Özcan Türkmen, a German-born software engineer and art critic living in Turkey, recently published this solution for the unsolved 340-character cipher:
Halt Idiot Paul, Presidio killing. Lord of sick mankind killed all idiots, silly morons; am psycho, ain’t stop killing the people skid into lair of lion. I like doodles (old oils/odd dolls?) and the gasoline stamps, cloning the weird fossils in detail, hiking trails of Orland memorial (?). Stein, I was disdaining killing the idiot. In case the kids look over soon. I’m killer. I am the lion slower than snail, silent sneaking killer serpent, king lion, I am the apocalypse trials (?).
You can click the text above to read Türkmen’s article about how he came up with the solution. You can also read a Turkish-language article reporting on his solution.
Unfortunately, this solution suffers from the overuse of anagrams, which permit too many alternative solutions. With so many alternative solutions, we can’t determine which solution is correct, without stronger evidence.
To illustrate this weakness, consider the plaintext “AORDLIDKNMSFCIN” which appears in his solution. This stream of plaintext occurs when Türkmen applies his substitution key to the cipher text, which Türkmen re-arranges to form the phrase “LRD OF SIC MANKIND”. While this phrase seems vaguely Zodiac-like, look at all the other words that can also be made from the very same letters:
INFRASONIC, INSOMNIAC, CRIMINALS, IRONCLADS, MANDOLINS, MANIFOLDS, AIRLOCKS, MANIKINS, ANDIRONS, INSOMNIA, MANIFOLD, ANDROIDS, CLARIONS, MANDRILS, MIDLANDS, AIRFOILS, INFORMAL, CORDIALS, CRIMINAL, CALDRONS, DISCLAIM, CALFSKIN, IRONCLAD, SARDONIC, IRONICAL, DIAMONDS, MANDOLIN, CONFIRMS, ORDINALS, CALDRON, MANIOCS, MANSION, DIRNDLS, ANDROID, ODALISK, MIKADOS, NOMINAL, MAFIOSI, NIMRODS, MARLINS, MANKIND, CONFIRM, FORMALS, NORMALS, KINSMAN, MICRONS, MACRONS, AMNIONS, MIDAIRS, MANIKIN, NIACINS, INSOFAR, AIRFOIL, FINICAL, FINIALS, SIRLOIN, INNARDS, CORDIAL, INLANDS, ANIONIC, INFOLDS, DOMAINS, DIAMOND, LIAISON, FLORINS, ANDIRON, INFORMS, ALMONDS, AIRLOCK, SILICON, CLARION, FROLICS, FALCONS, INCISOR, CANDORS, INROADS, CLAMORS, MISLAID, NONACID, CRIMSON, ORDAINS, NOMADIC, KAOLINS, DISCARD, MINIONS, MANDRIL, MIDLAND, DISDAIN, DISCORD, AIRSICK, OILSKIN, SIMILAR, NONSKID, ORDINAL, RADIOS, ORDAIN, FROCKS, FAKIRS, MICROS, CANDID, MIKADO, FLICKS, DOMAIN, NADIRS, SALMON, ACORNS, FORMIC, CALIFS, DISMAL, FINIAL, CAROMS, RANDOM, CRANKS, DAMSON, LAIRDS, RAISIN, DISARM, MOLARS, ROMANS, DIRNDL, FIASCO, MIDAIR, CASINO, RADONS, RANCID, NORMAL, CAROLS, CLAIMS, FISCAL, ANIONS, INLAND, RACISM, FRONDS, DORSAL, MACRON, RANSOM, CLOAKS, CLINKS, DRINKS, FINALS, SILICA, AMNION, FRANCS, MARLIN, FLAIRS, ADORNS, FLACKS, NIMROD, FLORAS, CANONS, FLOCKS, MANIOC, SOLIDI, INLAID, CLONKS, FLANKS, CORALS, INROAD, CONMAN, ALMOND, MICRON, CANDOR, CLAMOR, KARMIC, MACROS, SIMIAN, FIORDS, SAILOR, NORDIC, FLORIN, MANICS, SOCIAL, FLORID, NOMADS, MODALS, MORALS, FROLIC, SORDID, CLANKS, FORMAL, FALCON, DINARS, IRONIC, INFOLD, IDIOMS, MINORS, KIDDOS, NIACIN, MOSAIC, MANORS, KAOLIN, CROAKS, ISLAND, MISDID, FRANKS, DRAINS, MINION, CAIRNS, INFIRM, INFORM, CRAMS, NARKS, NAIFS, SNARL, CILIA, NORMS, MONKS, SICKO, ADORN, CALMS, FOLKS, SCRIM, MORNS, RAIDS, SNAIL, RANIS, COALS, KINDA, FLACK, MANIC, CLANS, CLONK, DIDOS, ADIOS, DRAMS, ROAMS, COLAS, MINOR, MINKS, CRANK, MINIS, ORALS, INFOS, AMIRS, CLAMS, FIORD, FROND, MILKS, RINDS, CLAIM, FLANS, DIALS, CORAL, IRONS, OINKS, DRANK, MIDIS, CAROM, RADIO, CAROL, CLODS, FIRMS, COLDS, SCORN, MICRO, MICRA, MICAS, RAILS, ARSON, DARNS, MOILS, NARCS, FAKIR, NAILS, SCARF, FINIS, FAILS, MARKS, FOCAL, ANION, NODAL, SCION, CLANK, LAIRD, CAIRN, SOLID, DAMNS, NICKS, SOLAR, FINKS, LACKS, DADOS, FLASK, FOLDS, COIFS, ROMAN, RADII, COMAS, RADON, RIALS, MAILS, DOCKS, SCALD, ACORN, MISDO, CALIF, FRAIL, CALFS, MORAL, FLOCK, DORMS, MACRO, SNACK, RAINS, INFRA, LORIS, LORDS, DIRKS, LOINS, FINAL, LOCKS, ACRID, RANKS, LOANS, MOLDS, LOAMS, DARKS, LOAFS, DICKS, LOADS, MILDS, CORNS, LIRAS, SLINK, LIONS, CANON, LINKS, IONIC, LIMOS, ROANS, LIMNS, SCROD, FRANC, LIDOS, FORMS, DRINK, LICKS, SMACK, LIARS, FORKS, MOCKS, FORDS, LARKS, RICKS, LARDS, DORKS, ICONS, MASON, LANDS, CALKS, ROSIN, SCRAM, LAIRS, ROCKS, FINDS, CORDS, SLACK, SKOAL, RACKS, FILMS, FARMS, ROILS, DISCO, CONKS, MOANS, KRONA, KOLAS, MANOR, SCOLD, KINDS, FLANK, CORKS, OKRAS, KILOS, DINAR, KILNS, CLOAK, MAIDS, FLORA, KIDDO, ORCAS, MAINS, NOMAD, CORMS, ROADS, MARLS, MOLAR, SMIRK, SMOCK, FAIRS, FLAIR, FOILS, SLICK, CLINK, SLAIN, FLICK, DONAS, FAROS, FRANK, FOAMS, COINS, CARDS, MINDS, CROAK, NADIR, RINKS, IDIOM, FOALS, DRAIN, FRISK, SALON, SONAR, IKONS, CODAS, SONIC, ACIDS, MODAL, FROCK, COILS, IDOLS
Even after leaving out all the shorter words (less than five letters long), there are 420 words to draw from. You can create all sorts of stories with so many words to choose from. How can we possibly know for sure which words might be the ones Zodiac intentionally selected? And that chunk of plaintext is just one of many places in which Türkmen arbitrarily re-arranged. Many thousands of additional words are possible if you re-arrange the sections in which Türkmen allowed anagramming.
Türkmen’s solution also takes many subjective liberties with interpretation of the plaintext, such as “PAOL” meaning “PAUL”, “PRISIDIO” meaning “PRESIDIO”, “D” representing “THE”, “LRD OF SIC” translating to “LORD OF SICK”, “KILLD” meaning “KILLED”, and “AM PSIKO” meaning “AM PSYCHO”. Similar liberties are also taken by other discredited solutions, such as Graysmith’s famous solution. Another common quality of these solutions is that the plaintext resembles a kind of halting language resembling “baby talk”. The reason for this is because shorter phrases are much easier to produce via anagramming than longer ones. And this forces unrelated and non-sequitor phrases to appear next to each other.
The Zodiac killer very likely did something unusual, or even insane, to the 340 cipher text to make it resist attack all these years. But we still need to use sanity to discover which insane method he might have used. Could he have used this kind of anagramming technique when writing up his plaintext? I believe it is unlikely, but possible. But if he did, it will be nearly impossible to prove it, because so many alternative solutions can be generated with the same technique.