Example cryptogram.

A cryptogram is a type of puzzle which consists of a short piece of encrypted text. Generally the cipher used to encrypt the text is simple enough that cryptogram can be solved by hand. Frequently used are substitution ciphers where each letter is replaced by a different letter or number. To solve the puzzle, one must recover the original lettering. Though once used in more serious applications, they are now mainly printed for entertainment in newspapers and magazines.

Other types of classical ciphers are sometimes used to create cryptograms. An example is the book cipher where a book or article is used to encrypt a message.


History of cryptograms

The ciphers used in cryptograms were not originally created for entertainment purposes, but for real encryption of military or personal secrets.

The first use of the cryptogram for entertainment purposes occurred during the Middle Ages by monks who had spare time for intellectual games. A manuscript found at Bamberg states that Irish visitors to the court of Merfyn Frych ap Gwriad (died 844), king of Gwynedd in Wales were given a cryptogram which could only be solved by transposing the letters from Latin into Greek. Around the thirteenth century, the English monk Roger Bacon wrote a book in which he listed seven cipher methods, and stated that "a man is crazy who writes a secret in any other way than one which will conceal it from the vulgar." In the 19th century Edgar Allan Poe helped to popularize cryptograms with many newspaper and magazine articles.

A well-known example of cryptograms in contemporary culture is the syndicated newspaper puzzle Crypto quip[citation needed].

Solving a cryptogram

Cryptograms based on substitution ciphers can often be solved by frequency analysis and by recognizing letter patterns in words, such as one letter words, which, in English, can only be "i" or "a" (and sometimes "o"). Double letters, apostrophes, and the fact that no letter can substitute for itself in the cypher also offer clues to the solution. Occasionally cryptogram puzzle makers will start the solver off with a few letters. The Cryptogram is also the name of the periodic publication of the American Cryptogram Association (ACA), which contains a large number of cryptographic puzzles.

Other crypto puzzles

While the Cryptogram has remained popular, over time other puzzles similar to it have emerged. One of these is the Cryptoquote, which is a famous quote encrypted in the same way as a Cryptogram. A more recent version, with a biblical twist, is CodedWord. This puzzle makes the solution available only online where it provides a short exegesis on the biblical text. Yet a third is the 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. Yet another type involves using numbers as they relate to texting to solve the puzzle.


See also

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cryptogram — Cryp to*gram (kr?p t? gr?m), n. A cipher writing. Same as {Cryptograph}. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • cryptogram — 1880, from CRYPTO (Cf. crypto ) + GRAM (Cf. gram) word, letter. A modern word coined in English; though the elements are Gk., the ancient Greeks would find it barbarous …   Etymology dictionary

  • cryptogram — ► NOUN ▪ a text written in code …   English terms dictionary

  • cryptogram — [krip′tō gram΄, krip′təgram΄] n. [ CRYPTO + GRAM] something written in code or cipher cryptogrammic adj …   English World dictionary

  • cryptogram — UK [ˈkrɪptəˌɡræm] / US noun [countable] Word forms cryptogram : singular cryptogram plural cryptograms a secret message written in code …   English dictionary

  • cryptogram — A phrase which has a secret meaning, as MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN (Dan. 5:25) or the number 666 (Rev. 13:18). The fish became a Christian cryptogram …   Dictionary of the Bible

  • Cryptogram (disambiguation) — Cryptogram is a short piece of text encrypted with a simple substitution cipher. Cryptogram may also refer to: The Cryptogram, a bi monthly journal by the American Cryptogram Association The Cryptogram, a play by David Mamet Cryptograms (album),… …   Wikipedia

  • cryptogram — noun Etymology: French cryptogramme, from crypt + gramme gram Date: 1878 1. a communication in cipher or code 2. a figure or representation having a hidden significance …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • cryptogram — n. [Gr. kryptos, hidden; gramma, written character] Method that expresses in a standard code form a collection of data used in classification …   Dictionary of invertebrate zoology

  • cryptogram — cryptogrammic, cryptogrammatic /krip teuh greuh mat ik/, cryptogrammatical, adj. cryptogrammatist, n. /krip teuh gram /, n. 1. a message or writing in code or cipher; cryptograph. 2. an occult symbol or representation. [1875 80; CRYPTO + GRAM1] * …   Universalium

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