Wednesday, March 30, 2016

FC1Z3U5: Some Puzzling Roman Columns ANSWER

Feeling a bit like a "doric" because you can't solve this week's Mystery Monday puzzle? The answer is after the break!

This week's puzzle had three main components: identifying the cipher, identifying the keyword, and translating the Roman numerals.

The cipher was a Columnar, or Columnar Transposition cipher. (See pages 137-138 in How To Puzzle Cache) This cipher arranges the text into conveniently sized blocks, based on the length of the keyword, and then rearranges the text by alphabetizing the keyword, and shifting the columns of text according to that new order.

So, first we need to identify the keyword! In this case, the puzzle contained the phrase "The order is the key." The word "order" here has a double meaning, one that the cipher rearranges the order, but also the various types of column (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, etc.) are called orders. The column at the bottom is a Doric column, so the word "DORIC" is the cipher keyword.

There are a few decoders online for columnar ciphers, but I had two people who ran into problems because the ones they used ignored the dashes in the text. If you are using an online decoder and you have punctuation in your ciphertext always make sure that the decoder can handle it. With this type of cipher where the ciphertext and cleartext have the same number of characters it is just a matter of counting. Rumkin has my preferred decoder for this.

At the final you'll find the El Jem (or El Djem) Ampitheatre.

The El Jem Ampitheatre is a UNESCO World Heritage site, built in the third century during the height of the Roman Empire. It could originally seat 35,000 spectators!

It is also home to a WhereIGo Geocache, Indiana Jones and the Tunisian Ampitheatre, GC4DWEQ, one of only 73 caches in the entire country of Tunisia!

How did you do with the puzzle this week?

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