You are a secret agent in the service of the KGB, about to embark on a highly dangerous mission to infiltrate MI6. You have your disguise, your papers, and your backstory all prepared. The night before your departure, you receive the following email:

From: Andrew Void < [email protected] >
Sent: Fri, 27 Mar 2015 11:57AM +0400
To: ██████████████████████
Subject: Your work

Dear Mr Smith,

This is to inform you that your poem is now nearly noted up for publication. Its age notwithstanding, this poem will fit as part of a vast pattern of poems that spans millennia. You stand among us now as a poet, throned among such applauded poets as Aristophanes, Plato, Byron, and so on. As one of us, your poetic prowess will not go unadmired.

Many congratulations!


Mr Smith is the pseudonym you will be adopting on your mission in Britain, but you do not recognise the name Andrew Void or the email address. You are about to delete the email as spam, but some instinct tells you to examine it more closely. After a few minutes at your computer, you find the hidden message within it and slump back in your chair, disappointed.

What is the hidden message?

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Well, I'm going to guess that the name being "avoid" has something to do with it... $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2015 at 12:11
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ @EngineerToast en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Void interestingly it might have more to do with A. Void instead of just avoid as that comes up immediately with "disparition". $\endgroup$
    – kaine
    Mar 27, 2015 at 12:45
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Great puzzle! ;) $\endgroup$
    – A E
    Mar 28, 2015 at 14:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AE Thanks! My first 'Good Question' badge on PSE :-) $\endgroup$ Mar 28, 2015 at 19:52
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I really liked this puzzle, and want to point to it as an example of "the right way" to do cryptogram puzzles. The solution method is well-clued, doing the right step gives quick confirmation, and the story around the puzzle both makes sense and fits the solution. $\endgroup$
    – xnor
    Mar 29, 2015 at 23:10

2 Answers 2


The secret message is:



A French author Georges Perec once wrote a 300-page novel called La disparition without using the letter 'e'. (It was later translated into English by Gilbert Adair under the title A Void - and also without using the letter 'e'.) This suggests that the letter 'e' in the email is important somehow. If you look at the letters immediately preceding every occurrence of this letter in the email, they spell out the message DONTGOTOLONDONNOW

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Clever! I had read about A Void this morning and was intrigued by the author's challenge, but I couldn't figure out how to apply it to this message. Presumably his contact's initials are RR, too. $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2015 at 14:51
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @IanMacDonald ... or perhaps he's a pirate :-) $\endgroup$
    – r3mainer
    Mar 27, 2015 at 14:55
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    $\begingroup$ What about the 'r' in "unadmired"? $\endgroup$
    – zovits
    Mar 27, 2015 at 16:42
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ @zovits Ye be askin' too many questions. $\endgroup$
    – r3mainer
    Mar 27, 2015 at 16:52
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Well done! +1 and accept (I see you've hit your rep cap today out of this as well ;-) ) As @IanMacDonald says, the RR is meant to be the agent handler's codename or initials. $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2015 at 21:20

I guess that the hidden message is

You've been compromised (or something similar)

As kaine mentioned in his comment, it probably has to do with A Void, but I didn't really find any useful information about it.

But here's my reasoning:

a.void and disparition (French for Disappearance) gives a hint that I should disappear, avoid something.
The fact that Andrew Void knows my pseudonym makes me think that he also knows about my mission and that's quite suspicious.
He says your poem is now nearly noted up for publication - I interpret it as your legend is (almost) known and will be published very soon
Then he also says this poem will fit as part of a vast pattern of poems that spans millenia which in my eyes means your legend is very common, the pattern used for it was used for ages/decades/centuries before
The next sentence is You stand among us now as a poet, throned among such applauded poets as Aristophanes, Plato, Byron, and so on, which if followed by my other reasonings means: You are listed as a spy, same as famous Aristophanes, Plato and Byron, where Aristophanes, Plato and Byron are most probably pseudonyms of other agents of the past.
And the last sentence As one of us, your poetic prowess will not go unadmired can be treated as a threat/warning that if I go there, I will not be unseen.

  • 14
    $\begingroup$ I like how the plot summary on the wiki page avoids the symbol as well. $\endgroup$
    – Elias
    Mar 27, 2015 at 16:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm impressed at your metaphorical interpretation of the letter! +1, but this interpretation isn't as clear a hidden message as the intended answer. @Elias - wow, nice catch! $\endgroup$ Mar 27, 2015 at 21:17
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ While the answer above is too smart and convincing, unless there is a reason for the agent to be too familiar with the A Void part, he/she is more likely to read the message in this metaphorical manner only. So, +1 from me. $\endgroup$
    – 299792458
    Mar 28, 2015 at 15:16
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ (Adding...) If the intended message did happen to be this, DONT GO TO LONDON NOW interpretation is bound to get the agent arrested/killed! $\endgroup$
    – 299792458
    Mar 28, 2015 at 15:18

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