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Fall In Love With New Word Games All Over Again With This Cryptoquote Helper

Updated on September 13, 2014
Yes, you too, can  master cryptoquip puzzles!
Yes, you too, can master cryptoquip puzzles! | Source
Do you find cryptoquip puzzles… well, puzzling?
Do you find cryptoquip puzzles… well, puzzling? | Source

Follow These Simple Steps To Make Decoding Cryptograms, Child's Play!

As an avid crypto solver, give me a pencil and the Entertainment section of my newspaper, and I'm a happy camper. I used to spent many a pleasant hour happily solving word jumbles and crosswords. However, I habitually skipped the illusive Crytoquote in my local paper. One glance at that jumbled mess of letters, and a little chill went up my spine (I definitely could have used a cryptogram helper!). However, one day my pride got the best of me and I studiously began trying to make sense out of the jumbled mess, only to fail miserably and come to the conclusion that there was a far superior group of puzzle-solvers out there than I.

These days, I've practically abandoned all other word puzzle games in favor of any type of crypto puzzle. I relish the challenge of my new favorite pastime--anything crypto! Crytoquotes, cryptograms and cryptoquips have definitely brought out the sleuth in me, and in what used to take me days, I can now finish before lunch!

Why are crypto's so cool? Maybe because it requires us to use all of the skills we've developed with our other word puzzle activities, it's like the ultimate cross-training. Or perhaps it's simply that everyone likes to do what they do best, and once you discover you can master this, you get sense of deep satisfaction. I really think it's the suspense. You can be struggling with a two or three letter word, you've hit the wall and are about give up; then, five minutes later Eureka!, a single move opens up the floodgate of new clues.

Now that I've passed my learning curve, I believe I can share with you a methodology that will help you enjoy the challenging world of solving cryptoquotes, soon. First I'll cover the basic steps and strategy I use, and follow that by walking you through the process of solving actual puzzles. We'll do three cryptoquips, and one cryptoquote.

Cryptogram: "A cryptogram, or crypt for short, is a coded message in which each letter is replaced throughout by another letter wherever it appears. The term for this is a simple substitution cypher. This means of encoding data goes back at least as far as the Romans although, today, it is suitable only for entertainment." -The National Puzzler's League-Cryptoquip: "A Cryptoquip is a simple puzzle where a phrase, usually corny, uses different letters for the actual letter. It involves a lot of brainwork. Usually there will be more to the puzzle to help you, but if nothing helps, always think of something generic, corny and simple."

Cryptoquote: "a famous quote encrypted in the same way as a Cryptogram" -Wikipedia

Cryptoquiz: This puzzle starts off at the top with a category (unencrypted). For example, "Flowers" might be used. Below this is a list of encrypted words which are related to the stated category. The person must then solve for the entire list to finish the puzzle. -Wikipedia

WARNING: I'm actually solving these as I write—so I may get stumped. In that case, you'll have to finish it for me!

Common Short Words

1 Letter
2 Letters
3 Letters

Building the Building Blocks, Simple As A, B, C

A. Letter Hunt: With only six vowels, decoding a couple of small words will reveal vowels that will be sprinkled throughout the rest if the phrase. Additionally, with only six characters, focusing on vowels also enables you to use the process of elimination quite effectively.

To decode letters, look for a combination of small words that have coded letters in common. Yes, it's a bit of trial and error, but just as in Black Jack, you assume all cards to have the value of most of the cards, ten. In that light, the beginning we always go with the most common words. For example, the most commonly used two-letter words might be: in, at, it, is, on, if, of and to. We can always go back and use the eraser later.

Once we have a few letters in place, we test our guesses by looking for our decoded letter(s) in combinations within words elsewhere. For example, common reoccurring groups of letters in English words are: th, ing, and able. Sometimes, we'll discover more letters to finish the group combo. For example, if we see alb-, we can plug in the e for "able," or "in" near the end of a word may be "ing' or "ine." Then you can decode those letters throughout the puzzle.

B. Word Hunt: Now use your Scrabble skills—yes, I already know you're into word games! With the letter-check and decoding in place, we can safely look for words. Here are a couple of general clues:

  • The combo "TH" is used a lot, especially in the beginning of words, so if you see a set of two characters that show up repeatedly at the beginning of words, there's a good chance it's a TH.
  • When you find a word with an apostrophe just before the last letter, chances are that letter will be an S, or maybe a D or T, as in she's, he'd, wouldn't.
  • E is the most often used letter in the English language.

Pay dirt is when you solve a larger, more uncommon word. It gives you more letters to decode throughout, more consonants which make it much easier to guess words from, and sometimes a hint at the context of your puzzle.

C. Phrase Hunt: Finally use your Wheel Of Fortune skills! With several words in place, you should start to notice the sentence flow, and get a gist of the topic. This is when you might hit a Eureka! moment—where suddenly several words will just tumble out at you! As you figure out phrases, you'll also notice when a word you had previously decoded doesn't make sense. You can fix that, and then use those newly decoded letters throughout your phrase.

OK. Here we go!

Cryptoquip #1 (t=l)



#1 "T equals L"

Step A. Follow me to the letter.

Our clue letter "L" gives us a nice start by basically giving us the first word. When we fill the L's in, we see _LL (from PTT), which we can easily assume is ALL. Sure, it could be ill, but remember our Blackjack theory, in the beginning we go for the most common, therefore, the most likely, words.

1. Fill in the clue and decoded letters A,and L (P,T).

2. Now look for a couple of small coded words that have these letters, or letters in general in common. In this case we have "GV" and "YV". Perfect, now brainstorm the possibilities excluding the decoded A. I came up with on/in, in/on, to/go, go/to, it/at, me/be, he/be (we/be wouldn't work because there is no way it makes grammatical sense laid out in that phrase, and I'm not sure about me/be).

Now eliminate words with pre-decoded letters. Since the A is decoded, we're left with: on/in, in/on,

4. Identify your code letter possibilities using those words. Using the sets above:

  • decoded G could be O, I, T, G, M, or H
  • decoded V could be N, O, or E
  • decoded Y could be O, I, G, or B

5. Now let's look for another smallish word that used any decoded letters (A,L), and/or possibilities from number 4.

  • "PYNLK" will work, it has one decoded letter (A), and has one of our letter possibilities 'Y". According to what we've done so far, the decoded part reads: A_ _ _ _.
  • Plugging our possibilities, we get AO_ _ _, AI_ _ _, AG_ _ _, and AB_ _ _,
  • Eliminate: AO because it's so uncommon, it could be aorta, but I doubt it.
  • That leaves words beginning with AI. AG and AB. I quickly, come up with a list of: aisle, atone, again, aloud, about, aglow.

5. Again we can eliminate all words mith decoded letter (L), so that leaves ATONE and ABOUT.

6. Now we're going to scan to see how these letters look when used in the rest of the phrase. Plug in the letters, first from ATONE, and then from ABOUT, to see if anything looks like English.

  • T= Y, O=N, N=L, E=K; or
  • B= Y, O=N, U=L, T=K

Eureka! When I do this, I see that the letters from the word ABOUT also make these common combinations: BLE--at the end of a word, OUL--in the middle of a word, and TH--in the beginning of a word. I take my leap of faith… "ABOUT" it is!

7. Decode (Y, N, L, K), filling in the B's, O's, U's and T's.

Now we have this:



Ok; I just had another Eureka! moment. When I look at this puzzle, a word jumps out at me. For some reason I see DOBBHBLV as POSSIBLY. This is going to happen more and more often to you also, the more you work through these. Then, to help confirm, I see the Y (V) works in the word BV to decode to BY.

Decode all of the D, B, H, and V's to P, S, I, and Y's.


Step B: A word please.

8. With a breakthrough of having several letters decoded, A, L, B, O, U, T, P, S, and Y's, (P, T, Y, N, L, K, D, B, and V) we can scan the puzzle for any likely words. With only six vowels available, over half are now decoded. Now's the time to to focus on getting that first big word--which adds more consonants, which makes it much easier to guess more words! Continue to look for the obvious letter combinations and common, shorter words.

9. Scan for words containing decoded letters.

  • (XNLTI), which now reads _OUL_. This looks like it might be WOULD or COULD; are you with me? Let's go ahead and pencil in "D"s for "I"s. To decode the X, let's look for it somewhere else. Looking at the coded word "ERVX", with V already decoded to "E", we can safely assume "X" is NOT a "C" as very few words end in EC. Therefore, X must be "W" and our next decoded word is WOULD. Decode all W and D's.
  • (BLDDNBRHW), now reads SUPPOSI_ _, looks like SUPPOSING, decode all N and G's.
  • (BNCV), now reads SO_Y, hmm, one of these letters is wrong. If I go back to the words they came from, I can see the Y in POSSIBLY could also be an E. That makes the previous word look more likely. I'm going to recode all of the V's to E's.
  • (DNBBHYTV) now reads, POSSIBLE.
  • (BNCV), now reads SO_E.
  • (ERVX), now reads _ NEW, and it looks like KNEW. Decode E to K's.
  • (KGHRWB), now reads THINGS.
  • (GPREB), now reads _ANKS.
  • (GV), now reads _E.
  • (BV), needs to be corrected from BY to BE.
  • (KNC-RHBFHVRK), now reads TOM-EIS_IENT.

Step C: In what context?

10. There's a few holes, but I want to look at the phrase now, seeing if I can make any sense out of it. It reads: SUPPOSING SO_E AD_E_ KNEW ALL POSSIBLE THINGS ABOUT A_TO_ _ANKS, WOULD _E BE TOM-EIS_IENT?

  • I want to fill in WOULD HE BE, which means we can also fill in HANKS.
  • The words TOM HANKS jump out at, which helps us fill in the word ACTOR and TOM-EISCIENT. Ha! I see the word play!

To finish up, it looks like this:


Cryptoquip #2 (x=t)



#2 "X equals T"

Step A: To the letter.

Oh man, we're lucky on this one. For the second cryptoquip, the letter "T" is given as the clue. Not only is that a very common letter; there is also a word here that's almost impossible to get wrong. Once we have filled in all of the T's, you'll notice a special letter group that's easy to decode. See XSLX.

NOTE: "That" is an easy word to find because of the repeating 'T's and it is used so often. It might look something like one of these: FOUF, NUWN, IDEI (Here it looks like this XSLX)

1. Fill in the clue letter and decoded Letters: T,H,A,T (XSLX)

Step B: Find the right word.

2. Scan for words containing decoded letters.

  • (BLZ'X), now _A_'T looks like CAN'T; Decode all C and N's.
  • (SG'J), now H_'_ looks like HE'S; Decode all E and S's.
  • (JXGR), now STE_ looks like STEP
  • (XI), now T_ looks like TO. Decode all O's
  • (RELX), now WA_T, looks like WAIT. Decode all I's
  • (LKRLU), now A_ _A_S, looks like ALWAYS. Decode all K, W, and Y's.
  • (JXGR), is now revealed as STEW (correct 'STEP')
  • (BMIBP), now C_OCK looks like CLOCK
  • (BLTG) is now revealed as COOKING
  • (RLXBSDZQ) is now revealed as WATCHING
  • (TDZDJS), now _INISH, looks like FINISH. Decode all F's.
  • (BLTG) is now revealed as CAFE

NOTE: The context of the phrase helped me with the words CAN'T WAIT; and I mis-decoded stew into step at first. I corrected it when I found the W.

Step C: The quest for context.

3. With all of these words revealed, and paying special attention to the word "stew" and "cafe" for hints at the context, we see this:


Using our Wheel Of Fortune skills, we can easily finish decoding and solve the puzzle. When we decode 'worker' and the R is revealed, we see 'clock' was wrong; it should be 'crock'.


Cryptoquip #3 (q=m)



#3 "Q equals M"

Step A: Letter perfect.

For this cryptoquip, the letter "M" is given as the clue. Once we fill in all of the M's, it's pretty easy to see what "R" is. Looking at the small word "R'Q"; the only way to use the R is as an I, as in I'M.

1. When scanning for small words, the best thing you can find is a single letter word because there are only two possibilities for a single letter word; "A" or "I". In this case, we found one! It's the "R"; since we already decoded the "R", it confirms our decoding so far. Decode all of the I's.

NOTE: A single letter word is always an "A" or "I"

2. Look for a couple of small words to decode that have letters in common. We already decoded R'Q (I'M), so let's build on that with "QI", there's really aren't any other smallish words with these letters in common. Working with the QI, if Q is M, this word is either ME or MY. Because of the layout of the sentence, we can see that it is unlikely that the word is ME. (I'm something, something my something.) Let's go ahead and plug in the Y's. There is only other one and it's at the end of a word, which is a logical lace for a Y.

3. Since we don't have any more two or three letter coded words with any of the letters we've decoded, we'll have to take a couple of new small words with new letters in common.

  • Working with FW and RW, a few possibilities that come to mind, excluding anything with an "I" are: of/if, an/on, to/so, he/be. Let's test by finding another word with any of the coded letters F and W . The coded word ARWOC, has one, plus the decoded "I". And the longer coded word OFEECRWC has a couple plus the decoded "I".
  • AI (W) OC: W could be F, N, O or E. Since IO is an uncommon letter combination, I'm going to eliminate to/so. That leaves a possible: _IF_ _, _IN_ _, or _IE__ _.
  • In looking at the last coded letter again, C, I notice it occurs pretty frequently, and at the end of a few words. I want to try an E there. When I look at the middle possibility with the E, it looks like this _IN_E, and I want to go for SINCE.
  • O(F)EECI(W)C: F could be O, A, T or H; and W could be F, N, or E. But let's continue with the premise above and see what happens when we decode the same letters here: CA_ _ EI_E
    Do you see what I see, maybe it's the EI, but I'm thinking this is CAFFEINE!
  • Going back to our two small words this is how they look: AN, IN. So good so far, let's continue in this vein.

NOTE: In English, E is used more times than any other letter in the alphabet.

Step B: No loss for words.

4. With a bunch of letters in place, it's time to hunt for words. These are the letters decoded so far: I (R), M (Q), Y (I), S (A), N (W), C (O), E (C), A (F), F(E)! We scan the phrase carefully making sure to decode every instance. And, of the words affected, here's what we find:

  • YRLC is now _I_E, considering the phrase, Since I ----, this must be LIKE. Decode K (L) and L's (Y).
  • NZPJ is now _ RO_. Let's wait with this one.
  • WCAGCF is now NES_EA and I'm going to go ahead and put in the word buzzing in my head, NESTEA, hoping this is a puzzle about beverages. If I'm right T is a great letter to put in place. Decode T(G).
  • ECFGMCZRWD was FEAT _E_IN_, and is now FEA_ _E_IN_, oh…FEATHERING! Decode H (M), R (Z) and G's (D).
  • PAGZROM was _ST _I_ _, and is now _STRICH, which looks like OSTRICH! Decode O's (P).
  • GP is TO.
  • JYTQC is _L _ ME; I got nothing.
  • NZRWLA was _ _ _N_S, and is now _RINKS, which looks like DRINKS. Decode D's (N). And going back to NZPJ, which is now DRO_, so let's go with DROP. Decode P's (J); and JYTQC is now PL_ME, which must be PLUME. Decode U's (T).
  • ZCDTYFZYI was _ E _ _ _ A_ _ Y, and is now RE_ULARLY. Easy to see, REGULARLY.

Step C: Contextually speaking.

Alrighty then! Turns out we've decoded every word!


Crytoquote #1 (No Clue)


#4 Cryptoquote

Ready for the Big Game?

Our last puzzle is a Cryptoquote. In my local paper, the Cryptoquips come with one letter given, and the Cryptoquotes have none. It took me awhile to start doing the Cryptoquotes, but once I started, again, they're the ones I prefer.

NOTE: Advice for Cryptoquotes; never ignore the name of the author which is usually part of the puzzle. I had many Eureka! moments by solving the name of the author before making much headway in the actual quote.

Step A: Letters

We're off to a good start. A quick glance through the puzzle shows me we have the illusive single letter word—almost as good as a clue!

1. Coded "O" must be an I or an A. By the placement of it in the sentence, toward the end, my bet is on A. Let's look for some smaller words that also have an O.

  • SQOS: Ha! The easily recognizable "THAT"
  • YOC: Could be was or has.
  • OWA: This is a name, possibly ART, could it be ART CARNEY, no the A's don't match up.

2. I'm going to jump to another word, SQA, at the beginning of the sentence. I would have tried it as THE because of it's placement, and the decoded "THAT" confirms it. Let's decode the T, H, A, and E's (S, Q, O, and A).

3. I look at the name again, and can only come up with ABE, although ABE LINCOLN does not work out. Decode B's.

4. Eureka! Looking at the second word I now have T___B_E, which looks good. "B_E" seems to beg for me to plug in an L for BLE. Confirming the B, with the word now looking like "TROUBLE". Decode R, O, U, and L (M, D, P and T).

3. Looking at the third word, in context of "The trouble _ _ th", we fill in WITH. Decode W and I.

Step B: Words

5. With that many letters decoded, and bunched at the beginning, let's dig right in. So far we have:

  • MASRMANAUS is now, RETIRE_E_T, and so looks like RETIREMENT, decode M and N's (N and U).
  • RZ easily decodes to IS. Decode S (Z).
  • CDP, in context of "is that _ou", easily decodes to YOU. Decode Y's (C).
  • UAFAM, in context of "is that you NE_ER", easily decodes to NEVER. Decode V's (F).

We're in that gray area of whether we're decoding for words or phrases; using clues from both context and letter arrangement. Since we're halfway done solving the puzzle, let's jump to Step C.

Step C: Context (or phrases)


I think we can easily get to the final answer: THE TROUBLE WITH RETIREMENT IS THAT YOU NEVER GET A DAY OFF. -- ABE LEMONS

There's Even An Ap For That.

Ready To Solve Your Own?

The Entertainment section of your local newspaper is a great place to look for Crytp puzzles. However, you can also find free crypto puzzles on line at these web sites:

Cryptograms Source: Back issues of the Accent Section of The Palm Beach Post, editions: 7/31/2013, 8/25/2013, and 12/06/2013
Cryptograms Source: Back issues of the Accent Section of The Palm Beach Post, editions: 7/31/2013, 8/25/2013, and 12/06/2013 | Source

What's Your Crypto level?

How good are you at solving cryptograms?

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    • EGamboa profile imageAUTHOR

      Eileen Gamboa 

      4 years ago from West Palm Beach

      Thank you Alicia, for that insight. I had assumed most newspapers probably had crypto puzzles. And thanks for reading!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Crypto puzzles sound like great fun! Thanks for the detailed help and for the links to websites that have the puzzles. I don't recall seeing crypto puzzles in my local newspapers, so I'll visit the websites.


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