A strange alien transcript, alongside what is believed to be a partial key, was recovered the other day. Scientists aren't sure what the message might contain, but theories point to some sort of significant cultural data stored within... cipher partial_key

Update: After thorough research, scientists have uncovered what is likely some sort of order to a subset of the alien glyphs. How exactly this information may be used is uncertain, but it is believed this may provide some order to the partial key that was recovered. Order


The key seems jumbled, and may become clearer if rearranged in some fashion...

Order may be less important than you think.

Solving this cipher is impossible unless you first solve the key.

16 squares, 16 boxes, 16 numbers. 4 symbols, 2 directions, 8 coordinates.

Square the key, solve the numbers. Follow the directions, decode the cipher.

Once correctly rearranged, the key will resemble a well known type of puzzle. The labels should help here.

I bet you could solve this entire thing upside down

Think of the cipher as a series of directions, in both directions.

uk sued tokyo

Look not where they are, but where they are facing

Partial Key with hints

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    $\begingroup$ Do you have a transcription of the text in the first image (using, say, an arbitrary letter for each symbol)? $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 15:19
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    $\begingroup$ Sure, they can be differentiated fairly easily - it's just a lot of work getting them into a more easily analyzable form. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Commented Mar 14, 2023 at 15:41
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    $\begingroup$ V guvax lbh ner sbphfvat gbb zhpu ba gur pvcure, naq abg rabhtu ba ubj gur xrl jbexf. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2023 at 15:49
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    $\begingroup$ @ExecutionByFork: I am the stage of... filling in the blanks. I already made some mistakes. After a good night's sleep I will start again.. And then, I maybe I will find out that tilting might not be important :) $\endgroup$
    – virolino
    Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 18:52
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    $\begingroup$ @ExecutionByFork Sudoku to key? $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 7:24

2 Answers 2


Not an answer.

Alphabetic transcription of alien writing:


I've tried to use a system for the transcription key. The most common symbol is assigned to A, and the pairs BC, DE, FG, and HI are symbols that are rotations of each other.

enter image description here

Letter frequency:

108  27   26   27   28   25   24   27   25   
 A    B    C    D    E    F    G    H    I  

 2    2    2    2    2    2    2    2 
 J    K    L    M    N    O    P    Q

Total: 333

The only letter that follows itself is A. There is no BB, or CC, or any double letter in the text other than AA.

Letter contacts of the nine most frequent letters. Each letter contacts A more frequently than it contacts every other letter.

enter image description here

The longest repetition is IACHAIA. This is expected by chance for one out of three messages of this kind. There are 8 other five-letter repetitions, also barely allowed by chance.

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    $\begingroup$ I'm 80% sure A is a space-separator, and AA is a full stop, so that AAAAAA is an ellipsis. $\endgroup$
    – Chengarda
    Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 2:07
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    $\begingroup$ The way I see it, the analysis codewarrior has done is fine. Using a computer to count symbol frequency and plot relationships is not a big deal. These are monotonous tasks you could do by hand, and it is simply a time saver. What I intended with the no-computers tag was to disallow, say, running parts or all of the puzzle through automated solving tools to arrive at an answer. Things where a computer would take part of the "computational" load or provide answers that a solver would otherwise need to deduce. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2023 at 16:03
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    $\begingroup$ @codewarrior And not only that, the symbols heading the grids fit into two distinct categories: each heading is one of {J,N,O,P} and one of {K,L,M,Q} (in some order), with all sixteen combinations represented. And not only that, those symbols in the message alternate between the two sets, and if you use the 'swapping' interpretation, 15 out of the 16 possible combinations are used. (You get the sixteenth if you 'wrap around' in the message, but there are no invertible characters at the end.) $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 12:31
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, I just noticed that as well! I think they still convey useful information, though - that repeating pattern is important to how this works. $\endgroup$
    – Deusovi
    Commented Mar 16, 2023 at 12:50
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    $\begingroup$ I appreciate the enthusiasm, but I don't think we need the hints repeated in the comments. They're in the puzzle post already :) $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 10, 2023 at 5:52

Partial answer

The key is a bunch of fragments of a 16x16 sudoku. The glyphs above the each subgrid can help: each glyph appears only in one column or in only one row. As a sudoku can be permuted by rows or by columns of subgrids without becoming invalid, a recent update gave the ordering of the rows and columns by ordering the glyphs they correspond to. Here is the resulting completed sudoku. Orange boxes are the ones added in a hint by the author, green ones are completed by solving the assembled sudoku. enter image description here

From there I have only guesses

There are 2 types of glyphs. Those above the subgrids (in pairs) are probably those called "coordinates" because there are 8 of those. The "4 symbols, 2 directions" are probably the small glyphs on the edges of the subgrids. There are 4 glyphs, each appearing in two orientations.

Now for decoding the message. In each series of glyphs separated by a dot, there is only one coordinate, but there may be 0, 1 or several symbols. My guess is that these are some sort of instructions to navigate the sudoku grid and find numbers.

I don't really understand what would be the meaning of the symbols' orientation. In fact, 2 symbols are displayed on the subgrids with only one orientation. The fact that there are 8 possible versions of the symbols may correspond to the 8 adjacent tiles of a square (accounting for tiles on the diagonals). But I don't see how that matches the picture of the subgrids.


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