Four triumph in Codebreaker comp

Laurels for crack quartet

It's been a long, hard month for our would-be codebreakers. I dread to think how many potentially productive hours have been spent bashing our encrypted text into keyboards spattered with tears of frustration. It's a lovely image.

John Elder first cracked he code on 2nd November. Jan Iven was only minutes behind, so we're not going to nit-pick - books and Reg merchandise to both. Keith Monahan secured his copy of The Code Book on the 13th, and Segher Boessenkool (you haven't encrypted a sensible name there have you mate?) snuck in minutes before the deadline.

Now you want to know the solution. The text is an extract from Lorca's Muerte de Antoñito el Camborio (Death of Antoñito el Camborio). Unfair, I hear you cry. Not so.

The poem is among the most famous in the Spanish language. The first line is so well known that submitting it to a search engine should yield a result. Various English translations are also available, as John Elder discovered here. It's not bad, and is reproduced below.

It doesn't necessarily follow that people encrypting text will use their own native language. The Americans employed Navajo during the last war as an extra level of obfuscation. By first translating English into this fiendishly complicated language, then encrypting the result, the US virtually guaranteed total security. Let's face it, the Axis powers' grasp of native American lingo was sketchy to say the least.

We did our encryption using letter substitution and a keyword - in this case our very own merchandising slogan show us the money. We ignored accented Spanish letters such as ñ, replacing them with the closest English equivalent. We removed the spaces between words and inserted arbitrary line breaks. The latter was purely to prevent a page 18 inches wide. The alphabet is rendered thus:

a = s
b = h
c = o
d = w
e = u
f = t
g = e
h = m
i = n
j = y
k = a
l = b
m = c
n = d
o = f
p = g
q = i
r = j
s = k
t = l
u = p
v = q
w = r
x = v
y = x
z = z

Using this and letter frequency analysis, the encrypted text:


gives you:


There's a typo (in bold) on the second line. When you've corrected this and formatted the Spanish, you have the solution. I've put the accented characters in for clarity:

Voces de muerte sonaron
cerca del Guadalquivir.
Voces antiguas que cercan
voz de clavel varonil.
Les clavó sobre las botas
mordiscos de jabalí.
En la lucha daba saltos
jabonados de delfín.
Bañó con sangre enemiga
su corbata carmesí,
pero eran cuatro puñales
y tuvo que sucumbir.
Cuando las estrellas clavan
rejones al agua gris,
cuando los erales sueñan
verónicas de alhelí,
voces de muerte sonaron
cerca del Guadalquivir

In English:

Voices of death resounded beside the Guadalquivir.
Ancient voices surround the manly carnation's voice.
Upon their boots he nailed bites of the wild boar.
In the fight he leapt as slippery as a dolphin.
In his enemies blood he bathed his crimson tie,
but there were four daggers, he had to die.
When the stars nail spears upon the grey water,
when the young bulls dream feints like the wallflower,
voices of death resounded beside the Guadalquivir.

As, noted, John Elder found this translation on the web. Keith Monahan is to be applauded for roping in Irma Castro and Art Diaz and presenting his own creditable effort:

Voices of death sounded
near the Guadalquivir
Ancient Voices that approximate
that of the male carnation
He nailed atop their boots bites of/like a wildboar
In the battle he gaves leaps soaped(immersed/steeped) like a dolphin.
He bathed in enemy blood his crimson tie
But there were 4 daggers and he had to succumb
When the stars stab banderillas in the grey waters
When the bulls dream of veronicas of wallflowers
Voices of death sound near the Guadalquivir

Segher Boessenkool used babelfish. I don't think owners of translation agencies will be suffering any sleepless nights over:

Death of Anto6nito the Camborio
Voices of death sounded near the Guadalquivir.
Old voices that surround manly voice of clavel.
It nailed to them on the dull bites of wild boar.
In the fight it gave jabonados jumps of dolphin.
Bath with enemy blood their crimson necktie, but
was four daggers and had to succumb.
When the stars nail rejones to the gray water,
when the erales dream verónicas of wallflower,
voices of death sounded near the Guadalquivir.

Lorca's probably spinning in his grave though.

Congratulations to our winners. That just leaves us with 16 copies of The Code Book lying around the office. Fear not - we're going to stick them in our big Xmas draw, so you'll still have a chance to get a copy. Let's face it, most of you could use a hand.


So entertaining was the email traffic generated by the Codebreaker competition, that we've compiled the highlights. You can read the full sorry story here.