Sonja C’s Solutions
These videos popped up on Youtube recently:
The first video presents this solution to the 340 cipher:
This solution starts by applying a simple substitution key to produce the plain text. But like many other solution attempts, this one relaxes the constraints of the cipher text, again permitting construction of words and phrases by re-arranging the plaintext. Worse, this solution allows letters to be added and removed arbitrarily from the plain text, greatly easing the construction of interesting words and phrases.
We already know that the use of anagramming allows a codebreaker to choose from a huge variety of words. Examples of this include solutions by Daryll Lathers, Özcan Türkmen, Robert Graysmith, and Hal Kravcik.
Even a small chunk of plain text can produce many possible words. For instance, let’s look at the four letter sequence SLIA. If you rearrange those four letters, you can produce these words: LISA, SAIL, LAIS, ILSA, AILS, SALI, ASIL, ISLA, LIAS, and IALS. Similary, the four letter sequence TSPA can be rearranged to make these words: PAST, TAPS, SPAT, PATS, APTS, SAPT, and PTAS.
How do you know if you’ve selected the correct word? Does it just “feel” right, because you think Zodiac must have used certain words instead of others? No, verification of the solution demands stronger evidence than that.
Sonja C increases the pool of words by allowing the addition or removal of letters, making certain words appear more readily. Here’s an example of how much freedom you have by using this method: If you allow only one more letter to be added to the sequence SREA, then it can be arranged to form these words: YEARS, AREAS, RATES, SHARE, RAISE, TEARS, FEARS, SPARE, ARISE, ACRES, AROSE, RACES, READS, LASER, SAFER, BEARS, WEARS, CARES, STARE, HEARS, PEARS, SWEAR, FARES, WARES, GEARS, SPEAR, SMEAR, SCARE, EARNS, AIRES, SHEAR, EARLS, MARES, HARES, ERASE, ARIES, SAVER, SABRE, DARES, SEARS, RAPES, SNARE, DEARS, PARSE, REAMS, RAVES, NEARS, RAGES, CESAR, RAKES, ARSES, SAYER, REAPS, SARGE, REARS, SABER, BARES, AKERS, SERRA, ARLES, ARENS, AYRES, ASHER, BASER, MASER, AYERS, SANER, ROSEA, RASEN, SACRE, ARSED, ANSER, AGERS, SAYRE, RNASE, REALS, ASTER, TARES, MEARS, VERSA, MERSA, AVERS, ACERS, SARRE, CARSE, SERVA, SERIA, SEMRA, SAUER, HASER, RASES, ESARN, APRES, and RBASE. Every one of those words consists of the letters A, E, R, S, and only one additional “wildcard” letter.
Sonja C goes on to produce more words and phrases by rearranging the letters in each column of the plain text solution:
For example, the first column of the plain text reads TNNSGPADOSHITPICLTCE, which Sonja C rearranges into D TOSCHI SAT CLIP G PENN, leaving out only one letter: T. Seems interesting, since the sentence mentions Zodiac-related personalities Dave Toschi and Gareth Penn. But the same text can be rearranged in numerous ways. These other “Zodiac-oriented” words can also be found among the same letters: PLOTTING, INCIDENT, HOSPITAL, TIPLINE, TIGHTEN, STATION, STOLEN, POLICE, PISTOL, STINE, PINES, NIGHT, LODGE, LINDA, LEIGH, HOTEL, HOLES, HANDS, DONNA, DITCH, DEATH, CODES, CHEST, CASES, TIED, SHOT, LONE, LIST, LASS, HIDE, DIES, and COED. Which words are the correct ones?
The Hardens’ solution to the cryptogram results in these last 18 characters of gibberish: EBEORIETEMETHHPITI. Sonja C rearranges these, and adds some new letters, to form words and phrases. BRIHT is rearranged into BRIGHT by adding the missing G, but BIRTH or BIRTHS are also possible. And the extra letters N, A, and L are added to MET to produce MENTAL. But if you allow three extra letters, you can generate all of these words:
SYSTEM, MOTHER, MARKET, MOMENT, MATTER, METHOD, MENTAL, MINUTE, MASTER, METRES, REMOTE, STREAM, MODEST, TIMBER, THAMES, THEMES, MATURE, TEMPLE, TEMPER, MOTIVE, METALS, PERMIT, MERITS, HELMET, CEMENT, MANTLE, EXEMPT, TIMELY, TERMED, METRIC, HELMUT, MISTER, HAMLET, ESTEEM, MUSTER, MAGNET, ANTHEM, MOLTEN, MENTOR, METERS, TREMOR, TANDEM, RECTUM, MELTED, METHYL, DREAMT, TUMBLE, TEAMED, TEDIUM, STEAMY, ENMITY, LAMENT, MALLET, HERMIT, NUTMEG, COMETS, MATTIE, MUTTER, METTLE, MILLET, TEMPOS, MOTLEY, INMATE, THEISM, MINUET, MIDGET, MUSKET, THELMA, MUTELY, TIMERS, SMYTHE, TAMPER, METEOR, MATHEW, MINTER, MINTED, MATTED, TIMBRE, MOTELS, TEMPTS, MYRTLE, MUPPET, LIMPET, MULLET, TAMELY, THEMED, KERMIT, EMMETT, AMULET, REMITS, TOTEMS, MALTED, FOMENT, JETSAM, MERTON, MEREST, DERMOT, MELTON, MOOTED, PELMET, MOTETS, MCTEAR, TWOMEY, TIMBRE, MARTEN, MATHER, ELTHAM, SEMTEX, MANTEL, IMBERT, MOIETY, EMPTOR, MOATED, MINTEL, TERMLY, MONNET, MUSTOE, MOLTKE, METALL, MUNTER, and MITRES
Similarly, Sonja C adds the letters S, A, and L to HOPIT to produce HOSPITAL. But you can also make these words if you allow three letters to be added to HOPIT:
PHILPOTT, ANTIPHON, TOWNSHIP, SHOPLIFT, WINTHROP, STROPHIC, HYPNOTIC, PINOCHET, ATROPHIC, PROHIBIT, HOTPOINT, MEPHISTO, POTIPHAR, OLIPHANT, HIGHSPOT, HILLTOPS, PHAISTOS, PONTHIEU, HOPLITES, TROPHIES, TRIOMPHE, ETHIOPIA, PHOTOFIT, PHONETIC, SHIPSTON, and HELIPORT.
I sitll prefer these anagrams of the last 18 characters, since they fit perfectly and don’t require adding or removing any letters:
I’M HERE TO BITE THE PIE
THE EERIE POET BIT HIM
I HOE THE TIBET EMPIRE
TEETH BITE HOMIER PIE
HI. I TIME THE BEER POET.
I MET THE PIE BITE HERO
I.E.: THIRTIETH BEE POEM
HI, I’M THE TEEPEE ORBIT
I’M PETER. I BITE THE HOE.
OH BITE THEIR PEE TIME
I HIT THE BEER EPITOME
HI! TIME TO HIT BEER PEE!
HI! TIME TO HIRE PET BEE!
TIME TO BE THE PIE HIER
I’M THE TIE; BORE THE PIE
I BITE THE PIE THEOREM
HI. BEEP HIT METEORITE.
I BETTER HOPE I TEE HIM.
BE HERE. TIPTOE. TIE HIM.
I’M THE PETITE BIO HERE
I’M BOTH EERIE EPITHET
None of this, unfortunately, can be shown to be anything more than diversions of word play. I’ve indulged in the same word play in this article, partly for fun, but mostly to demonstrate how easily we become ensnared by the cryptograms.