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Thread: Forum Progress on Box

  1. #1
    MillTycoon is offline Getting the hang of it. Copper MillTycoon is an unknown quantity at this point
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    Default Forum Progress on Box

    To everyone--
    It is a universal belief (based upon the poem) that the puzzles somehow hinge on finding a specific box of letters or numbers and using that as a way to decode information contained within the text or pictures. I personally think that the box is a 5x5 matrix of 25 letters--every one except Q--placed perhaps alphabetically with maybe a different "top left" letter for each puzzle, thus making each of the grids similar but unique. There are about a dozen variations of this idea on the forum (the "I and J" in one box, the E as nary instead of the Q, a 5x3 box--"a code of numbers 'five, two aside'", several ways of using words from the poem as the letters of the box, theories of 16 or 20 boxes, found by just using the outer frames and leaving the inside of the box empty, a code of NUMBERS instead of letters, intended to form zipcodes, etc), but almost everyone thinks that their own idea for the box is the most likely choice.
    So I am puzzled by the fact that we have received so little corroborated confirmation that ANYTHING substantive has been found in ANY matrix of any of the above descriptions. There was one very interesting post about numbers, that when converted from drop cap letters and then added on all four sides of the box, and then reduced to single digits, revealed a very tempting symmetrical matrix of numbers. But this among the only examples of shown and provable progress that I have found in viewing hundreds and hundreds of posts. It seems that any time someone finds something of (what they believe to be) value in a matrix, they refuse to give details of what they have found. Suddenly, we hear a lot of "I have found the 5x5 grid that works and, 'trust me', it is hard but solvable. I’m not going to give away what I did, but you can find some sort of cryptic unhelpful starting point in the leaves of page 86, and work it through from there." I can recognize that people do not want to give away their most cherished secret findings, especially if they think that a token is two days away from being in their hand. But a) no one has claimed to actually have a token yet, despite weeks of people claiming they have discovered the secrets to make their grids work, and b) honestly, if people really think they have pinpointed an exact location and are just a car ride away from a $46,000 butterfly, I'd think the most logical thing to do would be to just not post--rather than posting something cryptic that will create more confusion toward finding that token that, by the time we unravel your difficult instructions, won’t be there anymore. The best way to instrcut people that you have found something is to, well, ACTUALLY FIND it.
    The lack of information about grid progress is unusual; this forum is not otherwise one of general reticence when it comes to noticing things. On seemingly all other subjects, people post freely and copiously (even to a fault). Examples: The poem, which seems to have been unknown to many in January, has since been stated clearly in this forum and corroborated many times. Not every single person has agreed with every single word in the poem ("with on(e)" or name vs. maze, for instance), but because people showed their work, most of the poem is now a deeply held consensus. It is now a deeply held consensus that the hidden pairs of animals have all been found, and most people know where they are without confusion. Again, someone at some point spelled it out for the forum. Or, rather, 30 people came to the same conclusion and posted it at the same time. And 500 other people confirmed these findings as logical and valid. People have unashamedly translated and spoken about the Morse code on page 31, “find the tree’s hole” on page 63, the anagram of Rusful to Sulfur, the “look in me” clue, the fact that the colors of the squares on page 86 match those on page 16, the possible US map on page 46, the writing in the border of page 77, and a dozen other clues. Someone must have originally done the work to decipher these things. Someone apparently either made the decision that it would be beneficial to them, or to the forum as a whole to enter these clues into our consciousness, or they got a sense of satisfaction at showing their work--showing that they were the first to find something interesting. And everyone absorbed these clues and now (perhaps) we have a better understanding of what we are looking for.
    I’m not looking for someone to solve this puzzle for me. This hunt is about noticing things and trying to figure them out rather than just scrolling through the forum until we happen upon all of the solutions--buried somewhere among the posts. But currently HUNDREDS of people are just mapping and re-mapping their ideas onto 5x5 grids through brute trial and error. And, as I mentioned, there has been almost no public sign of progress to lead anyone to the belief that a specific one of these grid ideas is correct, or even that any of these grids with any sets of coordinates or anagrams or ciphers yields ANYTHING that looks like English. "PUDKTWIZHJPWSY" _could_ be a great discovery that just needs to be ciphered or Caesar-shifted, but maybe it is just evidence of a completely wrong assumption carried out to a bunch of matrix jibberish. There is no posted indication that almost anybody is even close to being on the right track (or for those who claim they are, there is usually no opportunity to mass-verify this claim). For a puzzle trying to be solved by thousands of people, people who are mostly not shy about sharing the tiniest detail of their thought processes, I am befuddled by the lack of collective, corroborated progress on the properties of the box--something seemingly so crucial to unlocking the mysteries of the book. It's a pessimistic realization.

  2. #2
    destructo is offline Banned Aquamarine destructo is an unknown quantity at this point
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    Wow, that's a lot to digest.

    I just wanted to say that this thread has the great honor of being #12345. Cool, huh? Look up at your address bar, you'll see what I mean.
    I guess I'll see you all in a few months when post 123,456 makes it on the board. :cP

  3. #3
    LanceC is offline Junior Twelever Bronze LanceC is an unknown quantity at this point
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    I agree with you about the lack of success about the 5x5 box. I don't think it's for lack of trying or ideas. I've tried as many "logical" combinations that I can come up with, with pre and post processing. I haven't had any luck either.

    That being said, I think there's something to it.

  4. #4
    Milou's Avatar
    Milou is offline Junior Twelever +1 Bronze Milou is an unknown quantity at this point
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    Great post Mill Tycoon!

    To me it seems that the reason that we have the clues we have today, is that the people who first found them, did not see anything special with them. Most of it is in fact written in plain text as well. That is frustrating. Not one clue has had any directions in it. Not one! But yet, as you said, people claim on a daily basis that they KNOW...

  5. #5
    pooksniffer is offline Needs to say Hello! pooksniffer is an unknown quantity at this point
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    Thanks for venting MillTycoon...I know I've been feeling the same, but just couldn't express it. I do feel better now! I felt optimistic when looking at pooklover's post and Milou's work on possible symmetry of the 5x5...they were recognizing some structure and possible clues. Here are some of my thoughts...

    To me, more important than finding a matrix is the question of how are we going to use it? Where do we have clues that tell us how to use the 5x5 matrix? One such clue is the "A code of numbers five to a side" from the poem. One interpretation is to label the rows and columns of the 5x5 with 1 to 5, then use (i,j) index pairs to get the cipher letter. There are, however, several ways to use these (i,j) pairs. See www.und.nodak.edu/org/crypto/crypto/.chap08.html for a list of "puzzle type" ciphers (after all I doubt Mr. Stadther picked two large relatively prime numbers, hid them, and is doing RSA encryption!).

    OK, so suppose we have some ways to relate letters in the 5x5 matrix to pairs of numbers. So the question is: What or where are these pairs of numbers? Are they hidden as such in the pictures? Are they to represent the letters of the English alphabet (sans "Q")? I.e., indexed as follows: (1,1)=A, (1,2)=B...(5,5)=Z, so that the letter "A" <-> (1,1) <-> whatever matrix replacement letter. This is just one such mapping and an obvious one at that. Though one could have reasons or independent clues to justify that the matrix they found is a likely candidate for a possible cipher, I just don't see how having a 5x5 matrix alone is going to cause an epiphany without some clues as to where to look for what is enciphered. Which leads me to the following...I don't know about you, but lately I'm feeling like Clara Peller from that old Wendy's commercial. Instead of "Where's the beef?" I'm left asking "Where's the ciphertext?"

    1) Is it hidden in the pictures? This could be the case and would be harder to recognize. It is hard enough to see the messages that are actual English words. I fear that ciphertext, if a jumble of letters, would be even harder for one to recognize and be confident it was relevant and correct. People would doubt or abandon what they've found since "it isn't even a word".

    2) Is it hidden in the text? Maybe, but if so, not as an obvious "jumble of letters". So how could that be possible? Is it hidden in words, like the third letter of every word? Is it hidden in fanciful lists of characters: "Flower Fairies, Kootenstoopits, Pickensrooters" or "tam-o-jack's, grubinmoles, cawcats"...

    Maybe the ciphertext is just plain English sentences. However, this seems to me very hard to do. There are only two ciphers from the site listed above that give ciphertext as non-jibberish: The "Baconian" and "Null" ciphers. Does anyone know of any others? Basically, to do this, the cipher has to allow for a great degree of freedom on what letters get substituted. I started to think of how this might be possible. One idea was to use a Vigenere cipher, except instead of constraining oneself to just single shift of the alphabet, allow the cipher to use any permutation of the alphabet for a given letter. Also, if the plaintext is kept short relative to the key word length, re-use of key letters can be minimized. E.g., the substitution alphabet for the second occurrence of say, "O", could map it to a completely different letter than the substitution for the first occurrence of "O" since a different keyword letter (hence different alphabet permutation) would be used.

    Here is an example I created using a modified Vigenere (with "Q" omitted). Both plaintext and resulting ciphertext are English phrases.

    key =        | D O C T O R S E U S S S A M I A M
    plaintext =  | i d o n o t l i k e t h e m (note: shorter than keyword)
    ciphertext = | G R E E N E G G A N D H A M
    keyword with word separation: DOCTOR SEUSS SAM I AM
    plaintext with word separation: i do not like them
    ciphertext with word separation: GREEN EGG AND HAM
    K (key) a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p - r s t u v w x y z  (plaintext)
    ------- ---------------------------------------------------       
      A     E B C D A F G H I J K L M N O P - R S T U V W X Y Z
      B     B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P R - S T U V W X Y Z A
      C     C D S F G H I J K L M N O P E R - T U V W X Y Z A B
      D     D E F L H I J K G M N O P T R S - U V W X Y Z A B C
      E     E F M H I J K L G N O P U R S T - V W X Y Z A B C D
      F     F G H I J K L M N O P V R S T U - W X Y Z A B C D E
      G     G H I J K L M N O P W R S T U V - X Y Z A B C D E F
      H     H I J K L M N O P X R S T U V W - Y Z A B C D E F G
      I     I J K L M N O P Y R S T U V W X - Z A B C D E F G H
      J     J K L M N O P Z R S T U V W X Y - A B C D E F G H I
      K     K L M N O P A R S T U V W X Y Z - B C D E F G H I J
      L     L M N O P B R S T U V W X Y Z A - C D E F G H I J K
      M     Y N O P C R S T U V W X M Z A B - D E F G H I J K L  ciphertext
      N     N O P D R S T U V W X Y Z A B C - E F G H I J K L M      
      O     O P E R S T U V W X Y Z A B N D - F G H I J K L M C
      P     P F R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D E - G H I J K L M N O
      -     - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
      R     R S T U V W X Y Z A B C D K F G - I J E L M N O P H
      S     S T U V N X Y H A B C G L F E Z - J K D M W O P I R
      T     T U V W X Y Z A B C D G F E H I - K L M N O P J R S
      U     U V W X Y Z E B C D A F G H I J - L M N O P K R S T
      V     V W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K - M N O P L R S T U
      W     W X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L - N O P M R S T U V
      X     X Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M - O P N R S T U V W
      Y     Y Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N - P O R S T U V W X
      Z     Z A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O - P R S T U V W X Y
    Constructing such a cipher can get a bit tricky since if a keyword letter is repeated too often, you will run into "collisions" when trying to construct the alphabet cipher for the key letter. For example. If the ciphertext I wanted would have been "GREEN EGG AND NACHOS", the mapping (key,plainletter,cipherletter) = (S,e,N) already mapped "e" (of "like") to "N", so I would've been stuck in row S when trying to map "h" (of "them") to "N" (of "NACHOS")...there would've been two occurrences of "N" in the row which isn't allowed.

    This doesn't involve a 5x5 matrix, but I am just trying to offer ideas on cipher possibilities and a possible reason we aren't recognizing any "obvious ciphertext" in the story...maybe the ciphertext isn't jibberish.

  6. #6
    LanceC is offline Junior Twelever Bronze LanceC is an unknown quantity at this point
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    Great post! This idea has been lingering in my mind, but I hadn't come up with a way to verbalize it.

    Regarding the "where's the beef" theory. I agree! "within the text you have the key"... is great, but I have to use the key on something! I don't see any clues about where the ciphertext is

    One of my thoughts is that the cipher text might be found using the 5x5 grid. As forewarning, this gets complicated looking.

    1) generate a 5x5 grid (tons of combinations)
    2) decipher grid to ciphertext (eg. via i,j locations, from,say the mushrooms on pg 100). This results in gibberish.
    3) decipher this using a vignere cipher.

    In reality, this isn't hard to do really. The trick is finding the right keys for each step.
    1) key for the 5x5 grid (could be a,b,c,d.. or coudl start with "bettle" collapsed down to "betl")
    2) no key involved. Just decipher via the i,j (or other)
    3) possiblly two keys involved. Your example appears to use two keys for the vignere, much like the Kryptos cipher mentioned in the companion book. Instead of using "abcdef.." for each of the 26 lines in the vignere matrix, a keyword (collapsed, like bettle->betl) is used. That's how Kryptos works too. Then the "regular" vignere keyword is used to decipher the ciphertext.

    What makes this interesting is that each step is actually pretty easy, but it's difficult to decipher due to the massive combination of keys. You have to KNOW.

    Note that the Kryptos cipher hasn't been fully broken yet! There's a last section that has resisted deciphering. One theory is that it's double encrypted -- that is a single pass through a vignere won't reval the plaintext -- it'll have to be deciphered again from there. This makes knowing if you're on the right track rather difficult.

    Given the long time span Mr. Stadther has provided for the puzzle, I wouldn't be surprised if something like this is possible.

  7. #7
    Doc is offline Expert Twelever TwelevePlus
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    Good morning from an overcast spring day in Dallas, TX.

    Since I'm a big proponent of the 5 x 5 grid, and you're feeling frustrated (and you're not alone) about this, I thought I'd post this there.

    Two divergent problems converged this morning into what I hope is an understanding, and I wanted to share it with everyone.

    1. The letter sequences I'm deriving do NOT fulfill any simple definition of 'an even code with one piece nary'. The missing 'Q' fulfills the 'one piece nary' part, but the rest doesn't work.

    The simplest, logical thing to do, in my opinion, is to use the 2nd, 4th, 6th, etc. letters of these letter strings. After doing that, the resulting sequence DOES fulfill a simple definition of 'an even code with one piece nary'.

    2. When I first posted my ideas about using directions and walking through a 5 x 5 grid of letters, some very intelligent people responded and said that the method was flawed for various mathematical reasons. I've never disagreed with them (still don't), but it's put me in a state of confusion over several months because the clues DO seem to point me in that direction.

    These two problems/ideas might converge.

    If the 'even code' is right, then you only use every other letter.

    This would mean you take TWO steps in a 5 x 5 grid to obtain the correct letter to create this 'even code'.


    In this way, our author could encode anything his devious little brain desires.


  8. #8
    jayhawker is offline Junior Twelever Copper jayhawker is an unknown quantity at this point
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    What about the letter string (like a e k m e...) but just so happens that you started m e...a e.k What I am trying to say is that the whole letter string would have started off different. How do you know where to start your string if it is not that obvious....you would end up with different results. I hope this makes sense.


  9. #9
    sk8tingmom is offline Junior Twelever Bronze sk8tingmom is an unknown quantity at this point
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    Maybe I missed something or I'm just not looking at things in the right way. I thought the alphabet was the even code and the Q was the one piece nary.

    I think you do need a string of letters- the alphabet minus Q. To me the most logical place to look for this is on pg. 63.

  10. #10
    Cisco_Kid's Avatar
    Cisco_Kid is offline Junior Twelever Copper Cisco_Kid is an unknown quantity at this point
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doc
    Good morning from an overcast spring day in Dallas, TX.
    Welcome to Dallas! I've been following your posts. You'r e just a little too smart for me At any rate, I was wondering if you have tried omiting the letters as you navigate through the grid and seeing what letters are left on the grid when all the others have been blacked out?


    It's not rocket surgery!


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