on top of each other, form a combined symbol
  • All consonants are combined until a vowel is reached. Then that symbol(s) are rotated by a certain degree, per the vowel
    • A: 45 degrees counterclockwise
    • E: 45 degrees
    • I: 90 degrees counterclockwise
    • O: 180 degrees
    • U: 90 degrees clockwise
  • The long skinny T is the symbol for a vowel with no consonants in front of it – it's rotated the same way the vowel sign would be. (top of the T is DOWN, here.)

The alphabet

Decoded alphabet

The teams get the dictionary file with the symbol words and the decoded words separately and have to match them up by things like symbol frequency and word length.

The dictionary


Note that the middle symbol in Vendetta above needs a 45 degree rotation.

Keys to start breaking the puzzle:

  • There are six words in the dictionary with Rs and 6 omegas, so you can figure out R
  • OBESITY and PURITY both end in "TY" – this symbol is an arrow up with an upside down V over it, two of the symbol groups end this way
  • The two rules above let you pick out PURITY definitively, which gives you the "P" as well.
  • Words with double letters (HELLO, VENDETTA, etc.) have the same symbol written almost on top of itself, can be used to ID the double letter words

Everything can be somewhat sounded out even if they don't have the whole alphabet down perfectly.

By applying these rules to the encoded phrase, teams can figure out that it actually says THE PASSWORD IS A SECRET PROJECT OR AN AREA IN NEW YORK.



Design Notes

This was originally written to be a bonus puzzle, and I intended for teams to get both a larger dictionary and one where the symbolic representation and the English translation were already paired.

A couple of people have wondered why I did this puzzle as an alphabet cipher instead of something phonetic. There's a couple of reasons. First, the idea for this puzzle came from a code that a friend of mine made up that I learned one summer in college, where letters had symbols, the symbols could be combined together for more efficient writing, and vowels were only represented by modifying the consonents. Sound familiar? Secondly, understanding the IPA is difficult and I was worried about creating confusion - how exactly is "karate" pronounced?

Construction Notes

GC Notes